Kent, UK - April 2008

Day 3 - Dover Castle

Tuesday 29th April

Since Sandy was up half the night last night with Jennifer, it seemed appropriate that it would be me this time around should the need arise. Sure enough, come 3 in the morning, Jennifer was up again with another fit of coughing. Sandy already went to the doctor last week about this problem and was told that it was a virus that just had to work its way through the system and that there was nothing that we could be done. Anyway, I took her downstairs, Jennifer not Sandy, gave her some milk and ended up sleeping in the downstairs spare bedroom whilst trying to get her to settle again. I did manage to get some quality sleep eventually after Sandy relieved me at around six thirty, having gotten up because Joey’s internal clock had switched him on.

By the time I was up and about, the breakfast routine had already played out but I managed to sneak a couple of rolls before we all decided on what to do for the day. This turned out to be a trip to Dover Castle, some three quarters of an hour’s drive from here. Since the weather was surprisingly clear again, it seemed like a good idea. We called ahead to find out about admission prices and a weekly tourist pass for Liana & Anton. When we arrived, it turned out to be only half the cost we were led to believe so they went for this option in the end.

Dover Castle is situated, as you might expect, on [and indeed in] the white cliffs of Dover. As English Heritage sites go, it’s quite a big one and is sprawled out over a wide area with lots of gradients. Pushing the heavily laden double buggy with 2 kids and all the bags up and down some extremely steep gradients fell largely down to me. I would be thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day through all the huffing and puffing.

Apart from the 11th century castle and various battlements and surrounding buildings, one of the main attractions is the secret war-time tunnels tour. An elaborate labyrinth of man-made tunnels was excavated under the castle grounds during wartime and in support of the war-effort. Tours of twenty or so people at a time take you through what is effectively a museum of war-time control rooms and hospital facilities and the like. It was never going to be easy keeping 4 young children entertained for the hour-long tour. This was punctuated by us having to extract our 2 kids from the opening video presentation in a frantic attempt to retain everyone’s sanity because they both choose this particular moment to break out into fits of crying. After just fifteen minutes into the tour, Sandy had given up and arranged for the eight of us to be led to the exit. With another 2-3 kilometres of tunnels still to explore, it was probably the right decision at the end of the day. Restless kids aside, it was a very enlightening tour and I would have liked to complete it. Perhaps another day.

Having explored the castle grounds a bit further, we eventually made our way to the main castle keep, where the kids were all promptly dressed up in knights and fair maiden costumes and allowed to run riot inside the main exhibition. With hidden rooms and winding corridors, it was often difficult keeping track of all four kids, as they sprinted off into different directions, but at the same time they thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the cameras were agin working overtime. It was a real treat to see the kids enjoy themselves as much as this. It is their holiday too, after all.

Even though there didn’t seem to be too many people about, Dover Castle was a bit busier than they had expected today and this became evident in the various cafes dotted around the place that had quickly exhausted most of their sundries. Perhaps it was the crispy snacks and cakes that we ended up feeding them as a result but they were definitely becoming more and more difficult to contain by around mid-afternoon so we decided to call it a day. It was also extremely windy today and the temperature was by now starting to bite. Fortunately, TomTom knew how to take us to the nearest exit [I love TomTom!] but, unfortunately, it didn’t predict that the gate at that particular exist would be locked [I hate TomTom!]. We managed to find our way out of the complex eventually and even several further road blocks in town didn’t restrict our making our way home by too much either. Along the way home, we passed a wild animal park that we may end up visiting either tomorrow or later on in the week.

By the time we had navigated back to Willow Cottage, all the adults were about ready to take a nap. Since the kids had already done so during the journey, however, and were now stirring back to life, this was sadly out of the question. Buggar!

Whilst preparing our evening meal, the owners popped in again to check that we had everything we needed. This cottage and a few others in the immediate vicinity are their first foray into rented holiday accommodation and they seem to be very keen to make sure that we’re all happy and settled in, which was nice.

The girls cooked this evening’s roast chicken dinner and the men cleaned up and took care of the kids whilst they nipped into town for another supermarket run. Fortunately, the kids went down with little fuss, probably because they were just as exhausted as us adults are. Whether that means they’ll be able to sleep through the night remains to be seen again. Once can only hope.

Another session in front of the laptop pondering the day’s photographic takings rounded out the evening again. Our holiday routine is now becoming well established.