Yes you did read that correctly.
When I got an email from Visit England asking me if I would like to take part in some St George’s day activity celebrating all thing patriotic I was chuffed. That sounded like it might be fun, I thought. This time last year we were gearing up for a garden party at Buckingham Palace where we didn’t get to meet the Queen so maybe it has been arranged for this year. Or maybe in true St George style I was going to get to slay a dragon. Lots of exciting things sprang to mind.
What I didn’t expect was a follow up email asking me if I fancied a weekend away in Margate with Visit Kent to see how great a holiday at home could be compared to a foreign holiday. Like the ones we have taken in Barbados for the past few years.
I didn’t really know an awful lot about Margate, I have to be honest. Or indeed Kent. Since I have never been there. But it’s well, England. In April. You know, that month when it always rains. And it is on the coast so it will be windy too.
But, you know me, I like a challenge and am I not one to shy away from learning something new so I replied “yes please, that will be lovely”.
Which is how I ended up 15ft in the air on Sunday morning pedalling my way around a mono rail at Dreamland convinced we would fall off on every corner.
Swiftly followed by five minutes on a wooden roller coaster where I had to remind myself not to swear as the child behind was loving it and only six.
Got lost in a maze
And then gave the boys a run for their money on the dodgems.
All before lunch and we were still home in time for tea.
Without any jetlag the next day
Margate: 1 — Barbados: 0
I came away really seeing why so many people were tweeting me to tell me they had spent ALL their summers there. Or regularly escaped from London for the weekends. Or had been once but loved it and that we must visit a particular cafe / bar / restaurant / attraction.
Which is exactly what happened on Friday afternoon when we were on the M25. The lovely foodie and Kent resident Alex Hollywood said “you must visit GB Pizza Co”. They had already appeared on our list of suggestions from Visit Kent so I tweeted to ask if we could book a table and hey presto, five minutes later it was done.
The best pizza in Barbados is at Zacchio’s in Holetown (according to the teens, I stick to the shrimp in panko crumbs) and whilst the sunset on the Caribbean might beat Margate’s view of the North Sea, the pizza in GB Pizza wins, hands down, without a shadow of a doubt. As does the treacle tart. Really thin bases with stacks of topping (that doesn’t consist of just cheese) and wine on tap. Yep, you heard me. Wine in a barrel from which you help yourself.
Margate: 2 — Barbados: 0
Margate also wins on the “wandering and shopping” front too, sorry Barbados. Barbados is great if you want designer stuff as there is a shopping centre called Limegrove that has everything from Louis Vuitton to Michael Kors to Breitling to Victoria’s Secret. Margate’s town centre doesn’t have any of that. It has a typical high street, maybe with one too many boarded up shops (much like Fleet to be honest) but it also has the “old town”. Lots of vintage shops selling clothing and antiques, alongside one off little boutique type shops that even if you aren’t in the market for that kind of thing you can press your nose up against the window. In Margate you also don’t have worry about getting sun burnt, or frostbite from air conditioning.
We did so much wandering and nosing in shops on Saturday afternoon my Fitbit thought it had been kidnapped.
Margate: 3 — Barbados: 0
Where Barbados might have edged it is the fish bar on the beach. Mr Delish on Enterprise Beach is a legend. His fish balls with chilli sauce is the only reason we ever go to that beach and on a Sunday it is packed with Bajan families who bring the whole family, sound systems and a picnic to keep them going all day. Along with more rum than you can possibly imagine.
Mannings fish stall on the harbour might have been there since the 1960s and their whelks and cockles might be the stuff of Thanet legend but I think on this one, Mr Delish edges it.
Margate: 3 — Barbados: 1
Views though and Margate steals back another point. The highest point on Barbados is at Cherry Tree Hill, and on a good day the view down to Bathsheba is spectacular. We make a point of going there on every trip and whilst the view doesn’t change much you can never get too much of it. Green, sweeping hills down to the Atlantic Coast, it is fabulous.
This view from on top of the ferris wheel at Dreamland is another one though that I don’t think I would ever tire of, and it would be constantly changing. And, sad individual that I am, give me a roof over a tree any day of the week. I love roofs.
Margate: 4 — Barbados: 1
I could go on all day giving you other comparisons. Okay Barbados might win on the beach and sea scores, not even I would try and convince you a dip in the north sea is better than the Caribbean but I think you get my point.
It is easy to dismiss holidaying at home as somehow inferior to a foreign trip and it really isn’t. Hundreds of thousands of families have magical holidays in England every year. Hard working families run businesses in seaside resorts against stiff competition from not only resorts abroad but from the one up the road that might be a bit more fashionable this year. And that is a great shame because without their hard work and dedication places like Margate would fade away and that would be such a shame.
There is a real buzz about Margate, a real sense that it is on the up again. Not just from the regeneration of Dreamland (more about that on the blog later this week) but from the investment and building of things like the Turner Contemporary five years ago.
This might have been our first trip to Margate, but it won’t be our last.