Antithodoxy

The Cliffs of Dover

Matt Gross of the New York Times recently embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe for his Frugal Traveler column. He chose to begin his journey at the traditional starting point for 18th Century Grand Tourists: Dover, England. He describes the port town in less than flattering terms:

There are, I’ve long believed, two kinds of places in this world: destinations and way stations. Dover, England, is definitely the latter.Dover, England

As I read this description, I thought back to my experiences traveling in England while studying abroad at the University of Kent. On my list of landmarks to see during my semester abroad were the famous White Cliffs of Dover. After making the trip by bus on a warm afternoon, my fellow traveler and I were eager to arrive at our destination. We wandered through town and stopped at a pub before making our way toward the castle, which we could easily spot in the distance. Noticing a foul stench in the air, we decided not to linger and made our way up the hill. However, we were not quick enough, and we arrived shortly after the ticket booth closed.

I attempted the journey again later in the semester, this time with a different friend. As I soon discovered, the castle was well worth the effort it took to get there. The castle’s hilltop location was ideal for viewing the English Channel and the town below. However, the most memorable part of the trip wasn’t seeing the White Cliffs, but exploring the underground tunnels hidden inside them. The tunnels were initially built in the Middle Ages and were later expanded to accommodate troops during the Napoleonic Wars. Visitors are given a guided tour that explains the historical significance of this complex network of tunnels and the important role it played during World War II. As Matt Gross mentions in his column, visitors are allowed to roam freely through the passageways while learning about the castle’s fascinating history.

While the town of Dover can accurately be described as a way station, this shouldn’t discourage travelers from planning a visit to the castle, which is a worthwhile destination. I wouldn’t recommend staying in Dover for days at a time, but it’s a good choice for a day trip.

If you’re not going to be in England anytime soon, I suggest that you at least listen to We Both Go Down Together, a tragic song by the Decemberists that begins, “Here on these cliffs of Dover…”

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May 23, 2008 - Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , ,

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