Sunday 27th May
What a pleasant surprise to wake to sunshine! Our weather app had yesterday advised us that rain was forecast for the entire day so it was much relief when we woke to see the sun. Mark set out to meet up with The Thanet Cycle Club bike riders for a 80km ride around Kent. I set out for a solo walk and finished up back at the Royal Victoria Pavilion; hence forth referred to as RVP. I ventured upstairs to check out this level and was amazed to find just how vast the outside dining area was; and with such spectacular views over the beach and on to France. Once again, thoughts of our rather run-down Bondi Pavilion came to mind here. What an opportunity going begging to accommodate the vast numbers of visitors to our beautiful home beach. I settled for a cup of tea and the two English couples beside me were having champagne and beer! And at 9am!! Had they not been at a table for 4 I might have asked to join them!
Our plan for the afternoon was to visit Broadstairs and we were hoping to do a 2 PM walking tour. Mark, unfortunately, didn’t get back from his bike ride until almost 1.30 pm and so that didn’t leave enough time to travel to Broadstairs and find the tour meeting point. So we decided instead to stay locally and do the 4 PM tour of the Ramsgate Tunnels. These are located just across the road from (and as we found out, underneath) our apartment so that worked out well.
The Tunnels tour lasted 90 minutes and offered interesting insight to what life in the tunnels must have been like during WWII. Ramsgate was the first British city to be blitz bombed by the Germans. There were regular bombing raids and often the Germans just unloaded their bombs on Ramsgate when they had experienced an unsuccessful mission. The Tunnels were a sanctuary for the people of Ramsgate and saved thousands of lives. It was a great tour and we would highly recommend it. From the Tunnels we emerged back into the sunshine by about 6 pm and Mark noted that this allowed enough time to head back to the RVP for another craft beer, or two. The RVP was packed, yet again, and there were no available seats on the vast upper outside deck so we took stools back downstairs where we had sat on the previous evening. Mark filled me on the tales of his bike ride over these beers and noted that Broadstairs, to the north, and Sandwich, to the south, looked like interesting places to visit so we decided to try and visit both of these on Monday, whilst hoping the forecast rain might hold off.
We left RVP for the 10 min stroll up to Bon Appetite, our venue for dinner, which came highly recommended. This was a pleasant setting and offered reasonable fare but I feel I was becoming jaded with too many evenings of dining out. A few nights of home cooked fare were in order for moi!
Monday 28th May
Rain had been forecast today so it was with great joy that I woke at 4 am to see the sun rise into a clear sky. Not the 4 am waking bit but the sunshine bit! Mark and I set off for our morning walk and headed north along the road and through King George VI Memorial Park and up as far as Dumpton Bay. We then realised the tide was way out (almost to France) and decided to head back along the beach with the white cliffs guiding us back to RVP, yet again, for our morning coffee.
It was a public holiday today, both in the UK and the US, so with quiet share markets expected we decided to visit Broadstairs, Sandwich and possibly Deal.
Broadstairs is a small seaside village located high on the cliff and about a 10 minute drive north of Ramsgate and was our first destination for the day. It’s a very pretty village with narrow and winding streets lined with cafes and restaurants and with a more sophisticated and contemporary edge to those found just a short drive down the coast at Ramsgate. There were also loads of quirky gift and novelty shops, art galleries and clothing shops where I’m sure you could while away many hours.
The beach at Broadstairs, Viking Bay, was packed with people swimming and sun-baking given the magnificent warm day and we even viewed the end of a Laser sailing regatta. We stopped off for cream tea at Bessie’s Tea Rooms but I think Bessie had made the scones a day or so before. It was a quintessentially English experience though and so that made up for the scones.
Our parking was only for two hours and so at the end of the allotted time we headed south to visit Richborough Castle. This had been mentioned to us of being worthy of a visit given it was a fairly substantial Roman ruin. We also had free entry to the site given we’d purchased an English Heritage pass on our earlier visit to Dover Castle.
Richborough Castle was settled by the Romans in 43 AD but wasn’t fortified until the third century and it is the ruins of this fortification that are visible today. It is really amazing that this fort was the entry point for the Roman invasion of Britan and the ruins still remain today 2,000 years on. The fort, although now many miles inland, was initially a port on the Island of Thanet. Now the Island is part of the mainland and the sea can’t be seen from the fort. Entry included an audio guide which was and essential element for learning about the history of the site – otherwise you were just looking at substantial ruin walls.
It was 2 pm by the time we finished at Richborough so we headed to Sandwich which was just a 5 min drive away. We spied a busy pub on the riverfront, The Bell Hotel, one of three pubs on the intersection, and thought we should at least have a ‘sandwich’ for lunch, given our location. The sandwich was rather disappointing though and not up to the standard of those we had enjoyed at Ramsgate. We strolled around the town centre for a while after lunch and then headed to Deal Castle.
Deal was another area Mark had passed though on his bike ride and thought worthy of a visit. Our heritage pass granted free access to this Castle and that’s why it made it on to our ‘to do’ list. Deal Castle sits right on the beach and was built by Henry VIII as an artillery fort to defend against invasion by French and Spanish Catholics. We were glad our Heritage pass granted us free access as there was really little to see inside the Castle. Most of the value was to be gained from the outside; looking back up to the impressive fortress located right on the beach.
Henry VIII built two other similar artillery forts to protect this section of coast and one of these, Walmer Castle and Gardens, was just a 5 minute drive away so we decided to visit that as well. This was much more worthy of a visit and we spent a good hour or so inspecting the many rooms and gardens until the close at 6 pm. Noteworthy features here, apart from the sheer grandeur and majesty of the vast fortress and gardens, was seeing where The Duke of Wellington lived and passed away.
We were quiet exhausted after a fairly long day and headed home with just one short stop to buy supplies for dinner. A night of dining in was planned.