Day 8, Drive Dover to Salisbury, May 29

Yesterday, we picked up a rental car in Dover, so today was Steve’s first driving in England. NO problems, just seemed to take an awfully long time!   Below is our hotel for the night, Grasmere House Hotel, very nice and great view of Salisbury Cathedral from the back porch.

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We then walked into Salisbury to see the Cathedral, see some sights and find some dinner!

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The largest thatched house we had ever seen!

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Salisbury Cathedral has England’s tallest spire (404 feet) and largest green field (called a “close”) surrounding it.  It is quite impressive and was built in only 38 years (1220-1258), considered astonishing for the Middle Ages.  We arrived late, so were not able to see the interior.

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Great sculptures on the “close”, near the Cathedral!

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On to Stonehenge tomorrow!!

Day 7, Dover, England, May 28, 2016

Now on to Dover!  We chose to start with the Dover Castle, built in the 1180’s by Henry II, on the iconic white cliffs of Dover.

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We arrived on World War II weekend with a 1940 display of WWII encampments and displays.

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Henry II’s Great Tower

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Bread bakery above and wine casks below!

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Henry II’s grand throne and I was “Queen” for at least 20 seconds!!  LOL!!

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The mechanisms for drawing water into the castle.

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The King’s chambers and crown

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The Royal Chapel

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The dining hall above and a galley slave, below!!  LOL!

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The Dover Castle also has 26 meters of Wartime Tunnels underneath the castle, including a hospital.  The tunnels were used in the Rescue and evacuation of troops from Dunkirk in May 1940 and WWII protection of England from the advancing Germans from France.

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Leaving Dover Castle, we walked to the Cliffs of Dover.  Below are some of the coastal areas.

DSC00227 DSC00228 DSC00229 DSC00237 Great views from the cliffs!  They are over 5 miles long and yes, we thought we saw a piece of France on the other side of the English Channel!  The cliffs are composed of chalk and accentuated with streaks of black flint.  Quite impressive!

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Very enjoyable day and learned a lot of history!!

Day 6, Folkestone, England, May 27, 2016

Taking our leave of Greenwich, we hopped a train heading for our next destination, Folkestone, closest we could get to Dover. However, we discovered it did not GO to our destination, but stopped in Dover, then we had to take a bus! The conductor took our tickets and gave us CASH back for the transfer!  NEVER would have thought that would happen!!  Below is the hotel in Folkestone, that we stayed in (supposed to be shaped like a ship!).  NOTICE the water and the boats FLOATING!!

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BELOW is the result of their tide changes in the time it took us to walk to and from dinner, so this can occur EVERY 12 hours!!  We were flabbergasted!!  IF I looked out and saw our boat like that, I would be hysterical!!  AND since she only has one keel, she would not be standing up, but lying on her side!  (And of course, the mud would be nasty!!)

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Couldn’t resist!  Guess the little one was looking for his mommy!!  LOL!

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Above and below is the oldest church in Folkestone, the parish church of St Mary and St Eanswythe (an Anglo Saxon princess, daughter of Eadbald, the King of Kent.  She built the first religious house for women in this area).

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Then we walked around town, seeing the sights!  This Road of Remembrance is a memorial to those who have served and the poppies are in memory of those who died.

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So much more laid back then in London, it was a great break from the bustle of a big town!

 

Marina Ragusa, Sicily

Marina de Ragusa impressions after our first ten days here……………..

We selected this marina to keep the boat for the winter for a couple of reasons. First, it is cheap. The marina is about 40% cheaper than what we were paying in Texas. It is also a very safe harbor and well protected from the seas and weather of the Mediterranean. To add credence to this, we had a very strong front blow though a couple of days ago. Some people told us they saw 50+ knots on their instruments, although the highest gust we saw was 47. Although we did move a little, the marina was safe from the very heavy seas pounding on the breakwater.

The primary dock of the marina

The primary dock of the marina

General view of Marina Ragusa

General view of Marina Ragusa

We arrived at twilight Friday on week ago. It was dark by the time we had dropped the mainsail and readied the boat for docking. We spoke to the marina staff by radio and they told us to come on in and a member of the staff would meet us in a dinghy to lead us to our berth. The entrance was well lit, so we had no trouble getting into the marina. A half hour later we were made fast to the dock and ready for showers and food. There is a little pizza place here close to the dock so we went over to get something to eat. I ordered a pizza with cheese, sausage, tomato sauce, and mushrooms. We were hungry, so I ordered the “Max” size. While it was being prepared we got a bottle of local wine. The pizza arrived and Laura and I were shocked at the size. It was like a manhole cover. The square table we were sitting on was completely covered by this thing, so we moved to a larger table. We ate our fill and took half of it back to the boat for lunch the next day. It was delicious! The cheese and tomato sauce were much more flavorful than we get in the states. It was one of the best pizzas we’ve had. Total cost for a monster pizza and a bottle of wine – 23 euros.

Marina de Ragusa is also a very social place. I think the marina here has a capacity of over 800 boats and it is almost full. A lot of these boats are owned by Brits, hence there is a huge English-speaking contingent here. They have organized numerous clubs and regular meetings, including the Happy Hookers (a knitting group), a writer’s club for established or aspiring authors, a book club for those who like to read, and occasional sightseeing trips, wine tastings, and dinners. Each morning at 9:00 there is a radio net on the VHF radio where they announce activities for the day. There always seems to be plenty to do.

The afternoon two days ago we had a “Rock the Dock” party on one of the boats. Richard plays a very good rock and blues guitar, and had sort of a Karaoke machine for the drums and bass. He played a lot of classics (Red House, Knocking on Heavens Door (Guns ‘N Roses version), Thunderstruck, and of course, Free Bird). Another cruiser named Stefano from France joined him and he was just as good as Richard. Stefano teaches guitar and is renowned enough that he mas made not only a reputation for himself but enough money to go cruising. Together, these guys were awesome. We had a great time!

One thing about the marina, it is very spread out. This translates as a long hike from our boat to the washrooms. There are two facilities in the marina. The closest is about a third of a mile away, and the other is slightly over a half mile hike. These are one-way distances and we have measured them a couple of times. At the first little twinge of your “system” you need to get ready for the walk to the restroom because by the time you get there, you’ll be glad you didn’t wait. This helps keep us in shape!

The town is very nice and very family oriented. On Saturday evening the Piazza (an open plaza) is full of adults talking and the kids kicking soccer balls or riding bicycles and scooters. Dinner is not until late – 8:00 is the Early Bird. On Sunday afternoon the family dinner takes all afternoon. The restaurants are full of families sharing great food, bottles of wine, and the enjoyment of being together. It’s really great to see.

Ragusa main Piazza Sunday about noon

Ragusa main Piazza Sunday about noon

We have been to Mass twice here and both times it has been PACKED. Like “standing room only” full. This is one big difference between Italy and the other places we have been. Church is much more attended here than in Portugal, Gibraltar, or Spain.

There is a fresh market each Tuesday. It is about half produce and half clothing and household items. Last week we bought fresh tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, a bag of potatoes, and a pineapple. We also bought dried dates, dried tomatoes, some confectionary that was a mixture of shortbread and pistachios with a chocolate center. It was awesome! I also bought a two liter plastic water bottle of red wine for 3.50 euros (call it $3.75 US). It is actually okay wine for the price. I’d like to know where it is made, but I think the guy told me it was local Sicilian wine.

To summarize, I would say that we have really enjoyed our first ten days here.  The marina is great, but the best surprise has been the Italian people and the community.  We will be able to enjoy this for another three weeks before heading back to Texas for Christmas and visiting.

Steve