Let’s go to Hastings for a short little break we thought. What a good idea! And then the bloody train strikes got announced, for the day we were supposed to be going and the day we were coming back. So a short break turned into a longer break by the seaside. Oh horror!
We eventually got down to the coast on the Tuesday and, as tradition dictates, had lunch in the John Logie Baird which was being a normally strange Wetherspoons. There was a man possibly cosplaying as a nineteenth century painter, maybe about to invent impressionism. Then a man with a colourful feather in his hat appeared and started handing money around. Normal Spoons things.
The hotel awaited us glorious as always (though they half lost us until we looked under Heather’s name). Sitting with the French doors open and a view of the pier really is a happy place. Especially when the sun is brightly shining on the sparkling sea.
We weren’t there to sit in the room looking out the window though, so we went a wandering. The pier seemed even more empty than we remembered, none of the little stalls were open and there seemed to be a huge empty space at the far end again. Interestingly what was the public events space seems to have turned into a French restaurant (wonder how much that space was pushed in getting all the funding for the piers restoration?)
We gave up with the pier and headed for the Old Town, which was much as remembered with the pretty bunting and quirky shops (though some of them weren’t open yet). We stopped off in the Ye Olde Pumphouse (not as old as its appearance pretends) where Heather got to appropriately sit in Bullshit Corner. We didn’t stay though, heading up the quiet and old world High Street and back down the hill to find ourselves in perennial favourite The Hastings Arms (only serving curry, so we gathered for those arriving in search of food). It was after leaving there we discovered the very sad news that the best fish and chip shop, The Blue Dolphin, had suffered an arson attack and was out of action for the week. We were actually a bit too worn out to search for alternatives so simply headed back to the hotel for dinner (and my annual complaint that a pie needs sides and a bottom to be a pie) and an evening of watching distant cruise ships, wondering why they’d want to go further than Hastings.
Waking up to bright sunshine we gave the pier another quick glance, but it was still disappointing so we headed along the coast again (incidently, the pier seems to have a set playlist of songs, which start at the same time each morning. By the end of the week we were telling time by which song was playing). On the way into Old Town lies Heather’s favourite shop, an Aladin’s cave of tourist tat, emblazoned hoodies, trinkets and—to Heather’s continued delight—bags.
After finally dragging Heather back out the dark recesses of the shop we continued along the beach and sea, all the way to Rock-A-Nor to look at the high cliffs above us—we weren’t going up; the East Cliff railway was out of action, it’s cars apparently away for restoration. We learnt that much when we called in the Shipwreck Museum, a little space (in need of some TLC) dedicated to the wrecks found around Hastings and beyond. Heather had been before but I hadn’t, and it turned out to be a perfectly good way to spend a half hour or so.
Coming out the museum we took a rest outside the always delightful Dolphin before thinking about some lunch. Our first thought was The Crown but the Sun hadn’t gotten around to the tables outside and we really wanted to enjoy the beautiful day with some al fresco dining. We did try heading up the road to The Stag, remembering it’s lovely suntrap of a stepped courtyard garden, only to find it wasn’t open! That led us back down towards the cafes of George Street, wandering in and out of junk shops to peruse the mystifying selection on the way. There was also the excitement of spotting old friend The Lucky Stone hiding away just beyond someone’s front gate (we’d been missing the ducks.
It turned out George Street was also mainly in the shade, so we were actually on the way back to the Dolphin when we realised that the shadows had moved enough to allow outside The Crown to be sunny after all. So finally we settled on lunch there (I always seem to have a fish finger sandwich, and Heather loves some weird dessert). Phew!
After a relaxing time outside The Crown (complete with customary seagull looking hopeful) we found ourselves heading up the cliff railway which was working, revelling in the breeze at the top of the west cliff. After a bit of a discussion about how there should be a pub up there we found there is one not far away. The Plough turned out to be a welcoming local, with a nice garden out the back. We sat and sunned ourselves with a drink just enjoying the day (and watching the visiting dogs).
All the way back down, as darkness began to draw in, we headed for Hastings’ newest attraction—Owens Entertainment has appeared in what was the Debenhams store in the newer town centre. Describing itself as “The UK’s biggest and best indoor adventure park”, with a range of real and virtual “experiences” it is, in reality, more of a confusing dark hole with an occasional glimpse of neon. We ventured in, trying to navigate up through the dull light and escalators, passing the less than handful of fellow venturers easily out numbered by staff (at one level five or six of them stood in a row, though there didn’t seem to be anything there for them to welcome us to). We’d went in because among the promise of glowing table tennis (the only other thing we saw in use), and immersive dinosaurs there was the promise of crazy golf.
We eventually found it, deserted, up on the top floor. There were actually three courses, plus a possibly temporary bonus forth. Having gotten that far we were going to play all of them, which gave time to chat to the young girl holding the lonely fort—she was the best thing about the whole place; friendly, smiling, and resigned to her fate. The courses weren’t great, and average crazy golf offering with the modernist twist that some holes are just a wack it at the end ace. A sign of things was the score cards (well, bits of paper) were designed to score one person—I just drew a line down the middle. A bigger sign was that after nine holes of glow in the dark and nine of “disco” I went to the toilets, only to find them in complete darkness—presumably no one has updated the time clock to holiday opening. A toxic themed nine holes followed, and a final seven around a wizard themed course skirting intellectual property. And then we left. I’ll be a bit surprised if we’re able to go back next year.
We headed to the John Logie Bard to recover and then, after a brief stop off at the hotel, did go searching for fish and chips. The Master Fish Bar were good, but not brilliant, and we still missed the Blue Dolphin as we ate scampi, sausage and chips back in the room before bed.
Thursday morning saw me actually go down to join Heather for breakfast on the hotel terrace outside in the Sun. I needed fuelling up because we were going to go just down the road and climb the hill to reach Hastings Museum & Art Gallery. We’d just been there last year so there wasn’t an urgent need to return, but they had an exhibition of lego art so the climb was worth it. The exhibition was a little affair, a single large room, but contained a good range of pieces. There were some larger sculptural creations which didn’t do much for me, and some clever use of lego in photographs which were amusing. A illustration marking milestones in the history of the minifig was interesting, and there were a couple of fun lego tilt tables to amuse. It didn’t take long to look around the lego, or to have a quick shuffle around the rest of the museum, recalling the bits we’d liked and disliked the year before but it killed some of the morning quite nicely.
We killed the rest of the time by heading again for Old Town, with a visit to The Albion before a stroll in and out the shops of George Street, leading us again to the Hastings Arms. From there it was right back up the hill though, to sit in the actually rather nice Seadog near the station to await a rather delayed Gemma’s arrival. Eventually I left Heather in the pub while I collected the “student” and, after a further drink in the pub, led her down to get checked into the White Rock.
All settled it was time to head along the beautiful evening coast. We stopped off for a first round of the proper crazy golf, where we found players practising at the first hole for the World Championships coming up the next weekend. Having navigated the classic course (no where near as well as the competitors would do in a little over a week) we called in the Dolphin before heading for our favourite Hastings fish restaurant. Gem maybe a veggie but even she enjoyed Webbes.
There was just enough time to introduce Gem to the Hastings Arms afterwards before heading back to the hotel and packing ourselves off to bed, ready for a busy day.
As there was a Gemma present I joined Heather for breakfast for a second day—almost a record. We needed fuel though as we were meeting a whole bunch of WAY people to hang out and play crazy golf. Having found each other scattered around the car park we eventually got organised enough (herding cats springs to mind) to head out in several groups to take on a course, tackling the classic crazy golf course once more (and improving on my score from earlier in the week). By the time we’d all made it round it was heading on to lunch time, so we strolled across the road to avail ourselves of the spacious Albion for lunch.
Filled from lunch we headed back across the road and relaxed on the beach in the warm sunshine. I enjoyed trying to dig a big hole, and finding bits of shell and interesting rocks—it was that sort of lazy afternoon. As people started to drift away and the afternoon wore on a few of us found the energy for another crazy golf round before dinner time. There was also the excitement of a bit of a fire up of the cliffs, that the fire brigade looked at from below, then above, and just about controlled. Dinner brought us to a familiar location but unfamiliar restaurant. Sadly the great Italian Way is gone, it’s owners retired. In it’s place stands Rocksalt. It’s pretty good, though not as great as its predecessor, and at least still has the wonderful views from its prominent corner site along the beach and sea.
Following dinner there was just enough time for me to demonstrate I remember how to reverse a call (some idiot parking at a ridiculous angle next to Faith’s car, and me being the only one with a licence and thin enough to actually squeeze into the driver’s seat). At least it was a quiet car park by then.
Seeing everyone off we headed back for the hotel, packing Gemma off to bed as she can’t keep up bless her. We headed that way ourselves eventually, the end to another lovely day by the sea.
Having been wandering up and down the Hastings coastline and Old Town all week we decided it was about time to go the other way, through St Leonards. That meant starting with a stroll through the mosaic glass walls of Bottle Alley—actually a fairly welcome route to hide from the already hot sun. Emerging out we found a thriving scene of little cafes as we made our way along the sea. We weren’t ready to stop yet though, so carried on until we reached the start of St Leonards proper. There I remembered from previous visits the pretty little St Leonards Gardens and so forced everyone to climb the hill (they didn’t take much convincing). The park is as pretty as I remembered, with (once you’re near the top) a great view back out over the sea.
We headed back down, and continued along the shore to our destination, the Bo-Peep pub. It’s a good place to pause for lunch on such a walk, and, while retaining a local feel, is always warmly welcoming. The food happens to be good too, as we confirmed by stopping there to eat some.
Filled up and rested we headed back the way we’d come, aiming for Hastings once more. Along the way Heather almost convinced Gem to drink from the wrong fountain, and then didn’t believe I knew where William the Conqueror’s table is. There was also the naked cyclist who went past us one way, and then again heading back, freaking Gem out both times.
Arriving back in Hastings we needed a rest so went to sit on the hotel terrace and drink in the sun (and some actual drinks). Then we were off again, back along the coast the other way so Gem could investigate the shops of Old Town. We also introduced her to the Pump House, and then finally did make it to the garden of The Stag, which was of course as lovely as we remembered. Unfortunately they were fully booked for food, but we headed back down the road to return again to The Crown and their fish finger sandwich (other dishes are available).
And that was it, for a very tiring day had been had by all, so we headed back to the sea view of the hotel and rest.
A final day by the seaside, and the inevitable reluctance to leave. We left the bags with the hotel to extend things and headed out. First stop was a strange little festival round the back of the library, where someone nearly mistook us for singers, or possibly one of the peculiar artworks. And then is was off to find an ice cream by the seaside. Then it was time to head up the hill to wait in the Seadog for Gem’s train home. Soon it came, leaving Heather and I to wander back down alone, passing through the shopping centre and aiming for that bright sea.
On reaching the sea front we found Morris dancers performing, at least one of which looked like they may never have Morrised before! We didn’t let them distract us too much, but instead wandered to find Heather some prawns and have a wander around the lifeboat station shop (the station itself was covered in hopefully soon to be removed scaffold).
There was time, just about, to complete the crazy golf course we hadn’t done yet this break. I won still, despite Heather’s impressive three hole in ones! And then it was time for a final drink, in The Cutter, which Heather had been inadvertently gaslighting me over all week, by insisting it didn’t exist!
Bag collection and home followed though, taking us away from that beautiful sea, until next time.