We went to Margate a couple weeks back. What’s Margate, you ask, and why did we go there?
Margate is a seaside town about 90 minutes east of London. It was once a popular spot for seaside get-aways, but like most English seaside resort towns, nobody goes there for vacation any more. So what’s left is… not much, to be frank. It is definitely a faded town, without a whole lot going for it. They’ve tried in recent years to revamp it – the town dropped some 70 million pounds on a fancy glass-clad art museum along the waterfront, a lot of the buildings have been restored, there are some nice parks, and there are the usual festivals and whatnot. All well and good, but there still isn’t a lot of there there.
We don’t mean to be unduly harsh on poor Margate. There’s nothing at all *wrong* with the place. There’s a lovely old-town part, with nice restaurants and pubs. The views from the shore are great. It’s in a lovely part of the country. And there are a few special places (which we’ll get into later in this post). It’s just that there’s nothing particularly special about the place, at least that we could see. It’s a place that we were pleased enough to have visited, and were in no particular rush to leave, and wouldn’t say ‘no’ if there was ever a reason to return. On the other hand, I can’t see us going back there just for the sake of it.
So why did we go in the first place? We’re trying to get out of town every Sunday, or as often as we can. And Margate looked interesting (and do-able for a daytime) on the map. What sealed the deal, though, was … the Shell Grotto. It’s a weird but cool place: an underground tunnel about 70 feet long, completely covered in about 4.6 million seashells. (Did they count each one, one wonders?) Apparently no one knows who built it, some 200 years ago, or what it means. It’s a small and humble place to visit, but quite interesting. Our hero enjoyed it, to be sure:
We wandered around the town a bit and finally settled on an old pub for lunch. We’re talking a real pub here – they served pretty much only steak and ale pies, all the beer was from hand-drawn taps, there was a giant fireplace in the middle of the room (not lit that day), and the floor was covered in bits of sawdust. (Nyan, who can be rather picky about things that are “messy” – except of course when it’s he who made said mess – was aghast at the “messy” floor and tried a couple times to clean it up, bless him.) The food was good, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and Nyan had a good time, despite the dirty floors:
And then there was the walk along the seaside, which had a seawall, a pier and jetty, and – off on the horizon – dozens and dozens of huge sea-based windmills. Quite picturesque!
But the crème de la crème for our hero, the unquestionably best part of the entire day, if not the whole year and perhaps his entire life?
As we strolled along the waterfront, enjoying the sea air, the birds, the boats in the harbor, the windmills, what did we come across? What was sitting there, just parked there, its driver apparently waiting for the next emergency call but in reality (Nyan knows) actually waiting for Nyan to show up?
It was an ambulance. Just sitting there, waiting for Nyan to gaze on it. And gaze he did. For about 15 minutes.
Yes, for a quarter of an hour, Nyan sat patiently, a few feet from the silent, non-moving ambulance, utterly enraptured.
While all this was going on, the two people in the cab of the ambulance were cracking up. They didn’t actually talk to us – we’re pretty sure that regulations say they can’t do that, since they need to be ready to bolt at a moment’s notice, without distraction – but they certainly were aware of their No 1 Fan, and seemed to be enjoying it.
As if the day couldn’t get any better, finally the ambulance did get a call, and on went the lights, on went the sirens, and away drove the ambulance, leaving behind one very, very, VERY happy little boy.