I’ve been in London a few times in my life, and decided to make this trip a little bit different and get myself to Dover, Kent. You probably already guess what I was going to go and see there.
Well, the trip started once again from Helsinki Airport (HEL / EFHK). This was still the time I wasn’t on a wheelchair, but had indeed already problems with my legs (they’ve been ongoing for the last 2 years or so).
From HEL I flew to Heathrow (LHR / EGLL), and this was finally the flight when I got to test drive one of Finnair‘s multiple Airbus A350‘s (OH-LWL). My first time on an A350, and yes, I liked it a lot.
The beautiful design as well as the quietness of the plane were striking, and of course I took a window seat so I could see the beautiful wing with it’s winglet for the whole flight. Weather was good for the flight, and I had time to watch a Clint Eastwood movie from the IFE before we landed to Heathrow.
At Heathrow I made my way slowly but steadily towards the tube station. My tired legs would like to send thanks to anyone who has invented the flat escalators, since I used every one I could get my feet on!
With the Piccadilly Line tube I went from Heathrow to King’s Cross, and from there, I did the short walk to St. Pancras station.
Picked up my reserved tickets for a Dover train from a ticket machine, and waited for a while just wondering around the station before it was time to hop on the train.
It was a Southeastern train, which seemed like a good-looking train both externally and once I got inside it, kind of reminding me of the Pendolinos we have in Finland, but with a bit more modern look.
Didn’t have any seat reservation, so just took some seat so that the window view was not blocked. From there, it was nice to see bits of the English countryside, as well as some of the towns by the stations the train stopped at.
The whole trip from St. Pancras to Dover Priory took roughly 1 hour, and while the max speed my phone recorded was 236 km/h, there was no shaking or other disturbance detectable as a passenger on the train. A nice and fast trip.
From the Dover Priory station I walked maybe 1 kilometers to my accommodation at a local Park Inn hotel. As I was on a budget trip, you might expect a budget hotel to be — well — a bid budgety and it to show in the quality.
And while this was a semi nice building otherwise, the stairs were quite awful for my bad legs, since they were narrow and steep. Well, my choice so not going to actually complain, but in the future I have to be more careful with the hotel selections because of my problematic feet.
After getting up in my room, I just relaxed for a while, went to a grocery store (ASDA) nearby, got the stuff back to the hotel room and went out for a little evening walk. It was a calm and nice weather, but since I had walked all over the airports and stations already that day, I ended my walk short and got back to the hotel to chill and relax for the rest of the evening.
Day 2: The White Cliffs
Sunday June 9th was the most important day of the trip, because it was the day I was going to go to the White Cliffs of Dover. Something I’ve had a distant dream of for ages already.
So after a bit of walking around the town, I took a taxi and had a ride to the Visitor Centre at the cliffs area. Hopped off, made sure that I got enough of carbs with me (I have Type 1 Diabetes) and headed towards the walking routes.
First I went pretty close to the cliff border in a lower pathway, but because of my acrophobia, decided to turn back after a while, since there were other tourists walking the same, narrow pathway and I just didn’t stand it :).
So back to the start and from there I took a route which goes much higher than the original I had tried, and this one also was wide enough for me to not to be panicing or anything.
It had a semi steep climb, which forced me to have some 4-5 breaks during climbing before I could reach the top — or at least a location I was happy enough to play the role of the hill top for me.
It had magnificent views to the cliff walls, the harbour and the sea, and I was just flabbergasted of the beautiful scenery all around the place.
Also what I noticed was, that despite a bunch of tourists and loose dogs (it was allowed), there was still this absolutely lovely silence present. It’s strange to see something so massive, but in a silent setup. Wonderful!
If it wasn’t for my other health issues, I would’ve stayed up there for a few hours, but now decided to head back down in about an hour. On my way back the Dover castle could be seen very visibly.
Finally I was back at the the Visitor Centre, which I entered to buy some souvenirs. Also enjoyed a cold drink at the terrace outside the centre, and after that it was time to order a taxi and get back to the hotel, where I relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Day 3: A Charging Day
My feet were killing me, by both aching and being totally out of energy. But there I was, on day 3, and because I was not going to just stay inside for the whole day I got myself up and out.
This day I just wondered through the town’s wet streets from the previous night’s rain. Managed to snap some shots of the local historical buildings, including a cathedral and the town council.
After a while it was too much for the legs, and I just went back to the hotel. So maybe some 90% of the day went at the hotel, partly sleeping the fatigue off, partly just wathing the telly or playing with my iPad.
I now had good time to pack up my things for the next day’s departure towards London. Pack up, maybe draw a little (below) and finally get a good night sleep.
Day 4: Shortbread and Polar Bear
Time to get my bag and go walk around the town while waiting for my train to London.
The first stop I made was a little cafe I think was named Baguette Ella, at 3 King Street, to get some coffee with a sweet and big piece of shortbread. It was fresh and yummy, and totally enough for my breakfast (I usually don’t eat anything in the mornings).
After sitting in the terrace for a while I decided to check out the Dover Museum, which was conveniently located nearby.
The museum itself was free, though considering the amount of historical stuff they had inside, I would’ve gladly paid a little entrance fee for it.
The exhibition was basically in two areas, the first one about Bronze Age Boats and the second one of the history of the town and it’s surroundings.
For myself the town history was the more interesting part, and I was especially pleased on the detailed miniaturized versions of Dover seen from the sea.
There was naturally parts of World War history in the exhibition, too, including a gas mask and uniforms of soldiers and nurses.
Last but not least, I found a stuffed polar bear from the hallway. Quite an astonishing sight, and apparently it was not killed just for hunting’s sake, but put to sleep because of some medical condition if I understood the description label correctly.
From the museum I proceeded towards the train station, had time to taste a pint at the hotel bar opposite to the station, and finally got onto my train which was some 15min late.
Chose to sit on the other side of the coach, to see some of the shore lines. The hour went quickly just watching outside, and finally I was back at St Pancras.
Because of increasing problems with my right leg, I chose to take a taxi to my hotel. The Earl’s Court Garden was once again a budget hotel choice for me, but in this one the stairs were even worst for my leg(s) than in the Dover Park Inn. Well, only one night in this and I’m gone for my return trip to Finland.
Day 5: Planes, Heathrow and Finland
Exiting the hotel at noon, I took a walk to the Earl’s Court station. From there, a Piccadilly line to Hatton’s Cross station to see if I could access the little bridge there which is popular amongst plane spotters.
Well, the bridge was there indeed, but my legs wouldn’t cooperate any more so I didn’t even try to get on top of it. So no spotting here, and while my legs shouted mercy, I ditched the idea to continue to Heathrow with the tube. Instead, took a taxi once again.
In the end it was the right choice, since at the Heathrow’s end I did have some of my energy back, and walked to couple of areas outside the terminal to spot some planes. Not photographable areas, but enough for satisfying my need of seeing something fly :).
From there to the terminal 3, the regular drill of security, taxfree and spotting & photographing some planes before my plane leaves.
The return flight was with Finnair also, and included some spectacular thunderstorm views. In Helsinki Airport there happened to be a accessibility service staff member at the gate but no one for him to help. So of course I lifted a ride from him and got back to the terminal lobby conviniently without further damaging the foot.
A decent trip with the main objective accomplished — to see the White Cliffs of Dover. I do recommend the sight for anyone who loves a) the nature, b) magnificent views and c) the sea. Lovely!
I could imagine myself going through the British shore lines more in the future — I’m sure there’s a lot more to see, since I like smaller towns, sea and everything which comes with the combination.
At the same time it was also the final journey which clarified that yes, I really do need to choose more accessible hotels in the future, hotels with a lift and preferably with an entrance on a flat surface instead of any hills or other ascents.
In other words, my muscle weaknesses & coordination problems are getting worst. I think it’s also time for a refreshed round of visits to various doctors, neurologists etc. I’ll keep you up to date of the process.