Margate Photo AlbumJuly 23, 2011 at 10:33 am | Posted in Anne, Eating and Drinking, George, Timmy, Travel | Leave a comment
Tags: Ambrette, Batchelor's Patisserie, Blackbird, Five Have a Wonderful Time, Lifeboat Ale and Cider House, Margate, Nayland Rock Shelter, R G Scotts, Reading Rooms, Shell Grotto, Turner Contemporary
The trip to Margate was good fun. The town was much as anticipated – run down in places (very run down) and very much on the up in other parts. The most visible sign of this is the brand new and proudly modern Turner Contemporary gallery, built on the seafront in the spot where J M W Turner used to stay. The Old Town too is a thriving cluster of shops, cafes, galleries and pubs, and there are also some nice things a bit further afield too.
The Turner Contemporary is a real shot in the arm in terms of Margate’s revival. Exhibitions will change on a six-monthly basis and next year will see a major exhibition of Turner paintings which will hopefully draw visitors from far and wide. The inaugural exhibition is a group of specially-commissioned works inspired by Turner and Margate, focused around a work by Turner himself: The Eruption of Souffrier Mountains, in the Island of St Vincent, at midnight, on the night of 30th April, 1812.
This piece (below) is by Daniel Buren. It is actually two floors high (this picture was taken from the first floor balcony). As you enter the gallery it fills your vision and floods the room with glorious yellow light, capturing something of the visual and emotional impact of Tuner’s famous sunsets. Thursday was a gloomy day but the yellow and different shades of grey looked good together.
In the evening we drank perry in The Lifeboat Ale and Cider House and had impressive Indian food at The Ambrette (delicious spiced local crab). We stayed in the beautiful Reading Rooms, a new-ish B&B in a Georgian townhouse in Hawley Square. Words cannot describe its loveliness. Here is a picture of the exquisite breakfast served in my exquisite room: fresh fruit salad, toast with cream cheese, cinnamon and honey (plus extra toast and jams), tea and freshly squeezed juice. It’s like a very sophisticated version of the breakfast the Famous Five enjoy so much in Five on a Hike Together [NB more traditional FF fare such as porridge, bacon and eggs and sausages is also available on the Reading Rooms’ extensive breakfast menu].
Fueled by breakfast we set off to explore some of the local independent shops (my favourites were crafty place Blackbird; the Pilgrims Hospice Charity bookshop in the old Midland Bank; and R G Scotts – old furniture, crockery, vintage maps etc) before braving the strangeness of the Shell Grotto (£3 entry). This underground network of passages, with 4.6 million shells lining its walls and ceilings, was discovered in 1835. Everything about it is a complete mystery – it is not known when it was created or by whom, or what the various symbols depicted on its walls actually mean. It’s very dank and slightly sinister – Anne would definitely not like it and I suspect George and the boys, and even Timmy, would get the willies too.
After this we needed some fresh air and a nice cup of restorative tea. We found it in Batchelor’s Patisserie, pictured below and (as I liked it so much) in the first photo of this post.
Batchelor’s is a proper bakery and cafe with original Formica fittings and display cases full of amazing treats. We had an old school cheese quiche and salad for lunch but you can also get sausage rolls, soup and sandwiches as well as cheese and fruit scones, fresh doughnuts, Congress tarts, various slices, cheesecake, coffee cake as well as a selection of fancy French macaroons, petit fours, Kentish ice cream and even home-made jam to take away. They sell a wide range of loaves too, and almost everything is made on site. Batchelor’s even has a proper 1950s style coffee machine and serves up a quality cappuccino. It reminded me a bit of the dairy/cafe that the Five frequent in Five Have a Wonderful Time where they get addicted to the doughnuts and ice cream (‘”Timmy’s silly over those doughnuts” said George, “he just wolfs them down”‘).
The sun finally came out late on Friday morning and effected an incredible transformation on the town. Although much of it is still rather desolate – the old lido is deserted and empty for example – the sun brought people out onto the golden sands and the view from the Nayland Rock shelter, where T S Eliot gained inspiration for ‘The Wasteland’, was decidedly cheery.
In two years’ time the 1920s Dreamland Amusement park will be restored and re-opened so hopefully this will add further to the re-invigoration of Britain’s oldest seaside resort. I will almost certainly go back but am now looking forward to more Kentish fun with next month’s cycling holiday which kicks off in Margate’s neighbouring town of Broadstairs…