Thursday, 8 August 2013

Fish 'N' Chips 'N' Fireworks

The Whitstable Oyster Festival has just finished.  Seafood lovers, music lovers and speed eaters congregate on this little harbour town for a week once a year, building Grotters on the beach and celebrating the festivals ancient beginnings as a thanksgiving for the fishers and dredgers survival at sea, a celebration of the harvest and a blessing of the oysters.
These days the festival lasts for an entire week and is packed with various activities to keep all ages amused.  Despite knowing about it, loving oysters and living ridiculously near to the festival I have actually never been, mainly due to the fact it is on when I am at work and I have always had other activities booked at the weekends, plus I am always slightly daunted by the fact that Whitstable is packed at this time of year.
This year I was determined not to let the Festival go by unnoticed.  I rounded up the troops and informed them that we were going for a fish and chip dinner on the beach on the final night of the Festival to watch the Fireworks at Sea closing ceremony.
Everyone who was around agreed it was a good idea and we arranged to meet on the beach at 8pm, just as the sun was starting to set casting a golden glow over the festivities.
I'm not going to lie.  Whitstable was packed.  If you don't like queues and crowds you may want to avoid the beach at this time of year!  Queues for the chippy were seriously long, as were queues for the off license, so we divided and conquered, using our phones to convey messages about who wanted what from where.  We were just in time as well, just after our order was placed for food the people behind in the queue were told that they had run out of cod!
I was in charge of the drinks and I have to say The Offy is the only off licence I have ever been in where they will sell you plastic glasses, jugs to put your Pimms in and limes for your beer.  Very, very civilised!
40 minutes later we were settled on the shale and got stuck into particularly good fish and chips from VC Jones in Harbour Street.  This place is hailed as one of the best chippy's in Whitstable, which, for a town famous for its seafood, is a serious claim to fame.  It does not disappoint either.  The chips are soft and fluffy while the cod is tender and moist in a really crisp batter.  Portions are generous - I'm not sure any of us managed to finish!
We settled down as the sun was setting over the sea on a night so clear you could see all the way to Southend and Sheppey.
The beach was filled with families, friends and holiday makers.  Beach huts had their front doors open to take in the atmosphere and children ran around with sparkling light toys, paddling in a sea that was surprisingly warm.
At 10pm just as the sky turned pitch black the fireworks started from a small boat a short distance from the shore, lighting up the midnight blue sky.  There was a collective "ooh" as one of the fireworks went skidding off to the side like a skimmed pebble, making everyone think it had misfired, only to separate into a dozen pieces and explode up in the air across the water, illuminating the waves below.  In the words of one of my friends, it must have really irritated Poseidon.   I pinched some of her pictures as my sports mode just isn't fast enough to capture all the fireworks although I did get a couple I was pleased with! The below are all off Sinead's camera.
All too soon the fireworks were over and we followed the crowds back to the high street to drive home.   (These are from my camera).
Next year I will be trying to enjoy a lot more of the Festival.  Sinead, Stella and I are already eyeing up the Oyster Speed Eating competition!  6 oysters and a half of bitter for £3 as fast as you can and the quickest stay on and keep going.  Sounds heavenly!

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