Today was the penultimate day of an eventful voyage, but we went out with a bang with a visit to the busy port of Dover, overlooked by a massive castle. One group left early for the Spitfire Museum at Ramsgate, just up the coast, and the key site for the evacuation of British troops in the anxious days of the Battle for France in May 1940.
The same story is told in Dover Castle, or rather: underneath it. The limestone cliffs are home to a maze of tunnels, some going back to Napoleonic days, when the British thought an invasion was imminent. During World War II, it was here that Operation Dynamo, the evacuation from Dunkirk, was planned and executed. Before visiting the magnificent keep of the castle itself, we wandered through this maze. A fiery display of film and sound gave a real impression of the do-or-die atmosphere of those days, and the uncanny ability of the British to turn dismal defeat into something resembling a triumph–or at least a moment of inspiration.
The keep itself is solid and imposing, but the large rooms indoors have been redecorated in a rather playful manner–one is invited to sit on a throne, as Henry II might have done (several guests obliged). The views from the roof are great; it was a bit of a hazy day, so France was not visible or, as the Brits would say, ‘The Continent was isolated.’
An ice cream van sold ‘wild strawberry and cream’ ice cream, which is about as Wimbledonian British as it gets. Very welcome, as we are continuing to enjoy really marvellous weather.
By 2 AM, everybody gathered on the back deck as the Wellermen sang shanties with the legendary white cliffs as their background–on our way to the docks at Tilbury, London, the end of a great expedition.