Two Cities in England: Isle of Portland and Dover

2023 HAL World Cruise

Saturday & Sunday, April 15 & 16, 2023

Well, this was an unhappy situation!!!  The dockworkers in France went on strike to protest the government’s changes to the pension system.  And so, our stops in Brest on 4/14 and Le Havre on 4/16 were cancelled.  Instead, we sailed directly to Portland, England (keeping ahead of a storm that followed behind) and spent the night anchored in the harbor as we awaited the departure of any other ship currently on the dock.  However, no other ships will leave the dock until the storm clears!!!  So, it takes till morning before we can dock (which is our original schedule; meaning that we have basically spent a day at sea slowly sailing to Portland and then spending the night anchored in the harbor)!!!  But that works out OK for us.  We have a tour arranged for Saturday 4/15 and we are docked in time to make our meet time!!! 

So, let us tell you about Portland!!!

Portland is an isle in the English Channel and along with neighboring Weymouth is a resort area in Dorset County with popular beaches.  Salisbury with the famous Cathedral is nearby and is home to a copy of the Magna Carta.  We will stop there and view both the Cathedral and the Magna Carta!!!  Stonehenge is, of course, the main attraction in the area!!!  And Stonehenge is where we began our tour. 

Here are the photos:

We awoke at sunrise Saturday morning; pulled up anchor; and nestled to the dock.
Shortly after docking, …..
…..we boarded the shuttle and headed to the meeting point for our tour. And that is when we discovered that Portland was more than just a beach resort area. As soon as we set out into the port, we discovered some of the rich history of the area…..
…..Portland Harbour was used as a D-Day embarkation point for personnel camped in Marshalling Area D. Later, Portland also hosted a Port Workshop, a Field Hospital and a Prisoner of War Cage for enemy troops captured in Normandy.
We learned this D-Day Centre opened in March 2017. This facility was not on our tour schedule; but we will visit the next time we come to Portland!! It is an interactive facility where visitors are encouraged to touch and try out the displays!!
On we go!!! Stonehenge was our first stop on the tour. We learned the stones are one of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom. The site is considered a cultural icon and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The site is owned by the Crown.
The shuttle then dropped us off far-enough away to allow us time to contemplate the purpose of these stones as we walked to the site.
Archaeologists report that Stonehenge was built between 3000 BC and 2000 BC. Human bones dated as early as 3000BC indicate Stonehenge could have been intended as a burial ground.
Stonehenge is remarkable because these sarsen stones have been carefully shaped into rectangular blocks with simple joints that lock the stones together. Very much unlike other stone circles where the the stones remain in their natural state.
Those who built Stonehenge lived in houses like these recreations based on the archaeological findings at Durrington Walls (about a mile away) Animal bones and pottery indicate the homes date to about 2500BC and suggest this was a gathering place for community meetings or celebrations.
From Stonehenge, we moved on and drove to Salisbury. We did not stop in the town, but it does appear charming. Maybe next time!?!
Our second stop was Salisbury Cathedral. Begun in 1220, it took 38 years to complete. It is designed in the shape of a cross. The spire was constructed in 1320 and heightened to 404 feet in 1561. Today, it remains the tallest spire in Britain.
The Cathedral is home to the best of 4 surviving copies of the Magna Carta. Elias Dereham, who was a canon of Salisbury and later supervised the Cathedral’s construction, had been a participant at Runnymede in 1215 when the King signed the Magna Carta. He was one of the canons tasked with distributing some of the original Magna Carta copies.
The Chapter House was constructed as a serene place for key Cathedral staff to meet. It now houses the Magna Carta in a dignified and easily navigable line through an enclosure that protects the copy form light or touch. But what, exactly, is the Magna Carta?
Well, in the eyes of the Church and a group of rebellious barons, King John ruled as a tyrant. Having forced the king to the negotiating table at Runnymede, he agreed to the baron’s demands. On June 15, 1215, the Magna Carta was signed into law assuring the rights of the English people against the severe rule of King John. The Magna Carta forms the foundation of “rule of law” and is is used as a basis in the constitutions of many countries!!! This is one powerful document!!!

As we departed the Cathedral, we were treated to a rehearsal by the Cathedral choir!!! Yes, that’s them at the front–look closely–we didn’t have to see them; we could hear their wonderful sound throughout the Cathedral. Now how wonderful is that!!!
At this point, we headed back to Weymouth for a final look before continuing to Portland for our departure.
The harbor is popular with its walkway, shops, and restaurants.
But of course, the beach is the main attraction!!!
And then, there’s George III and his First Bathing Hut. This column on wheels was used as a changing room for bathing in the sea. The King’s “people” would wheel him into the sea while he changed into bathing togs. After his dip; they would wheel him back out where he would emerge fully clothed and presentable!!!

We departed Weymouth,…..
…..entered Portland, and admired the the Portland Bill Light.
We stopped at the Lobster Pot for their famous Cream Scones and Jam…..
…..oh yeah, we took scones back to the ship to share with others!!!
We say, ” goodbye” to Portland…..
…..and sail away listening to a local choir as they sing songs of farewell.

Next, we sailed to Dover, England.

Dover is the substitute port replacing Le Havre.  We had looked forward to the ship’s tour to the D-Day beaches but realized that Dover provided a different opportunity for WWII history!!!  We could visit the Secret Wartime Tunnels (underground tunnels) at Dover Castle where Operation Dynamo: Rescue from Dunkirk was planned and directed.

Here are those photos:

On Sunday morning we awake to the sight of the White Cliffs!!!
We can see Dover Castle from the ship. Now Dover was not on our original schedule. We had no pre-planned activities in mind; so when the opportunity arose, we opted to tour the Dover Tunnels that figured so prominently in WWII.
We took the ship’s shuttle to Dover Castle’s main gate and walked into the complex. The shuttle continued into town before returning to the ship and continuing the loop.
The land now occupied by the Castle was, 2000 years ago, occupied by ramparts of an iron age hillfort constructed long before the Roman conquest of 43AD.
These two buildings date from that period. The Roman Pharos (Lighthouse, right) was built by the Romans in 120AD. The Church of St Mary In Castro (Left) was built around 1000AD in a fortress constructed to defend against the Vikings.
Now this is all very interesting, but we came to see the tunnels!!! There are two complexes. The Underground Hospital and the Operation Dynamo ( Rescue from Dunkirk). We started with Dynamo, the rescue /evacuation operation of 1940. This tells of the planning and execution of the perilous rescue operation to bring Allied troops back to England.
We concluded with the Underground Hospital which tells the tale of a Dunkirk survivor, successfully receiving treatment in this facility. The rooms are all recreated with salvaged equipment and gear. (The same is true of the Dynamo facility)

After completing the two tours, we stopped for lunch at the local café: bangers and mash with peas and vegetables.

Rog had the local amber ale.

Sandy had a chardonnay.

After lunch, we spent the rest of the day touring more of the Castle grounds.
The complex is huge. It is a fortress, a castle, a museum, a park, and a national treasure!!!!

From the Tower, we could see the ship.
Time to board the shuttle!!!
We never had a chance to tour the city of Dover. Obviously….next time!!!!
At the Castle, we boarded an empty coach. Now, we are picking up more cruisers in town.
These misting rings are unique to Dover and meant to be an attraction. One is encouraged to walk through the rings!!!
Shortly after boarding the MS Zuiderdam, we set sail for our next port-of-call, Zeebrugge, Belgium.
And we said, “good-bye” to the White Cliffs of Dover!!!

On Monday, April 17th, we arrived in Zeebrugge, Belgium. 

Your RovingRaconteurs did not leave the ship.  We had come down with colds during our day in Dover and chose to mend before disembarking the ship.  If you would like to see a little of Zeebrugge, please type “Zeebrugge” into the search box above.  That will bring up our trip to Zeebrugge in 2019.

We will continue the narrative in Amsterdam!!!