Margate, on the Kent coast, has always been on my radar. As a child we always holidays just down the road in Broadstairs, and although we never really spent beach days there, we would often visit Margate to see the big lights on the seafront and visit Dreamland if we were really lucky.
Margate really came in to it’s own in my teenage years. Bored of hanging out with my parents on the same old Viking Bay, I’d be allowed with a friend to take the train a few stops to Margate for the day, which, at fifteen or so was frankly, immense.
I have such happy memories of that first taste of independence – screaming at Sean Maguire on the Radio one roadshow on the sands, and living my best teenage life at Margate. Giggling at boys, squealing with terror and delight on the rides and basically learning to be a grown up for the very first time.
My friends and I visited from our corner of North Kent via train with my first ever boyfriend and his mates, and had girls days out in the summer sunshine, wearing what can only be described as a fashion disaster in multiple (market white A line skirts with Adidas 3 stripe. So cool. )
Margate hasn’t always had the best rep, and for some years my beloved Dreamland became quite run down. It was so sad to see, having been a part of so many peoples lives since 1870 (renamed as dreamland in 1920). In fact in 2003 a ‘save Dreamland’ campaign stopped the bulldozers moving in and flattening the site for houses, and it was bought and lovingly refurbished back to the glamour it deserves by Thanet district council.
We visited Dreamland for the first time since it reopened in 2015 last summer, and I was blown away. Not just by the colour, vibrancy and beauty that has been injected to dreamland, but to Margate as a whole. The beach was beautiful, the shops and tea rooms around the cafe quarter so effortlessly cool, and the stunning Turner Contemporary Gallery a must visit.
When Dreamland invited us back this half term to check out the #GEEK2018 gamers festival, it was a no brainer. A day at the seaside? Yes please.
In all honesty, they probably couldn’t have picked a worst blogger as I am rubbish at computer games, I haven’t played one since Colin the cleaner on my brothers ZX Spectrum, and I have zero patience with digital games.
BUT, I do love Margate, and I’m always open to something new.
#GEEK2018 was actually a really fun family day out. The backdrop of Dreamlands quirky and colourful undercover areas made for a real spectacular, and Tigs surprised me with her interest and knowledge of Minecraft and Pacman?!
There was loads to do; watch demonstrations of digital tech advances (the girls loved the robot man dancing), play retro games and even build your own. Hands on stuff for kids like contributing towards a digital animation, building a game story board with blocks, and (our favourite perhaps) the actual reality ame zone. Here classic games were brought to life in a 3D set up, and it made Tigs day actually being Pacman.
Upstairs, in the main arena, was a set up of what looked like hundreds of consoles, each being played in the dark by some hardcore game lovers. Adults, kids, men and women, all playing away at indie games, retro games and of course the biggies; FIFA, Star Wars, Minecraft and…err…that’s about the best of my knowledge I’m afraid!
We did get to have a go on the new star wars game, and better still, in my humble opinion, a vintage arcade version of Pacman, which Tigs, obviously, loved.
One of the things I realised at #GEEK2018 is how important it is to expose our daughters to technology and science. The industry of gaming is heavily male dominated, and one of the young students from Canterbury Christchurch university told us that she is the only girl in her class. In 2018 that just doesn’t seem right, does it?
And so, I’m super chuffed we took the girls to experience first hand the places IT can take you, with a little bit of imagination and plenty of hard work.
After a busy morning at GEEK, we headed next door to Dreamlands sister gastropub, Cinque Ports for a late lunch. Immediately impressed by its chic interior, this is a place that could have easily been in the middle of shoreditch. The shabby vintage style, mixed with quirky pieces like the Vespa, made it incredibly easy on the eye. Overlooking the entrance to Dreamland at one end, and the sea by the main bar, this is definitely a place I’d be more than happy to watch the world go by over a gin and tonic.
It’s always tricky to feed our kids, but the kids menu had all bases covered and with a fish and chips for Dad, a chicken burger for me, we were all wowed by the food. Definitely no room for pudding here, but the girls managed a bowl of ice cream, obvs.
I don’t know about you, but little touches go a really long way when eating out, and at Cinque Ports they definitely passed the nice glasses, cool toilets test! If you happen to find yourself in Margate, I couldn’t recommend Cinque Ports enough, your instagram feed will thank you.
Before heading home we made the most of the sunshine running around on Margate’s golden sands, where the sea breeze and the bright sunshine made perfect conditions for exercising off that feast. Standing on the empty beach on a cold day is always such tonic for the soul, and whatever worries are on your mind disappear. It’s truly my happy place.
There always has to be time of course to swing into the Turner Contemporary – a free, cultural, shelter from the wind and one that always opens up our mind a little to the possibilities of art. It’s something different for the kids to see and experience, and, just like last year, they were running a workshop for the kids to get creative. Meanwhile we watched the tide disappear, making way for a sighting of Anthony Gormleys ‘Another time’ statue in the sea.
En route back to the car we detoured via the cafe quarter of Margate. Again, the epitome of urban cool right here on the Kent coastline, you could be forgive for thinking you were in Brightons lanes. The town has really embraced it’s seaside charm and with antique shops, art galleries and tea rooms, this is definitely a place I’d love to come and potter in, sans kids.
I have no doubt that Margate will be a place we’ll return to time and time again. I can’t wait for some sunny summer days back at Dreamland when the rides reopen, and I definitely need to try out Cinque Ports rooftop terrace.
Margate, you were a dream…until next time.
Disclosure: We received our entrance and lunch for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.