I have not always lived in London. In fact after living in Germany until the age of 12 my parents decided to move us all over to a tiny farm in the middle of nowhere between Rye and Hastings, in the deepest East Sussex countryside, to start a new life in the UK.
Why? Well, work prospects and education were for sure better over here, though they could have been equally enjoyed while living in let’s say Canterbury or Brighton or any suburb of any reasonably sized British town. Instead my dad had some idealised version of living a farmer’s life in his head, not bearing in mind that he was a computer loving dentist that rarely actually ventured outside, and that he had a wife and daughter who pretty had always lived in big towns and weren’t exactly used to muddy paths, cow shit everywhere and buses running every two hours.
The years I lived on Lower Snailham Farm, yup that was the name, were not the easiest of my life. I was a teenager that had moved country and the time I spent in Rye, the town or village whatever you may call it, where my secondary school was located, seem like a bit of blur looking back- a lot of feeling like an outsider and trying to get my head around British culture (still working on that if I am honest!). I therefore never really appreciated the picture perfect village I got to go to school in. I didn’t even go to the sandy beach at Camber, mere minutes by car away, more than a couple times…I guess you never really appreciate what is around you when you are there and even less so if you are a teenager in a serious identity crisis, having to make friends in a new country and a new language.
11 years later Rye has become somewhat “hip”- easily reachable from London, a sandy beach nearby, and with people more and more seeking the chance to escape the big smoke without having to get on a plane. Searching for a day trip destination with my lovely French friend Anne-Lise, who was a little more enthusiastic about exploring places outside London than the admittedly sometimes lazy and East London-centric me. Suddenly Rye kept popping up on every list we were finding online, whether by Vogue or Time Out, prized as an easy and beautiful escape, and I couldn’t help but jump at the chance to see it through the eyes of an adult, able to appreciate its beauty but also relive some memories.
In the end, we had an absolutely fantastic Good Friday in Rye, helped by the summer like temperatures, and it really did feel like I had gone on a mini holiday. It was interesting to see how much the town had shaped to suit London weekend visitor vibes (fancy gastro pubs anyone?) and I loved showing Anne-Lise spots that I recognised from what felt like a former life..Will I be back? For sure! Rye and Camber offer the perfect mix of picture perfect British village life and a taste of sandy beachy and the sea plus as an added hint of nostalgia for me that I was glad to revisited. I guess there is a life outside London! Below a little guide with a few tips and tricks for the perfect day trip to Rye and Camber Sands!
JUMP ON THE TRAIN FROM ST. PANCREAS STATION….
The train from London to Rye will take you only just over an hour, with a change at Ashford, and costs a very reasonable £28 return! You arrive straight in the town centre and by the bus stop that will get you to Camber Sands which makes everything easily walkable on foot. Be warned: if you are planning a trip during one of the upcoming bank holiday weekends leave plenty of time to pick up your tickets from one of the machines at St Pancreas station (I say 20 minutes at least)– I did not and nearly left a very angry Anne-Lise on the train by herself!!!
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE:
WONDER AROUND THE COBBLED STREETS OF RYE WHEN YOU ARRIVE…
It’s a tiny place so no map is needed, just walk up the hill as you come out of the station and take in the beautifully kept cottages and gardens, you’ll end up walking in a circle back down to where you started.
CATCH THE HOURLY BUS TO CAMBER SANDS AND STOCK UP ON PICNIC
GOODS AT JEMPSONS…
The 102 leaves every hour right by Rye station to Camber, so plan your explore around the village bearing this in mind. A return ticket is £4.85 per person and to our pleasant surprise the bus even takes contactless payment, though no oyster card of course! There is a nice supermarket you can’t miss right by the station called Jempsons, which is more akin to a Wholefoods than your average badly stocked Sainsbury’s Local in London, so make sure to stock up on snacks and drinks there before getting on the bus, choices by the beach are limited and overpriced. We got ourselves a nice bottle of rose, crisps, grapes and hummus! The bus literally takes 10 minutes and as you get off at Camber Sands Holiday Park just follow the crowds to the beach via a quick 5 minute walk! It really could not be easier to go from pretty village to sandy beach in less than half an hour! Make sure to check when the hourly bus goes back (timetable is online here) so that you don’t end up stranded or waiting around unnecessarily, the last bus is around 7pm- not exactly 24/7 tube service!
BRING A TOWEL AND FIND A SPOT BY THE BEACH…
We didn’t have the foresight to bring one and ended up sitting on our jackets so make sure to bring a towel and some beach friendly clothes! It actually was not too rammed considering that it was a hot bank holiday weekend and everyone was making sure to take their rubbish with them as they left which was great to see you and I urge you to do the same.
ENJOY THE SUNSHINE AND GET YOURSELF A CLASSIC
After our picnic, we simply had to have a crappy soft whip ice cream by one of the stands right by the beach – it ain’t artisan gelato but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
We headed back into town for around 5ish and loved the little beer garden this picturesque pub right by the town’s medieval castle had to offer! A great family friendly atmosphere with view over the Rye marshes and a steal with a glass of wine being under a fiver.
GO FOR AN EARLY DINNER (ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU HAVEN’T BOOKED
AND HAVE A TRAIN BACK TO CATCH) AT LOCAL GASTRO PUB FAVOURITE THE STANDARDINN..
The Standard Inn instantly won us over with its inviting, light flooded yet rustic interiors, think low wooden beams and beautifully restored fire places. The atmosphere was also great- many locals choosing this place as their watering hole of choice on a Friday night (I actually bumped into someone I went to school with and who I hadn’t seen in over 10 years which was all kinds of LOLZ), and the food was surprisingly refined and delicious, prepared with a focus of using local ingredients.
Our starter of potted crab was oozy and delicious, truffle fries were crisp and had a good truffle punch to them and my main of fish and chips was flawless, not greasy, served with a fantastic tartar sauce and definitely something you’d easily spent over £20 in a fancy east London pub for when here it was a mere £13.5. The perfect end to our day out that pleased even the most picky foodie (me).
MAKE SURE YOU READ YOUR TRAIN TICKET PROPERLY…
On bank holidays and Sundays the train comes hourly and stops running around 10:30pm. We accidentally missed the train we were meant to get by not checking our tickets properly (I part blame the rose and sunshine) and just about convinced the ticket conductor to let us on the last train out of Rye without having to pay extra, so unless you fancy a last minute hotel finding mission make sure you get to the station on time!
I am rarely prepared to wait in line for a restaurant but at Pink Mamma in Paris, after
hearing almost EVERY SINGLE of my foodie friend’s raving about its lavish interiors and outstanding Italian food, I simple knew I had to try I, no matter how long it would take to get a table. It was after all also part of the famous Big Mamma restaurant group, headed up by two French restauranteurs who had spent 3 years extensively touring Italy to transport the best of Italian dining, drinking and design back to France where they now run 6 restaurants, all of which have become incredible successes and command long queues no matter the day. Our meal was simply outstanding, one of those you do not forget in a hurry, and my dining companion Maddie and I were left in awe of the sense of dolce vita so successfully conveyed both through the dining space and dishes, particularly their iconic truffle pasta which was one of the best things I have ever eaten.
I was therefore more than a little bit excited when I found out that the duo was actually in the process of opening another outpost of the Big Mamma family, not only in London but a 10-minute walk away from my house, indeed bringing a lot of the star dishes so iconic at Pink Mamma (plus some rather fabulous additions) to British shores. I was not the only one excited, there has been buzz about Gloria ever since word got out, after all the group commands over 150k Instagram followers world-wide on their profile, each one salivating over their incredible looking dishes and amazing restaurant aesthetics that they post daily.
My hopes were, of course, admittedly high after my dinner at Pink Mamma but I am very happy to report that Gloria only managed to exceed my expectations! Taking over a rather grim spot on Great Eastern street, a short walk away from Old Street station, they have once again done an amazing job of transforming a space into something quite extraordinary and magical. Even the outside brightens up the entire road, painted a vibrant shade of yellow and covered in plants and foliage.
Inside there are two distinctively different dining spaces. Both are inspired by 1950s-70s Capri, the heyday decades of this tiny Italian island, when it was the playground of the local high society. The upstairs is a light flooded space, full of ornate lampshades, pinstripe upholstery and crisp white table cloths, with even more luscious plants dotted around the room. For me the upstairs has a distinctively daytime feel and I can’t wait to come back to sample their breakfast offering during the day but if you are after the real WOW factor dining experience I recommend you try and get a table for the downstairs dining space.
Walking down the steps to the basement you are surrounded by luxurious red velvet curtain lining the walls and are a faced with a neon sign that reads “SEDUCE & DESTROY". As you enter the room it almost feels like you have walked straight into a Quentin Tarantino set with a hint of ‘Mad Men'. There is moody lighting, mirrored ceilings, pink velour seating, jazz softly playing in the background and an air of gluttony in the room, you really could not feel further away from East London if you tried. Yes, some might think it’s a little OTT but for me this is what dining should be like, magical and able to transport you away from the everyday.
Waiters are kitted out in candy stripe shirts, all proudly Italian and offering you all the advice on ordering one could want, it’s a level of service and sheer enthusiasm you rarely find while eating out in London. The menu is full of Italian classics, made into something quite special here. Because, as was the case with Pink Mamma, here style is not over substance. Yes, it is a stunning place but the food they serve is here to match that standard.
There is of course the famous truffle pasta I had in Paris (the best £18 you will ever spend), fantastic pizza –we shared the pesto one, topped with the creamiest of burrata, as well as a cabonara for those eating meat, served straight out of a pecorina cheese wheel for your pleasure and a 10 layer lasagne with fondant mozzarella and fior de latte. Prices are more than fair considering the quality of ingredients and serving sizes and even the wine is a very reasonable £23 for a bottle of house white, I have paid more at some London pubs. Had our stomachs been bigger I could have easily also tried the supposedly incredible smoked stracciatella burrata and there are also impressive looking beef carpacchio platters for all you carnivores to salivate over.
However, we needed to leave space for dessert because they are for sure no sheer afterthought at Gloria! In fact, we were pretty close to ordering 3 between us 2, too torn between all the options on offer. I mean who can say no to profiterole napoletana, a hugh puff pastry with vanilla gelato, served with lashings and lashings of dark chocolate sauce or an aptly named 'Eton musk', fluffy meringue, whipped cream and fruits. In the end however we could not NOT order their “incomparable lemon pie”, a humongous slice of meringuey goodness that was like eating a lemon cloud as well as their incredible take on the classic tiramisu, served straight out of a big serving bowl with a huge spoon by a waiter that won’t be stingy. This was utter dessert heaven, once again not only being insta ready in terms of their look but out of this world delicious.
Yes, it was not the cheapest meal I could have had on a Sunday night but it was worth every penny, it’s the kind of dinner you’ll think about for days after and rave to friends about and one that I would always queue for (though if like us you go around 6pm on a Sunday you may just be lucky and get a table straight away). Gloria is a magical addition to the dining scene in London that was much needed when every hipster joint started to look and feel the same. Take your friends, your lover, your mum or just yourself and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of Gloria, Italian food has never tasted