When I first visited the town of Folkestone, England where we now call home, I was awe-struck at the absolute indescribable beauty of the area. I am not sure what I had expected, but it was definitely not dramatic cliff-tops, rolling hills, endless fields of green, and understated rocky beaches. I had visited the United Kingdom a couple of years earlier, but spent most of my time in London with the normal tourist day-trips to Stonehenge and Bath. (Not to downplay the beauty of either.) We also took a train trip down through Edinburgh, visiting our friends in Dundee. Although it was a lovely visit to both England and Scotland, it rained the entire time and most of the sights we visited were covered in so much fog we hardly got a decent picture our whole trip. England is a different world in the sunshine.
So I arrived with little hope that this country would be a suitable place for me (and the family) to settle, and was shocked to discover an entirely different country than I had remembered visiting years before. After living in The Netherlands for three years, our drive from the Eurotunnel to our hotel felt like a roller coaster testing us with its dramatic changes in altitude. Truthfully, we hadn’t started a descent up Mt. Everest but the difference in living below sea level for several years and climbing up to 50-100 m above sea level made a considerable impression on our ears. I remember being shocked at the amount of litter on the streets (that hasn’t changed) in comparison to our little Dutch village that cleaned all the windows and streets weekly, as per city mandate. It wasn’t until we took a walk to the harbour that I immediately fell in love, and we almost immediately decided that if pending interviews went well, we would relocate immediately.
Folkestone harbour as it seen today was built in the 1840’s to accommodate ferry routes from Boulogne, France to the English coast. The railroad had finally made its way down to the Southeastern coast, allowing passengers from France (and broader continental Europe) to reach London in record time. The ferry routes ceased in 2000, leaving the town’s harbour without commercial traffic for the first time in its history. The harbour is still used daily by local fisherman, with stalls lining the seafront selling fresh seafood caught the same morning, from boats owned by the stallholders. Walking down the seaboard, I am always filled with this sense of nostalgia from a time in history I wasn’t even present for. There are no large corporations fishing here, only local people working day in and day out to bring fresh seafood into the town’s local restaurants and kitchens. Is it weird that knowing this makes my fish and chips or fried prawn (shrimp to you American folk) taste that much better?
On rainy days, when the wind is gushing through my garden at 50mph I sometimes wonder what it must be like to live further inland. Usually it is only a fleeting thought, or the sun comes out and I forget how miserable and cold I have been for 23 days straight. Our eyes adjust, we rush to get the beach gear together (this usually involves sweaters) and we run off to the beach or harbour beer garden ready to soak in every ray thrown at us. It is an interesting life to be so consumed by Mother Natures temperaments, but man do we appreciate the good ones. Those sunny days though, sitting on a picnic blanket emblazoned with the Union Jack; living by the sea feels like the best decision we ever made. Last weekend we caught baby crabs in the tide pools, poked at anemone, found fossils left over from the Jurassic age, and drank cold beer basking in the sunny, sea breeze. It is a beautiful life, for now.