Southern England recommendations needed

Old Jul 29th, 2009, 08:30 PM
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Southern England recommendations needed

My wife and I will be in London for a couple of nights before taking ferry into France for a week in Normandy/Brittany in early October. We have made the ferry reservation from Dover/Calais and are planning to take a couple of days to explore the southern coastal area of England. Does anyone have suggestions about interesting towns/areas we might consider? I have always wanted to see the cliffs of Dover, but as we plan 2-nights in the area, want to capitalize on any other sites of interest. We will not have a rental car.
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Old Jul 29th, 2009, 08:40 PM
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There is waaaaay more to see/do in Kent than you'll have time for. It is just FULL of great castles/stately homes, some of the most beautiful gardens in England, Canterbury Cathedral, etc etc.

So tell us a bit more what sorts of things you might enjoy and we can give lots of useful suggestions.
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Old Jul 29th, 2009, 08:57 PM
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Great, we will depart London on either Sunday or Monday morning and have until noon on Wednesday to catch the Dover/Calais ferry. This will be our first time in the area and without a car will need to limit our sight-seeing to sites we can reach by either train, bus, taxi. We would really enjoy recommendations for a hotel for a couple nights with great views and interesting surroundings. My wife has not visited England before, so I think some tours of castles might be great. Otherwise, I am a big history buff and enjoy sites reflecting WW II events.
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Old Jul 29th, 2009, 09:37 PM
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You should spend some time in Dover itself - the castle is worth seeing, and there are WWII tunnels in the cliffs (see www.whitecliffscountry.org.uk). I'd add Canterbury for the cathedral, and spend at least one night there (I stayed here: ww.cathgate.co.uk), but you will be somewhat limited without a car.
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Old Jul 29th, 2009, 09:54 PM
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I don't have much time right now -- will come back to post more in the morning -- But I do have one question.

Are you dead set against renting a car? Picking one up at Gatwick and dropping it at Dover 2 or 3 days later would give you a lot more flexibility what you could see/do.

Not that you can't tour around by public transport. But things just take a lot longer when one has to wait for bus schedules -- and there simply isn't transport to some places.

Two of the very best places would be 1) Dover castle - a huge complex w/ everything from a Roman lighthouse and Medieval castle to the extensive WWII tunnels. Dover is easy to get to by train then a bus up to the castle (Don''t try walking up - it doesn't look far on a map but it is a real slog.

and 2) Chartwell - Churchill's country home which is a lovely house, w/ a beautiful garden and even his art studio. But it is in the country and harder to get to.

If I had Sun-Tues (and a car) I'd probably visit Chartwell, Hever and Penshurst Place on Sunday. Sissinghurst, Bodiam Castle and Rye on Monday, and Dover/Deal/Walmer Castles and the white cliffs on Tuesday.

W/o a car I'd stick to places on rail lines -- Canterbury, Dover/Deal, Rye, Tunbridge Wells, maybe Brighton.
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Old Jul 30th, 2009, 12:50 AM
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The really worthwhile view of the White Cliffs (which are no more great landscape than the Statue of Liberty is great art: the point of both of them is they're symbols of each country's major belief about itself) is from Calais when you're about to get onto a boat back to civilisation. Even if you're not coming back, the best view is from the boat.

The only point of going to the cliffs by land is either to see round the Castle complex (terrific) or for some good, bracing long walks.

Some time in the past 6-9 months (call it 18 months in the search) a recidivist poster called Palenque wrote an excellent thread - which several of us disagreed with - about touring Kent by public transport. The railway system in Kent and immediately around is unusual in being a bit like a rural metro. Though the big gardens and stately homes really do need a car (or a bike, confidence in cycling on our cyclist-unfriendly rural roads, and the train) to visit, there's an awful lot of places like Canterbury and Rye you can get round on a train. Try to find Palenque's post.
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Old Jul 30th, 2009, 01:51 AM
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I totally agree with Janisj, both regarding the number of places to see in Kent and the wisdom of renting a car so that you can move easily between some of those places.

Be aware that most of Dover Castle is curently closed - but the tunnel complex is still open, and is worth a visit.

I recently posted a trip report in which I describe some of the things we did over a week based in Kent. This is the link - it is week 6. http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...rip-report.cfm
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Old Jul 30th, 2009, 06:58 AM
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GregY2: I thought the castle was reopening soon?
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Old Jul 30th, 2009, 02:08 PM
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Janis, I didn't really note when it was to reopen as we just had that day to see it. It did not look close to re-opening to me and early October isn't far away but I just took a look at the English Heritage website and they are saying that it will re-open in August 2009 so it shouldn't be ab issue.
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Old Jul 31st, 2009, 08:23 AM
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Sissinghurst Gardens are one of my all time favorite travel memories out of 5 trips overseas.

Bodiam Castle was neat as it actually has a moat.
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Old Jul 31st, 2009, 09:46 PM
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Great input, thanks everyone. Regarding driving in England,..just do not think we want to. I have driven there in the past, but think we will stick with train/buses.
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Old Aug 1st, 2009, 11:03 AM
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I heartily agree with all the above suggestions. Rochester, which is before you get to Canterbury, was interesting. A castle and right across the street, the cathedral (Norman in style, if I remember correctly). Also Charles Dickens lived here for a while and there is an interesting museum of his stuff. You could take the train from London to Rochester, store your bags at the station lockers, spend a few hours and then go on to Canterbury for the night to be johnny on the spot for a look see about that city.
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