A few days ago we published a Post talking about our one-day-trip in Oxford. We enjoyed a lot escaping, at least during a few hours, from this stressful city. We needed to repeat the experience before the summer ends so we planned everything and, taking advantage of a sunny day, we left London. Destination: Canterbury.
Canterbury is located in the South East of England, 100 km away from London (if you draw a straight line in the map) or less than two hours by National Express Coach. It belongs to the county of Kent and it is famous because it is the main religious center in the UK and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Church of England (Canterbury is to Anglicans the same that Rome is for Catholics). Its cathedral is impressive. It was an important center of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages (which continues today) and became famous in Geoffrey Chaucer´s play “The Canterbury Tales”.
There are several options to go from London to Canterbury but the cheapest one is by bus (National Express has several services during the day). It departs from Victoria Coach Station and the drop off point is at the bus station of Canterbury (right in the city center). The journey takes between 1 hour and a half & 2 hours (depending on the type of ticket you buy) and prices are under 20 pounds (return ticket).
We took the one at 8:30 am which arrives there at 10:30 am. We highly recommend you not to go later than that, otherwise you’ll miss part of the city. The first thing we did was having a coffee and take energies for the day. We chose a beautiful local coffee shop located in front of the entrance of St. Augustine´s Abbey. As we saw the amazing courses in our neighbors tables -and we could smell the fantastic aroma- we decided that coffee wasn´t enough. We wanted a full English Breakfast!! We recommend it without doubt.
We went to St. Augustine’s Abbey after eating. It’s an impressive church situated outside the city wall and is sometimes missed by visitors. It was originally created as a burial place for the Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent. You need to pay 7 pounds to get in and the ticket includes the museum and interactive audio tour (if you don´t want to spend money you can also see a part of the archeological zone from outside). In 597 Saint Augustine arrived in England, having been sent by Pope Gregory I, on what might nowadays be called a revival mission. One year later he founded the Abbey to celebrate his success in the south of England.
We didn´t pay but saw it from outside. Even that worth it as it is one of the oldest monasteries in the country and it is part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site, along with the Cathedral and St Martin’s Church.
Close to St. Agustine’s there was St. Martin’s Church. It is England’s oldest Parish Church, even if the date of its construction is controversial. It is still regularly used for Christian worship as it has been for over 1,400 years. It is also part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site. What we liked the most was its cemetery. Its falling tombs create a baleful shocking atmosphere.
Thanks to the full English Breakfaast we managed to go to the Cathedral before stopping to eat. We were lucky, as they close at 2pm for lunchtime. The Cathedral was the thing we liked the most. It is also part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site, which didn´t surprised us. It is really impressive. You need to pay around 9 pounds to see it but it worth it. It imposes much when you get to the gardens and look at it, how it stands majestically before you, but what struck us more was the inside. We loved their modern Gothic design with its high pointed arches that accentuated the vertical lines of the tall pillars. Equally beautiful were the windows that decorated the walls with an amazing color scheme. Do not forget to see the cloisters, they are lovely. In the crypt there is a Piety that was burned and now is totally carbonized. Be careful, your finger will become black if you touch it (yes, we tried it… ;-) )
We left the cathedral around 15:30 and went to have lunch in a nearby park. We had the sandwiches so we stopped at Tesco to get some drinks and went to Dane John Gardens: It is the main park of the city and is located 10 minutes walking from the cathedral. Once we finished our lunches, we laid for a bit in the grass before heading the Normand Castle. It’s situated in a corner of the park (one of the great advantages of the city is that anything you need to visit is close so you don´t spend much time on traveling). You don´t need to pay to get in and it is a small castle (probably the smallest castle I´ve ever seen) however it is one of the main attractions of Canterbury. It was built soon after the Battle of Hastings, on the main Roman road from Dover to London., which was the route taken by William the Conqueror in October 1066.
We spent around 20 minutes there, making some funny pictures and then we had a relaxing walk along the riverside. That was the best moment of the day. Then we sunbathed for a little while, enjoyed the nature and went to the Cathedral’s Square to have a bear in a cute terrace; the perfect end for our journey.
- A Canterbury Tale and getting turned on by Chaucer (baileyalexander.typepad.com)
- Canterbury (7philip.wordpress.com)