London Days 4: A Canterbury Tale

(A Day in Canterbury)

Getting To Canterbury

So we decided to spend a day in Canterbury. We woke up in the morning and once again the weather was spectacular. Although it was chilly the sky was blue and the sun bright. We did what we normally do in the morning: Woke up and went to El Rio for a traditional English breakfast. After that we hopped on the tube at Willesden Green, jumped off at Waterloo, bought train tickets and jumped onto the over-ground train at Waterloo East. 90 minutes later we disembarked at the Canterbury West station.

(Breakfast in El Rio)

Global Warming

On the train going into Cambridge there we read some interesting articles in the newspaper about the coldest winter in Europe in at least 10 years. Apparently in one part of England, temperatures the previous night dropped to –14°C. The newspaper even said that some of the so-called melted glaciers had reclaimed all the missing ice. The article went on to challenge the concept of global warming by using anecdotal evidence of the freezing conditions in China and Russia. The paper also noted that it had snowed as far South as the Middle East. Judith saw snow in Turkey and the schools in Turkey were closed because of the snow. But, anecdotal evidence is just that: anecdotal. Climate change does need serious study and we should pollute the earth less irrespective of the climate: Its just the decent thing to do.

(Newspaper Headlines)

Arriving at Canterbury

Now, when we arrived at the station there was nothing spectacular to see. As is our wont we went in search of tourist information. We found a sign showing us the general direction of the information center and headed off in that direction. We then turned a corner and the first part of the old town hit us. An old castle battlement of sorts and some very small and old houses bordered the road. Once again the ancient architecture was beautiful.

However, we still couldn’t find the information booth. We walked past the castle battlement and into the small town of Canterbury. The main street in Canterbury is covered in bricks with ancient buildings on either side serving as pubs or as historical museums and sights. What was especially beautiful were the traditional English pub signs on the outside of the pubs with the pubs having names such as The Hobgoblin and The Cricketer.

(In Canterbury)

(Pub Signs)

The St. Thomas Hospital

We arrived at an ancient building that had been around for 800 years and served as a charity to old people. The building, St. Thomas’s hospital used to serve as a refuge for the poor pilgrims when they came to Cambridge to pay their respects to St. Thomas. For £1.00 we could go inside and take a look at where the pilgrims slept, ate and prayed. There wasn’t really much to see but the man selling us the tickets was only too happy to explain some of the history of Canterbury to us.

We left the hospital and continued down the main street passing all kinds of interesting and fascinating shops while looking for the information desk. The main street reminded us of Taksim in Turkey, except it was a much smaller version of that shopping district.

The Cathedral

(The Cathedral)

We eventually saw a sign pointing to Information and the cathedral. When we went down the side alley we were stunned by the vision of the cathedral. It just dominated the skyline. Now, we never got into the history of the cathedral but once again we were very amazed by how intricate and detailed the architecture was. The stonemasons of that age were astounding and their dedication to building religious items for the glory of God was amazing.

Sadly though, in the eve of the gate to the cathedral, was that modern shop: Starbucks. They were at the bottom of the Forbidden City in Beijing and here they were again. People have to drink coffee I guess and at least the décor had been made to match the cathedral gate.

(The Gate and Starbucks)

Tickets for the cathedral were around £7.00 per person. We bought the tickets and went in. The building inside was even more impressive for a first time visitor. The high, vaulted ceilings and the tremendous space and height amazed. Of course when we went in Paul was asked to remove his beanie as a sign of respect.

The lady at the front door of the Cathedral was very friendly and helpful and even showed us a stained glass window of Adam that was 800 years old. The stained glass windows and the huge archways and the sense of history within the Cathedral kept us in awe.

(800 Year Old Window)

We walked the length and breadth of the cathedral. There were very few religious icons however and this apparently was due to Oliver Cromwell destroying all images and icons during the English Reformation. The reformation frowned upon the worship of icons and Cromwell apparently also started to discourage pilgrimages to the cathedral when he came to power.

(View Inside the Cathedral)

We saw the spot where Thomas Becket was murdered and walked the length and breadth of the cathedral. All of it inspired. The only part left that is used as an active church is the basement where services are apparently held ever day.

(Inside the Cathedral)

(Outside the Cathedral)

Canterbury Tales

After spending an hour or more in the cathedral we went to the Canterbury Tales museum. This little museum is an excellent option if you are only in Canterbury for a day. A guided audio tour takes you from room to room reading out some of Chaucer’s stories. We thought it was very well done and it took about 40 minutes. Queenie got scared inside the museum as it was quite dark and there were a lot of strange noises.

Of course there was not enough time for all the stories but there were enough stories to whet the appetite. The tales that were included were of death, of marriage and joy, on deceit and prophecy. All the stories and the attendant displays were well done. Some of the displays are shown below.

(Displays in the Cantebury Tales Museum)

The Castle

We next walked up to the old Norman castle. The castle was a little disappointing. It is only a shell. The old walls gave us an idea of how the castles were constructed, but the actual castle was very small and only a shell as most of the interior had been destroyed.

Closing Time

We then headed back off into the main town for a meal. On the way we walked into a beautiful park. One of the shocking elements of England met us. With all the beauty around us, there were a group of teens, no older than 15, puffing away on cigarettes and drinking away at 3:30pm.

We then found a restaurant in the town and were surprised by how expensive some of the restaurants were. We stopped in for a meal at The Cricketer only to be told they stopped serving food at 3:00pm. We were shocked. Coming from 24-hour Asia means that we really do have to manage the times we eat: we are not used to doing this.

We finally found the famous South African fast food joint Nando’s Chicken and decided that would be good enough for dinner. Afterwards Mom went to the Oxfam bookstore and bought a huge, 7 kg Bible for Judith who now apparently collects books.

(Mom in Nandos)

Paul wandered into a Chinese store and met a woman who came from Shenzhen where we lived for one year. The world is truly a small place. She also told us that England is quite boring as everything closes so early. The store, China World sold Chinese things. The boss was English who had married and divorced a Chinese lady. Apparently he couldn’t speak a word of Chinese. Such are the ironies of life.

(China World)

We then meandered slowly back to the train station popping in and out of the few remaining open stores. We watched a beautiful sunset over Canterbury and then it was time to leave. What a shame!

(Sunset in Canterbury)

We all thought Canterbury was a beautiful little town with much to offer tourists. The history of the place is compelling and we highly recommend this day trip to other tourists to London.

Anyway, that’s it for now.
Until the next time God Bless
Queenie and Paul

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