Wednesday, 29 August 2012

4 go (relaxation) mad in Whitstable

Whitstable has been on my to visit list for so long that I wondered if it would ever happen! But two weekends ago it finally did- and it was as good as I'd hoped. 

We came from the south (I had been out in Surrey at a wedding), the North (the proper north ie further than Manchester), the West (west London) and the East (also London). As usual there was the crazy scramble to make the train but I secretly quite enjoy the drama of the race to the ticket barriers and then on to the beeping doors- although I only enjoy it when I make it!

As the doors slammed shut I could feel myself start to relax. The relaxation was briefly ceased by one of those are we in the front of the train, or the back dilemnas? Will we end up winning the train dividing gamble and going to Whitstable or will we lose and go to Dover and be sad (I'm sure Dover is lovely but we'd not booked to go there!).

However we were in a good carriage and all was well. On arrival in Whitstable we took a taxi (4 women going for 3 days obviously equalled 8 bags, not including handbags). The taxi was £3, £3 imagine that in London. £3! (I continued to exclaim £3 throughout the holiday, without explanation- I would say, this ice cream is amazing- and a taxi is £3, or wow Dallas is coming back- can you believe that taxi was £3!).

We stayed at a gorgeous self catering apartment and very appropriately for this summer it was named Bunting. We had everything we could need and it was so relaxing we all kept nipping off for afternoon naps (holiday heaven!). 

Whitstable is an independent and very chain free sort of spot- we got all our supplies from local shops- a great off licence, a fabulous cake shop and so on- but they do have real coffee and we went to Costa each morning for Americanos to take back to the apartment.

Whitstable is brilliant at all budgets- there are lots of quite pricey eateries for sure- but you can also have fresh oysters and a local beer on the beach for next to nothing- and of course it couldn't taste better.

We particularly liked the Pearsons Arms by Richard Phillips.
The restaurant is upstairs and looks out over the beach to the sea- it's wood lined and a mixture of cosy but chic. The fish was delicious- I had salmon and monkfish but I very much wanted the scallops in ginger foam too! The do a great value lunch offer and I only wish we'd found them in time to have their Sunday roast- it's a good reason to go back!

Then for pudding I highly recommend Sundae Sundae  (where I had this boat full of rose and lychee ice cream topped with popping candy- yes it was as good as it sounds!).

We were all very sad as we waited for our taxi to the train (£3 again!). Whitstable is the kind of place you go to to be restored, it's not enormous so I think a mini break is the ideal length of time- but it certainly left me wanting more (oysters, ice cream, scampi, afternoon naps, beach walks....)

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Making me...

Making me thirsty: tea inspired by Penhaligon's new scent Peoneve

Making my heart happy: Under the Westway by Blur (and their concert in Hyde Park on Sunday, the sound could have been better but Blur were immense).

Making my toe tap: of monsters and men

Making me want to get out of the city: This post about Lavender fields by the Sneaky Magpie

Making me pin! Ice cream lock (so funny... and I need one)

Making me proud: The UK and London for putting on a great Olympics London 2012

Making me cry: Those adverts on channel 4 about the Super humans, I can't wait for the Paralympics

Making me hungry: Greedy ice cream (try the mango!)

Friday, 10 August 2012

New Forest adventures and The Pig, hotel and restaurant of dreams

Last weekend this little piggy went to the New Forest. I stayed at a really lovely bed and breakfast called Cottage lodge in beautiful Brockenhurst, where ponies have right of way and the sun seems to shine all day (though maybe we were lucky!).

We travelled down by train, leaving a very red, white and blue Waterloo (lots of Olympic supporters dressed in their best). We made sure we were armed with some very British drinks- dandelion and burdock- and some very Russian vodka, for a little train tipple- train tipples being an essential part of a weekend bolting out of London in my opinion.

Having been welcomed at our lovely B&B with coffee and cake- and having watched Rebecca Adlington battle to bronze- we ventured out to what we thought would be a cute local pub. But no! it was a very relaxed but very lovely restaurant called The Thatched cottage where we had  Venison (y-um) and this selection of chocolate delights- the best being the white chocolate brownie- which looks yellow here but wasn't in real life.

The next morning, after a lovely full English including poriddge and fruit (and eggs and bacon, clearly) we ventured into the forest as we clearly needed to walk off the vast ammount of calories consumed! We did about ten miles and saw ponies and deer. We got slightly lost and very muddy, we popped to a farmer's market, had a Pimms and saw some cricket. It was all exactly what you'd expect and it was lovely.

Then it was time for a little nap, an Olympic check in (it was super Saturday after all) and then for the most important part of the weekend The Pig Hotel

The Pig was like a dream. You drive into the forest and up a small, tree lined track and then suddenly you are on a much grander drive way up to a beautiful Georgian looking house, the kind you dream of owning but know you probably never will. The Pig is totally luxurious but utterly relaxed. On entering the restaurant, which is filled with local flowers and herbs, my friend and I both remarked this is the kind of place you'd dream of getting married- I've never felt that before.

Dinner was wonderful- and I think for the quality remarkable value. You would pay what we paid in any mediocre gastro pub in London and this food was incredible- and I'd just been to lunch at a Michelin starred restaurant the day before which the Pig put to shame. Everything is from their grounds or very local- they list the distances in miles- they also had organic wines and lots of British wine.

To start I had bone marrow, my first bone marrow- it was delicious but is clearly not for vegetarians or those with vegetarian leanings! My friend had foraged fritters which were battered flowers, vegetables and fish from the local area- sublime. For our main courses I had a pork chop with apple and celeriac mash and greens from their garden (which reminded me of greens from my Grandmother's garden, fresh just picked vegetables are so much more wonderful than you remember if aren't lucky enough to have them often). For the blonde it was scallops- which she said were so good she might prefer them to sex, though I'm not sure she'd let me hold her to it!!!

But it was pudding that sealed the deal for me. I had a kind of tarte tartin case filled with clotted cream with honey- which was reduced to a lighter consistency. This casing was filled with fresh gooseberries- those rare and beautiful green gems of the English garden (which were dressed in booze of some kind!). I'm not sure I've ever had such a good British dessert ever. My friend had the frozen terrine- also delicious but for me it was all about the gooseberries.

We then adjourned to the bar where we thought we'd have one of the cocktails, elderflower, gin, apple, yes please. However we decided what we'd really fancy was an Irish coffee- which wasn't on the menu. No matter the said and I thought we'd get a perfectly nice Irish coffee but no! a waiter came with a special tray and prepared the coffees in front of us like a little show- then everyone else in the bar wanted coffees!

The next day I went on a 60 foot yacht, which I can report is a very good way of blowing away any kind of hangover or cobwebs. We sailed around the solent for about six hours, soaking up sunshine and learning how to tie knots and turn boats- I'm not very good at either but it was lots of fun! Then it was to a very old, very pretty pub in Hamble to see the very last of the tennis and back on the train home! weekends away feel so much longer than weekends at home.

Thank- you Hampshire for being beautiful!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A home of one's own

 A long time ago I wrote a blog called A home of one's own; it was about being a first time buyer, but I stopped writing the blog because I stopped being a first time buyer and kept being a renter.

With hindsight it was no bad thing, I was looking at the top ish of the market and although the London property market is as unstoppable as a runaway train, wages are affected by economic troubles and I could perhaps have been paying too much each month for something.

I've also been very happy in the two flats I've lived in since that time- one was very small but in central London and living there had long been a dream of mine- the other is a lovely flat in East London where I am currently. East London has a great atmosphere and is like the whole world in a few square miles and I've been living with a school friend, which has been lovely.

It looks like it might be time for the The Littlest Hobo to 'keep moving on' again soon. So the question is, should I think of buying my own home, or should I keep being a renter? Received (British) wisdom is that, if you can, you should always buy, but buying is committing and I quite like the idea that I could just go and live in Paris at a moment's notice (I couldn't because of personal commitments and also because my French is good enough for holidays but not for life!).

Though buying a place doesn't stop you being free, maybe it makes you more so, so what am I scared of? I'd love the decorating, anyone who follows me on Pinterest (do follow me!) knows I'm obsessed with my  dream home board and there's a whole pile of magazine cuttings from the time before Pinterest. So I should probably take the plunge and start looking for those shoe boxes!

Thursday, 2 August 2012


Before we had Summer we had the endless rain.

So of course, being mad and British, I went to a festival- Latitude- where there were pink, blue and green sheep and there was a lot of mud- though they did their absolute best and as elbow said we were happy 'mud dogs'! (with Hummingbird bakery cup cakes available at all times how sad could you really be?).

However after 4 tent sleeps and 4 days of mud, pack a macs, clothes that had been danced in for many hours (in a forest disco provided by Dermot O'Leary, in the sunshine for Ben Howard, in dark fields and warm tents for Guilty Pleasures) and tent hair my friend and I were desperate to be cleansed and reborn as Londoners again.

So we went to Dalston to the proper Hammam there (check the days- some days are ladies, some days are for men). It's amazing! We had steam, we had a scrub, we were washed with bubbles (I thought I might drown in bubbles, but in a good way), then we relaxed, then we had a full body massage including head and feet with warming oil, then a face mask, with extra face and head massage- all for £35.

It's almost worth getting that muddy to get that clean.

Image courtesy of W Magazine (Kate Moss at a Hammam)