www.nicolabaird.com for more info about books and blogs).
Margate isn't the only seaside place to slip out of fashion.
Spain's Torremilinos was all the rage in the 1960s (Monty Python mocked it as the Costa del Sol's home of spam and chips); there was Paxos in Greece as the place for your bit of fun in the sun during the 1970s. Where did you go in the 1980s (Kenya?) or 1990s (if Thai backpacking try Alex Garland's The Beach) or 2000s (Croatia) - all subject to tourist trends.
But when the visitors move on towns - even countries - can suffer horribly too. That's what Margate was finding. With it's lovely sandy beach it had been the perfect Victorian resort. Plenty of East Enders - and other Londoners - were still happily visiting in the 1950s and enjoying the famous funfair, Dreamland (closed since 2003). But each year things seemed to go a little more downhill. In the 2001 census it was a place of high unemployment, and even now as you walk around it's very obvious the B&Bs are filled with social tenants, not holidaymakers.
Have you been?
But suddenly Margate's THE place to visit again. In 2012 the new Turner Contemporary exhibition was opened which offers a Tate-art experience (white walls, small labels, a caf downstairs), and expansive sea views out to the Isle of Thanet windfarm. The first exhibition is fabulous - as it should be for JMW Turner had strong links with Margate.
Tie that exhibition to a really friendly place, a super fast train across Kent to St Pancras and the knowledge that this is the town where Tracey Emin grew up and you have plenty of reasons for taking a trip.
Nell, 11, just wanted a day trip featuring ice cream and chips (both eaten on the beach). I also wanted a beach that allows dogs to tear around (until 1 May) and Pete suspected we'd all love Turner and the Shell grotto. Turned out he also found a pub to watch West Ham beat Bolton 4-0 too. What's not to love about a quickie to Margate?
Where in the world?
However, it turns out you can't be anywhere else when you're in Margate. I tried, but it is a uniquely British experience. However the Shell Grotto offers a fantastic puzzle - who could have built an underground temple decorated with 4 million shells without anyone noticing? Despite English Heritage listing it as a Grade 1 site, theories are varied. Although my instinct says this is obviously a Victorian fake (my dad didn't do end of pier exhibitions for nothing you know!) it's fun to hope that it is really a Phoenician temple built in the second half of the first century. These traders (busy trading tin from Cornwall and on to the Continent lived in an area roughly where the Lebanon is now. For examination of the evidence see Patricia Jane Marsh's booklet The Enigma of the Margate Shell Grotto.
Over to you
What do you think is fun to do in Margate? Or which UK seaside towns offer a little taste of the places other travellers like to visit via planes?