Day 5, Jun 30: Canterbury, England


Canterbury Cathedral

We got up at 5:30, had a quick breakfast downstairs then took the taxi to the airport. We go there at 6:50 for an 8:50 flight so hoped that would be enough time, not having any idea of how crowded this airport was. Dan’s status allowed us to jump lines and that helped, but even without that we probably would have been fine.

A couple of things about this airport experience that were different for us:

  1. We had to check a bag. When we’d checked in to get our boarding passes on Thursday, we were notified by British Airlines that anyone flying into UK from a list of countries, of which Turkey was one, would not be able to carry on laptops and tablets, among other things. We had 4 of them between us. So Thursday night we had to change our packing strategy, move a bunch of stuff around the 2-each carry-on bags we usually have, so that one of the roller bags would be checked with all the technology in it. We hate checking baggage and have never done it before on one of these trips. Because of Dan’s status, we were taken right away at the British Airlines counter to check it in, so that was good. And coming out the other end, it didn’t take all that long to get it either in Heathrow.
  2. Three security checks: one when we first got there, right at the entrance to the airport, a second standard one to get into the gate area, and a 3rd very detailed one at the gate.
We stopped at the lounge for a bit since we had some time to kill. It was pretty basic, but they had coffee so that was good. A few things to eat but we didn’t.
British Airways doesn’t have a huge presence here so there wasn’t a jetway at the gate. We were instead shuttled to our plane out in the middle of the tarmac. The flight was fine – less than half full – we landed early and rented a car. That’s something else we’ve never done before. We got a VW golf and left the airport about 12:20.
It was about a 90 minute drive to Canterbury, which is east of London. Dan drove and had to adjust to driving on the left. It will probably take him a few days to adjust to that. We’ll see if I take my turn sometime on this trip. Dan’s planning on doing the driving, but we got an automatic just in case I need to at some point. I haven’t driven a stick in 25 years and have never done well with them.
We found a place to park and only upon getting out of the car did we realize it was a grocery store. They had a café and we were pretty hungry at that point to decided to just eat there. We were using their parking lot after all! The food turned out pretty good. Dan had fish and chips, I had a hamburger, and we split an apple strudel, below, that was one of the best we’ve had ever.

 

 

After lunch we made or way to the old center of town. Canterbury’s roots predate Christ, and there was a Roman settlement here back in the day, but they abandoned it in the early 400’s. It came to life again in 597 when Pope Gregory sent who was to become St. Augustine to these islands to convert the Anglo-Saxons who at the time we pagans. Christianity for the English was born here, and it remains one of the most popular cities of the country for English tourists. We noticed that as soon as we got there on a random Friday afternoon – lots of people. Canterbury Cathedral, shown above at the end of a cute street, is where the Archbishop of Canterbury presides, the head of the Church of England. Augustine was the first Archbishop of Canterbury. (But of course then there wasn’t a Church of England and he reported to the Pope.) Below is a gate in the wall around the cathedral grounds that separates it from the city.

 

The main section of this cathedral has been standing since around 1050. The rest of it has been rebuilt or added on to, with the last construction in the 1200’s. So it’s in need of a little work and that doesn’t make for great photographs. But you get the idea. The main entrance above, the nave as you enter below.
Note the door behind the altar. I will reference it again below.

Lots of people are buried here, just like in Westminster Abbey, although that has many more big names. We recognized very few here. However, Canterbury is most famous for being the place where Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170 by followers of Henry II who believed that’s what the King intended. Thomas was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, and he and the King were in conflict over the rights and privileges of the Church. Thomas as canonized soon after his death, and the Cathedral became a pilgrimage spot immediately after, and remains one today.

This is in the martyrdom chapel where Thomas was killed. The swords represent the 3 swords used by the men who killed him. As we were standing there, the docent in the room couldn’t resist pointing out that the reflection looks like a crucifix. We were glad he did, and we chatted with him for a little while.
The windows in this cathedral were damaged heavily during bomb raids in 1942. Luckily, in 1939 all of the medieval windows had been removed and stored in the cathedral crypt so none of them were actually damaged. They had all been replaced by about 1955.
I’ve just walked through the door behind the altar in the nave. It keeps going 🙂 This is the choir, with it’s own altar again, with a closer shot of the same below.

 

There were lots of tombs here, not all of them clearly marked; the docent mentioned above who we spent some time with said there’s a definite lack in information and they are working on that. It’s still a working church with regular services. At any rate, I liked the columns on the sides of this one.

 

Thomas Becket was originally enshrined here in an elaborate tombstone which that same docent showed us a drawing of. Henry II was devastated that his followers had interpreted his words as a hit, and originally Thomas was buried in the crypt below, and Henry knelt before him and had his own guards whip him there as punishment. Thomas was later moved here and an elaborate shrine built. Henry VIII was so irritated by the whole story he had it removed and used the gold in his castles. He ordered Thomas’s remains be destroyed. Legend has it that the monks secretly disobeyed those orders and his bones are still somewhere on the Cathedral grounds. The candle in the middle of the floor represents the shrine that used to be here.

 

This is the final “main” altar – by my count 3 of them that run up the middle of the church, not including any of the many side altars.
Tomb of Henry IV and Queen Joan of Navarre.

 

Interior corridors where a choir concert was being prepared for, with some rehearsing going on in the courtyard outside the corridors, below.

 

 

The next 3 shots were all of the grounds around the back of the cathedral.

 

We left here around 4pm. We walked around the city a bit (at this point I would normally refer to it as a town, but I was schooled that it was a city because there’s a cathedral; a town doesn’t have one, so I’m self-correcting…) and it was adorable. There were several good places to eat so we decided to stay a bit longer and have dinner here. We went back to the grocery store and picked up some bottled water to have in the car as we drive around this week, then went in search of a place to park since we were 45 minutes over the 90 minute maximum stated on the signs. More adventures in driving on the left took us to a side road where there was free and unlimited street parking, about .5 mile out. As we walked back to the city center, we walked by St. Augustine’s Abbey, the ruins from his original post built in 597. We were just going to look from the outside, which is the photo I took below, until we saw a sign referencing English Heritage, whose membership could get you into many things for one price. A huge museum pass. We went in to see if we could find out more, and the woman there was extremely informative (including being the one who taught me the distinction between a town and a city). Short version: Dover Castle, where we would be going the next day, was on the list, and she mapped out many others that we could check out easily on our path throughout the week. It made complete sense to do it, so we bought the membership there and went on into the Abbey, which we were otherwise going to pass. My joke that this trip was a “castle-hop” is going to manifest in a very real way. We were oddly grateful to learn the Cathedral wasn’t on it since we’d just paid 30 pounds to get into that!

There was quite a complex here over a period of time, complete with church, crypts, schools, residence for the monks. All of it was destroyed in the 1500’s when Henry VII had all of the monasteries in England destroyed because he believe they were corrupt institutions which represented much of what was wrong with the Catholics, as he created his own Church, which of course is the Church of England or Anglican Church today.

 

 

 

 

 

We stayed about 30 minutes and continued our walk back into the city. We meandered the adorable streets for awhile before heading to dinner.

We came across this and it just struck me as funny. Dan thinks I have a strange sense of humor and certainly in this case it’s true. Trying to explain why I think this is funny will only make it worse, so I’ll just leave it right there. Either you’ll get it or you won’t 🙂

 

This place claimed to have “authentic British food” and was #9 of 247 places to eat in Canterbury on TripAdvisor. They also had a very reasonably priced tasting menu, but in the end we decided to order off the regular menu and are glad we did.

Deep fried whitebait. You had me at deep fried. I figured whitebait was a kind of fish and it was. The batter was really salty and ended up tasting a little like anchovy. It worked.
What’s essentially fried pork rinds – and very good ones – in the background. In the jar, what I can only describe as a tuna salad except it was pork. Along with some jam and bread. All very good.
This was from the “sharing” section of the menu: a whole roasted chicken, with potatoes and vegetables that were all incredible. The boat contained a simple au jus like gravy. The white-ish stuff with bacon on type was a thick flour based gravy. It all worked well. We were saying as we sat down we weren’t very hungry, but we managed to eat it all somehow.
From there we made our way to Dover, about a 30 minute drive. We are staying in a room in a woman’s home via Airbnb. It’s adequate. Our room is upstairs and has a little deck, and right there are the famous White Cliffs of Dover, two photos below.

 

 

 

I was very tired by the time we got in and settled, got the photos organized and we went to bed. I got up about 5am this morning and have been writing this over coffee. It’s now almost 7am and we’ll be heading out for breakfast in a few minutes. The big item today is Dover Castle. We’ll probably throw in at least one more since we now have this handy dandy pass. Should be a fun day!

Oh yea, and June 30 was our wedding anniversary 🙂

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