In the UK every city, town and place is steeped in history. I learn so much just by spending the weekend away from home in a small city or a hotel in different parts of the UK.
Information is not readily available on most small places unless you dedicate time to find it and that can be time-consuming. What I do is just plan to visit a city large or small and make my own discoveries. So I get into my car armed with a couple of post codes and high spirits. The best approach to enjoying a place is to be flexible and have loads of positive expectations.
Sometimes I know what I want to see and just drive there but on the way I notice places that a worth a visit and so I make plans to visit. That is the only way to discover another country and exactly what I did during the August Bank Holiday weekend. I went to Folkestone on the southeast corner of England. It took about 2 hours to get there – it was an enjoyable trip once I got out of the labyrinth of London.
I stayed at the Best Western Clifton Hotel which has been in existence since 1864. A traditional Victorian hotel. Nothing seemed to have changed. It has high ceilings and spacious rooms or at least the room I stayed in. I was allocated a really nice spacious room with spectacular views of the English Channel. It was so peaceful, warm and inviting. Folkestone appealed to me big time.
I could feel there was a buzz in that city. Streets were clean and quiet. We drove through the famous Leas – just beautiful. We drove by what I could say was the longest cemetary I’ve ever seen. the city was a tidy little place, come to think of it.
That night at dinner I met a couple who also said they felt the buzz driving to the Hotel too. But why? I could only put it down to the fact that this city is set to grow with its close proximity to the Ashford international train terminal and the last stop in the UK for Eurostar before passing through the Channel Tunnel to the Continent and the first stop on its return to the UK (St Pancreas).
Folkestone’s history as a seaside port dates back to pre-Roman days. It’s economy seems to wax and wane with the changing fortunes of the Continent and of Kent since the thirteenth century. It was once a fishing village. In the fictional film the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’, Sir Edward Blakely was in and out of Folkestone helping French royalty escape the French Revolution. During WWI Folkestone became a refuge for fleeing Belgian refugees from the war. It was also an economic and cultural centre and up until recently it faded off the face of the economic map for southeast England. But its luck may be changing.
It is said that about 10 years ago Folkestone was an economic and cultural ‘no man’s land’. Now it is a designated ‘regeneration’ project area and a number of significant developments are taking place. That was it! That was the reason why I felt such a buzz about the town.
There are quite a few eating places around town and the Clifton Hotel attracts alot of the locals in its restaurant at breakfast and dinner time. It has a bar which I did not allow myself the opportunity to visit – but there’s always a second visit. I think that the future of Folkestone is bright and progressive.
I can’t help thinking that the introduction of a ‘bullet train’ between London and Paris will renew old economic and cultural ties between the Continent and England for the better.
Besides, with the completion of regeneration of the city in future, Folkestone’s prosperity is assured.
On my way to the Folkestone Methodist Church on the Sunday morning I walked along the esplanade and the views of the English Channel were just simply beautiful. I felt so grateful and privileged to have made it to Folkestone. Up until the August Bank Holiday weekend, I have never paid attention to Folkestone even though I’ve made several trips across the Channel to Lille, Brussels and Paris. What a change to be able to stop at one of the two frontline seaside cities to the Continent – Dover is the other seaside city.
In the evening on my walk back to the Hotel, I called into the cafe not far from the hotel. I was surprised to find that they only served patrons of the theatre below. Wow! that was the biggest surprise. Not only can you enjoy a walk along the esplanade with georgeous views of the English Channel and the Folkestone coastline but you can take in a stage play. I had not planned to see a play that evening and the ticket booths had closed so I headed back to the hotel.
Anyway, I know that I will try to see a play here next time I visit Folkestone. It will have to be about the same time – August Bank Holiday weekend. I’ll have the time and hopefully nice Summer weather.
I wondered what it would be like to live here. There were so many properties up for sale. Wondered where the residents are heading to? Aaah, the tentacles of the credit crunch are not leaving any stone unturned.
Leaving on the Monday morning, I also wondered whether Folkestone is England’s sleeping economic giant. I reckon, that rests on how much tourism it can attract from the Continent as well as from within the UK itself and how much of the regeneration scheme is going to be a catalyst for economic and social development. For me, I have added Folkestone to my growing list of must-visit holiday destinations.