FIRST Dates’ Fred Sirieix has fallen for the English seaside.
The matchmaking maitre d’ found plenty to love on a recent trip to Southwold, Suffolk – from the charming Victorian pier to “kiss me quick” souvenirs.
In partnership with Visit Britain, the smooth-talking Frenchman gives his guide to the traditional seaside town plus his top five domestic destinations for a romantic getaway.
Stroll the prom
Wander along the promenade between pastel beach huts and the sand-and-pebble beach and you cannot help but fall under Southwold’s spell.
There is the wind blowing in your face, the smell of the sea and the sound of the waves.
You can stop for fresh oysters or an ice cream.
It’s the perfect opportunity to walk hand-in-hand and enjoy quality time with your partner.
There is so much anxiety and uncertainty in the world right now, so it is more important than ever to escape for a day or two and relish today without thinking about tomorrow.
I think we all owe it to ourselves.
Fish & chips
I may have worked in some very nice eateries but, when visiting the seaside, fish and chips is all I want.
I can say The Boardwalk Restaurant, on Southwold Pier, does some of the best I’ve ever had.
They served up a delicious, big piece of haddock, perfectly cooked chips – just the right consistency – and beautiful mushy peas. No vinegar for me, though – that’s a step too far.
There’s no seating inside, due to Covid-19 – but far better anyway to perch on the pier and enjoy the wind in your face and the smell of the sea.
I stayed overnight at The Swan, a fantastic hotel with beautifully appointed rooms and great coffee at breakfast.
Best of all, it was right in the centre of town. Walk out of the door and you’re in a quaint little market, which runs every Monday and Thursday.
You’ve got local fresh produce, clothes and souvenirs for the kids or grandkids. It feels like you’ve travelled back in time to when things made sense.
I didn’t know about the quirky English tradition of “kiss-me-quick” seaside hats until I saw the logo printed on a mug and someone explained the quirky slice of seaside history.
Take my advice, though – much better to “kiss me quick, but take your time”.
I love a seaside pier, they are just so English, and Southwold’s is one of the country’s best.
Built in 1900 as a dock for steamships ferrying tourists from London, it is a throwback to a more romantic era of travel.
I went fishing on the pier and was desperate to land something so I could text my pal Gordon Ramsay and tease him with a picture of a big catch.
He gets so competitive when fishing and always wants to win so I would have loved to wind him up.
Sadly, I didn’t catch a thing.
Walk to the south of Southwold and you will reach the River Blyth.
From here you can take a ferry across the river to the village of Walberswick or head upstream for a peaceful pleasure boat ride.
Coasting upstream, watching the current rush by, I felt so relaxed.
A sense of serenity engulfs me when I’m near water, and I feel at peace.
Truth be told, I’m a keen swimmer, so I daydreamed about whether I’d be able to swim against the current.
STAYING THERE: One night’s B&B at The Swan in Southwold is from £90pp based on two sharing.
MORE INFO: For inspiration for UK breaks see visitbritain.com/escape.
I’m really into my beer and have always been a fan of the Adnams brewery in Southwold.
It makes great stuff, so to visit was a pleasure.
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Adnams has been brewing beer at the site for more than a century and now makes all sorts there, from whisky and gin, to cider and even wine.
Food and drink always tastes better when enjoyed where it is made – and it is vital to support local businesses right now.
I had a great time on the tour – and a delicious gin.
AND STAR’S TOP 5 UK GETAWAYS
LAKE DISTRICT: There is nothing like a walk in fells to make you slow down and connect with yourself and your loved one. For an active break with incredible gastronomy, stay in a beautiful pub with rooms, eat great food then walk it off in the stunning mountains.
CORNWALL: Perfect for sporty couples, I’m off here later this month for a surf. I always try to catch a wave or two. I’m scared of the big ones but when I get up, I feel like I’m starring in the movie Point Break! I stay in Newquay as a base then drive to favourite spots such as Rock and Padstow.
NEW FOREST: I grew up in Limoges, a city in the middle of France surrounded by greenery. The New Forest reminds me of those woods back home. It is so close to London but feels a world away. Perfect for a couple’s glamping weekend or a day trip from the Big Smoke.
MANCHESTER: Unlike London, the people in Manchester actually talk to you! They love life, love their food, love a drink, love going out . . . they are just so much fun. And Manchester is a beautiful place. Being in the city but not in the grind makes for a great weekend break with a very different feel.
OBAN: A peaceful coastal town on the western coast of Scotland, I visited in the height of summer when the sun sits just beneath the horizon all night and it never gets dark. Oban isn’t really so very far north but I’d never seen a bright nighttime sky like that in my life. To think that you are in the UK and experiencing that, I couldn’t believe it. Really incredible.
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