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Travelling to England … Great Nostalgia. British Weather. Fish’n’Chips. Whatever the case may be for you, I have to say I just love hopping over here. Be it for an all-time visit to the exciting capital city of London, where I happened to have spent almost a year as a 19-year-old, to exploring something completely new like the “Garden of England“, Kent: I simply, really enjoy being here among the Brits! “Ladies and gentlemen, we are shortly due for landing at London Heathrow Airport … the outside temperature is 28°C …” Lovely !!! So much for the cliché about the British summer: When stepping off the plane, I am met with the same sweltering heat as back home in Austria. Mistral summer winds up here ?? Luckily, I am headed for the “cool” Garden of England, Kent, this time, exploring both Whitstable & the Kent Creative Coast project launched by local artist & tourism expert Catriona Campbell, as well as the iconic mother church of England, Canterbury Cathedral. Let’s start with the latter. I am impressed, I must tell you. Definitely head out here if you can: Canterbury West for instance is only 50 minutes by high-speed train from London St. Pancras station.
An old saying goes: You either open your purse or your mouth. In my case, it was the latter: Meeting charming Therese Heslop at the RDA tourism trade show in Cologne, we quickly agreed I had to come and see beautiful Canterbury Cathedral if my intention was to come to Kent anyway and meet my creative tourism network partner Catriona. And so it was. Thank you, Therese, for setting me up with your wonderful colleague Colin, my very own guide for the morning : He just made all the difference on my visit out here, feeding me intriguing, fascinating & sometimes gruesome “historytelling” on the origin of Canterbury Cathedral, the history of the Church of England as well as the ongoing power struggle between the Church and the Kings. If you love exploring history story by story, this is the place, and person, to go to.
The Kent Creative Coast: “Escape To Create” with Catriona Campbell
“I have booked a table at Jojo’s restaurant for 1.00 p.m. Would that suit you?” Yes of course: Sounds lovely! Arriving to the charming and peaceful seaside town Whitstable for the first time, it certainly is a good idea to start with one of the town’s best restaurants. (At least by my “gourmet” standards :D). “We really like to come here often”, Catriona and her husband give me a heartfelt welcome in their blue Volkswagen Beetle convertible. “So lucky to always travel with the locals!” I think taking in the views and feeling the wind pull on my hair, smiling.
The Kent Creative Coast campaign was initiated by Catriona Campbell three years ago. Catriona meanwhile has focused more on creating her own art, but the name has stuck and helped to shape and reflect the identity of Kent’s coastline as being a hub for creativity and the arts. “The hashtag #kentcreativecoast is increasingly being used on Twitter for example … it has really snowballed off around here, as more and more people start getting involved”, Catriona is saying. Similar to many other creative tourism ventures around the globe, she too tells me of the struggle to balance the world of the artists with that of the tourism stakeholders: “I started my career at Contiki Travel before moving to the London TourisT Board where I was Marketing Director for 10 years. I understand how it can sometimes be difficult to encourage tourism businesses to collaborate with creative professionals but increasingly people from both sectors are keen to work together.” I am impressed with Catriona’s know-how and stories, having chosen to move from London to charming seaside Whitstable and launching creative tourism in the area. We definitely feed off each other’s passion for travelling “the creative way”, learning something new through hands-on workshops with the local people such as cooking, painting or … opening oysters. “That’s our local heritage”, Adam chimes in laughing, “in fact, it really is. The Whitstable Oyster company is the oldest limited company in the whole world, and Whitstable Oysters are said to have been traded as far south as Rome in 300 AD.”
Luckily I have arrived in time for the city’s annual Oyster Festival, then, taking place each year at the beginning of August. Meet local Whitstable, their famous oysters and just how the British love to spend a day by the beach …