From Paris I went to spend a few days with friends in Kent. What a contrast. From busy streets to green, rolling hills. From crowds to relative solitude. And although the Seine was lovely, in my opinion nothing beats the seaside.
The absolute highlight, I have to say, was visiting Dungeness. Yes, it has a nuclear power station, which, I appreciate, might be off-putting for some people. But there is also one of the biggest shingle beaches in the world and a unique garden made by the late film maker, stage designer, writer and painter, Derek Jarman. For years the book about this garden has been on my shelf and I always wanted to see the place for real. It was almost a surprise when we drove up the long road beside the beach, and I recognised Prospect Cottage, which I'd admired so often in the book's beautiful photographs by Howard Sooley.
I think maybe there are not so many of the driftwood and metal sculptures in the garden as appear in the book, but you can still see an extract from the John Donne poem 'The Sunne Rising' on the side of the cottage.
Beneath blue skies and sunshine, the place was tranquil. A skylark sang and the waves lapped gently on the pebbly beach. I imagine that in the middle of winter, in a howling gale, it may seem bleaker. In the book, Derek Jarman wrote about a power cut which lasted five days. Ironic, when the cottage is in spitting distance of the power station which remained, he said, "a blaze of light". But what a view to wake up to every morning.
Whereas Paris was intense, full-on, bombarding the senses from every angle, Dungeness was a much simpler. A pared down kind of landscape. I noticed much more the textures of things. The variety of colours in the pebbles. The clouds passing over the sea. I'd love to go again, whatever the weather.