Walking Tankerton to Whitstable Harbour

Life Guards Hut, Tankerton Beach

It is strange the things we dream about, things that are so easy to do but we simply never seem to get around to doing them. For the longest time, I dreamt about walking my dogs on the beach and this past Bank Holiday weekend I finally got to do that.

We began our walk on Tankerton Slopes. Tankerton is a suburb of Whitstable and an easy 30 minute walk along the beach to Whitstable Harbour.The slopes are so named because of the large expanse of grassy land sloping down to the beach.

Wind Farms in the Distance, Tankerton Beach

We took a moment to admire the wind farms in the distance. I love wind farms and wish that we could make a plan to make them more economically viable. They looked so much bigger in real life, more so than they appear in this photo. I should mention that all the photos in this post (and all my Whitstable posts) are taken on my iPhone 5SE. Surely I’m not the only blogger who goes on a trip to a new location and forgets her camera at home?

Beach Huts on Tankerton Slopes

Our walk took us past beach huts which have the most fascinating story. Tankerton itself was a beachfront created specifically to cater for the Victorians that were able to visit the seaside via brand new rail routes from London. Later on in the walk, we met a lady who told us all about them.

Beware, Tankerton Beach

This sign made me laugh at first until we walked along the Marine Parade later that night and saw how high the tide was!

Tankerton from the Beach

We saw a natural sandbank up ahead and decided to walk down it right to the edge of the sea. Molly wasn’t too sure about the feel of the pebble beach under her paws at first but she soon got the hang of it.

Molly and Mandy on Tankerton Beach

She even agreed to pose for a photo with me although she insisted on showing her more favourable rear profile. In her defence, there were some very entertaining seagulls frolicking away at the water’s edge.

Groynes on Tankerton Beach

We continued our walk towards Whitstable Harbour, stopping only to admire these groynes. Groynes are there to manage coastal erosion which is of great importance on English coastlines. They interrupt the water flow, thus lessening the impact of the waves, while simultaneously controlling the movement of sand. I thought it was quite a clever idea and endlessly photogenic too.

Icecream Van Whitstable Harbour

We soon arrived in Whitstable Harbour and admired the vintage ice cream van.

The Lobste Shack, Whitstable Harbour

Having worked up quite an appetite, we decided to stop for a bite to eat at The Lobster Shack which I'll tell you all about in my next post. Spoiler: it was delicious but windy.

Between the Beach Huts, Whitstable Harbour

Oyster Shells, Whitstable Harbour

During our visit, we learned that the oyster shells are accumulated in great skips like this and returned to the sea floor to restore oyster beds and encourage baby oysters to nest in them so that they won’t be enveloped in the muddy sea floor which is lethal for them.

Beach Huts in Whitstable Harbour

On our way, we stopped to talk to this lovely lady in front of her hut. I had apologised for taking a photo of her and explained that I was admiring her pirate flags and we soon got talking to her and her husband. I took the opportunity to ask her about the huts – coming from South Africa, I didn’t know much about them. She explained that in Victorian times, the huts were wheeled to the edge of the sea so that women could bathe and not scandalise anybody with the image of their scantily clad bodies. Our new friend mentioned a connection to the burkini ban and the fact that we are still telling women what to wear!

The couple live locally and spend their days in the hut. In fact, their grandchildren recently came down from London and spent two weeks with them at the hut. What an idyllic holiday!

Sign Post Whitstable

All too soon, we made it back to Tankerton and climbed the long path up the slope. I’m not sure how our 12.5-year-old dog was feeling but the humans were struggling! After buying an ice cream from the kiosk, we decided it was high time for an afternoon nap.

Have you ever spent much time at the English seaside or were oceans and big waves more your thing?

Kentish Lavender: A Visit to Castle Farm

Castle Farm Lavender

There is something simply sublime about Kent in summer. Known as the Garden of England, the county comes alive in the warmest months of the year to put on an astounding display of colour. When my lovely friend Mo from Fresh Eyes on London announced that she was coming to visit me in Kent, I knew that my home county would not disappoint. As fate might have it, Mother Nature also conspired to deliver a little bit of fortune our way – by the third week of July, the lavender harvest should have taken place already but a particularly wet summer meant that the fields were not ready for harvest and we were able to visit the lavender fields in all their glory.

Windmill at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

We arrived at the Hop Shop on a very bright and sunny day. Despite our intention to visit well after noon, to avoid the midday glare of the sun, it was still very bright and hot indeed. We discovered that we had arrived in good time with just 20 minutes before the next tour of the lavender fields. We paid the £5 for the tour and then wandered around the Hop Shop farm shop and farm. One word of advice, if you do visit for a tour, be sure to make all your lavender product purchases beforehand because your olfactory senses will be in no condition to do so afterwards.

A Spike of Lavendin at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

Our guide was a lovely young lady from New Zealand and she did an admirable job of herding our rather large group across the road to the fields opposite the Hop Shop. We were directed to an area of shade under a canvas canopy which was very much appreciated. We learned that the field we were looking at was not in fact lavender but Grosso Lavandin. Lavandin has a high, camphorous odour, quite unlike the soothing scent of lavender, and it is a stimulant. Lavandin is good for soothing aching muscles and can be invigorating and energising. It is excellent for getting rid of bugs be they fleas, mosquitos or moths so are often used in candles, linen protectors and detergents.

Fields of Lavendin at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

Lavendin at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

Lavendin Close Up at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

A bee on Lavendin at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

Bales of hay at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

Lone lady at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

Our next stop was the lavender field and the first thing we noticed was that the lavender was much kinder to our olfactory senses. If you compare the spike of lavender below to the spike of lavandin above, you can see that each bud is far more distinct. Then again, this spike of lavender had not really begun to flower yet, hence the late harvest.

A Spike of Lavender at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

Lavender is the flower that we are all most familiar with and is used to adorn pillows and accompany relaxing baths the world over. It is a relaxant and its oil is used in the treatment of headaches, travel sickness and as a base aromatherapy oil.

Field of Lavender at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

Punch Drunk Bee at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

Lavender is very popular with bees and is full of yummy pollen. If you click on the photo above and try zoom down to Mr Bee’s knees, you will indeed see where the term ‘bee’s knees’ comes from. His pollen sack is full to bursting and I kid you not, he zoomed off on a very wonky trajectory after posing so dashingly for my photo. He was absolutely punch drunk!

Fields of Lavender at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop ShopLavender at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

With the heat beginning to bear down on us in earnest, we crossed the main road again to tour the famous distillery.

Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop ShopThe Distillery at Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

There we learned all about how lavender and lavandin are harvested, the oil extraction process and the various uses of the oil. We even got to smell several types of oils.

We learned about the dire effects of a wet summer and how last year was the most bumper crop in the history of the Hop Shop because of the drought we experienced in England. It seems that lavender and I have that in common – we both love hot sunshine and dry conditions!

Distillery - Castle Farm Lavender - The Hop Shop

Stumbling out of the distillery after the presentation, we were glad to get a breath of fresh air. The tour is absolutely lovely, so lovely that I would like to return (every year!) but now I am sure you will understand why I advised that all products be purchased before the tour!

If you would like to learn more about the history of hop farming and  how Londoners used to take ‘vacations’ to Kent, definitely visit Mo’s blog about our visit: The Lavender Farm.

The Hop Shop
Castle Farm
Redmans Lane
TN14 7UB

Have you been to a lavender farm? Can you recommend any other outdoors places in the south east of England?

Anarch-Tea at W London Leicester Square

Anarch Tea W Hotel Leicester Square

It's no secret that I love afternoon tea but what you might not know about me is that I was a goth during my formative years. If you've suddenly conjured up an image of black hair, black eyeliner, Doc Martins and torn tights, may I complete that vision with a mention of the spider's web that I had shaved into my undercut? I was quite the horrible coffin kid. (Actually, I was lovely but somehow wasn't keen on people knowing that).

My fascination with the alternative scene had started a good ten years before that in early 1980s London. I was utterly fascinated by the punks in Trafalgar Square and had to be forcibly dragged away from them because I couldn't stop staring. I wanted nothing more than a pink Mohican (I was 8) and a tall, skinny punk boyfriend.

Imagine my delight on learning about the W London Leicester Square Anarch-Tea, an afternoon tea especially designed to mark 40 years of Punk. Now Londonist did not have very nice things to say about the concept of a punk afternoon tea, accusing it of representing everything punk stood against, and I can't speak for the original punks in Trafalgar Square but you know what? I really enjoyed it.

The presentation was lovely and colourful, the food was delicious and it was the first time I’ve been served afternoon tea on original vinyl!

Lust for Life cocktail - Anarch Tea W Hotel Leicester Square

We arrived fresh from our tour of the Rolling Stones Exhibitionism at the Saatchi Gallery. After some confusion as to what constituted a 'complimentary cocktail' and what we were going to get charged a lot of money for, we agreed that we would indeed love to try the signature Lust for Life cocktail with Cachaca, zesty lime, sugar and passion fruit. There were three of us on the day, all with different tastes in cocktails, and we were quite pleased to note that we all loved the cocktail. It was delicious and went down well on such a hot day.

It took a while for our plates to be brought out but eventually they arrived. Sarah and Stephen helped themselves to the Gang of Four finger sandwiches including smoked salmon with cream cheese & pea shoots; roast beef with horseradish and watercress; cucumber with sour cream and black pepper; and Aged Montgomery Cheddar and red onion marmalade. On this occasion, I had not opted for the gluten-free option, which I've decided is something I definitely need to be more diligent about in future, but I cannot eat onion or salmon. I therefore had the same beef and cucumber sandwiches but I was treated to a delicious avocado on fresh brown bread as well as a creamed mushroom one. They were very fresh and very tasty..

Gang of Four Sandwiches Anarch Tea W Hotel Leicester Square

Sarah and I had our scones next while Stephen decided to spoil it all and head straight for the desserts. The scones were okay but let's face it, we were there for those desserts!

I started with the God Save the Queen - The Sex Pistols vanilla and almond Battenberg cake. Spoilery Stephen had thought it to be too sweet but I love almonds and marzipan and thought it was just perfect. I started off with this one because I thought I'd like it the least but I actually liked it a lot. Next up was the Going Around in Circles - Alternative TV studded dark chocolate roulade. Again, Spoilery Stephen had thought it too sweet but chocolate lover me thought it was quite nice. Very rich but really, what do you expect with a big swirl of chocolate goo?

God Save the Queen Batternburg Cake and The Mohawk - Anarch Tea W Hotel Leicester Square

Next was The Mohawk raspberry & lime mousse. This was hands down my favourite dessert of the four. Tantalisingly sour with the lime and sweet with the strawberry, I polished it off in no time. Stephen didn't finish his. We finished off with the Shut Up - The Stranglers, a frozen strawberry & basil parfait. I was quite pleased that I managed to crack the shell without sending it flying across my plate like Stephen did!

Shut Up strawberry parfait and Around in Circles chocolate roulade - Anarch Tea W Hotel Leicester Square

Tea is obviously a central part of any afternoon tea experience but on this occasion, it was so hot outside and our cocktails so good that it wasn't a priority. Nevertheless, I made the right choice with a lemon & ginger tea, while Sarah had fresh mint tea and Stephen had English Breakfast. Sarah and I were delighted to see that our teas were all made with completely fresh ingredients.

All in all, we loved the Anarch-Tea although you can see from above that Sarah and I enjoyed it a lot more than poor Ste so it's perhaps not for those who don't have a sweet tooth.

W London Leicester Square

Anarch-Tea at W London Leicester Square
10 Wardour St

Art Nouveau Opulence in Prague’s Municipal House

Our first day in Prague was hot, very hot. It was over 35°c and someone had the bright idea to forego the Metro and walk instead from our hotel in Vinohrady to the Old Town. Okay, I’ll own up – it was my idea - but after walking in that heat for a good hour or so, I was willing to swear that I had never suggested anything of the sort.

Municipal House, Prague

After walking through the famous Powder Gate, I spied the Art Nouveau dome of Prague’s Municipal House, Obecní Dům. I was pleased because while we didn’t have too many plans for our time in Prague, I did want to see this building.

On the façade above you can see Karel Špillar’s famous mosaic, Homage to Prague. We decided to escape the heat for a while and take a look inside.

Art Nouveau Stained Glass in Municipal House Prague

Obecní Dům now stands on what was once the site of the King’s residence but after falling into dereliction after centuries of abandonment, it was demolished in the early 1900s and replaced by the present building. Built between 1905-1911, the building encapsulates the Art Nouveau style that was very much in vogue at the time and is beautifully kept today.

Art Nouveau Tiles, Municipal House, Prague

All of the tilework meant that the building was lovely and cool inside and we enjoyed the chance to wander about and appreciate the intricacy of the design.

Shoefie, Municipal House, Prague

I couldn’t resist taking a shoefie…

Elegance Inside Municipal House, Prague

…but my attention was soon captured by this rather elegant looking young woman. I envied her for looking so cool and collected but in truth she was probably as hot and bothered as I was.

Plzenska Restaurant, Prague

We peeked into the famous Plzeňská restaurant but decided not to stop on this occasion. It was our first day after all and we had not yet made it to Old Town Square.

Ticket Booth, Municipal House, Prague

The Smetana Hall and other smaller halls and conference rooms are located in the Obecní Dům. On the day that we were there, a Dvořák concert was taking place and I was very keen to go. Stephen wasn’t though and it was only when I took him to Dvořák’s tomb a couple day later that he cottoned on to the fact that Dvořák was a very important Prague composer.

Art Nouveau Chandelier, Municipal House, Prague

How exquisite is this chandelier? I stared at it for the longest time.

More Art Nouveau Stained Glass, Municipal House, Prague

We didn’t spend too long in Municipal House but given the lovely, relaxed attitude of the Czech people we could have stayed as long as we wanted to.

Looking out from Municipal House, Prague

This is the first proper post of my Prague trip. I have so much to share that it was a little tricky at first to know where to start but I’ve decided to go wherever inspiration takes me. Perhaps if I tackle the little posts then the big ones will just magically write themselves?