Almost five years ago, as I was on a plane from Sydney (via Shanghai) approaching the United Kingdom, I kept whispering to myself: “You are approaching Albion. Albion, Albion, Albion.” This was before I started my MA at Durham University, before I could even imagine doing a PhD in Shakespeare, but it was long after I had become an Anglophile, whose romantic and fangirly heart secretly called the island of Great Britain by its first known name, Albion. This is very likely a reference to the White Cliffs of Dover, which, since that day five years ago on a plane, I’ve always wanted to visit, but never got around to.
But since this is my English Dream Trip, my first stop was, naturally, Dover: the White Cliffs of Albion, the same cliffs of Edgar’s hopeful imagination in King Lear, the beach of Matthew Arnold’s Romantic rendition. Five years later, with a Shakespearean PhD almost in hand (touch wood), I entered this Kentish town for the first time. To most of the (English/British/Irish) people I’ve told about my trip, Dover is just a transit stop for ferries across the Channel, but to me, it symbolised the realisation of my dreams, some of which have gone far beyond what I thought possible.
My morning started in London, and given it was my last day, I had breakfast with my friend and host at the Prufrock Cafe. I got granola (£4.50), my friend got muesli and some coffee, and we chatted for a fair while.
Soon after, I made my way on the tube to Victoria (£1.60), where I caught a direct two-hour train to Dovery Priory (£7.25). I was feeling super tired and a little under the weather (the hayfeverish sneezing certainly doesn’t help), so I mostly slept away my journey. I was still quite groggy upon arriving in Dover, but the sun was out, and my b&b was relatively easy to find (Hubert House–£55 for a double room with single occupancy). The room and ensuite are quite tiny, but I love the quaint and homely decor.
It was about 4pm when I’d checked and settled in, and knowing I had two hours before Dover Castle closed, I was determined to make a visit. The trek up to the castle area was quite a workout in and of itself, but as soon as parts of the castle came into view, the huffing and puffing were worth it. The admission was on the pricey side (£16.50 for students), but it covered many, many things, and I would definitely recommend taking a good 3 or 4 hours exploring everything on offer.
With the limited time I had, I decided to focus on the main tower, which involved yet another climb. But goodness gracious me, it was the perfect day for my explorations.
Since the sun wasn’t due to set till after 9pm, I went to eat at the (recommended) Hyath Bay Seafood Restaurant. An Ocean Breeze cocktail (£7.50), herbed cod daily special (£14.95), and warm chocolate mousse cake special (£5.95) later, I was very full and happy (even though there was a bit of eggshell in my chocolate cake).
And then I found myself at the foot of one of the glorious white cliffs.
It was a little after 9pm when I returned to my b&b, and while I wanted to have a quiet evening with a bit of reading, I was also situated right next to The White Horse, arguably the oldest pub in Dover dating to the 1300s. I thought I’d wander by and order a pint of cider (£3.70), and then partook in a round of rock and roll bingo (£2), which was a hilarious monstrosity since I am not at all versed in twentieth-century popular music. But I loved the pub’s ambience: the walls and ceilings had been written on by the brave folks who have swum the English Channel.
It was also wonderful chatting to the other pubbers, which included both locals and a visiting film crew. Karaoke ensued, pints were accidentally dropped, and the warm and fuzzies stayed with me into the night, even now as I write this at 1am. Dover, Albion, and dreams, indeed.
Food & drinks: £38.60
Walked: 15,293 steps; 10.91km