Welcoming White Cliffs

Monday Tuesday Mantra

Dover? Stay over! … Dover? Stay over! … Dover? Stay over! …

There’s plenty to recommend in Dover and the towns of southeast England.

Well, here I am spending the holiday season completely ashore in southeastern England (for full details of where and why, look for my autobiography, Judi’s Truly, Truly Bizarre Life, at bookstores … probably never).

This whole experience has been an eye-opener and one thing’s for sure: The next time I disembark in Dover (or ‘disembowel,’ as the non-cruise-enthusiast friend I’m staying with says), I’m certainly not going to hightail it immediately to the airport.

Dover is sprucing itself up for the arrival of Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and other lines this spring, forkin’ out a ton of money — millions to re-do the roof alone. As I write this, attendants of restaurants, pubs (oh, yeah … lots of pubs around here), and retail outlets are scurrying around the extravagant Cruise Terminal 1, preparing to make their contribution to the port’s first ever Christmas event — a shindig that includes music, decorations, a Christmas Market and a real ice rink. All in the shadow of the wowwowwow of Dover Castle and the White Cliffs of … you guessed it.

But it’s not just Dover that makes Dover so darn awesome. Practically spittin’ distance from the port, there are other English towns that hold so much charm and history (and pubs … did I mention pubs?) that you could spend a week here completely awed, enthralled … and real, real tipsy.

The medieval Canterbury. Jeez Louise, why have I not visited sooner?? Canterbury Cathedral, a place of worship for over 1,400 years, is a knock out with crazy gorgeous architecture, amazing history, and spooky stuff like the site of the murder of Thomas Becket. Plus, the town has enough cobblestone streets, quirky little shops and, yes, pubs to delight even those who steadfastly swat away the history bug. Judi Cuervo at the Walpole Bay Hotel(For lunch, stop at the nearby Ambrette — incredible Indian fusion cuisine … something I never knew existed … and dive into the lamb stew, or anything else on the menu, in fact).

In nearby Margate, the Walpole Bay Hotel is a journey back in time with the rooms, public spaces, restaurant and bars casting guests and visitors into a bygone era, surrounding them with objects, art and décor from centuries past. The tiny town of St. Margaret’s at Cliffe includes the 10th century St. Margaret of Antioch church with a sign at the door instructing worshipers to call for the key at the general store if they’d like to visit but find the doors locked. Sandwich is not positioned between dual towns named Bread, as we Americans might suspect, St. Margaret's at Cliffebut is a stone’s throw from Dover and worth a visit simply to see the magnificent and ancient homes and structures.

Craving some castles? The Dover area has the mother lode: Dover, Deal, Walmer, Canterbury and more. Swear, you can’t swing a cat around here without hitting the ruins of castles and fortresses.

The next time you find Dover on your itinerary, don’t be so quick to skedaddle home or scoot up to London. Check out the local sites and attractions. You might just find the most fascinating and endearing things about England just minutes from the bottom of your gangway.

— Judi Cuervo

Photos: RF, Judi Cuervo

Sign up for weekly cruise news, fun contests, and exclusive offers delivered right to your inbox!

Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.