Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Canterbury Tales Part 1 OR Always Pack Sensible Shoes

Always pack sensible shoes.

This is a lesson that I believed I knew but apparently I didn't. I am quite content to be a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl but I also like to look cute. Especially when I'm going to dinner with my absolutely darling boyfriend (which because of the distance is very rare). When I was packing for our "weekend" away, I knew I didn't have much room in my bag since I was packing for the two of us. So I decided to wear my "cute" shoes the entire time. I mean, why not? They make me closer to Matt's height and they're adorable. I'd worn them for long periods of time before and never had a problem. I was so very, very, very wrong.
These shoes are evil. Adorable, shiny evil.
These shoes may have been handmade by God.

Traveling wearing shoes that are cute is ALWAYS a terrible, terrible idea ladies. Unless of course you fancy making puppy dog eyes at your boyfriend as you pass an H&M and begging him to let you run in and grab some flats. Just a little tip.

But that's not what you're here to hear about is it? I'm sure you're all wondering about this...
Unfortunately all we could afford to do, in both time and money, was two days. We were ever so lucky to have a friend who lives in Canterbury who allowed us to use her flat for two days so we avoided the cost of a hotel. That being said, there are many very nice hotels and B&B's to choose from in Canterbury should you want to visit. 

Because we were traveling with our friend we were able to book a rather good deal, about £18 return each, on Southeastern Railway. Please remember to book in advance. Seriously, the more time between your booking and your trip the more reasonable the price of your tickets will be. 

Because we live in one of the outer boroughs of London we had to get ourselves to the station using public transport. The train for Canterbury (specifically the stop Canterbury West) leaves from London Bridge. You know, the one that used to be falling down? Anyway from where we are the tube does take us directly to London Bridge. However, our friend prefers the overground so we took that into the Liverpool Street Station. From there it's a £7 cab ride to London Bridge. About an hour and a half after you board the train at London Bridge you'll pull into the station in Canterbury. 

When you exit the train station, unless the directions to your hotel state otherwise, turn right and then left on to the main street to make your way into the center of town. You'll soon see Westgate, the medieval gate and the entrance to the old town. From nearly any part of Canterbury you can see a least a bit of the cathedral.

Canterbury is a small town compared to London (in fact the second we stepped off the train Matt complained that you could see way too much sky and he'd like to go back to London). The only way I could describe it is quaint. It's very quiet and perfect for a weekend getaway but I feel I would run out of things to do if I lived there.

Canterbury High Street is all dressed up for the Olympics
Our trip can be broken into three simple parts: walking, walking and more walking.

We started with Canterbury Cathedral.

Another tip I have for you is this: Always look ahead on the calendars for sites when you can. Matt and I didn't realize that the University of Kent and other surrounding schools hold their graduations in the nave of the cathedral. Lucky kids right?
But that means that the Nave was closed off to us. The only positive part of that was we got in for a reduced price. The normal price is £9.50 for adult entry.
Regardless of the limitations the experience of walking in the Cathedral was breathtaking. The size of the Cathedral is something you can only understand when you see it and the grounds are sprawling.

The Cathedral Gate
This is what you see when you enter the grounds. It's absolutely huge because folks, this isn't even half of it.
Our first World Heritage Site Marker
The Canterbury Cathedral was built in 597 when the first Archbishop Augustine was sent on a mission to the Anglo- Saxons by Pope Gregory the Great. The romanesque, gothic style of architecture is quite a sight to behold with all of its detail and ornate tributes to the those important to the church. Inside the church there are three parts: the Nave, the Quire and Trinity Chapel and the Crypt.

To enter the Cathedral we went around the side and into the back to the Crypt first.
The Crypt is the largest for the period and dates back to the 11th century. The architecture in the Crypt is completely romanesque and it's simply gorgeous. The touristy atmosphere seems to drift away when you're down there. 

You cannot take pictures in the Crypt which, based on the beauty of all the small chapels, I thought was really unfortunate at first. However, once you're inside it so nice to keep the camera in your bag. The temptation to just take picture after picture is too much and the Crypt is meant to be a place for private prayer and reflection.

Being in a religious place with Matt was what really made the trip the most interesting. I've never been overly religious but I was raised in a Christian family and I will always hold those beliefs. Matt on the other hand is very much an Atheist. We've always been honest and open about it and it's not a problem in our relationship at all but the difference is noticeable when we're visiting a religious site.

Regardless of the cathedral or church I always like to make a donation and light a prayer candle.
 Matt only sees them as testaments to how religion is a social construct. He see's the majesty of the church as proof of how it's meant to control the people. I on the other hand understand the desire to turn to religion and God for support and wanting to built a grand place of worship. I understand how people would make a pilgrimage to a place like Canterbury Cathedral. To me the Crypt felt like a powerful place and I even left a prayer (only after Matt pointed out that I could). To Matt it was simply a beautiful if slightly overrated picture of history. 

When you leave the Crypt you enter the Quire and the Trinity Chapel.
One of the many small chapels inside.
The inside of the church does allow photography but it's hard to tell where to look first. Everything looks amazing but on closer inspection it's because most of it has been restored. Which, as good as it is to keep it around for other generations, the modernization of the site can take away from the majesty of the building itself. That doesn't mean that it's such an experience to stand in a building this old and important. And taking pictures was amazing...

Close-up of the Stained Glass Window
This candle burns over the former location of
Archbishop Thomas Beckett's grave.
Beckett was murdered in the Cathedral
and his grave was destroyed by Henry VIII during
the dissolution of the church
The awesome ceiling of the Cloister
Just outside the exit of the Cathedral
Dork #2
Dork #1
Overall, the Cathedral is definitely a must see. If you can ignore the tourists (as with most of these places) and really open your eyes to the history you're seeing you'll find that you're in a magical place. And I don't just say that because it's a Cathedral.

The Cathedral doesn't have any information for tourists about the other two sites in this world heritage listing, St. Augustine's Abbey and St. Martin's Church so those areas are much nice to visit though they are much harder to find. That will have to wait for another day though. I'll leave you all of you lovelies with this for now and say goodnight....

Cathedral rooftops (picture by Matt!)


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