I had made plans to travel to and stay in London a few months earlier, but circumstances being as they were, I needed to change plans and decided to begin in Dover. What began as an inconvenience turned into one of my more amazing trips. Instead of remaining within the city, I explored the countryside
Given only a week and being bound to the London Gatwick Airport, I needed to begin and end in the southern part of the United Kingdom. Realizing that the country was much bigger than I initially imagined, rather than go north, I decided to stay south. So, immediately after landing in the early afternoon, I picked up the rental car and headed east. I quickly realized that, perhaps, I was a bit cavalier about driver on the opposite side of the road.
It was already dark when I landed and I had to get from the southern London area to Dover. I’d booked a room at a lovely little cottage for the weekend. Being in the Peace Corps, I’d not driven a car very often during my service. The only time previously was during a trip to Spain and Portugal, but that was driving on the more familiar side of the road.
Immediately upon sitting in the driver’s seat, I was tired and felt overwhelmed. Everything was off. I would be shifting with my left hand and looking out the opposite windows. Yet, my biggest difficulty was operating the GPS system. I felt rushed to make it to Dover at a reasonable hour, so I decided to use my phone instead since I had reactivated my American cell service with T-Mobile that included international data.
Unfortunately, the data was limited to 2G and wasn’t connecting. Still, I headed out and hoped for the best. Cars were coming from directions I did not anticipate and several times I thought I was in the wrong lane.
Leaving the airport, I was almost immediately on a major highway and faced with various signs none of which was helpful. I pulled over to regain my bearings, but was gruffly told to move on by a police officer. Aimlessly, I drove on turning blindly onto on-ramps and off-ramps hoping to find a place to plan. About this time, the phone GPS finally connected and, thanks be to luck, I was actually on the right highway and headed toward Dover.
Looking at the map, I would begin on the island’s east coast, make my way along the southern coast until I reached it’s westernmost part, Cornwall, then head back to outer London for my return flight. Dover made sense as a starting point. It was not too large and I’d heard the name before because of the cliffs. (Ironically, I never made it to see them). Plus, it had a castle.
One thing I’ve learned about myself during my travels is that nothing quite attracts me like a castle. I’ve seen many in Europe and around the Mediterranean. If you would ask me, I doubt that I could identify exactly why I find them so interesting, but I love to walk through them. Perhaps, it’s a feeling of being transported back in time and imagining the lives of people who’ve come before.
Dover castle, situated of course on a hill overlooking the port and the sea, is remarkably well preserved and quite large. The grounds are beautiful and it’s a nice walk. That being said, once inside, it’s a bit anticlimactic, but maybe this is because of my previous visits to so many other castles. The museum section is dull. Aside from walking the beautiful grounds and climbing the tower, there’s not much else. Still, it was worth the the few hours I spent there.
Of special note, this is where I picked up my English Heritage visitor pass. For non-natives, one can obtain a 9-day pass that grants entry into all Heritage sites within England. It’s a steal for 50 pounds if you plan to visit more than a couple places.