Back home today after our 'let's throw caution to the winds and have a night away' farrago yesterday.
It started off OK...despite the pouring rain. We had no problem getting to Canterbury and finding the Park & Ride facility, which whisked us efficiently into the heart of the city without the stress of having to find car parking. The much lauded 'Christmas Market' was a disappointment, consisting of maybe a dozen wooden cabins selling rather expensive hand-crafted items.
Apparently the reindeers don't arrive till Thursday. Ditto the carol singers, gluhwein vendors and other assorted festive attractions.
Undaunted however, we managed to find a cosy little bistro where we wiled away a pleasant hour over a glass of wine and rather delicious lunch, before striking out to find two shops which I particularly wanted to visit, both of which specialise in miniatures.
The first turned out to have been gutted by fire and had subsequently changed hands.
This was disappointing but we trudged on towards Northgate to find the second miniature emporium. Luckily, we were overhead by a chap heading in the same direction who informed us that the shop had closed down some time ago, so we thanked him and turned back towards the city centre having avoided a long and futile, damp trek.
After perusing the delights of the city centre throughout the afternoon, and as it began to grow dark, we headed back to the car and set off to find our hotel.
This proved to be easier said than done as our SatNav was resolute that our route lay by way of Azerbaijan and no amount of inistent button pressing by us could dissuade her. Eventually after several wild goose chases down single track country lanes we finally managed to find our Travelodge and booked in to our £9 Saver Sale room.
Now. I've stayed in many Travelodges in the past in my peregrinations around the country, and I remember them as being basic, but warm and clean.
Our room was most definitely the former, but neither of the latter. In fact I will be shortly composing a letter of complaint to Travelodge Head Office, which will accomplish nothing except allowing me to vent steam.
Nevertheless, we determined to make the best of it, especially as I had researched a particularly fine pub nearby which served exemplary food worthy of a Michelin star.
Off we set at 7pm. Our SatNav had relented, and to make up for her previous intransigence, tried to make amends by taking us via a particularly pretty scenic route. At least we assume it was pretty. All we could discern were pitch-black country lanes, driving rain and a road so twisty and turny it made us feel dizzy.
However, we did manage to find the hostelry, out in the middle of nowhere, which looked warm and welcoming, despite the fact that the car park was eerily empty.
We tried the side door.
Round the front, tried the main entrance door.
Round the other side. No door.
We repeated this fruitless a few more times just to reassure ourselves that we hadn't inadvertently missed the portal, but we hadn't.
Realisation eventually dawned that it was closed, so we retraced our steps back to the Travelodge and pondered what to do next. We couldn't face the trip back through the rain into the city centre, and as far as we knew, there was only one eatery in the immediate vicinity. By then it was after 8pm and we were tired and hungry. So there was only one thing for it.
Not quite the gourmand experience I had planned but any port in a storm and all that. It had the advantages that it was only a few feet away, and open.
In an effort to quash our disappointment we reasoned that since Heston Blumenthal had revised the Little Chef menu, it would probably be the closest we'd ever get to eating at the Fat Duck.
Actually, to be fair, it wasn't bad.
PP had steak and ale pie and pronounced it delicious. I had a prawn and warm salmon salad which was passing fair, although it's probably quite difficult to muck up something so simple.
We also had a really quite reasonable bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for the princely sum of £8 which can't be bad.
And as my grannie would have said, "hunger is a good kitchen".
We also consoled ourselves with the fact that had our preferred gastropub been open we would have spent considerably more.
This morning dawned bright and sunny and we set off after breakfast to wend our way home by way of a friends' house to meet their new dog.
It rapidly became apparent that our SatNav had undergone a change of heart in the night, and decided to make reparation by showing us hitherto unexplored tracts of Kent, accessible only by the most intrepid adventurers. We were soon plunging down rutted and potholed single track roads, streaming with rainwater and completely devoid of human habitation, not to mention signposts. Only when we reached the outskirts of Tenterden did it repent probably due to overhearing us muttering about drop-kicking it out the window.
However, we did eventually get home safely. Small Dog, who had been leading her dog-sitters a merry dance in our absence was exuberantly pleased to see us and has barely left our sides all afternoon. She is currently curled up in her basket, keeping a watchful eye lest we disappear off again without her.
Tomorrow is back to work with a vengeance as there is a pile of orders to get through, which I'm determined will be done and dusted by the weekend. Only then can I relax and begin our festive preparations, aided and abetted of course by Small Dog, who just LOVES Christmas......
PS No. That's NOT her.........