We’re staying pretty close to Maidstone, in a town called Ditton a couple miles down the road from the Fremlin Shopping Area in Maidstone town center. Apparently most of the town centers in the UK are shopping areas, some busier than others but still different from much of the US we’ve seen. It seems most small towns have their little strip malls (or Walmert) and a small downtown with maybe a few shops open, or are just completely dead from failing economies (or Walmart).
Fremlin Walk is part indoor and outdoor mall and Tunbridge Wells had much of the same layout. A large parking garage next to a multi level mall and several streets, and blocks in each direction with shopping of all kinds, from Top Shop to furniture stores, and some restaurants. We had a hard time finding a pub (somehow) in Tunbridge today and when we finally found one several blocks from the parking garage, they had stopped serving food, but I had a good beer at least. Just walking around is nice enough anyway, people watching, seeing the old buildings and window shopping. The day before in Maidstone, We found a great little health food store inside Fremlin Walk where we picked up some more vegetarian meats and some Red Mills cereal. I also bought some extra socks and some much needed hair spray and we wandered around until we needed to start work, around 4pm our *new* time.
Later during the time we’re here we’ll check out more of Maidstone since we’re so close, like the Archbishop’s Palace, Leeds Castle, some castle ruins in a country park and a priory (where friars hung out) from 1272!! I can’t believe how old everything here is. When you see a Tudor house, it’s a TUDOR HOUSE, not just a construction style and when you see an old barn or stone building, its likely hundreds and hundreds of years old – possible middle ages. Madness!
Maidstone Fremlin Walk Area and Earl St
Tunbridge Wells downtown was an old area as well of course, and seemed larger than downtown Maidstone to me but it might have been the layout. When you leave the indoor mall area after parking, you can walk either way down the main street and the direction we choose seemed to go on for a long time, down a long hill, to more and more shopping areas; Tiny little brick pedestrian streets with book stores and chilly wind tunnels, a building occupied for a time by a noted martyr, King Charles the Martyr and tons of old store fronts of all kinds. Surprisingly most of them were filled with exciting new storefronts where I would love to see rusty old antiques and pubs but how many pubs can I really expect to see in one country?
We also got a chance on Wednesday to drive out to the new country pub leased by Ross’s sister and partner near Bethersden. They’re completely redecorating the inside and tearing down some walls, making it into a great little pub-eatery that will offer as many ingredients as possible from local farmers cooked by a great cook who worked in London but has always wanted to work at a country pub.
I don’t want to post too many pictures of the pib because there’s a lot of work to be done, but the place looks amazing to me no matter. Apparently the place has often been an Inn throughout “recent” history (so over 100 years for UK “recent”) but at one point it was also used as a jail! and there is an old blocked up tunnel underneath that used to connect it to another building nearby. Could anything be cooler?.. I’m not sure that it could.
It’s still the work week so we’ve been managing to get out before work starts to see these things but we’ll be exploring more on the weekends, starting with Canterbury tomorrow! I’ll be taking my film camera but will get lots of digital photos too and after we’ll be stopping back by the country pub to drop off a birthday present for Ross’s nephew, and for Sunday, no clue!