Sunday, June 17, 2012

[Tourist] Day 34: The English Channel

After sleeping to the mercifully late hour of 7 AM - my god miracles can happen, though only apparently a month into a trip - I prepared for a fun day on the English seaside. The plans called for a day in the charming town of Whitstable. Frankly every town in the south of England (and probably half the towns in the north) can be referred to as charming. The words charming and quaint lose all meaning in this country.

The drive to Witstable was full of rolling green hills and the occasional isolated quaint house (see there's that word!). On parking in Whitstable we had quite a few hours to kill until meeting up with the rest of the family for an oyster lunch, so we wandered the streets. The weather consistently threatened to rain, but it only started to do so right as we eventually settled in for a no-longer-outdoor lunch.

The beautiful country scenery is getting old. Don't you have a factory or something to show me?

Greatest logo I've ever seen? Possibly.

Hey, if you love guinea pigs have I got the store for you. I may also have a pill for that, too.

I almost bought it just to say I had a copy of Chain Reaction

Can people stop slagging on English cuisine now - this is far better than I'm likely to get at some random store in Florida

I am suspicious that this is England's first brewery

Before eating we wandered down to the beach and the seaside. Oyster shells as far as the eye could see, oysters being one of the primary charms of Whitstable. With a chill coming on and the clouds threatening, and not without a certain bit of hunger, we turned gladly into the Parson's Arms, which is a pub and not some oblique way of telling you all that I have an unquenchable love for the Alan Parsons Project.

That's a lot of oyster shells

It's pretty nice, but it's no Siesta Key

It's like I'm back home. Except it's cold. Why is it cold in June?

The Parsons Arms was a perfectly lovely inn, as they all seem to be in this part of the country, although they were out of cracklings. The hell with them, they are no longer quaint or charming and yes I would like to try some oyster and vinegar potato chips thank you very much. Quite vinegary (he said with approval) but no more than a mild hint of oyster. How disappointing.

Needs more oyster

One of my favorite things about staying with all of my friends in England is that, despite each and every blessed one of them being no more than three-quarters my size, they all enjoy their food. So the fact that we had an imminent Groupon for oysters did not stop us from heading into a fish market literally next to the restaurant to purchase the best damn anchovies I've ever had and some sort of small, snail-like creatures whose named I've forgotten but who were quite good with malt vinegar. Was it welks? Welps? Welts? God I hope I wasn't eating someone's welts. Even worse if it was Eudora Welty's welts. Poor Eudora Welty. 

I'm going to stay far away from Willie's Wee Winkles and I sure as hell am not putting them in my mouth no matter what you say you yellow-coated, bearded handsome man, you.

Three paragraphs later than you thought and/or desperately hoped, we arrived for oysters. The Groupon was for a party of four, each getting six oysters and a glass of champagne. We were five, but I tried to beg off the champagne in exchange for a diet coke. After placing my order I changed my mind and went up to the bar to try and get a glass of prosecco, only to hear the bartender explaining to the waittress that he'd already poured five glasses in anticipation. Oh fine, twist my arm, champagne it is!

I live on the Gulf coast of Florida. I've had my share of oysters. Any two of ours might, if combined in some sort of hideous scientific oyster-melding experiment, have equaled one of these behemoths. And they were incredibly good to boot! No crackers, horseradish, lemon and Tobasco sauce for these beauties. The only problem is that even six giant oysters is not very filling.

Aren't we important!

You're not a diet coke, but you'll do...for now

These are huge. It's hard to tell that without a reference object.

That'll do

Off we went back to the fish market next door for some fish, chips and mushy pees. The pees were great, the fries were okay and the fish would have been amazing except that mine was just chock full of dangerous bones. Each bite I made with trepidation lest I swallow one and leave my heart literally at the seashore. The bone-free bites were great though.

This was possibly the most delicious non-melon soda on the entire trip. Oh wait, the lime Fanta was better too. This was third.

The part you don't get in the states

By the time we headed back to the car it was coming down quite heavily. After a relatively short drive home I set off to do some trip reporting. A healthy number of hours later it was time for Allison's home-cooked Indian dinner along with a contribution from Lucy's naan. We also had extra guests in as a couple of Allison and Bob's old friends came by for the night - quite the full house! 

Still not quite sweet enough, but getting there

Dinner finished with a delicious glass of this stuff:

I don't even like chocolate and I liked this

I headed to bed shortly after dinner since I knew we had an early start on London the next day.

My notes are hazy on the point, but this may have the day I discovered the wonders of brown sauce. It's a condiment that has all of the tanginess of vinegar with a bit of sweetness. It is also the first thing I'm buying when I get back to Florida and it is going on everything I eat for the rest of my life. Apparently the gene for liking it is located on the Y-chromosome according to someone in the know ;)

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