Travelogue: Dover, Part I

I felt like I spent about four days in Dover, and I definitely wrote about fifteen pages about the whole ordeal, so it's best if I do this in increments.

My only day trip was to Dover. I wanted to see the White Cliffs. I don't know why I wanted to do this; I suppose I had some romantic notion of walking along the cliffs, my hair fluttering in the wind, my parasol gently shading my porcelain skin from the sun, as the breezes playfully whipped the ribbons from my bonnet, as I recited poetry into the English Channel.

I wanted to go to Dover in 1804, is what I'm saying.

The poetry part is the most true, actually, because I've always loved Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach." It seems particularly appropriate at the moment.

So I set out with my enthusiasm and my exuberance and a lively step--and little else. I knew only that I needed to get to Victoria Station and then I would catch the train to Dover from there.

Oh, if only it had been that easy.

The train ride itself was fairly uneventful, after the part where I got on the wrong train and had to be ushered off by ... an usher (?). Also, Dover was the last stop on the train, and people going there were asked to sit in the last four cars of the train; I sat in Car 8. (Math! We do not even get along in foreign countries!)

Upon my arrival at Dover Priory, I found a map outside the station that showed several of the sites of the city.

"Hmmm, Dover Castle," I thought. "That'll be fun."

I am stupid.

I first began my adventure in Dover by setting out in exactly the opposite direction I needed to go. Of course.

Having walked a mile the wrong way, I had no desire to walk it back, so I found a bus stop and I waited. And waited and waited and waited.

Finally the bus rolled up and I was on my way. Dover Castle, here I come! Except the bus line ended in downtown Dover (or Dover Centre, as it is so charmingly called), so I got off the bus and walked around a bit looking for the ticket office.

There was none.

I asked some woman who was wearing the bus company uniform what bus I should take up to Dover Castle. Bus 15, she told me, and there would be a walk of about 100 meters from there.

One hundred meters--pah! I can totally do that.

The only thing was, the bus wouldn't be there for another 20 minutes. No worries, I thought. I'll just follow this here sign that says


and be back in time for the bus.

But see, even though there was an arrow on that sign, it wasn't pointing at any specific path. It was sort of pointing BETWEEN two paths, so I picked one and set off.

Y'all know my record: it was the wrong one. Of course.

Eventually I found the TOILETS, having walked through several gardens belonging to private residences (um, oops). So: Dover toilets.

[note: not my trash]
Having traveled the United States by car--EXTENSIVELY--and having used the bathroom in nearly every gas station along the East Coast, I can say with authority that the Dover toilets were some of THE grodiest I have ever encountered. Also, no toilet paper.

Only a few minutes after I got back to the bus stop, a bus pulled up. 15A.

Now, I was told to take Bus 15. Are 15 and 15A the same? I don't know! What to do?!?

I got at the end of the line and then I asked the bus driver if I was on the right bus. There are few things that can make a person feel more like a dumb American than having to yell through the glass at the driver of a crowded bus, "IS THIS THE RIGHT BUS FOR DOVER CASTLE???????" But I sacrificed my pride and tried not to notice all the other passengers (native Dover-ites?) staring at me. It was indeed the right bus and I took my seat and took out my knitting, only to find that the stop for Dover Castle was less than one minute away and I probably could have walked there.

The lady at the bus station failed to mention that the 100 meters to the castle was practically straight down. I mean, there are hills and there are HILLS. This one was a HILL.

I made it down safely--no small feat--and there it was: the ticket office to the gatehouse to Dover Castle.

Tune in next time, when I am swallowed into the bowels of the earth and also see a ghost, maybe. Oh! And watch some gallows being made. They really know how to entertain a girl at Dover Castle.

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