Before moving to England, I worked full-time at a university. I worked Monday to Friday with weekends off. After all chores were done, hubby and I would spend many hours with Emma. Every two or three months though, I would take a day off and M and I would go to Kansas City. Just the two of us for a mommy-Emma day.
Fast forward. Those days have gotten fewer. I couldn’t just take Emma out of school and a year after we moved to England, gymnastics took over. If you have experienced living with a young athlete, or dancer, you know what the weekly schedule looks like. For us, it was gymnastics, gymnastics, gymnastics and sometimes piano and swimming.
A few weekends ago all stars aligned and not only did M and I had a mommy-Emma day, we have a mommy-Emma weekend sponsored by Southeastern Railway to Deal in Kent. We have always been a huge fan of train travel. It’s relaxing (driving in the UK can be stressful with all the small roads, roundabouts, etc), it’s a fantastic time to connect with the girls, and often times quicker than any other transport (London traffic isn’t for the faint hearted). For those living in or visiting London, there’s another perk of train travel! There are so many direct trains, or trains with a quick and easy change, to many fantastic locations.
To give you a better idea on where you can go with Southeastern Railway, I am including their map below. A better version of the map is on the Southeastern website. There you can zoom in and once ready, purchase your ticket(s). If you have a Railcard, like I have (we have the Family and Friends card), don’t forget to take advantage of it! For our family, one train trip pays for the year of Network Railcard membership. This is really why we always take the train to and around London. It’s cheaper than driving!
I chatted with the gentleman at the kiosk in Deal and asked him this question: If I bought a weekend Off-Peak return ticket from London to Deal, can I stop in Dover, have lunch there, and hop back on the next train to Deal on this same ticket? He said yes! So, with one ticket to Deal from St Pancras International, if you leave early in the morning, you can stop in Dover for a few hours, then off to Deal for the night. Explore Deal the next day, walk on over to Walmer (it’s less than a mile walk), catch the train from Walmer, stop in Folkstone for another wander, and then back to London.
One weekend and so many places to see on one train route!! I love exploring new places and Southeastern has given me a new way to see more of Kent and East Sussex!
The summertime is my favourite time of year to travel, mostly because of the longer daytime hours and also the chance of decent weather. With love, there is a slight hate. Summer is also the busiest time to travel. I know I am not the only tourist who dislikes other tourists being there 😂.
Autumn and winter are my second favourite. Yes the day is shorter but this just means more time sitting at a cosy restaurant or pub. Yes it can be colder but hey, another reason to hit more cafes! It is not uncommon for us to get out of a cafe, walk a block and enter another one because it’s too cold outside. To us though, that’s part of the fun of travel. It’s cool to see the big highlights of the city, town or village but our most favourite part is to find cosy places to sit down and have a chat over hot drinks and treats. Also, the feel that you are a local adds to the experience.
I did zig-zag into many cafes while in Deal but lucky for us, that weekend was a perfect weekend to visit this gorgeous gem of a town.
Our adventure with Southeastern Railway started at St Pancras International, a magnificent Victorian Gothic 19th-century architecture. During the weekend, there are two trains going to Deal every hour, with the last train leaving St Pancras International at around 11:30pm. One goes via Rochester (2hrs travel time) and the other Dover (1hr 20min). For our journey that weekend, we took the Folkstone route. The train was comfortable and fast. There were clean toilets and also plug-ins for laptops/mobiles.
In Deal, you would get off the train, go over the bridge above the tracks and exit the train station. From there, just follow the signs (or use Google Maps) to get to where you need to be.
Deal is not a big town. You can walk everywhere and if walking is your thing, there are numerous gorgeous walking routes. If you rather bike around though, there is a bike rental shop, Mike’s Bikes Deal, right outside the station.
In Deal, Emma and I were fortunate to have found a room at the King’s Head and without asking, received a sea view room. The room was very clean with a surprisingly a big bathroom, I can even go as far as huge for English standards, and quiet. Despite being a pub B&B, the guesthouse part of it is a few doors down from the pub. So no matter what’s going on down there (the pub is very busy on Saturdays), the rooms will always be quiet.
Once we settled into our room, I did a bit of wandering trying to figure out where to eat while M stayed in the room doing a bit of homework. I didn’t go far, just around our B&B but we had plenty of choices. A few minutes of discussion later, we settled on The Taphouse Beer Cafe. This, my friends, is one of Deal’s hidden gems! I wish I had gone with my husband. He would have really appreciated and loved this beer cafe. Not only was the pizza (the only dinner choice for food) exceptional, the beer and gin selection was abundant and great. There are a few fantastic food choices in Deal but family-friendly Taphouse Beer Cafe would be where I’d want my friends to check out.
Our full stomachs and the time change made us slightly tired but I wasn’t ready to end the evening. Emma went back to doing homework (she’s a naturally studious kid) and I decided to check out the pub scene. Our B&B pub, and a couple others in town, had live music. The bands were all great but I ended up at the pub hosting a karaoke evening. Karaoke always gives me great memories of high school and university days with great friends. While I wasn’t up on stage, I had a great time singing along to a few favourites. A great night!
The next morning, we woke up to this!! WOW!!! Deal was just perfectly gorgeous that day! The sun was out and while slightly cold, for early November, it was not bad.
I left the teenage sleepy-head in bed. It was 7am afterall (waking up at 7am for a teen is like us adults waking up at 4am 😂) And I chatted with the friendly gentleman who was fishing in the Pier, pet a few dogs, and said hello to other walkers and joggers.
While most visitors were asleep and the day trippers were still en-route, I wandered the streets of Deal.
In the mid-18th century, Deal was notorious as a hideaway for smugglers. From a resident, I was told that some of the homes there have remains of the old tunnels and hiding places that were used by the smugglers. Check out the street views below and imagine for a second the smugglers running back and forth in the darkness with their loots.
My solo wandering ended two hours later. Emma and I had breakfast, checked out, and we went on to explore a few shops (Deal has a few fantastic antique shops and a record shop), Deal castle, Walmer (the town less than a mile away) and a few cafes.
After the castle, we walked back to Deal’s High Street and stopped by the Pop Up Cafe to warm up, a cake and a bit of Instagram time (I wanted to borrow their wi-fi to upload some Stories).
This was when I wished we didn’t have breakfast at our B&B. We saw a few breakfast orders and they all not only looked so good but also a lot healthier. I love a good English full breakfast. However, I would trade it for a smoked salmon, avocado and toast brekkie any time it’s an option. So, due to my stomach being full, I just settled for a picollo. Something I am glad that they offer! Picollo is like a mini latte. If Jovie’s play kitchen has a latte option, it’d be picollo size. A macchiato is an espresso with a touch of milk foam. Picollos have more steamed milk than coffee ratio — not sure how much more, more than 2:1 it seems, but not a touch for sure. I go for a Picollo when an option because it has the caffeine that I need with the right amount of milk to remove the acidic flavour without being too much liquid to drink. I have a small bladder 🙈.
A quick stop at this friendly, quiant and cosy spot. One I’d highly recommend to anybody visiting Deal. You can check out their menu on their website if you are keen on popping in.
Deal has many self-catering choices — apartments and cottages for holiday lets/rentals. This is our choice when we go away for at least two days AND with the family. Renting a self-catering gives up more space and also freedom (no waking up before 9am for example to make it to breakfast). When we rent, we love to shop for at least breakfast bits from a local meat shop or grocery store like J.C. Rook & Sons.
J.C. Rook and Sons have been serving Deal since 1966 and they don’t just sell meat. On a good day, you can pop in here and order picnic goods to eat at the beach. There is also a fresh deli and cheese counter with hot food choices. Big grocery stores are very convenient but when independent shops like this are available, this is what we would opt for. We love supporting local businesses wherever we go.
When you visit Deal, do take the time to wander and explore all the little side streets. You’d be amazed at what you’ll find. Cute cottages, alleyways with cafes and fairy lights, gift shops and boutiques like this below. It is no wonder that in 2013, out of about 500 nominees, Deal was the winner of The Telegraph’s High Street award.
Our last stop, and one of our highlights, was Linden Hall Studio. A three-years-old studio owned by the loveliest lady. When we popped in there were a few visitors, one being four-legged, and we felt very welcomed in the airy two-story studio.
Every month the studio exhibits work from different artists or groups. When we went, “Hung, Drawn and Quintered” was being exhibited. These are a collection of paintings, screenprints, and sculpture by Chris Blunkell, Maria Clemen, Chris How, Al Richarson and Bruce Williams.
Emma and I love art, especially mixed media, and what we saw that weekend gave her a few bits of inspiration for the artist she hopes to be when she grows up. For me, it made me miss my old paper crafting and mixed media days. Maybe one day I’ll get back into it but for now, I will just focus on photography and travels.
All good things must come to an end. Before we returned to London, Emma and I popped into this vintage industrial cafe just around the corner from Linden Hall. I am not a coffee expert; I don’t know anything about coffee beans, roasting, coffee making etc. I do know, however, from traveling what good coffee tastes like and this place has great coffee! If you get lucky, you can get seats by the windows and watch people go by. On a nice day, a seat outside. As you can see from the photo, this gem of a place is very doggy friendly.
Oh, I had a cortado this time around. Cortados are in between Picollo and macchiato. The first time I had a cortado, the barista told me it’s kind of like the Spanish version of the Italian macchiato. It has steamed milk but not so much as a Picollo and it’s served in a cup instead of a Picollo glass.
We had such a great time exploring Deal thanks to Southeastern Railway. Without them, Emma and I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to visit that weekend, find and experience the many hidden gems that Deal has to offer, and share the wonderful experience with you.
There are so many things to do in the London to Sandwich rail route. Deal has not been one that I hear many mention but from now on, I’d always recommend this little gem of a town that’s only an hour and some from London. Even in the winter.
If you fancy booking a trip to Deal or somewhere else in Kent and East Sussex, check out their Off-Peak fares to get the best value ticket for your journey! Find out more here.