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