Margate – Small hotels, posh food, micro pubs and a sunset…

I recently had a couple of days in Thanet to enjoy some sea air and sunshine. The weather was ok, and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting first Margate (overnight), and then Broadstairs. Although I prefer Broadstairs, I wanted to see how Margate was looking these days. I’d heard about the resurgence of micropubs, the cafe culture, the art gallery showcasing new and funky pieces juxtaposed with Turner’s seascapes, the retro shops and vibrant vibe of the Old Town. I was, therefore, fascinated to view the cultural renaissance for myself.

Unfortunately, The Sands Hotel was booked so stayed in a grand looking ‘boutique hotel’ on the sea front. The bedrooms online looked glorious. However, when I arrived, I quickly realized that ‘boutique hotel’ meant small, with smaller bedrooms and ridiculously small sinks and bathrooms to match. It looked so flipping splendid online and I was a bit disappointed, but not really surprised. They always make everything look amazing and glamorous online, don’t they?

Anyway, I enjoyed the micropubs and thought Margate Old Town was rather nice with a selection of cafes, pubs and obligatory gift shops. Enjoyed a couple of beers in the Life Boat micropub after a jolly good breakfast in the corner café. Looked in the gift shops (didn’t buy anything) and wandered to the harbour/beach area to enjoy a small libation in the Harbour Arms and enjoyed the views in the sunshine.


Margate has a very pleasant ambience, but could still do with some improving. Why can’t business owners pick up the litter in front of their premises? Particularly important if they are eateries! However, it has certainly retained some charm and the people are very friendly. The Turner Contemporary was fun to visit, although taking only a few minutes to see everything. The art wasn’t particularly impressive, but it was amusing and free admission is always welcome.

Unfortunately, many of the restaurants closed at 5pm and it was difficult to find somewhere interesting to eat. Eventually, a table was reserved for 7.15pm in The Sands Hotel which is a glamorous and luxurious residence. Why not treat oneself to a posh meal? When the waiter asked for an email address my husband told him, if you wanted to contact us, we will be next door in Fez, another micropub. He laughed and agreed it was a great place to go to.

Fez is amazing and by far my favourite pub. It is quirky, friendly, has delicious beers and quirky décor. We walked in and it was packed with people drinking, laughing, singing, and dancing to the blues band located in the corner. A lady asked me if I would like to sit down as there was a seat free. Later on she told me she had properties in Margate and there are a lot of investors coming to the area. She bought her first property when only twenty three years old while working “in the City”. We chatted for some time and it was great fun and interesting to find out about what was going on in the area.

As we talked, she confirmed what I had suspected about Margate. It is slowly relinquishing its reputation as a rundown seaside town and gaining credentials as an arty destination. If you want to visit you can catch a train from St. Pancras and the journey takes about 90 minutes. Also, once there, they have a fab bus service called the Thanet Loop so you can visit Broadstairs and Ramsgate too.
The meal in The Sands Hotel was delicious and we had a beautiful view of the evening’s sunset. I had salmon, guinea fowl a superb lemon pudding. Oh, how spoilt I felt.
After the meal, I went back to the pub next door to Fez, where they were playing 50s records on an ancient gramophone player. People were dancing and having a roaring time. Fantastic.

The next day we succumbed to our under cooked eggs for breakfast ‘scrape the snotty bit off’ and headed off to Broadstairs. We experienced more micro pubs, a lovely lunch and then a slow drive home. A great mini break.

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Easter prep, gym, cooking and a flat tyre…

Had a good week. Was invited to a family meal 🥘 . It was a lovingly home cooked Spanish tapas and absolutely delicious. We had bruschetta (as photo), meat balls, tortilla, olives, veggies, canary potatoes, prawns and manchego cheese. The pud was homemade brownie with ice cream and was absolutely amazing. The beer was Punk IPA by BrewDog which is my all time favourite beer, at the moment. Must say, tapas is a great way to entertain because you can pick what you like which, in my case, is most of it. Oops.

Been to the gym three times and been on a couple of walks. Tried to go on about 1200 calories and some days have been ok but others, as above, not great. However, feel more in control as not stuffing chocs and biscuits so feel a lot better. With Easter Sunday looming this is my main aim. Upwards and onwards. Really aiming to start properly after Easter.

On Saturday, did the booze and bits top up shopping and discovered a flat tyre when we returned to our car. Luckily, handy husband was with me and put the spare tyre on. This seemed to fascinate the local shopping population. Looked a fairly simple operation but I probably wouldn’t have the strength for the nuts. We then had to rush to the tyre shop and the man insisted I stayed in the car, like lady muck, while he jacked the car up! So I carried on nonchalantly writing this blog post! All part of life’s rich tapestry! Can you change a tyre?

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and I’m looking forward to a jolly family day of roast lamb and all the trimmings including homemade Yorkshire puddings, chocolate pudding and cake. Then I’m back on the running, gym and healthy diet routine. I promise.

The obligatory Easter chocolate cake is a simple affair…

8oz marg

8oz caster sugar

8oz self raising flour

4 eggs

Chocolate drops

Splash of treacle and or milk (makes it fudgy and yummy)

2 oz Chocolate powder

Mix together and put into two 8 inch tins.

Icing is 2oz butter with around 3oz icing sugar and 1oz chocolate powder. Mix with a tiny drop of boiling water. To be honest, you don’t have to be too careful about measurements for the icing.

Enjoy and have a wonderful Easter.

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London – Evening out with moments of reflection…

 

Several months ago, five of us had booked to hear a lecture on Gin, History and Chemical Science, at the RSC, Burlington House, London. As always, these evening events are a great excuse for catching up with family, plus enjoying some wine, beer and food in the process.

 

Trafalgar Square

As we strolled from the railway station through Trafalgar Square, towards the Piccadilly Circus area, we were instantaneously struck by the unnatural atmosphere after the appalling atrocities of the afternoon before. Everyone was respectful and subdued. People were observing the pavement art work and some were waiting for the Major of London to arrive and speak at a rally to show solidarity. Everyone seemed hushed, observant, considerate and emotional. Most of the sound seemed to be the helicopters above, police vans and sirens.  It certainly wasn’t business as usual in London that evening. I couldn’t help feeling proud to be British, be grateful and take a few moments to think about the individuals injured or who had lost their precious lives so unexpectedly and needlessly.

RSC and Gin Lecture

We met other members of our party at the RSC, and enjoyed a complimentary gin and tonic. Very good gin, made by three chemists, one of them, Professor Andrew Whiting, was giving the talk.

The lecture was excellent and inspirational. Professor Andrew Whiting explained about the history and resurgence of the gin industry and his background. He then spoke about the business and their approach to developing innovative gins with imaginative flavours. He also talked about the marketing and branding approach going from the original Breaking Bad image towards a modern, slick and more wholesome brand, thus attracting a wide customer base. May have to check out the chocolate flavoured gin for future reference!

Afterwards, we went for a quick drink and meal and then caught a train home feeling very tired, happy and appreciative. We all had an enjoyable evening out which gave me an insight to the business of gin, humility and respect.

Rome in December

Rome at night - upon arrival...

Rome at night – upon arrival…

What a wonderful trip it was! I discovered a truly beautiful city with breathtaking architecture, history, art, style, opulence and was extremely impressed.

After a long day of travel on Saturday, settled into the one bedroom apartment off the main road, Nazionale, which was immediately enticing with its opulent buildings, shops and restaurants and so full of life.  This area is a great place to stay because it is walking distance from the main Stazione Termini.  The apartment was secured from the website Air BnB and well located because central and handy for the Metro.  Obviously, it is better to walk and explore the winding lanes and magical surroundings of Rome.

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The first day we started by visiting The Vatican and because of a long day on Saturday, deemed it impossible to rush out so we didn’t arrive until about midday and probably missed all the drama of the Pope (we think) but it was still an amazing experience. Vatican city (Citta del Vaticano), the papal residence, was built over the tomb of Saint Peter. The Vatican’s position as a sovereign state within a state was garenteed by the Lateran Treaty of 1929, marked by the building of a new road, the Via della Conciliazione. It has been the residence of the popes for about six centuries since 1377 and is an independent state ruled by the Supreme Pontiff (the Pope).

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The evening was spent in the lively Irish pub, The Flann O’Brien, situated on the Nazionale which had a keyboard player/singer and lots of dancing ensued.  A fabulous start to our week long break.

We visited the Trevi Fountain on day 2.  The weather was blue sky and sunny, although a chilly 16c, a lot brighter than the UK.  We duly threw in our coins into the Trevi Fountain, which traditionally ensures your return to Rome.  The Trevi fountain, inspired by Roman triumphal arches, is the largest and most famous Baroque fountain in Rome (standing 25.9 meters high and 19.8 meters wide). My pictures are not great, because it was very bright. Goodness knows what Rome is like during the summer months because it was still fairly busy in December.

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During day 3, we frequented the truly amazing Pantheon.  This place is stunning and was one of the most impressive sights I have experienced.  It is well preserved and is an unusual experience as you gaze up to the delights of the largest unreinforced dome ever built. The temple is the only monument in classical style which can be found intact in Rome. The word Pantheon is a Greek adjective meaning “honor all Gods” was first built as a temple to all gods. Spectacular and not to be missed if you visit Rome.

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Well, day 4, was incredible and quite an exhilarating experience.  We took the metro a couple of stops to The Colosseum.  This has to be seen to be believed. An immense amphi-theatre and bizarrely the first sight you see as you leave the station. The Colosseum, originally known as Flavian Amphitheatre, was commissioned in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian and completed by his son, Titus, in 80, with later improvements by Domitian. What is impressive is that it is still there at all. It is located east of the Roman Forum and has 80 arched entrances for 55,000 spectators. The Colosseum is huge and as you explore you can almost hear the cheering of the ancient, ghostly crowd.  Quite an extraordinary encounter with the past which leaves an impression. This was further endorsed by a wander around nearby ancient ruins of the The Forum and this also evoked more impressions of the power of the Roman empire.

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During the week we visited many areas of Rome, including The Spanish Steps. The square and the church are connected by the monumental Spanish Steps, built between 1723-1726 (designed by Francesco de Sanctis). It is a busy area with many people sitting on the steps and enjoying the ambience of Rome.  If they were like us, they were probably exhausted because you walk miles. But it sure is worth it. We then wandered around the rather grand area and nosed in the designer shops.  Some very expensive handbags there.

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On our last day, we decided to visit the Baths of Diocletian. The visit was a last minute decision and very well received. The baths were built 298AD and 306AD to honour Roman Emperor Diocletian. The complex is large and was once one of the biggest in the world. It had a frigidarium (cold room), tepidarium (warm room) and caldarium (hot room or steam room) as well plus large bathing chambers, gymnasiums and even a library and held up to 3,000 people.

As you enter the baths there is a small auditorium where you can watch a video about the Baths of Diocletian and includes a computer animated section, demonstrating how they think the baths were in their heyday. If you visit the baths, make sure you watch it because it is fascinating although, in my opinion, probably they were not that grand.

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As you walk around the beautiful city you pass some pretty areas and as it was December we were impressed by the lights and decorations. Of course, we devoured plenty of pasta, meats, fish, pizza, wine and beer in some great family owned restaurants and bars.

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It was an amazing trip and even more interesting and exciting than expected.  I may need to return…

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8 Reasons why attending family events are useful…

Yesterday evening I visited a restaurant for a family meal to celebrate a birthday.  My small family unit (parents, children and partners) has always celebrated various family birthdays with a meal.  Sometimes we gather for a Sunday roast too.  It made me think how important these events are and question whether we are unusual to do this?  We have birthdays throughout the year, so it happens about every few months.

Yesterday, was a fantastic evening of debate, food, drink and laughter. We can all say what we honestly think about our own news, global and national events and so it is a great opportunity for discussion.

In my humble opinion, there are many reasons to do the above and I’ve decided to list them because it reminds me too.

Nurtures a bond between family members

Creates a debating environment

Good to catch up on people’s news

Provide advice and support

Gets you away from screens, hooray

Enjoy copious amounts of food and drink which is often home cooked

Stops loneliness and is good for the soul

Can devise plans for the next birthday year

Ok, my musings on family gatherings are over, for now, but I’ve one question. What do you enjoy about an evening out with friends and family?

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Canterbury Food and Drink Festival

 

Yesterday, I visited the above in the Dane John Gardens, Canterbury, which is showcasing an incredible selection of food and drink. As a CAMRA member, I do enjoy a pint of ale or two and thoroughly enjoyed the day out. We travelled by train to Canterbury West and strolled through the busy town towards the Gardens.  The Festival was the place to be, as it was the official launch of Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight (Friday 23rd Sept).

 

I went to the festival with my husband and other CAMRA folk and we managed to arrive early and quickly settled with our pints, by the bandstand, and spent a fulfilling day listening to all types of music (folk/rock), eating, drinking and chatting.

 

Also, much of the time was enjoyed wandering around the stalls looking at crafts, beers, ciders, pies, breads, cheeses, cured meats, kebabs, curries, burgers, fish, etc. The quality was of a very high standard with lots of tasty salads and veggies too.  Some obscure ingredients were added to some of the traditional foods such as the chilli and chocolate pork sausages and the friendly cheese lady who sold us some chilli cheese and English brie.  The unusual variety of food is what made this festival particularly fascinating, plus, of course, there was a great selection of dishes for tasting with plenty of beer, wine and cider to sup too.

 

The weather was superb as it was sunny all day but not too hot.  A relaxing and interesting day which I will probably repeat next year.

Broadstairs (part 2) – Jazz, Art, Cafes, Skeletons, Quirky Pubs and Ab Fab Ladies!

Well, in the first Broadstairs blog, I didn’t really say what happened at Broadstairs and as it was such a weird and wonderful day, here goes…  We found a parking spot (which is amazing luck) and walked to the seafront.  There was a fete with an amateur art exhibition near the bandstand which was a jolly affair selling the usual stuff plus a small jazz band playing on the bandstand.  The art exhibition was an interesting mix of contemporary and traditional art and inspiring to look at as we soak up the community spirit of Broadstairs.

Strolling along the promenade was uplifting as you look across the glorious views. I headed towards town to the cafe “The Old Curiosity Shop” which is fascinating because it has a well in it! If you look down the well you will see, not water, but human skeletons at the bottom! Enjoyed a cuppa and tea cake and carried on exploring the small but bustling town. It’s an enticing place with lots of independent cafes, restaurants, pubs and gift shops.  Broadstairs may be on the small side but full of character and interest.

At lunch time, I ventured into The Chapel Bar to enjoy a pint and check out the craft beers.  The Chapel Bar was an old book shop but has been adapted into a pub.  Really quirky because the shelves are still filled with books on everything from philosophy to literature.  Quite fascinating.  The owners were opening the doors as we arrived and my hubby and I entered the premises eager for a small libation but they weren’t really ready and took about 15 minutes to pour our beers!  A person could die of thirst in that place although the beer was delicious so I suppose it was worth the wait.

During the afternoon, we went back to the car, grabbed some beach stuff and sat on the superb beach.  It was lovely and had such a warm, family atmosphere even though the weather was cloudy.  After an afternoon of people watching, reading and snoozing we ventured into the Dickens’ pub for dinner.  This is a great place,  commands wonderful views of Viking Bay and is very busy.  Luckily, a large party left as we arrived and I managed to seize a table for two.    Then it happened.  They saw, they entered and conquered.  A group of ladies arrived en masse.  The noise was unbelievable and I couldn’t help noticing how most of them were tall and fabulous.  I quickly realised they all had six inch heels on!  Yes, I kid you not.  Never seen such glamour.  Hair done, makeup done, fab dresses on and boy they partied on.  Squashed next to me, screaming with laughter (not me), I managed to enjoy a scrumptious roast dinner but I was glad to depart.  They looked absolutely fabulous though and that is great to observe.

After rediscovering the nostalgic grandeur and quirkiness of Broadstairs, I decided that I must frequent it more often so I can explore the surrounding area.  Possibly a few days away next August for the annual folk festival…

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Everyday inspiration – Parkrun, reading and cooking…

Saturday – was an inspiring day so I’m going to share with you.  It started with a bowl of yogurt, oats and frozen berries.  This is a impressive breakfast, because it is sooo gratifying and looks rather resplendent too.

Parkrun

This was followed by a drive to the local park for this week’s Parkrun.  I’ve been running for a while off and on and recently decided to train more seriously.  To reduce the risk of injury, been doing a tough workout at the gym with weights and leg strength exercises. Consequently, my legs feel marginally stronger and I managed to keep shuffling along for the whole 5k.  Jolly tough for me, I can tell you.

Parkrun helps because it is challenging and timed.  It is held in many parks nationally on Saturday morning and starts at 9pm.  If you try it, arrive early because there is a short talk before the running starts.  Don’t forget to log on and obtain your bar code so your time can be recorded and emailed to you.  To find your local Parkrun, here is the website: http://www.parkrun.org.uk
Cooking and catching up with stuff

Returned home feeling invigorated and got stuck into a few housework chores, showered then had some lunch.  The afternoon was spent food shopping, reading and making this Moussaka for dinner.  It has been a long time since I made one and I really enjoyed it. Moussaka is simple to make and a favourite meal.

Fry slices of aubergines with a red onion. Cook some lamb mince and season then make a simple white sauce.  Layer in a deep dish, the aubergines, onion, mince and sliced potatoes. Add the white sauce and sprinkle some cheese if you are piggy like me then shove in a hot oven.  Job done. Here is a recipe to guide you: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/moussaka_71985

Evening road trip and craft beer

During the evening I checked out the pub King and Queen in Edenbridge.  A pleasant, evening trip and driven by somebody else.  This was just as well because they had craft beer.

So what is special about today?  Nothing much but it was inspiring.  A new PB at the exhausting but satisfying Parkrun, interesting reading, catching up, cooking a different meal and drinking some super craft beer. A day doing fab stuff, when I wanted.  Always a good thing, isn’t it?

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