In the eighties and nineties you were spoiled for Channel crossing options.
There was not just the speed of the hovercraft but also routes from Dover to Boulogne, Zeebrugge and Ostend.
There was even a ferry service from Folkestone to Boulogne.
As a smoker I was tempted to cross over to buy cheaper cigarettes on the continent.
Ferry companies also provide a non-lander system where you could sail to Calais, but not disembark, and come home on the return crossing. You could buy French price cigarettes on board while the ship was in that country's territorial waters.
Eventually over the following decades I decided to use my convenient placing in Dover to explore the other side of the Channel.
I would take full day trips to Calais, Boulogne, Bruges and Ostend and sometimes visit outlying villages.
Travel broadens the mind and visiting these places reminded me what a different world there was just a few miles away.
Bars in Calais remained open until 2am and while alcohol seemed to be available round the clock there was no bingeing culture on the continent.
The Port of Calais is just 15 minutes' walk from the city centre, which is based around the main square, Place D'Armes. There I would use a tiny bus that provided a free shuttle service to take me around the centre including its main shopping area of Rue Royale.
These trips would help me practice my French, which I felt was important to keep up with as a Dover journalist. I would inevitably at times write stories with a Calais link and on a few occasions have to go there, particularly because of the ongoing asylum seeker crisis.
Over there I spoke what I would quaintly call Calais Tourist French, basic words and phrases that would get me through.
Being in Dover for 35 years I have been surprised how few Dovorians speak the language to any extent, despite being so close to France.
But never the twain shall meet. You almost never see French people in Dover town centre and the English visiting Calais wing it with a few words and hope the locals can speak some English.
Not as many as you think do and they appreciate it when you make the effort to speak their language.
But it is the Belgians who are masters in multilingual skills. In Ostend and Bruges I heard shopkeepers effortlessly switching from French to Flemish to English in moments.
I noticed when visiting northern France or Belgium the immense quality of the food in the simplest brasseries.
For about £10 you could eat like a king with dishes enhanced by superb sauces. There is no exaggeration about the lofty standard of French cuisine, even in the cheapest restaurants and cafes.
I would always try for dishes not readily available at home such as bœuf bourguignon, a French beef stew braised in red wine.
In Ostend, in the afternoon, I saw one man consume a large glass of strong lager and then walk away in a straight line.
The streets in these towns and cities were spotless - no bingeing or litterbugs.
With the booze cruise culture inevitably came people who would try to bend or exploit the system.
So-called bootleggers or fag runners, would make multiple non-landers in a day and buy multipacks of discounted cigarettes and spirits to sell on. You were only allowed to buy the merchandise for yourself or to give it away as gifts.
I saw many of these on trips, gangs of fast talking but oafish men who would barge past you. From their accents, they came from all over the country.
This ironically followed the pattern of regional migration into Dover, as had previously been done for honest hard graft.
Scots, Irishmen, Scousers and Geordies had poured into the area to toil in the coal mines from the 1920s and then to dig the Channel Tunnel from the 1980s.
As the years went by the vessels available became more elaborate - although the crossings weren't necessarily smoother.
With the hovercraft the trip to Calais from my house, door to door, was 90 minutes if you added the half-hour walk.
The only problem was during rough weather when you would sit there with that horrible sensation of your stomach going up and down.
The catamaran that came in the 1990s was hardly more comfortable during bad weather and was nicknamed 'the Vomit Comet'.
The Channel Tunnel, which opened in 1994, changed so much, putting a hard squeeze on businesses providing crossings by sea.
Even while it was being built the writing was on the wall and Stena Line ended its Folkestone-Boulogne ferry service in 1991.
The hovercraft flights, from Dover Western Docks finally came to an end in 2000.
After that the operators Hoverspeed struggled valiantly with catamarans, also providing journeys to Ostend and with sailings to Calais and a coach to the Belgian city. This had to stop in 2005.
In the late 2000s a catamaran service, even to Boulogne, was revived but short-lived.
An alternative was provided in the late 2000s by the Lympne coach company Buzzlines Travel, which took you to Ostend and Bruges via the Channel Tunnel shuttle service at Cheriton.
But the company went into liquidation in 2019.
But those ferry operators that evolved and survived are at least providing more luxurious vessels such as the gigantic Spirit of Britain and Spirit of France brought in by P&O Ferries in 2011.
They became the two largest ferries ever to be constructed for the Dover-Calais service.
But just last year rivals DFDS topped that with the Côte d’Opale, which at 214 metres (702ft) took over the status as the largest and longest ever ferry on the English Channel. It beats the length of the Spirit of Britain and Spirit of France by just one metre.
It can take 1,000 people and 180 lorries and has the biggest duty free shop on the Dover-Calais route.
Those of us in Dover can see France from the White Cliffs so we should be able to get there first.
Yet it is has become harder over the years and not because of travel complications from the pandemic.
Once a foot passenger could make it in 60 minutes to Calais after arriving at the Port of Dover. In recent times it has become 150 minutes - just to cross 21 miles of sea.
You'll cover more distance on average in an hour on the 214 miles on the Eurostar train from London to Paris.
The main change has been the seismic effect of the arrival of the Channel Tunnel.
It has shorn away options for travellers from Dover, especially foot passengers, to make that casual short hop to France.
Time has also been added on by security checks that are more stringent than when I first moved to this town in 1987.
Then it would take just a half hour check-in time and a half hour flight on the hovercraft to get to Calais.
Yet by late 2019, with the hovercraft long gone, it added up from 60 minutes check-in time and a 90-minute sailing on a ferry.
That works out at an average 8.4 miles covered per hour. By train from London to Paris it's an average 61 miles even if you add the one-hour check-in to the two-and-a-half hour trip.
So the simple hop to France for those of us in Dover is gone but at least the sailing is more comfortable.
The far greater numbers going between London and Paris no longer have to take the agonising journey of two trains and a ferry that could add up to seven hours on the move.