Travel bites: a family weekend on the Kent coast
Or how to pretend you’re on holiday during a pandemic
Last time I was away from London, it was cold, the snow was falling in southern Italy, I was commuting to my place of work in the City and I was planning to meet friends for dinner once a week or so.
That’s a lifetime ago, isnt it? Early March. When – upon going to visit my family for a weekend – I was made to feel quite uncomfortable being asked to then quarantime myself at home for 14 days, because Italy was a red zone. Little did we all know, a few weeks later the whole world would be in lockdown, stand still.
Fast forward, and things are slowly, very slowly, resembling something familiar. We can go back to a gym class, we can go to a pub. We can even go and stay somewhere other than our own bedroom. And as soon as this became possible, the urge to leave London behind for a few days had the better of me.
Kent, why not
We decided to go to Kent. Easy enough to get to from central London, with sandy beaches for the dog and the toddler, historic towns should the weather be inclement, countryside and open fields.
We initially looked for an air bnb but with a little one, we then decided it would be easier somewhere we could also have food prepared. Not wishing to stay somewhere too central such as Broadstairs, we found a place called the Dog, aptly named since we also travel with our lovely basset, and booked a room with breakfast.
The Dog is located in the small village of Wingham, just outside Canterbury and on the way to the coast. The village is lovely, with some attractive period cottages, some dating back to the XIII century and very well preserved. The Dog itself is grade listed too, and our room had exposed wood beams, high ceiling but enough modern comfort for a family of 3 humans and a dog.
Downstairs, the restaurant serves modern brasserie style food, with some creative touches and prices in line with central London actually.
They also serve food in the terrace at the back which was absolutely perfect since we had great weather. While the food menu could do perhaps with some variety (daily specials?), the breakfast menu is very satisfactory and the coffee is ace.
In terms of social distancing, not much was observed by punters or staff; no masks, and while the hotel had made an effort on ‘way in’ / ‘way out’ directions nobody was observing those (including ourselves, I must admit since nobody was actually bothering). Paper menus were shared and reused. Sanitiser however was provided everywhere, even in small bottles to take home which was great.
The staff were all very friendly and helpful, and also family focused. One afternoon, as I tried to enjoy a coffee in the sun, our 3yo decided to join me and then have a meltdown; the french maitre d’ calmed him down and made me look less of an idiot with the rest of the guests.
Margate / Palm Bay
The first day we decided to head towards Margate, and since not all beaches are dog friendly we made the most of the blog post by my friend Teresa the Dogvine had just published on Kent dog friendly beaches. We headed to Palm Bay and it was a great choice.
Available and free parking, easy access to the beach itself, not many people and lots of sand, spacious with some stinky sections under the wall’s edges. There is nothing on this beach, which can be less attractive but for us it was perfect and Oli loved playing in the calm shore, which did not have that much seaweed.
We drove to Margate Old Town for lunch, which worked out really well. Not too crowded, we had a meal at Bottega Caruso, a deli owned by husband and wife team where, like ourselves, the wife is from Campania and the husband is british. We sat outside in the sunshine, were joined by a friend who lives locally and had some great food (pasta!).
We then walked nearby, had a lovely ice cream at quirky shop Ramsay & Williams Ice Cream Bar (lots of vintage stuff inside including music boxes and cinema chairs).
There seem to be a lot of vintage and retro stores in this area, many of them closed due to COVID – but we manage to take a peek inside Margate Retro FORT ROAD YARD, a neon sign multi stores centres where I could have spent some money very easily.
Broadstairs / Kingsgate Bay
For our second day at the beach, we picked another dog friendly sandy beach, this time towards Broadstairs. Kingsgate Bay is impressive, with the white cliffs rising from the shoreline encasing a crescent of golden sand; a natural arch to the north edge frames a picture perfect bay.
Unfortunately once we got down to the beach level, it was not as idyllic as it had seemed: loads of seaweed made quite impossible to hit the sea with the toddler, the cliff sides were smelly thanks to – guessing – people using those as natural toilets. We left not long after. The other negative was that we paid £10 to park at the clean but not so appealing Captain Digby pub (but what a view!).
We drove off, taking in the views from the much prettier (but not dog friendly) Joss Bay and headed towards Broadstairs.
The seaside town looks very attractive, with a period fronted promenade, loads of cafes, shops and restaurants and lots of people, even at the very end of lock down pandemic months… since it was lunchtime, we treated ourselves to a massive icecream at retro Morelli’s.
An Italian institution, the parlour is dog friendly, air conditioned and very COVID prepared. The gelati are huge, creamy, sweet and satisfying if not particularly healthy, we feel. The retro features of the venue are impressive and very well maintained.
The boys made it for the beach straight after, which was heaving but feasible distancing, while Amber and I kept ourselves to the promenade.
Reculver / Whitstable
On sunday, the weather was grey, drizzly and windy. We drove to Reculver beach, another dog friendly coast section outside of Margate. To the side of the bay is an imposing ruin of a medieval church, surrounded by a Roman fortress. It makes for a picturesque backdrop.
The beach itself is more shingly than the others we’d visited and would offer the chance to do some rockpooling; there’s a playground and a pay and display car park. The weather made us leave immediately and we headed for Whitstable, the famous seaside town.
We had visited a few years ago during a sunny Easter, and enjoyed walks in the pretty town, a seafood lunch and a stroll on the beach. This time, the rain stopped us in our tracks; we picked up a take away, expensive sandwich and drove off to London. My friend Kirsty was here a week before and was able to enjoy it much more, so I would suggest to read her blog if you’re planning to visit.
I am really pleased we chose Kent for our weekend staycation; the beaches are sandy and wide, the sea was not too cold, it’s not too far to drive and the country side is very pretty.
Do you have any more recommendations for the area? Let us know in the comments