Home > Vacation > London – Day 3: Canterbury

London – Day 3: Canterbury

November 22, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

My move got pushed back, so on with the posts. Sorry, no birding for a long time to come…

The current Orient-Express

The current Orient-Express

Since my second day in London was a Sunday, this seemed an ideal time to visit the actual city with all the business people away. This intelligent plan got thrown a curveball when I happened upon a sign saying that the London Marathon was on Sunday and it would be passing the exact landmarks I wanted to see. Marathon means lots of people, which isn’t great for touring. This also explained the barriers I saw being put up at Buckingham palace on Friday. I am very glad I changed my plans. At the end of the day I stopped in at the hotel bar for a shot of whisky. I talked to some guys there who were actually in the marathon and yes it was crowded! There’s a nice review on The New York Times. They mention there were 36,000 participants, the same as the Boston Marathon. Additionally, it was one of the largest crowds ever.

On the train to Canterbury

On the train to Canterbury

Instead, I decided to go to Canterbury. The city is known to me first by reading Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in high school, which admittedly is a forgotten memory by now. Second, it is the home of Canterbury Cathedral. The cathedral is of course associated with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England. And from there we get to Thomas Becket.

The cathedral rather dominates the skyline and city

The cathedral rather dominates the skyline and city

First, I had breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, a very short walk from the hotel. This is another French bakery restaurant. I was not in a rush and had a relaxing meal. After that, my point of departure was of course, Victoria. As with Windsor, there are two trains to choose from. I purchased a round-trip ticket to the Canterbury East station, since that was closer to two of the other sites I wanted to visit. It was about a 1-1.5 hour train ride. There are several stops along the way, but most are pretty short. Unlike Windsor, the train was more crowded and louder (several students).

Canterbury

Upon arrival, the first thing you’ll see are the city walls. The Romans built a wall around the entire city. I did not walk around the entire city, but this was certainly the most intact portion of the wall I saw. I walked along the wall until I reached St Augustine’s Abbey.

Why don't all cities look like this?

Why don’t all cities look like this?

St Augustine’s Abbey

The abbey was founded in 598. In my Scotland travels, I don’t think an encountered an intact abbey and it was no different here, as most of the abbey is in ruins. Understandable, after 1400 years! While only a very short walk from the main road, there were very few people about. I think most come only to see the cathedral, which is a shame.

St Augustine's Abbey

This was probably my favorite location of the trip. I collected a self-guided audio tour and proceeded to spend an hour walking around with the place to myself. It was perfectly relaxing, which allowed me to actually listen to the tour. Bonus, the sun was out with a clear sky. I did not expect to need sunscreen in England! I took a ton of photos here, many of which I really like. Walk to the back and you can get some great views.

St Augustine's Abbey

St Martin’s Church

Afterwards, I walked a little bit up the road to St Martin’s Church. Wiki says it best: “…first church founded in England, the oldest parish church in continuous use, and the oldest church in the entire English-speaking world.” It has limited visiting hours and my visit did not coincide with them, unfortunately. It is heavily surrounded by trees, so there was not alot to see, but it certainly gives the impression of being “first”.

St Martin's Church

St Martin’s Church

Canterbury Cathedral

For my final stop, I headed to the cathedral. It is a remarkable contrast to the previous two sites. The cathedral dominates the skyline and city. Up close, it is even more spectacular. It was very difficult to get the entire building into the camera frame, even with my camera-lens combo. I had to back myself almost into a corner at the entrance.

Canterbury Cathedral

As usual, I missed the main visiting hours and the tour. That was disappointing since there’s alot to see inside. I was relegated to the Nave, which is still impressive on its own. Hang around awhile and you might get a lucky shot with no people:

The Nave

The Nave

I walked around outisde until I found an opening, where I was free to roam the Cloisters. Think of it as an open hallway that surrounds a courtyard.

Cloisters

Cloisters

One of rooms accessible was the Chapter House. Again, I waited around until no one else was present for a great photo. I don’t know what it’s used for now, but note the speakers positioned around the room.

The Chapter House

The Chapter House

The surrounding neighborhood is the typical English feel that I like; very countryside.

Canterbury

I stopped in at the gift shop and then in town for a quick snack.

"Downtown"

Downtown

I had originally planned on doing the river tour, but it didn’t look like much fun by myself, nor did there look to be much to see and it was getting late. I watched the gondolas (yes, gondolas) pass by under a bridge and walked along the river instead.

Canterbury

There are some truly picturesque locations if you look for them. I can’t reiterate enough how nice this day was. Being able to walk around town at my own pace was fantastic.

Canterbury

The trip back was not so perfect though, of course. Since I was near the Canterbury West train station, I went there. But my train only goes to the East station (I think). Here I learned I should not have bought a round trip ticket since it forced me to go to the East station. If I hadn’t, I could have gotten a ticket on the high speed train back to London instead. So, I made the long trek back to where I arrived and wait a good while for my return train. I hopped on and arrived back in London with no more drama. I think this day I just picked up dinner in Victoria station, so nothing to write about there. All in all a great trip, but could’ve been better with more planning. But that can be said about everything!

The rest of the photos are, of course, in the gallery.

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  1. November 22, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Lovely photos! x

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