No trip to England would be complete without a day (or two) exploring the magic of Canterbury. Known as one of the most important pilgrimage sites, it's ancient Roman walls stand the test of time. There has been a cathedral at Canterbury since 597 A.D. Now, just pause for a moment and wrap your head around the date of 597 A.D.....
My first day trip to this holy city was marked with rain, wind, and overall dreary summer weather. Still, I just needed to get-out-of-the-house...we've all had those days. As you'll see in the video below, the second trip, I was rewarded with sun and warmth. Being new to Elham, I struggled to read the bus schedule and was offered a ride by a kind elderly lady in the tea shop. As we cruised along the country trails called roads, we chatted and she educated me on the fact that "clotted cream sounds like a blood disorder." Since then, having "Creamed Tea" just hasn't been the same, but, scone by scone, I'm working at conquering this new phobia. In reality, it's delicious and a must for any teatime.
Canterbury Cathedral was at the top of the list for the day. While much of the cathedral was masked by scaffolding and false ceilings, you still feel in awe of this holy seat of the Anglican church. The underground Crypt, art, and the sheer size of this Mother Church are reminders of just how small we are. Needless to say, I'll have to come back to absorb the full, completed restoration and get some decent photos. Lucky me!
Travel Tip: Remember to check for any scheduled renovations before jaunting off to an ancient site.
Scores of French school children, wearing matching safety vests, were busy with paper and pencil, checking off items they had to see while attentive teachers gently herded them along...sort of like a scavenger hunt with cats.
Exploring the narrow streets, I came across "The Crooked House." Built in 1615, I was drawn to it like a moth to the flame, cautiously entering and amazed that this building is still standing. In asking the girl behind the counter if it's safe, she confidently informed me, "Ah ya, it's stood for years...just hold on to something...you'll be good."
This is what travel's about; coming across something unexpected and relishing the burst of child-like wonder and sense of awe. Like chocolate sprinkles from heaven.
The quote across the front of the shop bears repeating:
"...a very old house bulging out over the road...leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below..." Charles Dickens, 1849
I purchased a great book, "Not In Front Of The Servants" about life in the 18th-19th century. Based on letters and accounts, this little paperback transports you back in time when English life, based on class, was an "Upstairs/Downstairs" affair. It also provides a fresh appreciation for our labor standards of today. Through sheer force, I have embraced e-books; still, I prefer the tactile, touchy, feely of real books that I can whip out of my bag and enjoy a literary feast while waiting for a train...or a pint.
Travel Tip: When traveling and you see an old bookstore with dust wafting out the door; purchase a book, pay your respects, learn some off-the-beaten-path history, and receive some unexpected joy.
Maybe it was the drizzly cold, but I was hungry. You know...HANGRY!! What do you eat when you need FOOD-a light salad (NO), how about a vegetarian wrap (NO)! The perfect recommendation came from a city street worker; a Burger and a Pint! Meandering through the back alleys where my finger tips to elbows touched the walls, out popped The Parrot; Canterbury's oldest pub. Built in 1370 on top of Roman ruins (of course), its the quintessential English pub with low ceilings, uneven floors that will test your equilibrium, and yet...free WiFi. As I refueled on my Burger and "Chips"...there are no fries in England, I realized buildings like this are normal for the English. Whereas in America, this would have been torn down centuries ago. We must appreciate our elder buildings with all their sagging exteriors, drooping ceilings, yet sporty Wifi and modern plumbing. Sort of like life over 50!
CATCH THE ADVENTURE VIDEO HERE: A Holy Parrot
When you visit Canterbury, hopefully on a nice day, make time to walk along the Stour River with Gondola's, quaint English cottages with names such as Mulberry or Pheasant, and parks with Roman ruins. Or, you can venture into the sleek shopping area with all the brands you recognize from any other city. I'll take the river and the park.
Also, make time to enjoy a delicious afternoon Creamed Tea with scones, jam, and thick, rich cream; it will help you get over that phobia.
See you on the next adventure.