Trip Start May 26, 2010
15Trip End Jun 10, 2010
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Yesterday we arrived at the port in Dover a little after 4:00 AM (0400). We slept until about 7:00 AM (0700). Because we would be staying in Dover for the day and overnight, I asked for a late disembarkation. We had an easy morning waiting get off the ship.
Most people were gone by the time our number was called. There was no immigration getting off, so we went straight to our luggage. We found a nice young man porter to help with our very heavy bags. He had a large cart (called "trolley" in England) and piled up our mountain of luggage and escorted us out of the terminal building. We had to wait quite a while for a cab, but we were in no hurry
The cab took us through Dover to the bed and breakfast where we had a reservation for the night. I had found the Hubert House while searching on the Internet. We wanted a European experience, rather than a big hotel. We were greeted by the owner, a wonderful young man named Ryan. He graciously stored our luggage as we arrived well before check in time.
The Hubert House is a 250 year old historic property. We knew we were in Europe! It's built on the side of a steep hill, and I got a workout lugging our heavy bags up to the entrance. Ryan took them from there, thankfully. If you are interested in checkout out the place, here is a link to their website:
Of course I had to play with his dog. I miss our dogs very much, but at least yesterday I got a dog fix.
Dover is famous for two things, the white cliffs and Dover Castle. Hubert House is located directly below the castle, which was our destination. We grabbed our jackets and started our climb up to the castle. While only perhaps 0.6 miles away (1 km), it is a very steep climb. We started up a sidewalk along a steep street, and then we arrived at a staircase that climbed up the hill at about a 75 degree angle. I counted 85 steps on the way up. Needless to say we got a good cardio workout
Our first stop was an overlook, allowing is a great view of the harbor and the Eurodam. It was cloudy with some fog so the view was limited, but impressive none the less. On a clear day you can see France, but that was not possible yesterday. Oh well.
We signed up for a tour of the secret tunnels that exist below the castle. During World War 2, these tunnels were essential to the British war effort, serving a variety of purposes including headquarters, hospital and communications. Their existence was not acknowledged until the 1970’s. Today they are open for tours, but no pictures may be taken. The tunnels are carved through the soft chalk that makes up the famous Dover cliffs, so everything had to be reinforced to prevent collapse. They are an amazing fete of engineering. The British have done an incredible job creating a museum within the tunnels. Every effort has been done to allow visitors to get some sense of the experience of the brave men and women who served in the dark, cold, damp tunnels. This is kind of history I love, and Annie bravely tagged along
We visited the book store after the tunnel tour. I used great discipline not to buy every book in the store. This is the 60th anniversary of the Miracle of Dunkirk, the incredible evacuation of 338,000 British and French soldiers in 1940. I only bought one book about Dunkirk. The mission involved thousands of privately owned boats as well as the British Navy. Everything was planned and managed from the tunnels in Dover.
Our next stop was a nice lunch at a café in one of the newer buildings on the lower end of the property. We then gave our feet a rest by using a free tram to take us to the highest road point, just beyond the Great Tower of Dover Castle.
The Great Tower is perfectly named. It literally towers over the mountain on which it is located. Built by Henry II in the years 1180 – 1185, it is a magnificent example of medieval construction. Its strategic importance is obvious. Nothing could happen in Dover Harbor or the surrounding countryside without being observed from the castle.
The Tower has been lovingly restored as a museum
We climbed another long spiral staircase to the roof. The views were fantastic in every direction! The day had cleared but remained hazy. It is no wonder that the castle and the area around it was used by the military for 800 years. We had fun soaking in the views on a beautiful afternoon.
We walked down the long staircase to the ground. We walked down the hill to the remnants of a light house believed to have been built by the Romans in the first century. The remains are well preserved, testament to the building skills of the Romans. Next to it is a church, still used by the British military to this day. It contains dedications to many brave soldiers who died for their country in many wars.
We walked around the many barracks and old ramparts built over the centuries. The castle is a defensive wonder, with defense in depth the key. The castle has successfully withstood everything from medieval sieges to German bombs and long range artillery in World War 2
Our last stop was a magnificent vista called the Admiralty Lookout. A fortification was built on the projection of land below the castle just before World War 1. It was used in both World Wars for observation of Dover Harbor and the adjoining English Channel. The views are incredible, including some of the white cliffs. The cliffs are not visible from the Great Tower. We soaked in the views, enjoying the nearly perfect weather.
After 6 short hours of the grounds of the castle, we walked back to the Hubert House. Ryan showed us our lovely room. It was on the second floor, giving us a neat view of the small town square. The room was perfectly appointed and spotless. Unlike a hotel, we felt at home. It was perfect.
We needed some time to rest after the long day. The Hubert House includes a bistro. We went down at 7:00 PM (1900) for dinner. We ended up having not only a fantastic dinner, but a great time talking to a wonderful couple with 2 young children. Mick is Scottish, Jane is English. We had a fun talking about sports, children and politics. Mick’s accent was a challenge at times, but we did just fine. They are terrific people. Ryan joined us as time allowed. What a terrific young man! The people we have met on this trip have been a joy.
We slept like logs in the wonderful canopy bed. This morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the bistro. It was hard to say goodbye to our new friends.
Soon we return to reality. This has been a great trip, something we will never forget.