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Dover is an easy day trip from London and well worth the train ride. We caught the 10:10 train from St Pancras and made it to the Dover Priory station by 11:15. The taxi from the train station to the White Cliffs of Dover Visitors Center cost £7 and took 15 minutes. We ate lunch then headed out for a hike around the area. The visitors brochure listed the Top Five Things to Do while in Dover:

  1. Watch the hustle and bustle of the World’s busiest passenger port  ~ check
  2. Enjoy a gentle stroll along the famous White Cliffs of Dover   ~  check
  3. Catch a glimpse of France on a clear day ~ sadly, despite the warm temps and sunshine it was too misty to see France across the channel
  4. Experience a wonder of Victorian engineering at the South Foreland Lighthouse  ~  check
  5. Discover the rare plants and insects that make the cliff top their home   ~ don’t think they’re rare, but I loved the poppy fields

Dover Cliffs

White Cliffs of Dover

Dover beach view

The cliffs are gorgeous and we lucked out with a sunny and warm day to enjoy a two mile hike to the South Foreland Lighthouse.

Dover foot Path Sign

The pathways are marked with the purple or pink trail signs. We had no problem finding our way but I can imagine on a heavily misty day, it might be difficult to know where you’re going.

Dover Light House

The South Foreland Lighthouse was built in 1843 and guided boats safely around the dangerous Goodwin Sands. It also claims to be the first lighthouse to use electric light.

Dover view from lighthouse
View from the lighthouse

Dover Poppy Fields
Poppy Fields

Dover looking over the edge

Looking over the White Cliffs of Dover

Dover Gull nesting
Seagull nesting

Dover Gull and Rocks
Along the rocky coastline

Dover Ladder to beach
Climbing down the ladder to the beach area

Dover ladder to the beach
Logan on the ladder to the beach

Dover Lighthouse desk
Desk items at the Lighthouse

As always, we love exploring the English countryside…

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Stonehenge

I FINALLY made it to Stonehenge ~ it’s been on my “travel must-do” list for many, many years. There are more questions than answers regarding the reason Stonehenge was built. Lots of speculation but no definitive answers. The explanations for it being built range from “temple for human sacrifice” to “astronomy.” Due to the alignment of the stones, worship to lunar and solar beings is most likely (a Druid Temple). The circle is aligned with the midsummer sunrise, the midwinter sunset, and the most southerly rising and northerly setting of the moon.

More is known about the construction of Stonehenge. The original Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge which began about 3,100 BC. It consists of a ditch, bank, and the Aubrey holes. Aubrey holes refers to a ring of 56 mysterious circular cavities at Stonehenge and named after John Aubrey who discovered and recorded them in 1666.

The second stage of Stonehenge is thought to have occurred in 2150 BC. According to the Stonehenge website,82 bluestones from the Preseli Mountains in SW Wales were dragged to Milford Haven and then loaded onto rafts. These 4 ton stones were taken by water down the coast and then up the rivers Avon and Frome. They were then dragged overland again to outside Warminster in Wiltshire. Then, the final journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then from Salisbury Avon river to west Amesbury. In all, it was about 240 miles.

The third stage: The outer circle was built around 2100 BC using Sarsen stones, which were from the Avebury area located about 25 miles north of Stonehenge. Some of these stones weigh 50 tons but the average weight is 25 tons. These stones couldn’t be transported by water so they had to use sleds. It is thought that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull one stone.

The final changes took place around 1500 BC when the bluestones were rearranged in a horseshoe and circle that is what we see today. Originally, there were around 60 stones in the bluestone circle but these were removed or broken up long ago. A few stumps are below ground level.

Experts estimate it took over 30 million working hours to built Stonehenge. Whew ~ I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Stonehenge Closeup

Stonehenge II

Years ago visitors were allowed to walk amongst the stones but, due to the ever-increasing number of tourists, it was fenced off in 1978. Currently, there’s a walkway around the stone structure which still allows a very close up view. There is a parking area within easy walking distance to the stones but a new visitor’s center is being built and, once that is completed, visitors will have to take a shuttle to the site. English Heritage manages the area and hopefully they will continue to protect and preserve it.  There is a charge to enter the area (or you can peek in for free through the fence). If you plan to go, click here for all the latest rates and information.

Stonehenge sheep

Stonehenge Yellow fields

Surrounding Stonehenge is the beautiful English countryside with the yellow fields in bloom and, of course, sheep.

S Narrow Road

S graveyard

S Church

After Stonehenge, we visited a lovely English town called Sturminster Newton (Dorset County). To me, the town was quintessentially English with its thatched roof homes, narrow roads, old graveyards, stone fences, cute shops/pubs, etc.

S Church II

S Wall

This was an interesting wall ~ didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the town but interesting nonetheless.

At the local church, the minister happened to be outside greeting people as they came up for an event. I enjoyed walking around this quaint town and it reminded me that, as much as I love living in Central London, it’s so nice to get out to the countryside for a reprieve from the hustle and bustle.

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Gold Entrance Gate, Palace of Versailles, France

Gold Entrance Gate, Palace of Versailles, France

Versailles Gardens

My first recollection of the Palace of Versailles was in Junior High history class when we studied World War One. The signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended WWI, took place at the palace on 28th June 1919. Since then, I’ve read about and seen numerous documentaries about the French Revolution and, of course, the famous (or is it infamous) Marie Antoinette.

Versailles was the focal point of France’s Royal court from 1682 until 1789. It’s easy to envision it as a Royal Playground ~ Opulence is how most people describe it. It’s that and then some. It was built by Louis XIV because he wanted to remove himself and his courtiers from the intrigues of politics in Paris. It housed over 6,000 courtiers and, from what I’ve read, the gossip, jealousies and back stabbing would make a viper pit more enjoyable. By removing the nobles from Paris, it made Versailles very insular. That’s why I’m fascinated by General Lafayette who plays a part in the history of the palace of Versailles.

Marquis de Lafayette (Gilbert du Motier) went to Versailles at the age of 17. Even though he had a huge fortune and ties by his marriage to a powerful family close to Louis XVI, his independent spirit led him to a military career rather than a highly sought after court position.  He was impassioned with the American Revolution and secretly organized a voyage to the New World against the king’s wishes. Quite a bold move for such a young man. By the age of 20, Lafayette was a Major-General in the American army and a close friend of George Washington’s. I’ve read that George Washington treated him like a son. Lafayette helped the Colonial Army win several battles, including the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 ~ losing this battle led England to grant independence to the Americans. After his experience in the Americas, Lafayette returned to Versailles and was welcomed by the King and Queen. But the ideas of liberty he learned while in the US were not forgotten and in June 1789, he drafted the first Declaration of the Rights of Man, a document closely based on the Declaration of Independence. On 14 July, 1789, the storming of the Bastille occurred and he was appointed (again against the Kings wishes) as Commander of the French National Guard. He was responsible for keeping order in Paris and so he played a large role in the French Revolution’s early days. Although he was part of the revolution, he did save Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette when people of Paris overran the château and killed the bodyguards defending the queen’s apartment. Although he saved them that day, he couldn’t keep them from being executed by guillotine in 1793. He was viewed as straddling the fence by both sides and fled France. In 2002, Lafayette was posthumously made an honorary citizen of the United States.

But let’s get back to the gorgeous Palace:

Versailles Hall of Mirrors (2)

Versailles Hall of mirrors

The Hall of Mirrors is a 235-foot ballroom lined with 17 floor to ceiling mirrors. The cost of these mirrors were staggering and, like the building of the rest of the Palace, the expenses drained the Royal coffers and sadly that meant not much left for the running of the country. It’s a very impressive room with chandeliers, statues, ceiling frescos and windows which open up to the gardens.

Chapel at Palace of Versailles, France

Chapel at Palace of Versailles, France

Louis XVI (age 16) and Marie Antoinette (age 15) were married in the beautiful White and Gold Royal Chapel in 1770. We weren’t allowed into the chapel which was OK by me since there were so many people visiting the Palace. It was nice to see the Chapel without anyone in it.

There were large paintings throughout such as this one :

Coronation Painting at the Palace of Versailles

Coronation Painting at the Palace of Versailles

One of the ceiling paintings at Palace of Versailles

One of the ceiling paintings at Palace of Versailles

I was especially enthralled with the frescos on the ceiling ~ so much so I got a neck ache from looking up for so long. They are stunning!

Versailles The Battles Gallery

The Battle Gallery was interesting but, as I looked at the names on the marble busts, it was obvious I need to study a little more about French history because a lot of the names were unfamiliar to me.

Large Fireplace at Palace of Versailles

Large Fireplace at Palace of Versailles

Versailles the Queens Bedroom

The Queen’s Bedchamber ~ not very cozy!

Statue of Artemis (Diana), Palace of Versailles

Statue of Artemis (Diana), Palace of Versailles

Versailles View of the gardens

Looking out to the Gardens ~ so beautiful.

Gardens at the Palace of Versailles

Gardens at the Palace of Versailles

Statue in the Gardens  of Versailles

Statue in the Gardens of Versailles

Versailles Gasrdens and pond

Versailles Gardens Little angels on garden urn

Loved these plant urns ~ unfortunately, they weren’t for sale in the gift shop.

It truly was sensory overload for me. I got to see a lot of the Palace and a little of the gardens but I feel I only touched the surface. We were limited on time and both of us didn’t want to miss the gardens so I felt a bit rushed the whole time I was at the Palace. I’m calling this visit a preview and will leave it on the “return visit” list. I would love to go back sometime when I can spend a day or two exploring the Palace.

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