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Why I love living in Gravesend

Almost a year ago, on the 20th of August 2017, I moved to Gravesend. I used to live in the Arsehole of London – Thamesmead. In fact: Stanley Kubrick already saw the desperation and shittiness of this place when he filmed the iconic scene of the Droogs and Alex walking next to the lake and the 60’s social housing blocks. I hated it there. The rent was expensive and nothing really worked. We lived by a beautiful big lake, also known as the favourite littering place of the locals. Oh- and local kids loved killing swans and other water birds. And did I tell you that getting into London would take at least 45 minutes?

I was so glad to leave that horrible place. But where would we move to? Since we were three instead of five, we would have less money to spend on living arrangements. My partner and I would need a sizable room and so would our roommate for different reasons.

We first looked for houses and apartments in Woolwich, Bexley, Crayford and Abbey Wood. But with the new Elizabeth line opening in the near future, rent had skyrocketed and we would not be able to comfortable share and pay for an apartment in that area.

Since I gave up my job to start a freelance career, our housemate was unemployed and my husband just had a new job in Crayford, we started looking at houses a little further out – all in a 30 minute drive of Crayford.

Gravesend sounded like a grim place. Just another London commuter town we thought. Just like Dartford – which has little charm and a lot of thoroughfare. But we were wrong. We were so wrong, in fact, that after our first visit to Gravesend, we would only look for houses and apartments in this little city.

But what is so special about Gravesend? Well… let me tell you.

Pocahontas!

Not many of you might know that Pocahontas was actually a real person. Disney might have romanticised her story, but the real Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhatan, the paramount chief of a council of tribes in Virginia. She was captured in 1613 and took the name Rebecca after converting to Christianity. She married a tobacco planter named John Rolfe one year later. She was only 17.

Okay okay – enough with the history lesson. What has Pocahontas to do with Gravesend? Well let me tell you: That story is actually a lot less romantic. The Virginia Company of London brought Pocahontas to London as a marketing ploy. They were looking for investment and showing that they were able to convert the “savages” into good Christians would most definitely loosen the strings on some heavy pouches.

Pocahontas was very unhappy in the United Kingdom and was homesick. She lived in Brentford and was treated well. She was upheld as some kind of curiosity. Pocahontas however, was not used to the cold and damp weather of England ( I mean… who is?) and had gotten very ill. In 1617 Pocahontas and her husband boarded a ship back to Virginia – away from the damp and cold. But the ship halted at Gravesend as her condition worsened and was taken on land for further treatment. She would die in Gravesend at 21.

She currently has a statue in Gravesend at the church where she was buried. The original church burned down and a new one was built on top. They have no idea where her grave is precisely which is something I feel very sorry for.

I absolutely LOVE the vivid history of this little town!

Dickens lived in Gravesham!

Charles Dickens used to live in Gravesham! He loved weaving local sights and names through his stories. A lot of the villages depicted in his books have considerably grown and a lot of the picturesque country walks he described now boast roads, but there still are a lot of buildings and places that will remind you of the man and his vivid pen.

One of these places is The Ship and Lobster. This pub is considered to be The Last Pub on the Thames. Meaning it is the last pub sailors would be able to go to before they would be at sea for weeks. This place appears in Great Expectations as “The Ship”.

There are loads of these little places around Gravesham and I hope I will be able to discover them all before we move!

The amazing Indian community.

I absolutely love the Indian community in Gravesend. I live on Peacock Street, one street over from Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara. It is a Sikh temple, believed to be one of the biggest in the UK, maybe even the world (outside of India).

People in the area are incredibly friendly. I love going to the corner shop, I love the way the man knew my order by heart the second time I visited. I love the parades and the parties and the way the Sikh share their culture. I am a big fan of Indian food and we have some AMAZING take aways in the area. Oh, and have I mentioned the street often smells of AMAZING curries?

The Geek community

My husband and I are geeks. I don’t think that is a big secret. We love playing dungeons and dragons and were very happy when we noticed there actually was a geek café in the city. Yes indeed! A little shop where you could order a coffee, play baordgames, cardgames, tabletop or pen and paper roleplay.

It wouldn’t take long before we set up a weekly game of Dungeons and Dragons with strangers who would soon enough become good friends. It was so easy to connect to the community – something that seemed almost impossible while living in London!

The restaurants and pubs

One of the things I hated most about living in the shity (shit city) of Thamesmead was the lack of shops, restaurants and pubs. Literally: it was an American suburbia. Lots and lots of houses and suburbs and one lousy retail park with a Morissons, a few local shops and a shifty pub (probably the only cash pub in London).

When we moved to Gravesend, I put my foot down. I did not want to have to take the bus to get into town. I wanted to live somewhere that would allow me to walk into town in 10 minutes or less. And the real estate Gods delivered.

There are so many amazing pubs and restaurants in this city. I personally love eating Thai in Sukhothai. We try to go to King’s Diner every week for the best English breakfast in a 15 mile radius. We love eating out at The Three Daws because they have different craft ales on tap every day and they serve amazing British food that is not always burgers (even though the Burgers are amazing).

I can wholeheartedly recommend going for the Sunday all-you-can-eat buffet at Ghandi’s (Indian) and ordering Indian food online at Le Spice. I love the little pubs on Windmill hill and taking up a picknick, sitting in the sun and enjoying the panoramic view over the Thames is something I want to do again before I leave.

Would I come back again to Gravesend?

I think, overall, the chance of my husband and I returning to the UK is pretty slim. Especially since Brexit is going through and it looks like I would have to fill out quite a substantial amount of paperwork in order to have the right to set foot on this island.

But if we would come back to the UK, I do think I would like to come back to Gravesend. It is close to London – 20 minutes by the high speed train and 40 minutes by normal train (yes that is indeed less long than when I lived closer to London… ), renting prices are ridiculously low (950/month for a 3 bedroom house) and there is an amazing sense of community, there are amazing parks and the character properties and houses are absolutely amazing! Especially at Windmill Hill (drool drool).

In the year I have been living here, Gravesend nestled itself in my heart. I will miss this odd, strangely romantic and exceptionally friendly place. If you have never visited: do, because I am sure you will love it as much as I do.

PS: It is actually quite funny that when looking for a suiting image for this blog post, every image on Google makes this town look like the shittiest place on earth! Which it is not! AT ALL!

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