(Retrospective) Summertime Gladness Day Fifteen: A wedding and a trip to Tunbridge Wells

My friends James and Tanya got married on August Bank holiday monday, which was a day that should have won a medal for the most amount of rainfall. Thankfully the soaking wet weather didn’t dampen the day, not even a smidgen. In fact it was an absolutely beautiful day and I felt really privileged to be there for the entire celebration.

The wedding was in the delightful setting of High Rocks in Tunbridge Wells. The venue interior was gorgeous, with the hazy glow of fairy lights wrapped around strong, oak beams. In short it was stunning, the tables were pristinely pretty in cream with peachy roses as the centre piece, along with brown paper name cards, our names punched out in black ink. I don’t know what it is about them exactly, but I’m a complete sucker for a blackboard and they played a crucial role in the decoration. Each table had a little blackboard with a place of interest for James and Tanya, etched on it in white writing. It’s these little personal touches that I adore, no two weddings are the same!

After the food and speeches, my table rushed to the dance floor. It was so much fun dancing the night away with friends from my old church, laughing at the hilarious array of moves we were displaying with vigor. Seeing as I wasn’t back to work until the thursday and Oli had some time off to use, we had decided prior to the wedding, that we would find somewhere to stay so that we could end our long summer together with a relaxing little getaway. And that’s exactly what we did.

After much searching on the internet we settled on two nights at the Innkeeper’s Lodge for £150 for the two of us. I call that a bargain. We were both very impressed with the hotel; it was extremely clean, the room was huge, modern and pretty newly decorated. It was the perfect base for a few days of exploring in Tunbridge Wells.

On the way to the Wedding reception, we checked in, dumping our bags and making sure we had the key to our room. The hotel was a mere nine minutes away from the venue which made it an ideal place. After dancing very dramatically to Bruno Mars’ Locked out of Heaven we ventured back to the hotel and collapsed into our marshmallow like twin beds and slept soundly until about 11am the next morning. There had been a complimentary continental breakfast on offer but our lie in put pay to that. Fortunately I’d brought a big bag of chocolate chip brioche with us, which we devoured with hot cups of tea and daytime television. Soon enough we journeyed into Tunbridge Wells, we’d planned to walk but the heavens had literally opened again and seemed pretty set on continuing. So we hopped in the car instead.

I really loved Tunbridge Wells, it seemed to have lots of little parts and sections to it. And for that day, it was the gift that kept on giving. The first thing we did was grab some pick and mix sweets from Ye Olde Sweetshop, a selection of fried eggs, jelly snakes and fizzy cola bottles amongst other things. We meandered around the neverending highstreet, stopping to have a look in the library museum, reading the information in our most silly voices. IMG_5890[1]

We stopped for a much needed lunch at Wagamama’s which I’ve always been reluctant to go to on account of the fact that I hate spicy food. But since meeting Oli, I have branched out and tried more ‘spicy’ dishes including curry, which I have to say is actually quite delicious. Oli loves Wagamama’s and has tried to get me to go over the past year, so I finally yielded and in we went. I went for the Pad thai which was scrummy and Oli went for the Katsu curry; also amazing. My favourite part of the whole experience was the free and refillable tea that comes with your meal; more restaurants should offer this delight.

With our bellies well and truly satisfied, we wandered down to the Pantiles; popping into lots of shops along the way. The Pantiles is a Georgian colonnade with shops and cafes strewn along it; it’s very pretty indeed. Walking down it, I could imagine elegant Georgian ladies gliding about, all feathers and fuss, taking in the air.

I was desperate to sit outside with a coffee and a little cake, so we opted for Rosemary Shrager’s Patisserie. I ordered a really tasty Lemon Meringue Tart while Oli opted for a Rose and Lychee cheesecake bomb thing (despite the fact that it looked very much like a pink and very luminous silicone breast implant and ignoring my warning that it would taste like potpourri). The most amazing homemade marshmallows came with Oli’s hot chocolate, I’ve been dying to make my own for such a long time and seeing these fluffy, white delights reminded me just how much. Full of sweetness, we spent a good hour strolling in the park, attempting to at least wear off a few of the calories we’d ingested, before adding to our growing collection at dinner time. We do like our food. When on holiday, eh?

Dinner consisted of the best sandwich ever; the Chicken Caesar artisan roll available at your local Pret. It is…my word it’s…well it’s…it’s AMAZING! Along with crisps, fruit, chocolate tiffin and fizzy apple juice in front of the telly back at the hotel. We spent the evening watching Don’t tell the Bride, Secrets of China: Desperate for Love and How the Rich get Hitched; all with an unintentional wedding theme.

We woke up late again the next day, missing out on our complimentary continental breakfast for a second time. So we opted for breakfast at Bills instead. Except we only had about 20 minutes to get into Tunbridge Wells, park and walk to Bills before they stopped serving breakfast. We were cutting it fine, to say the least. So fine in fact, that I decided to ring Bills and plead with them to still serve us breakfast even if we got there way past midday. My plee worked and they took our order over the phone so that when we arrived our breakfasts were ready pretty much immediately. I was very grateful to the guy on the phone, ashamedly I’ve forgotten his name. But whoever you are, you are a LEGEND! And Bills Tunbridge Wells is very lucky to have you as part of their team. Basically the full english breakfast at Bills is to die for, I would and do recommend it to everyone.

Breakfast gobbled, we clambered into the car and drove to National Trust property Scotney Castle. We arrived just in time for a tour of a hop farm, which was an unexpected treat. We donned our wellies and followed our guides on a muddy albeit sunny walk to the hop farm, where we learnt about the history of hop harvesting. Families from London used to venture up to Kent to spend six weeks of the summer harvesting hops. It was hard work and they had rough living conditions but it was a popular tradition. We also saw the hops growing and then saw the backbreaking and sweaty work of the hops actually being harvested at the farm. One man was drying the processed hops in an Oast, he looked like he was about to spontaneously combust from heat at any moment. But the best bit by far – and the main reason we did the tour in the first place – was having a free taste of the finished product. Nothing beats a cold beer, although this one wasn’t remotely cold and was actually more like a shot than a whole glassful. A tad disappointing on the sample front. We managed a quick look around the house, where I spotted a lovely old bath complete with reading rest; I need one of those to go in my bath. With an icecream in hand we ended the day with a wander in the sunshine down by the moat house. It was really rather lovely.

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I think that spontaneous getaways are most certainly the way forward. They certainly make for a very happy end to a very happy summer.

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