When Dreams Come True: Of Castles & Cottages

by Ashley J. Harmon

It had been my dream since I could remember, I wanted to visit England. When the deal of a lifetime came up in my inbox for rock-bottom airline tickets to the land across the pond, I couldn’t help myself. We were going to England!

We’re not in America anymore

Arriving at the airport was when it hit me we weren’t in America anymore.  People were difficult to understand– sorry to the people in the Pub at Ibstock, I really didn’t mean to have you repeat yourselves that many times. Overall, we were bumbling through the cobblestone streets.  The fun began in our rental car, which was far too big for the small roads ahead of us. Yes, the rental company saw us Americans coming from a kilometer away and knew we’d be thrilled to upgraded to a Volvo. Result? We spend a lot of time praying we won’t scrape the sides of our car as we pass through the little neighborhood backroads.

After adjusting to our new seating arrangement and pulling out on the road, it hit again that we weren’t in America anymore.  Like many Americans before us, we went the wrong way in our first roundabout (and our second, and our third). Eventually we stopped angering fellow drivers by sticking to the correct side of the road; we felt like we were getting the hang of it and that England was ready for exploring.  Then, suddenly, all navigation failed us, and we were on the wrong road.  It was an excruciatingly thin little alley, and a car passed us quite quickly as if this were any other kind of traffic transaction. 

We had to catch our breath and pulled off to the side of the road. Right then, as I looked toward the rooftops, I saw it. Standing out against the clouds was a gorgeous, honest-to-goodness castle!  That is the memory that will forever stick in my mind as the moment I knew I was officially in England– the one of my dreams.  It is something experienced daily by its residents like the red rocks for us back home, but the magic of it still gets my stomach in knots.  

I was never the same

The history, the majesty, the beauty of England is indescribable.  I have watched over a hundred documentaries, drooled over thousands of pictures, read all the British literature; but the details are sharper in real life and the majesty hits with more force.  Being there was an absolute dream come true!  

Even our cottage on the beach of Dover was quintessentially English. I could have moved in, but I promised my mom I would come back. She told me before we left that she was worried I would fall in love and never come home. It was well-founded. I almost didn’t. I thought a hundred times during my stay that I might break that promise, find a castle to hide in, and make England my new home. I’d be too far away for my mother to do anything about it.

I will never forget the moment I sat on the beach, gazing at the French coastline and those chalky cliffs of Dover. The words of Matthew Arnold that I have loved from the first moment I really discovered what poetry was washed over me as I sat and admired them “Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.”

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