Monday, 30 April 2012

Passport control: an unexpected 'staycation'

I don't like the word 'staycation', but this is what we ended up having over the Easter weekend. We had planned a blissful sounding little break in Normandy in a cottage just inland from Dieppe. We'd been very busy, so needed a change of scene and a breath of fresh air. Anyway, this wasn't to be. Just as we were getting organised late on Thursday afternoon, in preparation for our 7.30 ferry on Good Friday morning, we realised our 5-year-old daughter's passport had expired a fortnight earlier.

So, after a lot of disappointment (tears, I'm afraid) and several deep breaths, I hit the Alastair Sawday website with a vengeance, determined to find a hotel vacancy near the coast a couple of hours or so from London. Consequently, our Easter ended up having a much more British flavour, driving down to the Kent coast and making the most of the Good Friday sunshine in Broadstairs and Ramsgate, before checking into the Bell Hotel in Sandwich for a tasty dinner and relaxing overnight stay.

After a hearty breakfast on Easter Saturday we strolled around historic Sandwich and picked up a few local goodies in the Sandwich Sausage Shop (a very good butchers – despite the name which our daughter found hilarious, along with the Sandwich Library and Sandwich Chocolate Shop). We then headed to Deal for a windswept walk along the front and an epic fish and chip lunch. As the weather was now so much more wintery, we were happy to be heading back to London.

The latter half of the weekend was spent with my parents in Hertfordshire and included visiting Lionel Rothschild's extraordinary collection of stuffed animals in Tring, part of the Natural History Museum (and with free entry). Tring is an attractive country town with bags of character on the edge of the Chilterns. There are some lovely walks and sights nearby, including the Ridgeway Path and Ivinghoe Beacon.

This unexpected 'staycation' had a few memorable benefits: we really enjoyed our time in Kent and were particularly taken by Broadstairs – where Dickens spent his holidays – and Ramsgate with its enormous marina and elegant Regency architecture. We'll definitely be returning soon to visit the new Turner Contemporary in Margate. The area's perfect for easy day trips from London on the train.

What's more our Sandwich souvenirs: delicious brown shrimps, salt marsh lamb and bottle of Pinot Blanc from Stopham Estate (as they say on the label: 'Made with precision and passion in Sussex') partially helped make up for the bootful of wine, Bonne Maman jam and other French treats we'd set or sights on. Parents of young children, please be warned: those first passports run out quickly and you don't want to miss the boat as well.

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