15 August 2013

Broadstairs: a haven for fishermen and folk musicians

Last Sunday we packed the car and headed southwest to Broadstairs for a weekend getaway. Carib (the dog) was happy to be invited on the adventure, though hesitant about the choice of transportation. (She does not do well with motion.)

Broadstairs has been a fishing hamlet since 1080 AD. While fishing is still thriving, most of town's income relies on tourism. Fishing boats rest anchored in the shore, while ice cream parlors, souvenir beach shops, and pubs line the Boardwalk and High Street.

For the past six years we have made an annual road trip to Broadstairs to visit friends who call the coastal town home during the summer.  Longtime friend and fisherman, Julian, keeps lobster, crab and whelk (sea snail) traps along the coastline. Seafood does not get any fresher than this.

We were greeted by this fruit de mer platter of goodies from Julian's traps and local fishermen.We graciously devoured the platter along with a bottle of Ro and Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, sur Lie.

With the flavours of lunch still lingering on our palates, we took a stroll to burn off a few calories and check out the local scene at Folk Week. Broadstairs has hosted the week-long folk festival since 1965.

The atmosphere was upbeat and lively with brightly coloured hair, face painted children, and flower head wreaths.

Wishing to be in the festive spirit, Ouisie and I shopped for our own folk accessories.

Folk Week takes over Broadstairs. A school's sports field hosts the campsite for festival goers. Music, dance, and concert performances take place at the seafront bandstand, in the pubs, and along the streets. There are free and ticketed events throughout the week catering to young and old alike.

With Ouisie in tow, we opted for the free children's Hobby Horse show at the bandstand. The band played, the Morris dancers clogged, and the children got to participate in some line dancing and sing along.
We stopped for an afternoon ice cream and then headed for the beach to bravely dabble our toes in the cold Channel waters. Ouisie spotted the children's rides at the opposite end of the beach. Fortunately, the oversize swings and gigantic giraffe bouncy castle were soon forgotten with a game of chase the seagull.

The Broadstairs Pier at Viking Beach is a favourite local hangout. The smell of frying oil wisps through the air from the cafe at the end of the pier. Kids bait their fishing lines all afternoon in hopes of catching a pinching crab. Dedicated memorial benches line the pier honouring deceased town citizens. At weekends it is almost impossible to find a bench to relax and drink your pint.

Julian happily spends hours at the pier talking fish with his mates. He was born in Broadstairs and still has fond memories of earlier days. An avid historian, Julian knows facts about all the piers and buildings from Broadstairs to Ramsgate.
The next morning, I heard the first seagull squawk at 05:30. Chef stumbled out of bed some 30-minutes later. Ouisie wrongly thought it was time to wake up. I snuggled her in bed with me and drowned out the seagulls' incessant chatter for the next hour with ear plugs.

Chef's favourite thing to do in Broadstairs is help Julian pull traps and cast for mackerel. It's a labour intensive task which takes around three hours and involves handling crabby shellfish.

Did I mention-- fishing and seagulls have the most unsociable hours!

Once the sun was fully up, the girls headed down to the beach for a morning walk. The tide goes out early, leaving the bare ocean floor for walking dogs and finding sea treasures in rock pools.

Walking along the beach at low tide is my favourite thing to do in Broadstairs. You are away from the town's crowded streets and you can freely stroll up and down admiring the painted beach huts and ships at sea.

Carib was delighted to feel the sand between her paws. Her Caribbean roots felt back home with the salty air and warm ocean breeze blowing through her coat.

A baby starfish was caught in Ouisie's net which she loved admiring and (with coaxing) holding. As I pried it from her tight fist, I explained its need to return to the ocean to grow big and strong. She was certain it was big enough to be her new pet.

My mobile rang. Chef was on his way back to shore. Perfect timing. Ouisie's temperament radically changed upon news of daddy's return.

The beloved starfish was released to the sea.

Ouisie and I were invited aboard the small fishing boat with Chef and Julian to finish sorting a few traps. While it was great to be at sea,  after 30-minutes we decided the boys could keep their dirty fishing boat and happily put our feet back on dry land.

After a final ice cream scoop, it was time to bid farewell to Broadstairs.

As the warm summer days are slipping away, how do we thank the sun for shining for our 24-hour visit?

Perhaps a folk song and dance will do.


For more information on Broadstairs, visit their website here
For more information on Folk Week (ends Friday 16th August), visit their website here

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