When your nephew invites to his home in Westgate on Sea in Kent England for Christmas you would be a fool to say no. Although I had a fun week in Europe at the Christmas Markets my Very English Christmas was the purpose of my travels.
I arrived in at my nephews stone house on the shores of the North Sea in time to watch Christmas preparations unfold. My wonderful nephew and his family took great pains to make this a special Christmas, beginning with touring the local area visiting castles, villages, museums and cathedrals.
A Warn Welcome in a lovely home
Wild skies and lonely winter beaches along the Kent coast
Kent is know as the Garden of England and is famous for the White Cliffs of Dover, Canterbury Cathedral, Churchills home Chartwell & numerous castles, forts and manor houses.
Close to Westgate is Walmer Castle built during the reign of Henry the VIII as a coastal defense, the ownership of the castle has passed down through the centuries and is now a property managed by the English Heritage. It has eight acres of gardens which due to the stormy weather we only enjoyed from above in the dryness of the castle. One famous resident of the castle was the Duke of Wellington and his bed and boots are still there along with his story. Also close to Walmer Castle are Roman ruins where the forces of Rome launched their invasion of Celtic Britan.
We also drove along the coast to see Dover Castle which from the exterior is quite stunning in size, location and design but it was an extremely windy day and the castle itself was closed to safeguard would be tourists. We were however able to visit the underground tunnels original to the castle but used extensively during the Second World War. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the tunnels but inside their own relics of WWII communications technology. Weather made photos impossible from outside so here is a photo from wikipedia of the Castle .
Along the coast we visited a variety of places and walked through the towns and along the beaches and even in the winter there is a charm and beauty to Kent that comes from the magnificent skies, seaside towns and living history.
One evening a group of us headed for Canterbury where we visited the Christmas Market and did some shopping in the historic centre before heading into the Cathedral for a Christmas service, the main attraction being the choral music, richly satisfying in this age old Cathedral with naturally fantastic acoustics.
My nephew, Christian and I spent three great days in London, renting an air bnb in Kensington we managed to buy same day tickets at discounted prices for the musical Tina and the play The Best of Enemies. Both were interesting to see but I think Covid has impacted the world of theatre greatly and these were two of the few things that I haven’t seen in various trips to London. Hopefully things will revive and there will be new playbills on the horizon.
My London traditions include “light seeing” along Regent and Oxford Streets, purchasing Christmas tea at Harrods, visiting Covent Gardens and spending some time in wine bars and pubs. I like to visit Trafalgar Square because both the National Gallery and Canada House are there and of course St. Martin’s in the Field, where if you’re lucky you can catch a Christmas Concert and have a bite to eat in the Catacombs below the church.
Christian and I said goodbye for a time while I headed off to meet friends in Oxford where we spent a weekend catching up, visiting (guess what) Christmas markets, pubs and seeing the various College buildings scattered around the University of Oxford.
After a fun time in Oxford I went back to Brighton with my friends and stayed for several nights. Long enough to walk the sea wall and watch the “sky show”above the English Channel. On the solstice Brighton celebrates the shortest day of the year with a pagan celebration known as Burning the Clocks. A parade of people with a variety of interesting lanterns made from rice paper and bamboo wend their way through the old narrow streets, ending at the beach where there is a giant bonfire to burn the lanterns and to add more light to the picture a boat is burned to acknowledge the coming of light as the days get longer.
Since the trains were on rotating strikes it was difficult to get from one place to another but a window op opportunity presented and I was able to take a train from Brighton back to Westgate on Sea just in time for Christmas. Eleven people were at the table and my hosts made the most wonderful dinner with of course Christmas pudding at the end.
To top it all off, for New Years, we drove clear across England from Kent to Polperro in Cornwall. This is a quaint stone house type fishing village with again a lengthy and rich history. Folks come to Polperro to celebrate New Years by wearing “fancy dress” or what we Canadians would call costumes. It was so much fun and in the post-covid world people were hungry to gather and celebrate with music, dance, food and drink and fireworks at midnight in the main square. I loved how people mingled with complete strangers, admiring each other’s costumes and sharing the joy of celebrating what hopefully will be a much better year in these interesting times.
I loved my English Christmas, I loved getting together with family, the variety of things I was able to see and do, the fun, witty, friendly people I always meet in the UK. Needless to say I will be back. Thanks to everyone who made my visit so stellar!