London and Beyond: 1997

Excursions II

On one of our excursions from London, we traveled to Canterbury and to Dover.  At the Cathedral we found a modern-day set of miniature Pilgrims on their way to practice for whatever pageant was planned for the week.  A Recommendation for visiting the Cathedral:  Rent the Audiophone Guide; this is one place that the information given adds substantially to the enjoyment of the visit.
On several of our early trips to Europe, we took the ferry from Dover to Calais; and on each of those trips, we always looked up to the highest point on the clifftop and wondered about the fascinating castle that was perched there.  On this trip we finally had the opportunity to visit Dover Castle.  The fortifications alone are enough to interest any history buff, but for those who are intrigued by the study of World War II, there's a very special treat.  At the castle, the visitor can now visit the series of tunnels carved into the cliffside that were used as an Allied communication center and hospital during World War II.  This walking tour takes the group up and down through the tunnels and lasts almost an hour.  It has only been in the last few years that the location and use of this facility has been declassified, and even today, not all the tunnels are open.
They said it couldn't be done, but the Eurostar makes many things possible.  Leaving London immediately after breakfast and returning about midnight, we were able to do an amazing whirlwind tour of Paris that included visits to the Louvre, Notre Dame, and Versailles and still left enough time for the students to take the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower!  
At the ticket office for the Eurostar in Waterloo Station, the traveler can buy metro passes and museum passes for Paris that really speed up things once you arrive.  We were off the Eurostar and into Notre Dame within 30 minutes of our arrival.  Although the students regretted having to rush and complained several times that we were walking too fast for them, all of them later listed their trip to Paris as the highlight of the tour.  And all of them expressed disappointment at the Chunnel Experience; I think everyone expects to see a big opening in the ground and to see something during the crossing.  The nothingness of it all is hard to explain ahead of time.  One of the students slept through the crossing both directions; we tried to explain to her that she probably saw more than any of us did, but she never believed us.
Versailles was surprisingly uncrowded when we arrived; perhaps afternoon is the best time to visit.  We were able to take our time in the rooms without being pushed along by the crowds.  On the way out to Versailles, we suffered one near-disaster:  After purchasing the tickets for the RER and finding our way to the right track, I discovered that my wallet was missing!  When I retraced my steps to the ticket counter, I couldn't find anything.  At the moment of my greatest despair, one of the workmen came out of a room and signaled to me.  Although he didn't speak English and I forgot any French I ever knew, he managed to communicate to me that another worker had found it and that they had been trying to find me!!  Never again will I allow anyone to speak unkindly of the Parisians!!

City Visits Excursions I
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