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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Stephen had a good day on Saturday - he came in second at a climbing competition and scored a fifty pound gift voucher from the gym's gear shop - but the day was a wash for the rest of us, since Ems was still sick so we had to cancel all our other plans. So, no get-together with people we last saw almost a decade ago, and no evening Guy Fawkes fireworks display.

We did get to watch some fireworks from the comfort of our own livingroom though - our neighbours were setting fireworks off, and their display was neatly framed by our big glass doors. But sitting at home watching someone else's fireworks wasn't really satisfactory; it lacked atmosphere.

Today was good though. Em woke up cured, finally, so we drove down to Dover, and spent the day at Dover Castle.

Last time we visited Dover was in the spring of 2001, just before we moved to the states. That day, it was pouring with rain, and almost too foggy to see the cliffs. Not too different today : no fog, but it was drizzly and grey and the wind was howling. Dover seems rather a depressing place, I must say, but the castle was absolutely fascinating.

It's built on top of the famous white cliffs, and it's existed - and been used as part of Britain's defenses - since the early 12th century. The displays there move from the 12th century almost till the present day. There's one, for instance, that shows the role that the castle played in defeating the French in 1217; one that shows Henry VIII's visit to the castle sometime in the 1530's, and then there's the tour that one can do of the secret war-time tunnels - extensions of Napoleonic era tunnels that were extended and built into the limestone cliffs during WWII, and which were used as a naval command centre and underground hospital.

I've never been in such a strong wind before (Hurricane Charley excepted). The staff at the gate warned us as we drove in that the wind was gusting up to Force 8, and said that they'd close the castle and grounds if it got up to Force 9. At some points, walking along the battlements, the girls were almost swept off their feet, which definitely enhanced the whole castle experience for them.

Some pictures from today:

Action shot of Bobby cooking our breakfast crepes
Stephen leaping onto a railing like some sort of deranged mountain goat. Why? Why can't he just walk like a normal person?
Family on the roof of the castle, shivering in the cold, rebelling against being herded into photogenic spots by Bobby
View of Dover taken from the castle

Bonus picture : Sophie at Dover Museum, in the spring of 2001. She was so little and she thought she was so big.

Overall - definitely worth the entrance fee; all five of us found this visit very interesting.

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