The Closest I’ve Been to France

So this is a little embarrassing to admit, seeing as I’m a self styled travel expert and all, but here it is: I’ve never been to Paris. Or anywhere in France actually. I’ve been to Spain, Italy, Holland, I’ve even spent a year living just across the channel in England, but I somehow never made it over. Weird, right?

France has been the world’s most popular tourist destination for over 20 years. The country, and Paris specifically seem to hold this sentimental place in many people’s hearts. It’s romantic, it’s historical, it’s full of delicious food- it’s the essence of travel.

But somehow, through stubbornest or negligence, I’ve never seen it for myself. I have come close though, close enough to actually SEE the sparkling lights of France. I’ve been to Dover.

 The white cliffs which line Dover are it’s most famous claim and also a symbolic defense against the rest of Europe. For hundreds and hundreds of years Dover was the first potential point of invasion for all of England’s enemies. Dover Castle has guarded the coastline since the 12th century and is known as the “key to england,” as anyone who toppled it would take the country.

No army ever has. It was used as recently as World War II when a series of secret underground tunnels were used as a military command center. You can tour the ghostly tunnels these days, although some of the tunnels are too deep and decayed to ever be explored.

Today Dover’s biggest strength is as a shipping port- it’s the closest point of mainland England to the rest of Europe. It’s a popular place to catch ferries to france. In fact, you can actually SEE france on a good day, it’s a mere 35 km away across the Strait of Dover.

And wow, France is quite pretty, even if it is just a few sparkling lights, out on the pebbly beach, late at night after a few drinks. Maybe it’s not the lights at all, maybe it’s just the idea of France- a place that’s so idealized and iconic.

The Channel

All of this to say: I think I’m finally ready to visit France. I used to take not having been to Paris as some sort of weird badge of pride. I thought it made me choosy- after all why should I go somewhere just because everyone else thinks it’s important?

I think I see the value now, of seeing a place that is so important to so many people. I want to go now, if only to see what all the fuss is about.

This article was written by me, sponsored by Seafrance.

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Justin N
Justin N

I found Paris pretty underwhelming. It was nice, sure, but Bilbao and Barcelona were nicer, IMHO.

Amanda
Amanda

I drive through Dover every day to work and I’ve visited Dover castle several times over the years. This time of year the HUGE cruise ships start coming into the other docks and you can see France very clearly, the green above their white cliffs, it’s easy to believe that France is closer than London on days such as that.

I recommend you take a trip to Canterbury. I don’t know many cities in England like it. The city just screams history.

Tom
Tom

I get what you mean totally, Steph! I’ve been to France, and when people learn this they always ask, “so how was Paris?”…well, unless Disneyland Paris counts (does it?), I’ve never actually been to the capital, apart from there, Normandy & Lille.

Here, I always get asked about Japan…I’ve never been. Ditto China. But it seems that every other ESL teacher has – I’ll have to get across one day.

p.s. get a large hunk of cheese and a bottle of wine to go with your baguette!

Akila
Akila

I think this is the number one thing that surprises people about our travels: “You haven’t been to Paris? Really? But, everyone’s been to Paris and you’ve been everywhere.” People are also always surprised we haven’t been to Vietnam and Patrick has never been to London (though this shall be remedied shortly). We also haven’t been to the Grand Canyon though we’ve been to Vegas three or four times.

And, I’m excited to see Dover — we’ll be going near there next month.

Sam
Sam

Nothing like wondering the streets of Paris with a baguette in one hand and a camera in the other. Gotta do it one day.

allison
allison

I could have written this post! I’ve never been that interested in France, and would probably go to Paris just to say I’ve gone, and to finally be able to say “Yes” when people ask me if I’ve been.

I was in England last month, and everyone asked “Did you go to Paris?” like it was expected. I stayed near the coast though, and also went to Dover and saw France on a clear day! That’s enough for me right now. Too many other places to explore!

Viti
Viti

A time ago, I took one of those ferries to France. The slow ride away from one country to the next, watching the the white cliffs disappear, allowed for great reflection time. Which changed to anticipation of a great experience in Paris and the surrounding countryside.

I would strongly recommend it. Unless you get sea sick easily.

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