Folkestone…not really sure how we got there and not really sure why I would go again but I would. It reminded me of some of the small, dying, boarded up towns in middle America that – for me – have allure but many inhabitants (particularly teenagers) would love to escape.
There was nary a person on the streets of this seaside town which makes its living from tourism and commercial freight. Pleasure ferry traffic died out after the Chunnel opened.
Admittedly, it was the end of the season and a Monday but the town had a feeling of abandonment. Everywhere there was evidence of activities meant to keep the town’s youth busy – video game rooms, skating – but which actually make boredom even more oppressive. Across from the unused pleasure ferry docks stood a large white hotel built to look like a ship. A few bed & breakfasts had signs advertising availability. An occasional restaurant promised delicious food, far more were permanently closed.
Even at a great distance the chalk cliffs of Dover were stunning. I have yet to visit Normandy, the thought of which fills me with gratitude and awe – but standing on the Folkestone dock in the harsh afternoon light made World War II the closest to me of any place I have been.
By the time we had wandered the docks, discovering only a solitary information attendant stationed in an empty welcome room with its single vending machine, a few other tourists had joined us on the Folkestone boardwalk. My friend was jubilant – perhaps too strong a word but very happy – to discover whelks being sold at a small outdoor food stand.
I have no idea what a whelk is (okay, it’s a gastropod) and I certainly have no idea why anyone would want to eat one, much less a cup full; unlike oysters which at least you can slide down your throat like so much phlegm, whelks must be chewed.
Above a cup of whelks, that’s a knot hole at the top, not a whelk although it probably tastes as good. After my friend chewed and chewed and chewed some more, aided by several dashes of hot sauce, we were on our way to a slightly more trafficked venue: Leeds Castle.