What better way to bid farewell (for now, anyway) to Britain than with a day-trip to Hastings, a seaside town which Katie assured me held the best and worst of Britain. Boy was she right! I wanted to share the best bits with you. Hastings is everything I wanted Brighton to be, and more.
Two hours out of London and I felt immediately relaxed, forgetting all about my impending departure and my suitcases still waiting to be sealed. Summer had finally arrived and I pulled out my treasured tap shorts just for the occasion. We started out in the 'New Town' and walked into the once 'no-mans land' of The America Ground. It was a bit weird to see all the American flags around. Walking along the beach towards Bexhill we took in all the quirky shop fronts, a weather kiosk (!), visitors' centre inside an old-timey store and enough faded tiles and mosaics to keep you dreaming of days gone by. I adore old shops with tiled alcoves leading up to the door and large display windows along each side - if I ever have a shop it will be one of those. And Hastings is full of them. The pedestrian underpass along the beach is covered with bits of old bottles in all colours and variations. You could stay under there forever, with endless shade and a picture-perfect view of the sea.
The Old Town is brimming with the rich history Hastings is known for. The tall, narrow 'net shops', said to be unique to Hastings, have been used as net storage by fishermen for many decades, and 45 remain today. Nestled among them is the Fishermen's Museum in an old church dark and cosy and chock full of memorabilia from photos to Winkle suits. There's even a funicular railway, the East Hill Lift, which takes you up to the top of the cliff to Hastings Country Park.
Afterwards we went for a wander in the Old Town and happened upon many antique shops, old timber-framed houses and window critters. It was fun just to look and not buy - and besides, there was simply no more room in my suitcases.
And what would a visit to the seaside be without fish and chips and traditional British sweets, a dip in the sea and a cuddle at sunset!