A Trip Through British History

June 8, 2011 by

Europe, Guest Bloggers

Being a Londoner, I would never have thought of going on a London day trip anywhere. Oh, how ignorant I was!

Boarding the coach at Victoria Coach Station, I was pleasantly greeted by Nick, our tour guide for the day; a very knowledgeable and friendly man. He made us all feel comfortable, as we embarked on a two-hour trip down to Dover. That first half hour of the drive was almost a tour on its own; we passed many of London’s greatest attractions, learning tidbits even I (a proud-to-say-Londoner) didn’t know. Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the Tower of London, all witnessed from the comfort of my coach seat. Nick produced a calm ambiance around us, making the journey that much more relaxing.

"Cliffs of Dover"

The imposing white Cliffs of Dover, Dover coast, England

 

It was not long before the view outside my window changed. Taken from the busy, industrial scenes of London, we were now in Kent, the garden of England – a picturesque countryside many London tourists miss out on. Nick filled our ears with history, and soon my anticipation was over. I could see the white cliffs of Dover. The town itself is very Olde England. Quaint shop signs, a seaside view and, most of all, a medieval castle, like a shepherd watching over its flock. We were driven right to the castle gates. Nick stopped to carry out all the ticket malarkey with the box office as we walked as if being pulled by a magnet up to the castle’s entrance, a great arch of white stone carrying medieval magnificence.

A Fascinating Taste of History – Recent and Medieval

We were told to explore the castle and its great tower in our own time before we would be taken down into the tunnels. I walked up inside the great tower and found little beds, little dining tables, everything was almost in miniature. Even though everything inside the great tower is not real artefacts, they have been replicated to exact detail, causing my Dover Castle experience to feel much more authentic. The colours that decorated it were rich and were contrasted by the paleness of the stone walls.

Taking my senses back to the medieval times, I tasted some traditional mead. It was sweet, warm and just what I needed on a cold autumn morning, awakening my taste buds to the whole experience. The gift shop has an array of different wines and meads to try, as well as chutneys (Gooseberry with Elderflower being my favourite). Not only can you buy all the medieval goodies but there are books, children’s toys and many collectors’ items to take back to reality with you.

"Dover Castle"

The imposing towers of Dover Castle in Dover, England

Walking a little downhill to the Secret Wartime Tunnels we were fast-forwarded to the Second World War. Although the first tunnels were built in the Napoleonic times, those above and below them were built during the War and aided the evacuation of Dunkirk. Walking through these eerie tunnels you can see the names of soldiers etched into the stone; the old military operation rooms, plotting rooms with real artefacts and equipment were preserved. Each room had its purpose, told its own story. Walking around everyone is silent; all you can hear are footsteps and the voice-clippings of those back in the day. Every one of us are now in awe of the history being told by the white walls. My favourite fact of the day was that the function all of the equipment down in the tunnels – and there was a lot of it – could be carried out by one normal laptop.

Olde England Charm and Literary Tales in Canterbury

Back in the coach we are driven to the city of Canterbury. As we enter the town Nick tells us about its literary history: The Canterbury Tales, The Marlow Theatre and its connection with Charles Dickens, as well as the history surrounding the Cathedral, which is also connected to Dover Castle by one man named Thomas Becket. We are taken to an old style English pub to eat a quintessential British lunch consisting of fish and chips – the best I’ve had in a long time – before we had two hours to explore the medieval city ourselves.

"Canterbury Cathedral"

The magnificent, famed Canterbury Cathedral in the town of Canterbury, Kent, England

The city centre is full of old store buildings juxtaposed with contemporary shops, all providing a blanket around the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral. You can enter the Cathedral for just eight pounds and with the great coloured glass windows, medieval tomb stones and immense energy; itis actually worth it, even if you’re not the religious type. One other place I happened to find myself in was the Old Sweet Shop, on the corner of the main high street. Fudge, chocolate, marzipan and all kinds of gummy sweets from ceiling to floor decorated this cute store and it was not long before I found myself spending a little too much on ‘candy.’ One thing that did surprise me was that the shopping rivaled that of London, and you will not hear me say that often, if at all. Feeling rather content and that much more knowledgeable, we boarded the coach again for our journey up to Greenwich.

Another View Just Across the Thames from London Town….

I remember Nick mentioning that this part of the trip was where he found many of us ‘tourists’ fall asleep and, to my surprise, I woke up as we were driving into Greenwich. It baffles me that so many of those that visit London do not travel just the other side of the Thames to Greenwich. There is so much to do, with breathtaking backdrops to accompany it. From Wednesday to Sunday the market is open – home to some of the best Brazilian food you can find except in Brazil, vintage books and clothing, as well as arts and craft collections. There is also London’s only public Planetarium, the National Maritime Museum, and home to Greenwich Mean Time – where east meets west. You can place one foot in the western hemisphere while your other is in the east and funnily enough be in two places at one time.

Usually the coach will drop you off in Blackheath, at the entrance to Greenwich Park, and you can take your time walking through the park, seeing the sometimes forgotten view of London as you make your way down to the Thames, taking in all the sights and history that go with it. However, as this is a very British tour, we had the British weather to back it up – it was raining, heavily. Because of this Nick decided it would be better to get dropped off in Greenwich centre and take us to the middle of the now Greenwich University, a spot from which all the great buildings, the Thames and even Canary Wharf are visible. He narrated the history that tied up all the facts of the day, a nice way to end the trip as there was a continuous flow of the past between the three places we had visited that day.

Tower Bridge-Thames Cruise

View of London Tower Bridge from cruise on Thames River, London

It wasn’t long before we all decided to embark on the last part of the trip: a boat on the Thames. We walked the five minutes to Greenwich Pier and before we knew it we were all sitting comfortably in our dry, warm seats watching the bridges of London pass above us. It was a great way to end the day. I had been taken from Olde England and thrown back into modern day London, with a much more cultured view of my city and its history.

- Mariella Agapiou

 

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2 Responses to “A Trip Through British History”

  1. amresh Says:

    its a superstitious wow natural things are made of part this one,

  2. Laura Says:

    nice post! It makes me miss England so much! I haven’t spent any time in London yet, but maybe next time.

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