Lucy Bridgers tells a cautionary tale – with a happy ending

I feel a bit embarrassed writing this, but it may be relevant to others, particularly with the summer holidays coming up.

At the beginning of March, I’d just completed a freelance project, so started painting our kitchen cupboards (inside and out), devoting the month to this disruptive job and (often the way when you least expect it) some more freelance work came in. Barrister husband is always busy, frequently having to work evenings and weekends, but the courts are closed over Easter, so it’s a good time to get away for a few days. I can’t tell you how much I wanted a change of scene, so I organised a short break in France for the bank holiday weekend, a cottage rental in Normandy only a few kilometres from the coast and booked a reasonably priced ferry crossing. All fairly last-minute stuff and it sounded blissful.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. It’s late Thursday afternoon and we’re due to leave early on Good Friday morning to catch the 7.30 ferry from Dover. We’re getting organised and my husband checks the passports and notices that our daughter’s expired a few days earlier. We quickly made a couple of calls and checked things online and found there really wasn’t much we could do. We could have gone to Petty France on Saturday morning and queued for a new passport, but that would only have left us two nights in France. Not worth it – and we weren’t too much out of pocket, having only paid for the short ferry crossing and a small deposit for the cottage.

So, after a lot of disappointment (and tears on my part – oh how I wanted to get away!) I hit the Alistair Sawday website with a vengeance, determined to find a hotel vacancy near the coast within a couple of hours or so from London. Consequently, our Easter ended up having a much more British flavour, driving down to the Kent coast and making the most of the Good Friday sunshine in Broadstairs and Ramsgate before checking into the Bell in Sandwich for a tasty dinner and a relaxing overnight stay. On Easter Saturday after a hearty breakfast (Alice loved her porridge and scrambled eggs and smoked salmon) we strolled around Sandwich, a beautiful and fascinating Cinque Port, before heading to Deal for a windswept walk along the front and an epic fish and chip lunch. As the weather was now so much more wintery, we were happy to be returning home.

The latter half of the weekend was spent at my parents’ in Hertfordshire and included visiting Lionel Rothschild’s extraordinary collection of stuffed animals in Tring, part of the Natural History Museum and with free entry.Tring is an attractive, country town,full of character, with some lovely walks nearly by including the Ridgeway Path and Ivinghoe Beacon.

This unexpected ‘staycation’ had a few memorable benefits: we really enjoyed our time in Kent. Broadstairs is perfect for day trips by train (or car) and there’s the stylish new Turner Gallery in Margate. Ramsgate, with its huge marina and elegant Regency architecture also beckons. What’s more the delicious brown shrimps and salt marsh lamb we’ve enjoyed since (and a surprisingly good bottle of Sussex Pinot Blanc) went some way to making up for the missing bootful of French wine, Bonne Maman jam and other treats we’d set our sights on.

However, if planning that trip overseas, please be warned – those first passports run out so quickly and you don’t want to miss the boat, too.