Sunday, 12 July 2009

Kentish holiday part 1

Bee on red and orange daisies
What you don't want, I've decided, is a list of "We went here, then we went there, we saw this and that and it was very nice." Take it as read, we had a lovely holiday, it was mostly sunny, we did many of the things that we enjoy, i.e. wandering about, reading books and newspapers, eating, visiting pubs, looking at interesting things and sleeping in a tent. We even went to the cinema!

The only difficulty encountered was that we ran out of fuel for Mr A's all-powerful stove, which he has always boasted can run on 'anything': special MSR fuel, but also petrol, kerosene, meths, paraffin... except it turns out it can't, at least not in the configuration that we had on the day. Our car runs on diesel and Mr A was concerned that it might gunge up the jets or something; the petrol worked (a kind motorcyclist at the gas station illegally let us have a little bit while he was filling up) but we didn't get enough, and the lamp oil was a disaster.

Apart from that little vignette, I thought I'd tell you about the food, seeing as how we both love food and took some trouble to match our situation and our tastes. I'll mention the places we went alongside the meals taken there.

Boat on the beachBreakfasts on all our camping trips (while the stove worked) consist of instant noodles in soup. Unusual, I know, but easy to boil the water, very quick, and you can add odd stuff that you have. Odd stuff that we had was courgette, dried shitake mushroom, a tin of strange crispy fried shrimps from the Oriental store, and a peculiar tin of mackerel from the same shop. When the stove ran out of juice, we headed off to a 'caff' and had bacon, eggs, sausages, tomatoes and fried bread. Oh well.

On the way down to Kent, which we undertook on a Friday afternoon, we encountered the M25 at about 4.30pm. An hour and a half later I was getting so cross that we decided to just get off the road and go through the countryside, even if it took longer. We stopped at a pub somewhere near Tonbridge to have supper while watching the end of the match where Andy Murray lost to Andy Roddick at Wimbledon. This was such fun that we decided to find somewhere to do the same on Sunday afternoon during the men's final. The food was fine (big salads) but I thought mine was overpriced.

View of tombstones and houses from Rye churchThe first campsite was near Newchurch on Romney Marsh - very flat, soft ground, good facilities and a fridge for campers! Mr A was much taken with this idea, because he could put beer in it. The downsides were that it was a long way from the nearest pub, and when the sun was out there were a lot of flies and those little black crawling insects that seem to occur near wheat fields.

Saturday: I thought Rye was a lovely little place, it had a feeling of elevation and clear air. It used to be an island surrounded by rivers, and we ate lunch (chicken and ham pie and salads bought from a local deli), sitting in the churchyard on the top of the hill. Mr A hadn't yet fully entered the holiday spirit and was fretting about various things, so after an unsatisfying and a frankly dull walk on the coastal flats, we abandoned any idea of further exploration and returned to the campsite to read the paper and chill. Supper was pasta and tomato sauce.

Mr A with Hastings boats and beach hutsSunday was when we ran out of fuel, so we returned to Rye for that cooked breakfast, then went on to Hastings. We both liked Hastings, and walked about the old town a lot, dropping into their local history museum and the fishermen's museum. The old town is wonderful, retaining lots of the fifteenth century houses, and characterful working boats on the beach. There's no harbour for mooring boats; they have to be winched onto the shore when not in use. We would have liked to stay for lunch, but a) we'd had an enormous breakfast and b) we had paid for a limited time in an excruciatingly expensive car park and had to move the car anyway. I'd go back there again, though.

So the plan was to drive around the countryside and come upon a pub serving a delicious Sunday dinner that was also showing the tennis. The template for this idea was where we'd eaten on Friday, but despite dropping in on several possible pubs, none had the combination we were looking for. Eventually we thought we'd found something suitable, but lunch wasn't that nice and the TV was a small screen on the end of the bar that could only be seen properly by about two people standing right in front of it. So we moved on, and eventually found a hotel where the kindly bartender was happy to turn on the TV. What we hadn't predicted was that tennis would go on for an eternity while Federer and Roddick slogged it out in the marathon final set.

To be continued in part 2...

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