On Margate Sands. 

Today I am off to Margate to meet my Nan who is visiting there on a coach trip with her social club. Whilst she is travelling several hours to get here, I’m just popping a little along the coast on the train for a few quid return. So. My question here is: Is Margate worth a visit? Either for £3.80 return, or a few hours stuck in a coach enduring (though she seems to enjoy it) bingo. 

The title comes from T. S. Eliot’s poem ‘the wasteland’ where:

“On Margate Sands.

I can connect

Nothing with nothing.

The broken finger-nails of dirty hands.

My people humble people who expect

Nothing.”

 

I’m not going to go into an analysis of this here, but even for someone who hasn’t taught lectures on it and seminars and spoken to reading groups (yes. I know. I’m very cool) it’s probably clear that this isn’t an overly positive happy reference. ‘Nothing with nothing. ‘Dirty hands’ etc. 
Well, does this have a resonance with Margate today? Others seem to think so. Or, at least, did think so.

Take this article for example: 

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/books/2009/nov/09/ts-eliot-waste-land-margate

Boarded up windows and a complete lack of inspiration. Since then, however, the town has seen lots of money pumped into it and a regeneration. The (new) old town is quaint with (new) old English pubs where sawdust strategically adorns the stools and floor and the local guest ales scream tradition and greatness. However; this alone is enough to scare me off entering today as well as the fact that antique shops in this area are selling simple old deck chairs for 45 pounds(!!!!) making me question the cost of lunch… and lunch is on me. So. Onwards we go… 

… To the pier! The pier is full of eateries and bars with the great added bonus of having communal seating – meaning one of the group can get a salad from one end, another can get cheese smothered fries from a different shop and the third person can get a local ale (or two) from the pub and skip the wasted carbs of solids. Then of course there’s the view out from this seating. It’s lovely. It’s sand, it’s sea, it’s little boats, its sunsets, its birds soaring. It’s the coast. You can sit here for hours of relaxation with a pint connecting nothing with nothing as you simply enjoy your surroundings and detach yourself from the world’s stresses. See what I did there? I twisted the words and made them positive. Isn’t English literature fun? 

If you want to laze on golden sand and enjoy the sun and go for a refreshing, invigorating, English swim and have ice cream or fish and chips whilst stared at intimidatingly by seagulls then be my guest. Margate appears the perfect destination for this and there hundreds doing just this today. 

This isn’t for me though. I’m more likely to be up on the pier with the raised up view and the pint wondering after a while if there is anything more to see as I get a little bored. And now that I’ve had lunch up here with my Nan I am wondering just this. Should I just go home now? Or is there other stuff to see whilst I’m here? 

Well, there is other stuff! Of a sort. There are footpaths that seem to stretch all along the Kent coast meaning I could get from here along to other haunts like Ramsgate or Whitstable. But it’s half 4 and I only have 12% battery. So not today. There’s also the Turner Contemporary gallery which has a fabulous view out to sea from the safety of its inside cafe. Fully recommended for a winter’s day. All the food is local. And the delightfully camp chap behind the counter is always a charmer. The gallery itself can also be wandered around for free with rotating exhibitions occasionally worth looking at. Sadly, today they are not worth looking at. And I’m out of here by 4:36 – Which included a stop at the toilets and a perusal of the gift shop. 

There are also a few quaint streets around the old town worth a stroll with nice old buildings and the like and coffee shops etc away from the coast. 

So maybe this is indeed a destination centred on the beach and its views. But then, it’s the seaside… so I guess this is in fact ok! The beach is clean, the water is the colour English coastal water should be – greeny bluey brown, and there are plenty of places to eat and drink with coastal views. For my £3.80 I am more than pleased! 👍🏻. For the price and access from Canterbury I’d give it a 4/5. Travelling from further afield for a day trip then I’d say there are better places. But if you’re already holidaying nearby or if you’re in London and want a day at the coast then here is perfectly good. 3.5/5. 

HOWEVER if you are fortunate enough to come on a day with a gorgeous sunset then this is a 5/5 star destination! Check this out! 

So there we have it :). Next month I’ll be having a similar day meeting Nan for her coach trip to Ramsgate. So keep your eyes peeled for a similar post of there. 

Peace out, 

Matt. 

Spontaneous Travel 

The importance of local escapes. 
You don’t have to go far to travel and explore, and you certainly don’t need to plan. I started today as any other with a cup of coffee and a computer screen with me typing away with my usual passion and vigour. However, it soon became clear that I was simply wasting my time and making no hedge-way. So. I set my phone to charge (it’s an iPhone…. Need I say more?) and twenty minutes later headed for the train station. 
That was half an hour ago. Now I’m on a train zooming away from my desk into the Kent countryside heading to the coast to walk the white cliffs of Dover. You’ve gotta love a travel escape. True, I’m fortunate I have the sort of work that enables me to catch up over the weekend and take the afternoon off. But even if you don’t, you can do this at the weekend instead with no fuss. Perfect! 
£5.60 later and I’m in Dover centre (return ticket) and have chosen the cliffs as opposed to the castle as they are free whilst the castle is extortionate. Admittedly the view to the cliffs is obscured by the ferry port which is a complete eye sore bad enough to make me miss my desk. (Almost). But then once you climb the steep steps up the cliff here is the reward… 


That was my view for lunch, and then after I polished off my sandwiches (fighting off three crows, a magpie and a seagull) I headed further along the cliffs to where I now sit doing the same work I would have been at home! (Reviewing my previously made notes on Rebecca West to find something useful. As of yet… nothing… but we live in hope). 

Hmm. I have just been loudly accused by a random family passing by of being a spy… can a guy no longer sit on a cliff half hidden in the flowers watching the world go by through a large camera lens whilst making notes in a pad without being bothered?? My god. 


Anyways yeh, escape your house and go somewhere! 

Kent is a fabulous place which has a lot on its doorstep so I’m lucky, but then I have always managed to find little excursions everywhere I’ve lived. The internet is a wonderful thing so make the most of it and find somewhere new to go too! (Admitedly the internet is better when your phone doesn’t annoyingly decide you’re in france and bombard you with rate advice texts and proceed to give you awfully slow web 😾). 

Thanks for reading, 

Matt. 

p.s keep checking the blog as in addition to our usual more in depth weekly reviews and these more spontaneous posts we will soon be adding photo stories grouping pics of locations with a few captions! There will be one of the Dover white cliffs shortly. Enjoy! 

A Budget Budgie Walking Tour of Canterbury.

For the last year or so I have lived in Canterbury having never visited the place before, so I have been an extended and happy tourist exploring its crevices and discovering its secrets. The place is simply steeped in history with it a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing to its stunning and significant buildings including the Cathedral, where Archbishop Becket was murdered, the ruins of St Augustine Abbey and the oldest church in the English speaking world! (St Martins) Only the church of these is free to visit however, with the Cathedral a costly visit (though not for me as a local student) and the Abbey setting you back a few quid also. There are other ways to spend your money in the city too with punting trips along the Stour and a number of fascinating museums exploring the history of the place including the Heritage museum and the Roman museum. However, here I am going to give you a cheap walking guide for the place on a sunny day starting from the main station where you can get a javelin to London in under an hour.

Stepping out of the station stretch out in the glorious Kent sun (which we always have) and then take a right along the road towards the town. At the end of the short road turn to your left and you are instantly facing the city centre. Right before you is the imposing Westgate that grants access into the city through its thick walls. Opened in 1380 it still grants access to the city with cars driving through its 18m arch and pedestrians walking through it on the left hand side. Once you’re through the arch you are in the city walls and its pedestrianised high-street. This is a narrow street of modern shops and cafes, some of which are fantastic and good value, but if you look up you will see the old buildings that remain – some hanging over the street, others set back in their splendour. There a couple worthy of special note. The first is tucked low on your right and is Eastbridge hospital. Founded in 1190 it was a hospital for pilgrims and then a school and church. Today its almhouses remain and you can have a look round this small piece of history for just a couple of quid. Soon after this on your left you cross the river and have gorgeous views of one of its little inlets over the railings on your left. Certainly a key photo opportunity. Further along on the left is The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. This is a very impressive building from 1899 and was designed in the Tudor Revival style as a gift to the city in the form of a venue for knowledge. It still holds this role today with free galleries, a free museum and exhibition space upstairs and the public library at the back.

Keep going up the high-street enjoying the views and stop off at any of the cafes or pubs that grab your fancy now for your drink if you fancy – but no need to get anything to eat!

This is because we are going to get a packed lunch from one of the conveniently located supermarkets in town in the modern shopping section which is clearly signposted – Whitefriars. Options include Tesco and Marks and Sparks. Once you’ve got your food, and of course at least a bottle of water each as we are about to go for a country walk, take the road to the side of Tesco out of the centre. Go left at the end and then look to cross the road and enter Dane John Gardens. These free gardens date back to 1551 and are always expensively and exquisitely maintained. Walk along its central path enjoying the landscaping and look to your left and you will see the high city walls which run the length of the park and help the feel of safe cosy seclusion. These walls have surrounded the city since the Romans first built them in around 270 AD. They have since been built up and restored by various people including the Normans who built the Castle. When the children’s play park is on your left, look for one of the sloping paths up onto the wall and take it. Follow this path all the way up and you will find yourself upon the Dane John Mound. This is an old Roman Burial mound believed to be from the first century. On a clear day the view from the top lets you see 360 the entire city and its surrounding villages and countryside. Just lovely.

Once you’ve had your fill of the view and taken your snaps, head back down and walk right along the top of the old city wall stepping down off it at the end. Cross this road and take the alleyway, cross the road at the end and you are at Gas Street. Walk down this road and you will be at the Norman Castle! Begun by William the Conqueror in around 1070 it is now a ruin, but it is free to walk around with lots of information boards. You can also head inside it and go up a little way into one of the old turrets. Once done, head out and further down Gas Street. There is an old church at the end, go left at this and then right. You are now by a busy main road but don’t worry, this is for just a very short amount of time. Walk along the path and you will hit the river, go over the bridge and under the underpass into the park. Follow the path, cross the river and then go left at Toddler Cove Playground. You are now entering The Great Stour Way which is a stunning country walk of three miles between Canterbury and Chartham. River, Fields, Sheep, Wildlife, Horses, Stunning old Kent thatched houses backing onto the river and punters along the water. Its just lovely. Walk along here as long as you fancy until you find a spot for your lunch and set up shop with the sun on your faces and the birds singing around you.

Head back the way you came when you’re done but this time go straight past the Toddler Cove and follow the river into Westgate Gardens. These garden spaces can be traced back to the Roman time and have in them a plane tree over 200 years old and a Victorian Tower House. Punters continually go along the river here and have to duck very low to get under the small bridges. By now you are entering the evening probably, so go back right into the high street and this time take a left off of it and head towards the signposted Cathedral. Whilst it costs during the day, once the clock has struck 5:30 however it is free to enter the grounds and get up close and personal to the building. Head on in and get your snaps here – it can look gorgeous especially with the sun setting behind.

Now it depends on which train you wish to get back and what your plans are. Either head back to the station the reverse of where we began, or head to one of the pubs or restaurants for your dinner!

I hope you have enjoyed this virtual walking tour of Canterbury. Keep checking the blog for future posts as I will no doubt share more of Kent’s wonders.

Matt.

 

Stockholm: The Broken Capital

By Al (and Matt, in pink) 

The Broken Capital is not reference to any alleged political instability, or social unrest, rather it refers to the fact that the capital and its surrounding areas is made up of approximately 24,000 islands and islets – the Stockholm Archipelago.

The biggest towns of the archipelago, apart from Stockholm, are Nynäshamn, Vaxholm and Norrtälje. The village of Ytterby, famous among chemists for naming no fewer than four chemical elements (erbium, terbium, ytterbium and yttrium), is situated on Resarö in the Stockholm archipelago. This is where we stayed for 3 of our 5 days in the area. We are not chemists. There was simply a good deal on Airbnb!

Stockholm

The city architecture reminded me a lot of Prague (future blog post to come!), with a distinctive Gothic theme. This perfectly juxtaposes the general tranquillity of the city, with commuter boats and ferries meandering through the waters surrounding the city’s iconic sites, including Parliament, the Vasa Museum and Djurgarden.

If you like history, then I’d highly recommend visiting the Vasa Museum. You’ll find a full sized 17th century vessel, 95% of which is original material. The boat sank 10 minutes into its maiden voyage, but fortunately sank in the Baltic Sea. Due to the sea’s low salt composition, the boat was almost fully preserved.

The first day was unexpectedly warm in the capital, and you could tell the locals appreciated it.  Stockholmers lined the streets, chins raised and eyes closed facing the sun that has largely eluded them for the last 6 months. However, the rest of our holiday was very cold. Snow threatened for the majority of the time, but sadly did not settle. Winds clipped off the waters’ edges, making sightseeing a chilly challenge. Fortunately, you’ll find lots of boutique shops to duck into; a personal favourite was the beeswax candle shop found in Gamla Stan (the ‘Old Town’). I liked the Viking shop, also in Gamla Stan, which is full of drinking horns, iron metal work to Viking design and various other trinkets nodding to Scandinavia’s Viking past. 

I was disappointed with the availability of local cuisine. We scoured the streets looking for restaurants serving traditional (cliché!?) dishes, such as meatballs and fish. We searched in Gamla Stan, and Sodermalm (the trendy south of the city) but were unsuccessful. If you like Mexican, Italian or Texan food, you’re in for a treat. We did manage to have dinner on a hotel-cum-boat (I for one certainly don’t remember a cum boat! Would have made for a very different experience) along Soder Malarstrand which was quirky, and surprisingly affordable (if you like tap water!). If you’re willing to stretch your budget and crack into the overdraft then you can eat local in one of the few establishments offering such – but we were unwilling to wince with every bite at the prospect of the bill. 

Vaxholm/Resaro

Vaxholm is considered the ‘capital’ of the Archipelagos. Undoubtedly pretty, it was rather quiet and deserted at this time of year. We walked around most of the island in under an hour before hopping on the bus back to Resaro (where we were staying).

You’ll find Resaro north of Vaxholm. A very quaint and rustic ‘suburban’ commuter town is the best way I can describe it. Again, very quiet. However we did enjoy a beautiful sunset looking over the waters. Romantic, I know.

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Uppsula

About an hour north of Stockholm, and 20 minutes away from Stockholm Arlanda Airport, you’ll find the historic university city of Uppsula. Pretty enough, with an old silo shaped castle.

We walked along the river, wandered up the hill to the castle with its high views over the city and then headed back down to the Cathedral which is free to look around with its beautiful stone figures to kiss for luck. Well worth our morning visit! 

IMGP7046

Sigtuna

If your plane isn’t until late in the day you would be a fool to waste it hanging around the airport or lazing at your accommodation as late as possible instead head to Sigtuna which is just a bus journey away and is the oldest town in the country. As we came to expect from what we saw everywhere else, Sigtuna has stunning views over the water and the yonder scenery and is pleasant to stroll around even in the cold wind that welcomed us in March. 

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Review

I would advise visiting the country in winter (Dec-Feb) or high summer. On the one hand you’ll benefit from picturesque snow scenes. On the other hand you’ll experience long days, and hours of sunshine. Whilst the weather did not mask my experience, it was rather grey (except for the first day, which was unexpectedly, but pleasantly, warm). On 3/5 days it snow/sleeted, but did not settle.

I got the impression that the country is slowly awakening from its winter hibernation at this time of the year (late March). A lot of the popular outdoor tourist activities were either not operating at all, or operating a reduced schedule. Sightseeing boat rides were not running yet, and I did not see anywhere offering kayaking in the archipelagos. Admittedly, falling into the bone-chilling Baltic sea would probably have ended my holiday early, so perhaps this was a good thing!

This is a budget travel blog. Sweden is, no doubt, an expensive country. Fortunately for me, Matt has family in Stockholm, who were able to offer us free accommodation for part of our trip. The other part of our trip we stayed in an Airbnb. If you’re willing to sacrifice eating out, then you can save a lot of money cooking for yourself. 400SEK (approximately £35) for a main course is astronomical!

Whilst the country was indeed ‘sleepy’ as Al continually mentioned and has done since to everyone and their cat, and is expensive in many respects, it is in fact very friendly to the budget traveler. This is because of one reason – the public transport and the great value you can get on a 7 day pass! We got one each and it enabled us to bus across the islands and head into Stockholm from our rural island retreat for free*, get a discount on travel to Uppsula and also travel to Sigtuna for free from the airport. The public transport also gave me plenty of opportunities to smash Al at numerous games on my phone including Monopoly and Poker. 

BB Al’s Review: 3.5/5

BB Matt’s Review 4/5

*technically not free, you do have to pay for the 7 day pass which cost 330SEK (approximately £30). But certainly good value for money!

San Francisco

San Fran is the best city in the world. Hands down. Unfortunately, its not usually an overly budget friendly option to get to from Europe. As we’re an internationally followed, world-renowned organization though some of our many readers will be based in the States and thus get there easier. Also, there are cheaper ways to get there for us in Europe. For example, encourage your parents to move there and then pay for your tickets out of a mixture of guilt for abandoning you and their air-miles. Once there, though, there are options aplenty for the budget conscious explorer and here are some of my top tips to make the most of this stunning city.

Let’s start off with the Golden Gate Bridge. Once you get to SF you will be bombarded immediately with adverts showing people cycling the bridge, proclaiming it to be THE way to travel its length. But, why? Its quicker to get across and back, sure. Its also no doubt liberating zipping along with the sea breeze whipping into you etc. But then… as someone who has walked it a fair few times… I can say that from observing cyclists they either do one of two things: 1) Spend the whole time stopping every few seconds to take photos and posing with the bike in selfies or group shots as opposed to riding it. 2) Zoom along enjoying the buzz of ‘I’m riding the bridge!’ and see absolutely nothing of the view or bridge around you. Walking is free, you can take your damn sweet time, take the photos and enjoy the view.

Sticking with the walking theme then… The city’s cable cars look lovely along the steep slopes and majestic going along the waterfront, and everyone should jump on one for a journey for sure. But using them every time? The city is very manageable to walk. Whilst Al may disagree with him whinging over his tired little feet and his burning thighs in his tight short shorts, the whole city is walkable. You can do the main street, take a right up into china town, carry on down and hit the waterfront and loop back round seeing the historic boats and moving back to fisherman’s wharf and pier 39 following the water back to the Ferry Building. And for those like me who have to put up with a complainer, there are cheaper public transport options all over the place with busses and trams and the underground. So just use those cheaper ones and save the cable cars for a one off and photos if your legs have given up.

China Town. Buy ALL your souvenirs here. They’re cheaper with warehouse style shops lined up full of the same sort of knickknacks that are twice the price up the road.

The Bay is lovely, and seeing the city from the water along with the bridges (not just Golden Gate but the others look lovely in the dusk light too for example Bay Bridge) and Alcatraz is a gorgeous thing to do. Instead of paying for one of the tourist boat tours though, go to the Ferry Building and get on a ferry across the water. You get all the same views and can spend a couple of hours in a different location before heading back. The best option is probably Sausalito. It has lovely views across the water to San Fran, the journey is a leisurely pace giving you time for photos and the likes, the town itself is full of sweet little cafes and gift shops and you’re certain to see the bay’s nature of sea lions and crabs and pelicans etc.

So there we have it, some budget budgie tips for San Francisco including some of its tourist hotspots.

(Oh yeh, you may have noticed I missed off going to Alcatraz. Well, some things you should just pay for and Alcatraz is one of these worthwhile things which you just have to suck up and pay for)

Matt.

 

 

Dublin! Small city, big personality.

If you don’t like drinking, or literature, don’t bother visiting Dublin. The city is obsessed with Arthur Guinness’ famous stout, and equally proud of the revered Oscar Wilde. The Guinness storehouse offers a very interesting insight into the production of the ruby red (apparently it’s not black!) drink.  You end the tour with a free pint and panoramic views of the city. The views aren’t fantastic, but the drink’s good.

We spent New Year’s Eve evening in Temple Bar, the beating heart of the Dublin nightlife. You’ll find Temple Bar by the throngs of other people heading there south of the river and O’Connell Street. We took our own drinks with us, hidden under our coats. Paying €13 for a double vodka Red Bull is not the Budget Budgie way. There was a very friendly (drunk) vibe, with numerous street performers and musicians. Expect lots of Brits on ‘lads’ holidays, unfortunately.

Make sure you have an Irish coffee when in Ireland, particularly after a heavy night out. Hair of the dog! We’d also recommend a traditional steak and Guinness pie as a great way to warm yourself after getting wet wondering the streets. A nice city, but the weather isn’t ideal.

Top 5 things to do

  1. Guinness Storehouse
  2. Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour
  3. Christ Church Cathedral
  4. Trinity College
  5. Dublinia museum

Flights

London Luton Airport à Dublin (£100pp return) over New Years!

Accommodation

Private double bedroom with ensuite, Airbnb in the Docklands (€60 p/n)

Budget Budgie Rating

A compact city, steeped in culture and history, with plenty to see and do for a short break. We’d recommend taking a trip to the coast if you’ve got the time.

4/5