24 Hours in Tankerton, Whitstable

Beach huts Whitstable

I love living in Kent and barely a week goes by that I’m not grateful for our decision to move here. Having said that, I also escape every opportunity I get and bank holiday weekends are usually spent in Europe or at least somewhere else on the British Isles. Imagine my horror then when a hen’s party was scheduled on bank holiday Saturday, thus thwarting our plans to escape to Poland.

With just Sunday and Monday to spare on the bank holiday weekend, I decided to surprise Stephen with 24 hours away. I knew what I wanted – I wanted to go somewhere that would allow pets because I wanted to take our Labrador Molly with us and I was hoping for somewhere by the sea. I also wanted something a little old school or rustic and was looking at Canopy & Stars for glamping options as well as Airbnb.

With inspiration and a little bit of research, my plans began to take shape and my itinerary was set.

Where We Stayed

We found a lovely Airbnb apartment located in Tankerton, a quiet suburb of Whitstable. Our host Anna was absolutely lovely and very welcoming of Molly. She was also accepting of the fact that we were only staying for one night on a bank holiday weekend.

The flat was very quirky and decorated throughout with personal photographs. There was also a theme of love flowing through the entire apartment, which suited our romantic needs perfectly.

Love Airbnb Apartment Whitstable

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, I would wholeheartedly recommend it as an alternative to hotels or guest houses. It is definitely for people who would like to cook for themselves or will eat out but it is so much better than a soulless hotel or cottage. When you join Airbnb, you get a referral code so if you click here you will get £25 off your first booking and I will also get money off my next booking.

Where We Ate

We were only in Whitstable for 24 hours yet still managed to fit in three meals. We enjoyed a delicious seaside lunch at The Lobster Shack, Whitstable and had a romantic anniversary dinner at East Coast Dining Room. We also had a very bad breakfast experience at The Marine Hotel on Marine Parade. I won’t bore everybody with the details but you can see my review at Yelp if you wish. Suffice to say, avoid at all costs (unless you like rude and horrible service, in which case don’t).

What We Did

Stephen and Molly Whitstable

Warning: this is going to sound excessively dull to many people so proceed with caution.

Readers of this blog will know that I have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends and with that in mind, we planned to do absolutely nothing. Well, that’s not exactly true.

Yup, that is pretty much all we did and it was absolutely glorious!

What We Also Did (But Which Was A Bit Sad)

The Pier at Seasalter

The one thing we did do which was sad but also incredibly meaningful to us was to release Josey’s ashes over the sea in Seasalter. We chose Seasalter because it is a very quiet beach (we didn’t want to upset any young children!) but we wanted to leave my big dog in a place where she could frolic along the beach and play with the seagulls. I think she would have liked it and now I’ll always have this peaceful place to think of when we think of her final resting place.

What We Will Do Next Time

It is no surprise that we couldn’t fit anything everything in to 24 hours and after the wonderful time that we had, we will certainly return to Tankerton and Whitstable one day. Next time we visit, we’d like to squeeze in the following activities:

  • Stay in a fisherman's hut on the beach. Whitstable Fisherman’s Huts offer huts from £85 per night bed and breakfast and I have it on high authority that this is a great experience.
  • Catch the train from Whitstable to Canterbury East (via Faversham) and walk back to Whitstable along the Crab and Winkle Way. The route is well sign-posted and the walk extremely scenic.
  • I’m not entirely sure whether this would be in the same trip as above, but I’d also love to hire a beach hut and hang out at the edge of the sea for a couple of days. The difference is that the beach huts are far more rustic with less provisions. BeachHuts.com offer huts from £50/day or we even spotted one for £60 for three days.
  • Spent time in Whitstable town itself, photographing all the quirky shop fronts.

Have you ever taken a quick 24 hour trip somewhere? Do share the details below.

An Anniversary Meal at the East Coast Dining Room, Whitstable

There are certain lessons that Stephen and I appear to need to learn twice. Or many, many times in some instances. For example, when you are in a seaside town on a bank holiday, it pays to book ahead for your evening meal and not leave it to chance that you’ll get in anywhere. We learned that lesson in the Isle of Wight and we learned it by not being able to get in anywhere.

Likewise, if it is your anniversary, albeit only a dating anniversary, it is best to do a little research to ensure that you find the best possible place to share your special meal. We’ve been together 18 years so I’m not quite able to list how many times we’ve learned this particular lesson.

And so it was that we’d taken a long walk from Tankerton Slopes to Whitstable Harbour (and back) and we had enjoyed a delicious seaside lunch at The Lobster Shack. With tummies full and drunk on sea air, we promptly fell asleep on return to our Airbnb, only to wake up at about 8pm, ravenous and in need of a walk.

The problem is that while many establishments had extended their Sunday opening hours to accommodate visitors on the bank holiday, even then 8pm was pushing it and most kitchens had closed.

East Coast Dining Room

After being turned away from two places, we saw the welcoming lights of the East Coast Dining Room and even noticed that we would be able to sit outside with Molly the Labrador!

With just ten minutes to go before their kitchen was due to close, the lovely people at the East Coast Dining Room welcomed us in. They warned us that we might have a little wait before they could take our order but ensured that we had a bread platter and Elderflower and Prosecco cocktails to enjoy while we waited. It is just as well because the menu was delightful and we pored over it for some time trying to make our choices.

Genuine Whitstable Oysters at East Coast Dining Room

Being that Whitstable is the oyster capital of England, we decided once again to begin our meal with half a dozen oysters for £8. The oysters were served with lemon, shallot vinegar and Tabasco and simply melted in our mouths, as oysters should. It was about this time that we began to ask why we can’t eat oysters every day.

Seared Scallops at East Coast Dining Room

For our first course, I decided on the seared scallops for £9.50, served with cauliflower purée and pickled grapes. They were so good that I was reluctant to share them with Stephen (it's our thing, we share) and I even refused a taste of his starter because I didn’t want to mix tastes. In the end, I was a good wife and gave him an entire scallop.

Slow Roasted Sirloin at East Coast Dining Room

Stephen decided on the sirloin for £9, slow roasted with a radish and tomato salad and served with a mustard cream. In a word, he described it as ‘awesome’ (he’s the man of little words, remember?)

Pork Tenderloin at East Coast Dining Room

For our main course, I chose the pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto, served with aubergine purée, roast peppers and courgettes and resting on a Parmesan polenta for £17.50. The pork was succulent, incredibly tender and very tasty indeed. I especially liked the aubergine purée and thought that the roast peppers and courgettes were the perfect accompaniment to the meal. I was a little bit more gracious this time and allowed Stephen a decent taste which he greatly appreciated.

Lemon Sole at East Coast Dining Room

Stephen chose the lemon sole for £17.50, pan fried with scallop roe and seaweed butter and served with spinach and sautéed potatoes for his main course. I had a taste and it was absolutely delicious and like the sole I remembered and loved from South Africa. It was at this moment that I realised that I don’t like Dover sole and that it is lemon sole that I do like. The flesh is much lighter and slightly sweeter and Stephen confirmed that he greatly enjoyed his meal.

We loved our meal at the East Coast Dining Room and cannot speak highly enough of the welcoming staff. At different times in the evening, we were visited by both waiters and management who took the time to come out and chat to us and even made sure that Molly had enough water and cuddles.

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and would absolutely recommend it to anyone seeking a romantic meal for two. There is no fixed menu at East Coast Dining Room and the food on offer changes seasonally. It is the kind of place that you will return to again and again just so that you can see what delicious items they have thought of next.

East Coast Dining Room
101 Tankerton Road

T: 01227 281180
E: book@eastcoastdiningroom.co.uk

Jacobean Splendour at Charlton House

Charlton House - window and clock

The Open House weekend in London is one weekend every September where buildings across the city are open to the public. It is a celebration of architecture and design and an opportunity to visit places purely based on which school of architecture they represent. When I read in my brochure that Charlton House is one of the finest and only remaining examples of Jacobean architecture in England, I knew straight away that I had to visit.

Built between 1607 and 1612, this splendid red brick building stands in the grounds of Charlton Park. It was initially built to house Sir Adam Newton, tutor to Prince Henry, son of James I but Henry died before the house was completed. The house saw a series of private owners between the 17th century and early 20th century and was sold to the council in 1925 before becoming part of the Greenwich Heritage Trust in 2014.

Charlton House - signage

The house is located just a mile away from Charlton Station and two miles from Woolwich Town Centre.

Charlton House, Greenwich

Charlton House in all her glory. I loved the clock tower.

Charlton House - entrance

The house and gardens are really well kept and the walled gardens are definitely worth a visit. On this particular day, our focus was on the guided tours of the interior.

Charlton House - gardens

As soon as we entered the house, we wasted no time in climbing the original Jacobean wooden staircase and exploring the upper level. We paused on the landing to admire the perfect lawns to the rear of the house.

Charlton House - The Long Gallery

The Long Gallery was my second favourite room in the house. True to its name, it occupies the full 76ft length of the north wing of Charlton House and has windows to the northern, western and eastern aspects.

Charlton House - Long Room Window

Looking to the north. The north wing of Charlton House was destroyed during World War II so what we see today is the result of restoration work.

Charlton House - Long Room

The light in the Long Gallery is quite enchanting and I saw many people captivated by it, just as I was. But remember to look up if ever you find yourself in the Long Gallery.

Charlton House - ceiling of the Long Room

How exquisite is the strapwork ceiling?

Charlton House - fireplace in the saloon

We managed to drag ourselves out of the Long Gallery, although we could have quite easily spent the rest of the afternoon there. We stopped only to admire the fireplace in the saloon before wandering through the upper rooms to the Dutch Room and making our way back onto the landing.

Charlton House - The Dutch Room

Charlton House - Red Walls

We had come full circle – that is the Long Gallery you can see up ahead. To the left in the photo below is the original oak staircase.

Charlton House - looking out onto the oak staircase

Charlton House - Vined Wallpaper

Just look at the detail in that wallpaper! There were in fact lovely details all around the house. As we made our way to the library in the southern wing, we spotted these Dutch tiles.

Charlton House - Tile Detail

While I loved the rest of Charlton House, especially the Long Gallery, I was simply enamoured by the Old Library. When we walked in, my eyes were immediately drawn to the beautiful ceiling which just happens to be my very favourite shade of teal green.

Charlton House - library ceiling

I somehow managed to enact my old trick of taking photos and making a place appear to be empty. It really wasn’t empty at all on the day of our visit and I was simply very lucky. There was something quite magical about the Old Library and the acoustics were quite interesting too. It is no wonder that lunchtime classical concerts are held here on Fridays and it is a popular venue for weddings and events too.

Charlton House - library

After a while, not even the allure of new favourite place and endless photographic opportunities could disguise the fact that we were very hungry indeed and that the café just happened to be serving tea and cake. The good news is that Charlton House now often afternoon tea from just £11.90 per person and I’m certain I needed an excuse to take my mum out for the day.

Charlton House - library from the balcony

Charlton House
Charlton Road

Website: Charlton House
House open: 9am to 5pm daily

Charlton House is taking part in London’s Open House on Sunday 18 September from 10am to 4pm. Guided tours will be taking place at 10am, 1pm and 2pm and admission is free.

There will also be performances featuring Nell, a munitions worker from the nearby Royal Arsenal during WWI. Performances are at 11.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm.

St Paul’s Bow Common: A Brutalist Masterpiece

St Paul's Bow Common

London is a treasure trove of architectural masterpieces, showing off the finest examples of every major school of design from Neoclassical to Art Deco to Modernist. There is one school of design that receives less focus, sometimes unfairly so. Born of necessity and a determination to overcome adversity, the Brutalist movement in architecture emerged in the post-war period and lasted right up until the end of the post-war restoration projects in the 1970s. As is suggested in the name, Brutalist structures are often concrete monoliths, ugly in name and ugly in nature.

Yet sometimes they are quite beautiful

I've written before about finding Beauty in Brutalism at the Barbican Estate and I’ve hinted that no matter how hard I tried, I still couldn’t bring myself to appreciate the monstrous complex in Southbank. This post is dedicated to St Paul’s Bow Common which is not only one of the most significant churches built in the post-war period, from an architectural point of view but it is also quite lovely.

Robert McGuire & Keith Murray was a small architectural practice famous for combining Brutalism with the Scandinavian tradition.  St Paul’s Bow Common was the first church designed by Robert McGuire, then still a student at the Architectural Association in London. It was built between 1958-1960 and in 2013 was judged to be the best Modern Church built in the UK since 1953 by the National Churches Trust.

On the day that we visited, I took my friend Bianka along because she is an architectural draftswoman and I knew that she would appreciate it. She wasn’t the only one. I loved how cool it was inside, how the light shone through the skylight and draped itself across the inner walls. This is a place of peace and tranquillity and would have provided a refuge for many weary East Londoners in the turbulent times following the war.

From the doorway looking in - St Paul's Bow Common

From the doorway, looking inside

The star detail in the skylight - St Paul's Bow Common

Looking up at the star-shaped detail on the skylight

Reflections in St Paul's Bow Common

Reflections in the holy water font

Concrete and brutalism - St Paul's Bow CommonStepping outside to admire the detail in the lintels. There was a gap between the top of the wall and the bottom of the concrete lintel, which allowed natural light into the entrance way.

Light - St Paul's Bow Common

In fact, natural light flowed into the church from all angles.

From the back looking out - St Paul's Bow Common

The view of the church from the inside looking out to the entrance.

The famous organ - St Paul's Bow Common

A glimpse of the famous pipe organ.

Original mosaic work - St Paul's Bow Common

Charles Luytens’s famous mosaics. You can visit the St Paul's Bow Common website to read about how he considered his works incomplete and returned 43 years later to complete them.

Decorations - St Paul's Bow Common

Candles hanging from the alter.

The Skylight - St Paul's Bow Common

Gazing up at the skylight.

This Is The Gate of Heaven - St Paul's Bow Common

Before we left, we stopped to admire Ralph Beyer’s impressive lettering. Beyer is famous for turning lettering into an art form. The message runs right round the lintel on three sides and says:

“Truly this is none other, But the House of God, This is the Gate of Heaven”

St Paul’s Bow Common is taking part in Open House London on 17-18 September 2016. If you’re still planning your weekend, definitely consider skipping the queues at the more popular venues and heading off the beaten track. St Paul's Bow Common on Open House London.

What do you think? Do you see the beauty in Brutalism or is this a sight for sore eyes?

Prague: Walking Vinohrady to Old Town Square

Walking in Prague

How do you show your love for a city? You can photograph it from every angle, dine along its rivers and tell the world of your love affair. Or you can just walk through its streets and breath it in. When we visited Prague we did just that, we walked wherever we could, taking in the streets and alleyways, parks and suburbs, famous sights and hidden treasures.  It was a wonderful five days that left me with a thirst for more and a definite plan to visit this fantastic city again.

Despite soaring temperatures and barely a shadow in sight, we decided to walk from our hotel in Vinohrady to the Old Town on our first day. On paper it appeared to be about a mile but somehow we managed to walk seven miles on that first day.

Rather than draw you a map of the rather haphazard route that we took, I thought I’d share our journey with you and the sights that we saw.

Tram in Prague

It always takes me a little while to get a feel for a city. What are the people like? Are they friendly? How modern is the city? What is quaint and what is innovative? The first thing I spotted on our walk was the tram – poor Stephen doesn’t quite understand my obsession with public transport but needless to say, having never lived in a city with an active tram service, I was transfixed by the trams.

Wenceslas Square

We walked down Wenceslas Square and I battled with the sun to get a good photo of the Wenceslas Monument. I knew very little about the Good King Wenceslas, the patron saint of Prague, Bohemia and the Czech Republic but during our trip we learnt a lot about the Přemyslid dynasty, of which he was a part. We would also come to learn a lot about Wenceslas Square and its central part in the fight to overthrow Communism.

We decided to take a slight detour so that we could see Henry’s Bell Tower (known as Jindřišská věž in Czech). The story of the tower is that the church of St Henry needed a bell tower but it was clear that its walls were not strong enough to support the weight of the bells. The decision was made to make a detached bell tower instead.

Henry's Bell Tower

Henry’s Bell Tower still stands today and is 65m high and was built between 1472 and 1475.

Powder Gate, Prague

Our detour took us past another tower, this time the famous Powder Gate. The Powder Gate was originally intended to form part of the defences for the adjacent Royal Court but construction halted 8 years after it began in 1475 due to riots which caused the king to flee. It never did serve a defensive purpose and gained its name after it was used to store gunpowder in the 17th century. Look at that beautiful detail.

Powder Gate, Prague detail

Adjacent to the Powder Gate is the Municipal House or Obecní dům in Czech.

Municipal House, Prague

We decided to escape the heat and the glare of the sun to explore this beautiful building and you can read all about it in Art Nouveau Opulence in Prague's Municipal House.

Celetna Street, Prague

All too soon, we were out in the sun again and decided it was time to head for Old Town Square. We strolled down Celetná Street which was blessedly shady and took a look at some of the touristy fare.

Arcade in Prague

We finally broke out onto Old Town Square and stood staring at the people and crowds for a very long time.

Old Town Square, Prague

The Astronomical Clock, Prague

I finally got my bearings and made a beeline for the famous Astronomical Clock which has adorned the side wall of the Town Hall since the end of the 15th century. As I negotiated the crowds to get a better view, I peered over my right shoulder and saw a very unimpressed-looking husband glaring back at me. It seems that I had rushed off without notice (after dragging him around for several hours) and he was not happy. Realising that it was high time for a beverage and a break, I decided that we’d had enough exploring for the time being.

Buskers in Old Town Square, Prague

We walked back through Old Town Square, stopping only to admire these buskers. They were very good.

Au Gourmand Praha

We then turned into an alleyway at the edge of Old Town Square and found a seat at Au Gourmand.We were incredibly hot and thirsty and both managed to inhale a fresh mint iced tea followed by an orange and ginger homemade lemonade during our short time there. They were both delicious and a great help in cooling us down.

Classic Coke Truck, Prague

There is no rest for intrepid explorers though and soon we were on our way. As we exited onto Dlouha Street, Stephen was thrilled to spot a classic Coke truck and excitedly send a photo off to his colleagues. I guess you do have to be a bit of a Coke geek to work for a certain company.

Old Town, Prague

We wondered down the streets of the Old Town, walking towards the Jewish Quarter and soon arrived at the exquisite St Agnes of Bohemia church. This wonderful place deserves its own post but I’ll leave you with just a taste of the Presbytery of St Francis inside St Agnes.

Presbytery of the Church of St Francis, St Agnes of Bohemia, Prague

That tiny little person in the photo is Stephen and it gives you an idea of how vast the presbytery is.

After our visit to St Agnes, we strolled through the Jewish Quarter hoping to eat at one of the famous restaurants. Despite my heritage, I did not realise what day it was and soon realised it was Saturday when we noted that all of the restaurants were closed! I’m happy to report that it was our only culinary disaster of the trip and we opted instead to head inside the Kolonial for their signature pork knuckle.

Prague Castle

We managed but a short walk after our meal but the day was beginning to take its toll on our legs. Feeling rather smug at all we had managed to see in one day, we descended into the blissfully cool Metro at Staroměstská and took a train back to the hotel.

The Prague Metro