Sunday - London - Dover - Folkestone

This morning I was reminded of a lesson I learned in 2003, my first time flying into London's Heathrow airport.Always, always use the bathroom before you get in the immigration line. The bathroom is a little obscured by all of the people in the area, but it is right on the left as you come down the ramp. Even if the immigration line "looks" short take the opportunity before you get in line. This may seem  like the simplest, easiest thing in the world, like your Mom telling you to go to bathroom before you go on a long drive when you are  little, but almost no one stops. This morning I waited at immigration for an hour. All of the corrals were filled and overflowing with people so that the line ran down the hall. I was so thankful that that time in 2003 popped into my mind. It was my first time in London and I was overly excited and anxious to get through immigration. Immigration crawled that day slower than it did today. I learned my lesson. To this day, through all my travels, Heathrow still ranks as the longest immigration line I have ever stood in.

I continued on to pick up my rental car after I got through the hour long line. I waited for the car rental shuttle for about 20-25 minutes. All the while going over in my head how I was about to drive a manual stick shift on the other side of the road. I arrived at my car and spent another 20 minutes orienting myself with the car, including trying to find the boot (trunk) release. I found out that it is only accessible by the automatic button on the keys. I got my directions out and slowly eased out of my space. Not surprisingly I stalled trying to get out of the gate. I quickly recovered and went on my way. Shifting with the left hand takes some serious getting used to. The ride was mostly highway which made it easier. I went through some classic English scenery on my way to Dover. The weather was cloudy but not rainy, but as soon as I entered the outskirts of Dover it started to mist.
Alfa Romeo Guilleta - Our Rental Car
It was pretty snazzy and fun to drive, but had the worst console
design of all time. Improperly placed cup holders and electrical outlets
among other poor interior design issues. I loved the race car looking pedals
in theory, but with the wet shoes they were super easy to slip off of while
trying to shift, not a great situation. I kept having to change into dry shoes,
so I could drive. 
Three roundabouts and multiple turns later I accidentally passed the Dover train station where I was to pick up my Dad who trained it in from London. I pulled into a residential parking lot to turn around and then realized I couldn't reverse. I clearly put the shift in R, several times and I kept driving forward. Eventually I ended up in a space with a curb and could go no further. At this point I was starting to feel the jet lag, so I just put it in park and decided to walk to the station. I picked up my Dad who had a good laugh at my expense, and we went to figure out how to reverse the car. We went through the same process three or four times until he said sometimes there is a button to put it in reverse. A light bulb went off in my head and I remembered playing with a button on the bottom of the shifter while on the highway wondering what it was for. So mystery solved, I pushed the sneaky button up and easily shifted into reverse. I had a good laugh about it.

We took a lovely walk along the pier in Dover even though it was cold, windy and misty. We were able to see some of the cliffs through the fog and a bit of the channel. The color of the water was much more green that I expected and it was quite clean, almost no seaweed. We checked out some cliff tours and realized quickly that everything was closed for the season. Dover itself is slightly depressed, but it was still nice to walk around. It reminded me of pictures I have seen from England from the twenties and thirties. Little seaside towns with grand white buildings along the beach. Since cliff tours were out we headed up to Dover castle. At this point it was misting even more. After walking around the main castle area we went on a tour of the secret war time tunnels on the site. It was fascinating. The tunnels were built around the 1790s and expand for three and half miles under the castle grounds. They were used at various times throughout history during may wars. They were only decommissioned in the 1970s most recently being used as bomb shelters. Now portions are open to the public for tours. If you ever find yourself in this area, the Dover Castle is worth a stop, especially on a clear day, the views would be stunning.


No comments:

Post a Comment