I’ve always been one of those travellers that would happily jump on a plane within a moments notice, especially for a weekend getaway. I rarely spend time travelling in the UK. I have never been averse to it, but the idea of the balmy climates, foreign cuisine, and never-ending streets filled with palm trees has always appealed more. Although, COVID-19 changed that for me and many other travellers. With mandatory quarantine regulations in place and running the risk of catching the virus itself, travelling abroad has simply lost its appeal. They are words I never thought I would say, but this is the “new normal”. However, I’m not one to sit still while the world goes by — so I set myself a new challenge — to fall in love with my home country and finally get around to exploring all the cities I promised my friends and family that I would visit based on their recommendations.
With a new travel strategy in place, it was time to put into motion. A few friends and I had been talking about a quick three-day weekend getaway for months, but trying to align diaries with four busy people is virtually impossible. But, in the art of spontaneity, we found us ourselves discussing a road trip to visit a dear friend who had spent lockdown with her aunt in Canterbury. A glass or two of wine in and we were blowing up each other’s phones in with notifications with links to a number of idyllic places to stay. We decided to splurge out on a gorgeous two-bed countryside lodge at Broome Park Hotel, and in haste, we ended up booking an Airbnb in the heart of Canterbury. But, you know what they say, even the best-laid plans go wrong.
It wasn’t long before we embarked on our road trip. The music pumped, spirits were high, and we nattered all the way until we entered Canterbury. Carefully driving through the quiet streets to not miss a turning, we finally arrived at our Airbnb. We were greeted at the door by our dear friend, who stood sheepishly in the doorway, “not to dampen the mood, but it is not what I was expecting”. We ran into the house only to find the kitchen cupboards covered in a sticky substance, almost like honey, and the dishwasher filled with mouldy dishes. It was especially disappointing as the host claimed it would be cleaned and fumigated in-light of the recent outbreak. As we sat down on the sofa, we deliberated what to do next, only to receive an email stating Broome Park Hotel were expecting us for check-in at 3 PM — we forgot to cancel our initial booking. We quickly packed up and drove down to the stately country park hotel. Good karma comes back around as they say.
Arriving at Broome Park Hotel, we drove up to the Mansion House, where we were greeted with the warmest welcome. I literally let out a massive sigh of relief as my tired body sunk into the lobby sofa — we weren’t going to ‘slum’ it for the weekend after all! Moments later, we checked into our beautiful luxurious woodland lodge and we all squealed with joy. It was everything we wanted and needed.
The lodge boasted a beautiful spacious kitchen, dining and living room area that led to a patio with outdoor seating too. The sofa in the living turned into a large double sofa bed and two other large bedrooms one with a double bed, and the other with twin beds. The best part was the lodge had two bathrooms, one en-suite from the master bedroom and the main bathroom, which was perfect for the four of us. As lodge residents, we were able to make full use of the hotel’s facilities, including the tennis courts, golf course, swimming pool, gym, and sauna.
After our long jaunt, we decided to have dinner at the hotel’s Kitchener restaurant; copious glasses of rosé was guzzled, fits of laughter filled the air, and eventually cause floods of involuntary tears – good times.
As we stepped out of the hotel, we wanted to get a group shot in front of the majestic facade of the hotel, but before we knew it, we were being papped by a photographer. It’s what I imagine it feels like to step into a live magazine photoshoot. Moments later, we had the perfect, au-natural group photo, and that’s what sparked a conversation with the duo of photographers who were on-site for a staged wedding shoot. It wasn’t long before we were invited to join the shoot as bystanders (I don’t know how I get myself into these situations?!)
Slipping into something comfier, we set out on a warm evening with a picnic blanket and a chilled bottle of wine to witness a stunning couple pose elegantly in preparation for their close-up. In fact, they are an actual couple who are due to get married at Broome Park Hotel next year!
We were kindly offered the opportunity to have breakfast at the hotel the next day, so we took the opportunity to indulge in a cooked breakfast. I opted for the vegetarian full English, which even came with off-menu vegetarian sausages. It’s these little touches that make a hotel stay that little bit more blissful. Whereas the girls indulged in the non-veg version, setting us up for a day of exploring ahead.
The quaint town of Canterbury isn’t one like I’ve never seen before. Even my car wasn’t able to make sense of the narrow cobbled streets, but we all stared out the window in utter awe. Each building possessed so much character and charm. We meandered our way through the lanes to reach our first activity, a true Canterbury classic, punting down the River Stour.
We were greeted by our charming captain who took us through the most scenic route, sharing a vast amount of history about the city at various points on the route. Sitting back with a glass of fruity Pimms, listening to the water trickle past, and watching nature at its prime with new life budding in and around the river, it made me forget about the hustle and bustle of London. I truly felt at rest.
Pottering around the rest of the city, we saw some of Canterbury’s much-loved sights, such as Canterbury Cathedral and even the famous wonky book shop — it definitely makes you look twice. As the rain clouds came in, we sought refuge in a lunch spot, Citi Terrace, that came highly recommended by our temporary resident guide. Definitely, one to check out, if you’re looking for an assortment of well-made cocktails and a great selection of lunch bites.
Returning back to Broome Park, we opted to have a cosy night in, especially as the rain came back with vengeance. As droplets pattered against the windows, I felt a sudden sense of gratitude for having somewhere warm and homely to spend the night. We prepared a feast for dinner, starting with Italian Bruschetta, followed by Chrissy Tegan’s famous Margarita chicken, and finishing on a sweet note with a silky Tiramisu. Out came the board games and so did the roaring laughter. Who knew an escape to Canterbury could bring some much wholesome fun?!
On Sunday, I woke to the smell of caramelising pancake mix and freshly brewed coffee. My dear friends were wide awake and whipping up a storm in our kitchen; coffee, fruit, and a stack of golden pancakes with all the sweet condiments to pour over the top. It was the perfect start to the day. Soon after breakfast, it was time to check out from our home away from home, but the adventure wasn’t quite done yet. We took advantage of Dover being 28 miles away and set off to discover another part of the UK, somewhere with just as much greenery, but with the joyful addition of the seaside — nature’s gold.
We took the time to take in the rolling bottle green hills, Exmoor ponies grazing on the cliffs and the chalk-white cliffs, deeply breathing in the fresh sea air. Dover is probably one of England’s most scenic destinations, I’d say on par with the Jurassic Coast though. We dipped our toes in the icy saltwater — nothing cools sun-kissed skin better — before settling down for lunch at the famous seafront restaurant, The Coastguard.
We all ordered some sort of seafood delicacy, with fish and chips taking the majority. The food was divine and service was excellent, which ended our trip on a high. It’s definitely a spot worth checking out if you’re around St. Margaret’s Bay.
Before we embarked on our journey home, we grabbed an ice-cream (has to be done) before filling our lungs with one last breath of fresh air.
What a weekend! I’d definitely recommend Canterbury and Dover if you’re looking for a peaceful escape filled with good food, beautiful scenery, and an opportunity to regain your thoughts in the peace and quiet of the country.
Until next time…