Monday, 19 April 2010

A weekend in Kent

We went to Kent this weekend for a change of scenery, I'd booked us into a premier inn and on a ferry to Calais for a booze cruise. We set off nice and early on Saturday morning, to make the most of the very pleasant weather. It was a nice surprise to find that Dover is only an hour and forty minutes from High Wycombe, so we might make it a day trip sometime this summer.
Our first stop was Samphire Hoe, a spit of land created from the spoil from the Channel Tunnel construction. It was a good place to spend an hour or so while Lara tried out her new scooter. She's not big enough yet to ride her bike properly, and it's hardly portable, so we've got her this scooter to keep her busy in the meantime. It also means that on simple walks, she can cover more distance without us carrying her. It'll take some time for her to master the technique, but she's practising around the house, and loves wearing her helmet - she wore it all day on Monday.
From there we went into Dover, to take a boat tour of the harbour. On such a lovely day, and a Saturday lunchtime as well, I felt quite sorry for the owner of the tour boat, who only had us as customers.  It was a really good way to see Dover, and learn about some of its history, such as the buoy that marks where a pleasure cruiser was sunk in the First World War to prevent German submarines from entering the harbour. The tour guide let Lara take the wheel at a suitably safe point, and this turned out to be one of the big highlights for Lara.. "I drove the boat! I was Captain" was how she reported it back to Baba once we got home.
We were booked on the 14.30 ferry to Calais, and for once we weren't late, in fact it turned out that we were early enough to be bumped forward to the 13.45 ferry, although no-one told us this until there was a tannoy announcement asking for the owners of our car to urgently return to it as our ferry was about to leave! We were enjoying a Burger King at the time, and had to scoop it all up and dash back to the car. As it turned out, we were the last people onto the ferry, which meant that once I'd turned the car around on the car-deck in Calais, we were in pole position to be first off once we were back in Dover.  The purpose of our trip was only for shopping on board, we didn't even get off in Calais, instead I went and ordered our beer and wine from the shop on the ferry before we arrived in Calais, and a helpful chap wheeled it down to our car and helped me load it into the boot. Lara really enjoyed being on a "big boat", and as we put her reins on when we were on the outside deck, and kept a tight hold on them, we were happy for her to look over the side. She told us with complete certainty that she saw a fish while we were in Calais port, but it must have gone when Olga looked...
Once back in Dover we headed straight to our hotel, which had a beefeater next to it, which was very busy, for good reason. The food and service was excellent, and Lara was really happy to stay up with us, tucking into both our main courses with us, and helping me with my giant ice-cream dessert. I had to cuddle up with her on her bed to get her off to sleep, but once she was asleep, other than one brief paddy at 1.30am, everything was quiet until she appeared next to me at 7.30. We had a giant breakfast, saving some of it for Lara's snacks during the day (she does like a Full English!) then headed into Deal to pick up our rental bikes. Given our experience of cycling (my last time was in the gym more than 18 months ago, and Olga was longer than that) it was perhaps a little ambitious to think that we could cycle the 10 miles along the cliff-top path back to Dover, then bring the bikes back on the train. We were out of breath and getting stiff legs by the time we'd cycled the flat, half-mile to the coast from the hire shop. We just tootled back and forth along the traffic-free promenade, stopping off regularly to look at the boats or to chase the (very calm) English Channel surf up and down the shingle beach.  Lara came out with some classic quotes.. "That's not the sea, that's water" was one, I think, and "I don't want a sandwich, I want a picnic".
We returned the bikes just before 4pm, and set off for home. Lara was asleep all the way home, as was Olga, come to think of it, but it was a really lovely way to spend a weekend, and we'll definitely go down there again. The ladies who ran the bike hire shop told us about a few hidden gems that we'll need to explore next time, we just hope we can arrange similar weather!

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