Throughout my childhood, “the seaside” meant Cromer – one of my favourite places in the world – or occasional day trips to Barry Island, Ogmore or Penarth while staying with my grandma in Cardiff – which means I am remarkably lacking in knowledge and experience of all the other great British seaside resorts! Recently, because Steve is from Newton Abbot, Ive started exploring that part of Devon, but I decided to extend the visits by including on my list Thing #2: Visit five new-to-me seaside resorts.
So when author, client and all round good guy Peter Jones announced he was holding a book launch in Southend-on-Sea I saw it as the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone – finally meet Peter, after three years of proofreading for him, and cross the first new seaside resort off the list. Mind you, the idea of Southend in February wasn't the most appealing weekend away ever …
But we had a fab time. We arrived in Southend at about 3pm, parked up at The Royals and checked into our hotel. I'd managed to find a half price deal at the Park Inn Palace and at £52.50 including breakfast for two, it was a steal. We were both starving so we set off down the path to the seafront to find some late lunch and ended up at Fisherman's Wharf, a fish and chip shop where we had some of the best fried fish I've ever tasted – fresh, flavoursome fish in a crisp batter, delicious! The portions were huge so we went for a stroll along the front to walk it off, passing round the back of Adventure Land, under the pier and along what is obviously the main tourist area in Southend, packed with clubs, bars and amusement arcades. We stared at the sea, pondered over the Shard-like structures along the front, admired the (sadly closed) ice cream shop with a cornet for a turret, and stopped for a pint at Cornucopia, “the smallest pub in Essex” and proudly advertising free exotic dancers five nights a week, before heading back for the hotel and a well earned cuppa.
Next day we decided to go for a walk along Southend's famous pier – the longest in the world. We planned to get the train down and walk back with the wind behind our sails, but after a mix up over the train times (my fault entirely) we decided to walk to the end and train back. Like the intrepid explorers we are, we set off for the distant end of the pier, braving the howling winds, the freezing temperatures, the slippery wooden planks and the ever present seagull poop. Halfway along we stopped while I tried (and failed) to track down a geocache but finally we reached our destination – the Pier Head Cafe – and rewarded ourselves with a warming coffee and cake. The walk was well worth the effort, and we were thrilled to see dunlins, a shag and a seal as well as watch the lifeboat being hoisted from the rough water and a police boat pass by!
Our time in Southend was coming to an end but we still had one thing left to do – Peter's book launch in Waterstones! It was a lovely event; I was thrilled to meet Peter at last, as well as another proofreading client of mine, Della Galton, and I also caught up with some old friends, including Vikki, a BookCrossing friend I haven't seen for six years! There was much hugging, lollipops, balloon hats and books, lots of photos and more hugs before we finally left the bookshop, left Southend and headed home.