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B and B in Bexhill – a jaunt to East Sussex

January 10, 2014

Bexhill on seaBexhill-on-sea was the site of the second death in the A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie, and that was all I knew about the place. It was many hours drive from Cheltenham – but I’d bought tickets for a concert last July due to my younger daughter’s enthusiasm for Regina Spektor.  Flashing through the villages of Kent on the way there, the winding country lanes were dotted with fruit stalls of strawberries, raspberries and cherries, befitting a county known as the garden of England.

We (my sister and the teens) were given a warm welcome at the slightly old-fashioned, but spotlessly clean Park Lodge Bed & Breakfast (run by Liverpudlians). It was very central, next to a lovely park and one street back from the sea front. We strode out to explore, noting the queue at Di Paolo’s tea room for homemade gelati.

The town has seen better days and its obscurity is underlined by the fact there was not a branded chain name to be seen. Too sleepy and run-down for multi-national coffee houses to consider. However, the faded nature was not depressing or threatening and Bexhill must have been a hot spot at some point to justify the building that dominates the seafront. A jewel of a 1930’s Modernist building – The De La Warr Pavilion. We went in for a cuppa and the tea was almost blown out of our cups by the wind on the narrow outside terrace; very amusing.

Even more entertaining for all the wrong reasons was the exhibition curated by Turner prize winner Mark Leckey called The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things.  I am well-known in my family for my enthusiasm and will find an inspiring angle about nearly anything, especially if it’s related to art. Maybe I was in the wrong mood for this, but it left me cold. Stone cold. I felt it was such a random collection of really terrible things. There was no beauty for sure, but I didn’t even find it thought-provoking. To quote my teens “the objects weren’t odd enough to mean anything” and “they were too mundane to provoke any reaction bar confusion.” It was almost as if that was the point for me; the universal inaccessibility of dumb objects arranged in a big white space. The only thing that remains in our consciousness is a video of ‘jelly bean’ man which was like ‘Telly Tubbies on acid’ (another teen quote). I did love the sculpture on the roof because they juxtaposed with the incredible sea view and you had to fight the wind to stay upright.

Eating out in Bexhill on Sea

Trattoria Italiana

….is the best place to eat by far if the hoards of happy diners filling the place is anything to go by. I can only go on impressions as it was fully booked from 6pm in the evening. It was the only place that wouldn’t look out of place in more affluent town and there was a terrific buzz about it.

De La Warr Pavilion Café Bar and Kitchen

Avoid eating here if there is a big event. They really couldn’t cope on the night of the Regina concert and people were waiting for over an hour. However the food was simple, well-cooked hot and good from a limited menu for that evening – ‘Brighton Rock’ battered local fish served with seasoned chips, pea puree and homemade tartare sauce, roasted tomato and olive pasta and homemade pizza, served in a clean open space by nice, friendly, young staff with the best view. The menu changes often and ranges from homemade sausages to tagines plus it’s licensed.

Sawasdee Thai

…looked bright, clean, modern and welcoming (I’m afraid the Nepalese restaurant opposite didn’t). Closed on the day we were there or it would have been our next choice. Well reviewed on Trip Advisor too.

Di Paolo’s Restaurant

…go there for their homemade ice-cream.

Tea Beside the Sea

A charming shabby chic tea room with a great selection of homemade cakes and a fantastic view as it’s inside the colonnade right on the beach below the pavilion.

Things I liked about Bexhill on Sea

Walking along the beach early in the morning and this selfie.

me and my sister

The blocks of retirement flats named after Caribbean islands.

Miles of beach huts, some ramshackle and labyrinthine, some resembling garages, many unused.

The old, red brick rowing club building, now sadly in decline (although the club itself thrives).

Small wind-swept dogs being walked along the pebble beach.

Modern planting and driftwood-inspired landscaping along the front (promenade?)

Egerton Park, next to our B&B, which had an outdoor gym: such a brilliant idea.

The beautiful clean lines of De La Warr Pavilion beautifully restored as an arts centre (narrowly saved from becoming a JD Weatherspoons). Good venue for a concert too (my daughter loved Regina).

St Mark’s church, Little Common which we found on our way out of the town. We dashed in out of the rain and a warden opened the church, leaving us alone for a peaceful time admiring the stained glass and the frescoes.

bexhill on sea

Where we could have gone next:

Hastings – Famous for the battle, it has more tourist attractions than Bexhill including ruins of a castle, an abbey, an aquarium, and a shingle beach called The Slade which has the largest fleet of beach-launched fishing boats in Europe.

Lamb House, Rye – I longed to go here, not because Henry James lived there but because E.F. Benson did. Miss Mapp‘s house Mallards was modelled on it and the town of Tilling based on Rye.

Where we did go next:

After loading up with bags of fresh cherries from a market stall, we set off for Bodium Castle. More about this to follow very soon.

I don’t know the South East of England very well. Which other faded gems should I visit?

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  1. January 10, 2014 10:39 am

    These are the kinds of posts which again make me feel like wanting to run away from Dubai!

    • January 10, 2014 10:08 pm

      And yet most people in the UK would gladly swap a rainy day in Bexhill-on-sea for a day in Dubai! There’s a low-key kind of charm about this sort of place that I adore, and I miss this kind of dramatic scenery and quirky place.

  2. January 10, 2014 11:30 am

    A wonderful place to spend some quality holiday time.



    • January 10, 2014 10:09 pm

      Time with my sister is always special Rosa 🙂

  3. January 10, 2014 11:57 am

    Great post Sally. Joy to read.

  4. Dave Reeder permalink
    January 10, 2014 1:24 pm

    Whitstable, for the oysters!

    • January 10, 2014 10:09 pm

      Added to the ‘must visit’ list 🙂

  5. January 10, 2014 1:38 pm

    Makes me feel nostalgic about blustery, British seaside towns…

    • January 10, 2014 10:10 pm

      I think I like the English seaside best when it’s not sunny (which is just as well really)

  6. January 10, 2014 1:48 pm

    Thanks for the lovely poke around Bexhill. It sounds like a great place to spend a day or two. I don’t real know that coast at all but I have many years ago visited an elderly friend in gorgeous Rottingdean. The timber and thatched houses were the first I had seen in person, and really impressed me. I too always try to see something in other’s art, but sometimes I just can’t muster the enthusiasm as it seems so self-indulgent. Love your daughter’s pithy summation.

    • January 10, 2014 10:12 pm

      It’s funny how unique the different areas of Britain can be. I don’t know the South East at all and was struck by the Oast houses, the wooden cladding and the fruit stalls …all giving a unique flavour to the locale.

  7. January 10, 2014 2:08 pm

    Sounds like a special trip – love the selfie with your sis and the teenage quotes – classic teenage pecerptive wit. 🙂

    • January 10, 2014 10:13 pm

      They keep us entertained 🙂

  8. January 11, 2014 1:12 am

    It sounds like a lovely trip you made to the seaside!!!! I have never been there before,…NOt yet! 😉

    • January 11, 2014 8:06 am

      Not everyone’s idea of the perfect day out but lots of quirky charm.

  9. andreamynard permalink
    January 11, 2014 3:05 am

    I have a soft spot for these sort of faded English seaside towns, lovely post.

    • January 11, 2014 7:51 am

      And me Andrea. Such a contrast to where I live now too.

  10. January 11, 2014 9:04 pm

    I feel like andreamynard above … I love the ye-olde-England faded charm brought to life by, yes, E.F. Benson and his Lucia series !… but also H.E. Bates’s Darling Buds Pop Larkin. Perhaps one wouldn’t want to live in Bexhill but definitely worth a visit … lovely post.

    • January 11, 2014 11:27 pm

      I was reminded of HE Bates by the hop-picking train I saw at our next destination. Totally agree living there might have its challenges although I can think of many worse places 🙂

  11. January 12, 2014 2:38 pm

    looks like a very fun time!! 🙂

  12. Ali Kerr permalink
    January 13, 2014 1:19 pm

    Hi Sally, happy new year! If you come our way, stop by, we’re not far from Petworth, Otherwise, don’t know where you’re heading but all around Chichester, Bosham, Itchenor, East Lavant and West Witterings beach is lovely. Love your photos as always! A x

    • January 18, 2014 9:05 am

      Happy New Year to you too Ali. That part of the world is not one I know at all – thanks for kind words and lovely offer. Would love to see you.

  13. January 14, 2014 4:53 am

    There’s nothing quite like experiencing a place through their food. Though pea puree with fish and chips still seems so wildly exotic and unusual to me though I hear it is popular in England. Here in New Zealand we are more likely to have a side of salad with our fush and chups than pea puree.

  14. January 14, 2014 8:52 am

    What a wonderful excursion and commentary on the things you did and didn’t do 🙂 thank you for sharing!

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