After a bit of a morning fiasco yesterday (we missed the 9:30AM bus that we had booked), I managed to get on the 10:30AM coach to Canterbury with a group of friends to explore a nearby British town. We were bound for Canterbury, the site of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and, more importantly, the site of the martyrdom of Archbishop Thomas Becket (c.1170). We ended up arranging tickets for £14.20 round trip from London Victoria Station to Canterbury (although we ended up paying a premium for missing our first bus); definitely a good deal for all the fun that ensued on our historical excursion.
Our main objective was to see the Canterbury Cathedral, which dates back to 597AD. I think part of my desire to see the town was from reading Chaucer’s work years ago, but there is something pretty incredible about walking through a Cathedral that was constructed 1000+ years ago.
We were thrilled about checking out the Cathedral when we arrived; everything was incredibly ornate from the outset made more impressive by the age of everything around us. Admission is £6.50 if you’re a student, £7.50 for adults. We tried to pass for a ‘family’ wherein we could all enter for £21.50, but none of us could pass for under 16s and H had a particularly hard time passing as my 24 year-old Asian father (it was worth a shot). Luckily the cathedral is worth the entrance fee with its incredible facade, gorgeous interiors and the amazing history housed inside.
This vicious looking piece was erected to recognize where Thomas Becket was beheaded. Or at least where they tell us he was beheaded. For a great read that touches on Thomas Becket and weaves in his story, Pillars of the Earth is worth the investment of time.
After enjoying the Cathedral and checking out the Tombs of Archbishop William Courtenay and King Henry IV and his wife, we headed to check out the grounds to explore; so stunning and worth the perusal.
As luck would have it, Kent’s International Arts Festival started yesterday, so we were able to check out some cool art and some fun little stands dotting the streets; paella by the bucketful, cupcakes bigger than my head and homemade fudge. Plus, we ran into a number of old restaurants and shops that have been around since 1500 – some from earlier – which was a fun addition to our experience in town.
One of my favorite aspects of medieval towns is the history and architecture around every turn. In the words of Rita during our jaunt through Canterbury’s streets, “hey guys, just FYI, we’re coming upon a fortress.” No biggie. After enjoying Canterbury, we wrapped up our day at a little pub called the City Arms Inn where we found pitchers of cocktails for £9. Knowing that London’s prices aren’t really in the same realm, we felt like partaking in Canterbury was somehow the more responsible decision. How’s that for logic?
All in all, Canterbury was a great day trip from London for a change of scenery and a dose of history. After having such a good time, we’ve decided that day trips to Bath & Stonehenge, Oxford, Cambridge and Brighton are in order. National Express makes getting around so inexpensive with their fun fare offering that it makes staying indoors seem like such a waste of a perfectly good weekend.
Love from London,