Monday, January 7, 2013

London to Whitstable weekend trip - a well trodden path

Whitstable Oyster Shell Recycling point
Where oyster (shells) go to die - re-stabilising the oyster bed

What a difference a few years make - to be more specific, pre-kid and post-kid. During our early days in London, we rely on a Lonely Planet guide on England for places to go over the weekends.

I recall flipping through the guide and stopping at a random page on a Friday evening before heading there the very next day. England is well connected by rail and many places worth visiting are always within walking distance from a train station. Being based in London, that's a bonus.

That was how we ended up visiting Whitstable. The only thing we knew about the place was that it was known for their oysters. We did find a couple of other things as well and actually posted about what to do at Whitstable.

Fast forward to 2013 with a screamer who is adamant that she should perfect her terrible two's role, we quickly realise that the 1hr 20min train ride is a torment. Even moving to the first four carriage of the train (only they go to Whitstable) is an uphill task with a buggy at hand.

We persevered nevertheless. It was a windy day with a slightly depressing air at the beach. To be honest, London wasn't faring too well either; the only comforting thing was that at least the sea breeze was a tad fresher. We even toyed with the idea of renting one of those beach huts for the night if we decided that the return train trip would be too painful to be borne on the same day.

Whitstable hasn't changed much over the years - even the oyster shells recycling point seems frozen in time. The breakwaters protecting further erosion of the beach still stand, effectively segmenting the beach line.

Whitstable wooden beach protector dividers
Dividers to protect Whitstable beach from the waves' onslaught

Whitstable metal detectors
Men scouring Whitstable beach with metal detectors

Whitstable Wee Willy Winkles Kitchen
Whitstable's Wee Willy Winkle Kitchen - where 99 flake ice-cream really costs 99p

Whitstable Harbour low tide
Whitstable Harbour at low tide - somewhat depressing, the overcast skies didn't help

The only thing that I noticed is that the Whitstable Harbour Books has moved to another location, it is no longer in business. A pity that's true. But still, we managed to reserve a table at the renowned Whitstable Oyster Company this time round and the platter of Whitstable Native Oysters alone is well worth the trip.

Whitstable, which has been harvesting oysters since the Roman times, is also a tourist destination since the Victorian times (for more on its history, check out Whitstable Revisited). If you have a bit more time, the historic cathedral city of Canterbury is a mere 20min bus ride away. Or you can stay for a night at one of those beach huts, which is exactly what I'll be doing the next time round.

How to get to Whitstable from London

By Train

London Victoria Station runs an hourly (5min past the hour) service to Whitstable. The journey will take around 1.5hr. Be sure to be seated in the first four coaches. If in doubt, check with the train conductor who will be coming round to check your tickets the moment it departs from Victoria station. Whitstable Station is a 15min stroll to the town centre.

A return ticket costs around £25 at the time of writing with considerable discount if you have a railcard. Get your ticket here.

By Coach

Coaches run from London Victoria Coach Station to Whitstable on a less frequent basis. The journey takes around 2hrs. Each trip (to and fro) costs just under £10 - there is no return ticket discount. Get your ticket here.

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