I was up early this morning, so excited for the day and unable to sleep past 3:30. Haha, I think my body is having trouble adjusting to all the time changes as I crossed the Atlantic Ocean the last week and a half.
I went to the top deck and watched the sunrise all by myself. It was absolutely breathtaking. Three white lighthouses were stationed around the dock. The white cliffs of Dover were pink, orange, and red as they reflected the sunrise. Dover Castle, the largest castle in England, sat majestically on top of the cliffs and I was giddy with the thought of all the history these cliffs have seen. My time in England could not have started better.
After breakfast and disembarking the ship I ran around Dover, along the old docks and town buildings, past a quaint church, and an English pub. I booked it back to the dock after about 3 hours on shore to meet up with Victoria, my friend from Australia.
Our first day on the ship, Victoria invited me to travel Dover with herself and her brother and sister-in-law. Thankfully I was able to have a legit English experience rather than cramming several sites into a bus visit of London.
We left Dover and arrived at the Battle of Britain historical monument. It hit me that after studying World War 2 extensively, I was actually here; standing on the cliffs overlooking the English Channel, seeing France’s coastline in the distance, standing by the memorial of many 18 and 19 year old boys who flew and died for their country, and reading the stats of 30-40 British planes against 200+ German planes. It was sobering, yet inspiring experience, and I was in awe as I quietly walked around the memorial, taking it all in.
We had the first coffee/tea/hot cocoa stop of our day…being in England, there were MANY. 😉 [Obviously I was the hot cocoa, Victoria was so kind to tell her family ahead of time about my Mormon beliefs :)] We then drove through the lush countryside. I was smiling non-stop, it was just like I imagined! We passed homes that are straight from the 1700 and 1800s in the quaint villages, past sheep farms and large estates, and through moss covered trees.
We then went to Canterbury which was extremely touristy, though dripping with history. The city walls built by the Romans in 1 century AD, the huge Cantebury Cathedral, and the old houses and shops fascinated me. I bought candy at a legit shop too, including an English sweet called an “Ice Brick”. Victoria’s friends, Elaine and Paul, also took us to a small cafe where we had sandwiches with real European bread.
After Canterbury we drove around the countryside some more on the way to their home in one of the villages. We stopped at a small quaint chapel built in the 1100s that was located a few minutes from the home near Lyme. This was one of my favorite memories from the trip because there were no tourists as this was a quiet, local spot, and the church had only one elderly church patron there. We entered and I immediately touched the stones, wanting to feel the hundreds and hundreds of years of history. I imagined those early saints praying for safety as the Romans left to re-claim Rome, praying for safety from the Viking and Norman invaders. It was an incredible feeling to stand in that tiny chapel and think about the years of history those walls had seen: reformations, invasions, and destruction.
I walked around the small cemetery outside and noticed that the church seemed to be built in a low ditch as compared to the burial grounds. I was informed that the ground was high because of the innumerable bodies buried there throughout the centuries. I must admit, I got a little squeamish thinking about it and was soon after done walking around this very fertilized soil. 🙂 However, seeing this small church was more special than Canterbury for me because it was proof of the everyday devotion of church goers rather than the splendor of a church’s wealth (as beautiful as that may be as well). It was the perfect ending to our day.
As our ship pulled out of the harbor, Ronnie and I sat on her balcony and watched the seagulls follow us, the castle recede, and the white cliffs of Dover disappear. It was the most wonderful use of my time and I am excited for the time when I can return to England and see more of its history!