We’ll rock and roll on with one more post about our little troupe’s adventures in England, then get on across the Channel – though the Paris installments may have to wait for some pressing current events.
We’ll see where our travels take us in the next few days.
Though our original tour called for us to leave London via the Chunnel and arrive quickly in Paris, the fates had other plans. Actually, I couldn’t have been happier about the side trip to Canterbury, and our little subgroup was pretty go with the flow easy, so we were all good.
We spent a few hours in Canterbury, taking in the fabulous cathedral and some of the town – instead of sharing photos, I’ll let you look for yourself if you’re so inclined. We were pretty enamored of Edward the Black Prince’s tomb – he was crazy-tall for a 14th-century knight – and Thomas Becket’s murder site was strangely thrilling.
The Elizabethan architecture, especially the Sun Hotel, with the plaque denoting that Charles Dickens had spent time there (yes, I took pictures), was especially fab.
Quickly, though, we moved down the road to Dover, which was thrilling in a different way. We got to imagine what it was like in the underground tunnels during World War II AND see a long cannon stamped with Elizabeth the First’s seal.
All very exciting and interesting.
But when we got to the little seaside (OK, channel-side) town where we’d be spending the night – let me just say we were surprised. We didn’t see much of Folkestone and I’m sure it’s a nice place – I’ve looked up pictures and seen lovely buildings.
What we did see was mainly our hotel, the hyperbolically named The Grand Burstin.
It may have been grand at one time, but in 2009, it resembled an aging cruise ship from the outside, which the kids thought was kind of cool, and an old folks’ home only with rattier rooms on the inside.
Even our tour guide confessed that she hated it when EF Tours booked groups at The Burstin.
We kept stiff upper lips, though, pip, pip, and it turned out to be a jolly good show. Sort of.
Our communal dining was buffet-style, heavy on jello and unidentifiable gravied stuff. Alli, always cheerful, couldn’t be daunted, though.
“I love this place,” she said. “It’s like being in a nursing home!”
Outside our 30-odd tour participants, most of the clientele was definitely elderly. Seems The Burstin was a happening place for older folks on holiday. They dance the night away, and somehow – my memory’s sketchy on this – we got caught in the audience of a rather sad cabaret act as we tried to exit the dining hall.
My small group was too polite to leave until a break, but I can’t remember what was performed or who performed it. I just know we were glad to get out of there.
Kitty, Kim and I decided we’d walk to a nearby pub to hear some real British rock ‘n’ roll while Alli, Elizabeth, Nick and Andrew played on the pebbly beach and hung out at the hotel.
After all, we were in England, home of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page. Everyone who loves music has heard how 18-year-old Robert Plant was discovered singing in a small-town pub. Who knew what we’d find?
Plus the people-watching would be great, if our hotel was any indication.
Even Kathy, our tour guide, decided to join us (keep an eye on us?) at the pub we popped into. I cant swear that it was The Royal George, but I’m pretty certain that was it. We didn’t take photos, but I found it online. Looks right, location’s right.
Music was wrong, wrong, wrong. Instead of a young rock god belting out British blues, the entertainment was a group of middle-aged blokes belting out ’70s and ’80s American radio rock.
We found it all pretty funny. Bob Seger covers were about as good as it got for me, since I can’t stand big-hair bands or Thin Lizzy and have never loved Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
I think they might have thrown in a “Mustang Sally,” but I can’t swear to it.
We had a ball, though, soaking in the culture.
Very early the next morning we beat a hasty retreat back to Dover to catch the ferry. Seeing the white cliffs as we chugged away was something I’ll never forget.
Or the night in Folkestone, even if the details are blurry.