We took the complementary ship van past the port construction. From there we strolled through the city of Dover along the Marine Parade to the entrance of the White Cliffs. That took about ¾ hr. so I guess it was around three miles. From the Visitor center to the lighthouse is two miles. This took more effort as we traipsed over undulating terrain and fields dotted with rabbit holes. Round trip we climbed or descended 450 steps, but there was also a lot of scrambling.
Located where the visitor center now stands, once was a convict prison, which later became a place to detain soldiers. Most of the old buildings and military barracks are gone, but the National Trust has scattered panels at historical points to help us understand the history of the cliffs.
During WWII, the Brits built on the cliffs two super guns capable of firing across the English Channel to France. Since today was hazy we could not see that coastline.
From up close, the cliffs appear much whiter and taller than they did in the early morning light and from the ship. The morning chill dissipated by 10 A.M. Before long, I was in short sleeves and steaming up my sunglasses. Light cirrus clouds crisscrossed each other as much as the airplane contrails did. Seagulls and local birds with crested crowns dove in and out of the cliffs. We saw blue butterflies and learned that they are a rare sighting on the cliffs. Rabbits scampered around seemingly unafraid of us. We had to make sure not to twist an ankle in all the holes they dug.
The cliffs have insect and flower breeds particular to the area. We found winged swarms that were mating and reminded me of the Florida love bugs. After swallowing a few, I had to grit my teeth when panting uphill to prevent swallowing them.
We walked along the upper path to the lighthouse. In a copse we saw a herd of six to eight ponies or maybe short, sturdy, brown-coated horses. Passing by Langdon Hole, a crater-like earth depression, I was annoyed by loud music and wondered who was disturbing the idyllic setting. There on a hill like a troubadour of old, a young man played his guitar and sang his heart out, just for the pleasure of it. The song was Spanish with a lively rhythm. His voice amplified by the locale carried on the wind to where we were about a quarter mile away. His carefree singing made me smile. Later, we spotted this singer sunning himself, shirtless, guitar aside.
The Landgon Stairs are steps that lead down to a ship wreck. Langdon Bay is one of 61 wreck sites listed under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. At this site, discovered in 1974, divers found Middle Bronze Age (1300 to 1150 B.C.) tools, ornaments, and weapons. This wreck is England’s oldest submerged archaeological site.
From the cliffs we could see Dover Castle, England’s oldest fortress protecting the shores since Roman times. There are tunnels where the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940 was planned. King Henry II’s tower preserves its medieval charm with furnishings and costumed interpreters representing life from his royal court. Fellow passengers later told us that the visit was worth the entrance fee, but that there was a lot of walking. Instead of going there, we opted to have lunch in a cafe that offered free WiFi. Because of poor WiFi, it took us over an hour to Skype home and post yesterday’s update.
The South Foreland Lighthouse, built in 1843 was under reconstruction, so we did not tour it. This beacon that guided ships around Goodwin Sands was the world’s first electric light faros.
We took the lower route to return. This provided us with better views of the cliffs and the port. Chalk from the cliffs was used to create the docks. From the cliffs we watched as boats queued to enter the harbor. Freighters, ferries, and cruise ships took their turn. The NCL Star, moored far from the busy docks, was the largest vessel in the port that day.
At one point, we needed to decide between two trails, the one on the right heading back up to the cliffs, the one on the left remaining lower. Dennis chose to go left. As we walked on the narrowing path, I suggested we were not where we should have been. Dennis kept insisting we were heading in the right directions and that up ahead in the shadows we would rejoin the path. I couldn’t see what he meant, but continued forward. The trees become a thicket and I felt like Alice going down the rabbit’s hole. At one point, I had to crab-walk and take care not to hook my day pack. When we cleared the thicket we faced a 30-foot vertical climb. I tried to climb it to save the mile walk back to the junction where we should have gone right. There were no hand- or footholds. As we walked back, Dennis whimpered, “You could have done it if you really wanted to.” Yeah, he probably was correct, but only as a life-saving manoeuvre. You would think that after past experiences, I would be more questioning of Dennis’s directional confidence.
Back on ship, we sat in the hot tub, and then enjoyed the drink of the day, a Tequila Sunrise as we watched the sun set on a perfect day.