Alright. So here’s the special edition on Dover.
Background on Dover. Ricardo and I had already planned to go to Paris. That was the only trip outside of London that we had planned for when we initially got to London. At some point along the way we decided to go to Dover and booked train tickets and a little bed and breakfast place. So the last weekend before exams found us in Dover. I will definitely admit that it was very nice to stay in some small town in the English countryside at least once during our trip.
Friday, July 28th
I left off the last blog post at King’s Cross and getting on the train to Dover. The train ride to Dover was very nice and not too long. It took us maybe an hour and a half to get there? As soon as we exited the train at the station, the cool sea breeze and the low-lying fog on all sides hit us and it was magical. I love the ocean, and I could sense the ocean was near.
We started walking towards the bed and breakfast place we’d booked at and on the way hardly nothing was open for food. We passed one open gas station and one pub that had stopped serving food an hour or two before. And mind you, it was only 8:00pm there. When we were getting close to our destination, we finally found this Italian restaurant that was warming and welcoming. We got red wine and spaghetti with shellfish and it was one of the best meals I have had in a very long time. Admittedly, we did smell of garlic for a day afterwards. But hey, at least we were protected from vampires!
We finally got to our b&b right before the check-in time ended. It was a lovely house two houses down from a local tattoo parlour that was also in a lovely house. The hostess was this very sweet older woman who had just finished getting a teaching degree and had been running this whole b&b business for some time. We had the garden room, which was this cozy sweet room that overlooked the beautiful garden in the backyard and had a whole dining table and chairs and baskets for tea and coffee tucked away in the corner. I slept so well that night.
Saturday, July 29th
Saturday began bright and not-too-early with delicious English breakfasts brought straight to our room. Warm toast with butter and jam and eggs and beans and tomatoes and mushrooms and ham and so much goodness all contained so well. We were told that it was supposed to start raining around 2pm, so we decided to try to walk to the top of the White Cliffs of Dover first and then head to the castle. Well we started walking and on the map it showed that we were over 3 miles away. People kept telling us we could walk but the road we were supposed to take had no sidewalk. People in front of us kept walking and people behind us passed us but there really just didn’t seem to be a good way to get up there. We did follow a path and ended up at a “cliff edge” that was hidden by a great deal of foliage. So while we didn’t get to see the actual cliffs, we did get to find a hidden faerie glade in the middle of the woods outside of Dover.
On the way up to the “cliffs”, we passed the Dover Castle and a whole bunch of sheep that were grazing! They were so funny. I’ve never seen so many sheep up close like that before. Of course I would get to see sheep in the English countryside. After we get back from our mini hiking trek, we headed straight down the road to the castle. There were more sheep on the way there, but for the most part they’d disappeared from the main road where we had first seen them.
The castle itself was amazing. We’d already seen the Tower of London in London, but the Tower is a fortress, not a true castle. This was a true castle. (I’ve seen one other true castle in Edinburgh over two years ago.) We arrived at the castle just after they had opened so there weren’t many people yet. The day we were there happened to be a “Peasant Life” day or somewhat of the sort, so there were people dressed up in middle ages garb going about their respective jobs in the castle. We talked to the executioner right towards the entrance of the castle who laughed that the place we came from didn’t exist yet. He wasn’t wrong.
The first thing we did in the castle was go on a tour of the hospital tunnels. So something I didn’t know about the Dover Castle is it was also an important base during WWI. The movie Dunkirk (which recently came out and which I have not seen yet) was around the area. So within the walls and caverns around the castle they had built bunkers for the soldiers and an underground military hospital. There were two tours possible: a tour of the underground bunkers and a tour of the military hospital. The tour for the bunkers took twice as long as the tour for the hospital and had a much longer line. It was already 11:00am and at noon there was going to be a presentation by the same executioner we had run into that Ricardo wanted to go to, so we did the hospital tour. It was intriguing. The thought of people living down there in the dark with spotty electricity (due to the ongoing air raids) was powerful. It really did take you back to the time of WWI and at least get a slight bit of an idea of what life was like back then. After we finished that tour we found the military outpost where the military kept a lookout for foreign ships on the horizon.
At noon, we went to the executioner’s show. After that, we explored the central castle, complete with room replicas everywhere. The kitchens looked almost exactly like something you would find in Skyrim. There was a cauldron set up over a fire, baskets of fruits and vegetables, and barrels of food. Ricardo and I sat in the throne room upon the thrones set up there and gazed out above the land and sea from windows high up in the castle. After we explored the medieval castle, we went to the restaurant within the castle grounds that contained a giant cannon. We had delicious chicken and leek pies with potatoes and beans. English food really is amazing.
By the time we had finished eating, it had begun to pour down rain outside. It was almost 2:00pm on the dot, so the weather predictions in Dover really are excellent. By that time, we’d seen everything in the castle that we were interested in (aka we saw all the medieval castle stuff and had seen all either of us cared to see of WWI relics). So Ricardo and I headed home in the beautiful British rain. We passed spiderwebs in blankets of ivy along stone walls and outposts of the castle that looked almost as wonderfully magical and medieval as the castle itself had. Luckily our b&b was almost a straight shot down the road so we didn’t get lost on the way down. We were very drenched when we finally got back to our room though so we curled up in lots of layers of warm clothes and took a nice long nap.
We spent the rest of the afternoon studying. The landlady had recommended the pub across the street to us as the oldest pub in Dover and said it was really worth going to. So come evening, we headed over to the White Horse and discovered that this pub was actually the famous pub of the Channel Swimmers. All the walls and ceiling of the place were covered in markered-in names of swimmers who had swum across the English Channel. Most of the signatures included details, such as time of the swim, what date the swim had taken place on, the location of the swimmer, and other such quirks. It was really something to see. Almost as soon as we sat down at a little table in the corner I spotted a channel swimmer signature from a swimmer from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I swear, New Mexico really does follow you around.
For all of the White Horse’s charms, it didn’t have any food, so Ricardo and I set out in the direction of the Burger King that was supposedly open. It was dark outside and we got to see the White Cliffs of Dover – at least the ones that look across the town – from below. The stars were beautiful. And suddenly I heard the sound of waves crashing upon the beach. There, to our right, was the beach we had looked upon by day from the seat of the Dover Castle. Me being me, of course I had to get closer to the ocean. There was a flight of concrete stairs leading down to the beach, so I started to walk down them. About four stairs down suddenly the steps became unbearably slippery with seaweed underfoot. The moment I realized this was the moment I first stepped on a slippery step and my foot went flying out from underneath me. I fell down that step on my butt and continued thumping down a good half dozen steps before I could finally stop myself. Ricardo, who was a step behind me, called out to me to be careful the moment I slipped and within another moment was thumping down beside me. Luckily neither of us was hurt (R.I.P. technology). We spent some time out on the rocky beach staring out at the beautiful ocean. It was so beautiful. There’s something so peaceful and strong and absolutely transfixing to me about the crashing of waves onto the shore. Afterwards, I still had to walk back up the stairs barefoot because it was too slippery to traverse in shoes. I learned my lesson that night. Don’t go running down to the ocean on stairs in the middle of the night if you don’t know whether or not there’s seaweed there. Or at least don’t do so if you care about not falling.
And when we got home we discovered the seats of our pants were completely green with seaweed and moss.
Sunday, July 30th
Our breakfast started at a somewhat bright but definitely early 7:30 in the form of the same delicious breakfast as the day before. We packed up and checked out and walked right back to the ocean that had so taunted us the night before. The shore by day in Dover is at least as beautiful as the shore by night. Oh, I could watch that beautiful, sparkling ocean forever, if given the choice.
We walked back to Dover Priory (the train station) and from there took a train back to the Blackfrier Station in London. Thus ends Dover. It was lovely.