LONDON —“The English weather is unpredictable,” a friend warned me.
“Bring an umbrella,” a sound advice from another friend.
Then, a third friend lectured me about Geography 101:
England is the largest country in Great Britain and the United Kingdom (UK). It is sometimes, wrongly, used in reference to the whole United Kingdom, the entire island of Great Britain, or indeed the British Isles. This is not only incorrect but can cause offence to people from other parts of the UK.
The Maison Dieu (House of God), is a medieval building
in Dover, England which forms part of the Old Town
Hall buildings. Photo by Leo Udtohan
The official name of the UK is the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
The name refers to the union of what were once four separate nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (though most of Ireland is now independent. Only Northern Ireland is part of the UK now).
The United Kingdom is made up of:
• England - The capital is London.
• Scotland - The capital is Edinburgh .
• Wales - The capital is Cardiff.
• Northern Ireland - The capital is Belfast.
Many people think that “English” is the same as “British”. It is not!
People who are English are from the country of England. On the other hand, British people are people who live in Great Britain (Britain) and the UK.
And last reminder, “Don’t forget your British accent!”
I was travelling alone to England, one of the most visited countries in the world. It offers travellers endless possibilities when it comes to fun things to see and do.
After arriving at London Heathrow Airport, I bought an Osyter Card at the airport Tube. (Tip: Bring Pounds since shopping centers or stores here don’t accept Euros after the Brexit.) I headed straight to Victoria Station, London’s busiest rail station. Inside the train, I got my first look at my fellow riders. There were couples, young and old, and a few single travelers like me. There’s an air of excitement and expectation that seemed old-fashioned in this age of hurried high-speed travel.
Riding the rails from London to Dover in Kent county (province) is a once-in-a-lifetime smorgasbord of scenery. The trains to Dover are modern, comfortable and air-conditioned, unreserved seating but may be crowded in rush hours.
The attraction starts the Dover Port where
one can see the White Cliffs Country,
unspoilt coastlines, historic castles, breathtaking
views and unique heritage and history.
Photo by Leo Udtohan
Just before 7 p.m. on Wednesday (August 9), I arrived at Dover. It was not getting dark. In the summer, it stays light until 9 p.m. and in the winter it gets dark about 4 p.m. but the sunsets we get can be lovely.
I was in Dover to cover the swim of environmental lawyer and triathlete, Ingemar Macarine, nicknamed “Pinoy Aquaman,” who dared to plunge into the cold waters of the English Channel considered as the Mount Everest for open sea swimming.
Several swimmers had attempted to cross the English Channel but not one of them was Filipino. Until now.
Pinoy Aquaman, his coach Roel Catoto and your VRS literary flattened the road for our daily routine. It was a 30-minute walk from the house of Carmelo Rebolos to the Dover Port where Macarine had to practice swimming for two hours every day before swimming the English Channel.
Our generous host Carmelo, whose grandmother was from Bohol, cooked us adobo and sinigang. The pricey and smelly dried fish I brought from Bohol was another appetizer. He said Pinoy Aquaman needed more carbs for his swimming.
Last August 13, the Filipino Community in UK gathered at the Dover Port to show support to Pinoy Aquaman. His destination was Cap Gris Nez, a promontory on the French coast, about 34 km (21 miles) from his point of origin, Dover town. He had swum almost 4 km in 50 minutes when Eric Hartley, the boat skipper, decided to pull him out from the weather due to strong wind and waves to stay safe.
|Canterbury City is a popular cultural and|
entertainment destination with great shopping, galleries
and cafés, as well as attractions such as those focused
on Chaucer's medieval England and the city's Roman past.
Photo by Leo Udtohan
Pinoy Aquaman was surprised since he had endured strong waves and winds in the Philippines in many of his swims. The tidal current was too strong. He tried with all his might and determination, but took the pilot’s advice and aborted the swim to stay safe.
“I feel disappointed that I was not able to finish it because of the weather,” he said.
It was Ingemar's second attempt. The first was last year but he was not able to swim due to bad weather.
But the Philippines' Aquaman will not give up. He will definitely make another try.
“Tuloy ang laban,” said Ingemar.
Blamed it on the English weather, as they say, is unpredictable and treacherous.
To mend a drooping spirit, Carmelo said, “This,” gesturing around the room where a videoke sing-along was going on. “Party!”
Then, the three of them— Carmelo, Ingemar and Roel—stood up to join the singing and dancing, enjoying the night, relishing the youth energy.
It was after the swim did I realize that Kent was beautiful.
For travellers, Kent is truly the Garden of England, with breath-taking countryside, stunning coastline, world-famous attractions and delicious food and drink.
Incredible locations include The White Cliffs of Dover, Leeds Castle, Hever Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, The Historic Dockyards Chatham, Dreamland Margate and Port Lympne Reserve.
The place is also famous for its award-winning sparkling wine since vineyards are here in Kent. Britain's oldest brewer Shepherd Neame can be found here.
Like so much of England, Dover was heavily influenced by its Roman heritage (the town suffered severe damage due to its role as a naval base during WWII), and you can explore a number of Roman-era attractions here, including the remarkable lighthouse on Castle Hill and the Roman Painted House.
The Dover White Cliffs are one of the great icons of British tourism and attract millions of visitors every year. According to Carmelo, the iconic white cliffs of Dover are embedded in the national consciousness, and are a big ‘Welcome Home’ sign to generations of travellers and soldiers.
Cruise ships usually arrive in Dover so you could expect many Filipino seafarers roaming around the town.
The Dover Castle perched high above the English Channel built in 1168 is an English Heritage’s second most visited attraction in the country, with Deal, Walmer and Richborough castles making for a unique collection of coastal fortifications.
The Dover Museum at the Market Square houses three floors of objects and displays recounting the town's rich history, from its Roman beginnings to the modern day. It's also home to the world's oldest known seagoing vessel, a Bronze Age wooden boat thought to be about 3,000 years old. Other highlights include an impressive collection of Saxon-era artifacts and jewelry.
In Dover, they take their food so seriously that it is easy to overlook the other charms of this picturesque town. Dover not only hosts a popular food and drink, but it has bewildering selection of fine restaurants like The Allotment where we were treated for a sumptuous dinner by Charles and Jay Berryman. They had travelled five hours from Exeter, Devon to Dover just to support Pinoy Aquaman. It was my first time to order Roast lamb with spring herb crumbs and to get drunk and come home tipsy!
When Pinoy Aquaman was not practising or sleeping, we sneaked into the neighboring town of Folkestone, a 30-minute drive from Dover. The historic old center is charming, if small. Tourist attractions and things to do in Folkestone are plentiful and include spending time in seafront amusement arcades and pavilions, taking a refreshing stroll along the wide promenade with fine views across to France in clear weather, or dining in a restaurant or café in the town's trendy Creative Quarter.
The Church of St. Mary and St. Eanswythe, around Old High Street, is worth visiting for it houses the remains of St. Eanswythe. Also popular here is the statue and the house of William Harvey, who discovered the body's circulatory system.
On our last day at Kent, Carmelo brought us to Cantebury, an enchanting city full of history. He has been living in London for years so the tour was a big yawn for him. But he seemed to relish it as much as a promdi like me did.
It was summer but I was shivering from spring chill but I didn’t mind. Why would I when awesome scenes and sights are passing by---Canterbury Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), St. Augustine Abbey, the Old Town and --- yes, yes, yes! --- Chaucer’s famous tales!
But Canterbury isn’t just a showpiece for the past – it’s a bustling, busy place with an energetic student population and a wide choice of contemporary bars, restaurants, venues and independent shops.
With huge skies and clear air, England offers freedom, space and a place to think. To be continued...
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