THE BLOG
08/15/2016 05:45 pm ET Updated Aug 16, 2017

Historic, Strategic Dover -- Facing the English Channel

Dover is a godforsaken little town with piles of transit energy and mountains of history. Sometimes I like to stay in places that aren't cute (and affluent because of their cuteness). Dover certainly fits that bill. And after dinner, I enjoy walking the long way home -- along the port's beach.

Being mindful of what's around you enriches any walk in Europe. Here, I'm thinking about the ancient Roman lighthouse that caps the white cliffs. From the top of their lighthouse, the Romans would burn wet wood by day (for more smoke) and dry wood by night (for a brighter fire) to send their signals.

Much more recently, in World War II, those same white cliffs also protected Churchill's men as they furiously defended their skies against the Nazis in the Battle of Britain. Hermann Göring would eyeball these cliffs from France, 23 miles away, aching to cross the English Channel. And it was "all hands on deck" as every boat owner in town mobilized to rescue more than 200,000 troops stranded in Dunkerque (or, as the Brits call it, "Dunkirk").

Later, back at my hotel's bar, I chatted with a local about how Brexit will make the English Channel just a little wider. Talking with him (and many others throughout my trip), I get the impression that most Brits seem to be -- if not in favor of the idea -- at least getting used to it.


This is Day 82 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I'm reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more on my travel blog.

(This post originally appeared at blog.ricksteves.com/blog/dover-history.)