This week I got to know the lovely city of Margate, a delightful seaside town with nostalgic charm and a promising future. I have been wanting to visit the Turner Contemporary Museum for some time now, and decided to combine it with a look around Margate's biggest attractions. I really love this town. The beach is wonderful, the history is even better, and there seems to be some kind of re-emergence in the air which is energizing as a visitor. My tour of Margate began at the Turner Contemporary but took me to the other 'curious' places in Margate as well including the Margate Shell Grotto, Margate Old Town, and the Walpole Bay Hotel.
The Turner Contemporary is currently exhibiting Curiousity: Art and Pleasures of Knowing. It is a quirky exhibit that explores the world of human curiousity through historical artefacts, art, and some really random displays. There are several Leonardo da Vinci sketches, (although they looked like doodles), a penguin that was collected by Ernest Shakleton on his Antarctic expedition, a very strange series on mysterious deaths that show corpses in miniature doll rooms, and much more weird and strange curiousities. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Turner Contemporary, and the Curiousity exhibit was one of the best I have seen in a long time. Don't miss the stuffed walrus, it is incredible! The Curiousity: Art and the Pleasure of Knowing exhibit is running until September 15, 2013. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm. Admission is free.
In the theme of the Curiousity exhibit at Turner Contemporary, several local businesses have joined in on the 'Curious Margate' tour. As you walk along the streets, any place that offers something strange or unusual is displaying a 'Curious Margate' window sticker to let visitors know there is something cool to check out. The main places that are recomended are Margate's historical Old Town, the High Street, Shell Grotto, and the Walpole Bay Hotel in nearby Cliftonville.
If you ask me, the Shell Grotto is a curioustiy of England, not just Margate or Kent. I had been to Margate's mysterious Shell Grotto before, and it never disappoints. There are over 3.6 million sea shells adorning the grotto walls, and nobody knows how or why they got there. A walk through the caverns to see these beautiful mosaics is just incredible. The Shell grotto wasn't discovered until 1835, and the efforts to date the shells or determine their origin have been inconclusive. If you visit one place in Margate, this should be it. The Margate Shell Grotto is one of Kent's coolest hidden gems. Admission for the Shell Grotto is a very reasonable £3, opening hours are from 10am- 5pm everday through summer.
My last stop was at the Walpole Bay Hotel, an Edwardian era hotel with a really neat living history museum. The Walpole Bay Hotel is approximately a 20 minute walk from Turner Contemporary, along the coast. There are 4 floors at the Wadpole, and the hallways on each are overflowing with antiques from a bygone era. My first impression of the museum was that it was highly disorganized, items strewn here and there, stacked on top of each other in tiny rooms. This quickly grew on me though and became part of its charm. Expect to see anything and everything at the Wadpole Bay, closets stacked with dozens of old typewriters, nurse uniforms from World War I, old urinals, ancient sweepers, and even an assortment of gloves that cover 200 years of fashion pinned to the hallway wall. The highlight is the working elevator from 1927, which you can ride to the 3rd floor and see the mechanical workings at the very top. There are no tour guides here and the receptionist will kindly let you wander to your hearts content. The Walpole Bay Hotel Living Museum is open everyday, year round, from 10am-5pm.
If you are on a budget or just looking for a great day out in Kent, go explore the 'curious' of Margate. Most of the attractions are free, and an afternoon on the sandy beach is well worth the trip alone. This weekend the Margate Jazz Festival will be on, for the 8th consecutive year. See you next week for the next installment of my travels around Kent!