Wednesday, October 14, 2009

White Cliffs of Dover

Last weekend, we took a couples tour organized by the American Women's Club to the port city of Dover. Dover is located along the SE coast of England, and is the departure point for the Channel Tunnel. Situated across from France at the narrowest point between England and France, it is only 21 miles across. Some, of course, have chosen this spot to launch their swim across the Channel, and even in October, there were a few swimmers in the water working out with that goal in mind. Because of its strategic location, Dover was an ideal place for a fortress and castle.

Visiting Dover Castle was one of the highlights of the trip. Built in the 1180's by Henry II,

it has been modified over the years to enhance its defense.

It withstood one of the greatest of medieval sieges in 1216.

Walking along the battlement walls, you could see France in the distance.

If these walls could talk, imagine what stories they could tell.

In the very center of the castle is the Great Tower which has recently been decorated to display what it might have looked like in the times of Henry II. He built this section to provide a palatial setting for any visitor who would come to visit him on their way to Canterbury. It is one of the best preserved royal buildings from the Middle Ages. Seen above is the Guest Hall, a multi-purpose room, which has been set up in preparation for a huge feast.

The king's kitchen was on the bottom floor.

A flutist was entertaining as we passed by.

The King's Hall was also a multi-purpose area, and is seen here as it might have been set up for a reception with the king's throne on a dais.

After the castle visit and lunch, the group headed down to the port, where we boarded a boat for a ride around the cliffs.

The afternoon sun shining on the chalk white cliffs of Dover was stunning.

In the very middle of the cliffs you can spot the entrance to the secret wartime tunnels. First built in the late 18th century during the Napoleonic Wars as underground barracks, they were adapted for strategic use in the Second World War. Taking a tour in the tunnels was fascinating as we walked through only a portion of the miles of tunnels that had first been converted to an air-raid shelter, and then later into a military command center and hospital.
Below is a video clip of the classic song "The White Cliffs of Dover," which was an inspirational song sung by Vera Lynn, affectionately known as The "Forces Sweetheart." During the Second World War, she hosted her own radio program and would send messages to soldiers serving abroad. Just recently, in her 82nd year, her biography was published entitled Some Sunny Day. Evidently, she was an inspiration to many of the solders, and this looks like a book I might add to my reading list. Listen and imagine how they might have been inspired during those dark days to peaceful times ahead.

1 comment:

  1. How fun was that! I never knew that Dover was a fort. Just had heard of it because of the song. I'm learning so much from your time overseas! I emailed this to my parents. I hope it will be easy enough for them to open it! I know they'd enjoy seeing this. thanks for sharing!