Canterbury for the day

Despite being born and raised in England, I have seen very little of the country I call home. Out of England’s fifty-five cities, I have only visited twenty. this year, I intended on spending a day in each of the other thirty-five. I will be working my way through the list alphabetically, but I am also considering the practical logistics of travelling from my home city of London.

Canterbury is a city in the county of Kent, in the south-East corner of England. It is famous for being the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury who is the leader of the Church of England. But it is also littered with plenty of religious and historical sites including numerous museums and churches. It dates all the way back to medieval times, but it is also very youthful. It hosts three separate universities and has a great nightlife.

My journey to Canterbury began in London’s St Pancras station where I was going to catch the 10.04am train. It was supposed to leave at 10.04 but naturally it left five minutes late, which made catching my connecting train at Ashford international very stressful. I was literally running across the platform, but I caught it and I arrived at Canterbury West at 11.20.

Canterbury West station

I’m doing these trips with a degree of spontaneity. Rather than rushing around trying to squeeze everything in all the one day, I prefer to follow my nurse and see where it takes me. However, Canterbury Cathedral is a very famous tourist attraction, so I knew I had to go there.

But first, I decided to have a little wander. Canterbury West station is only 5 minutes away from the town centre, so I turned right and started walking. I found a little East Asian supermarket where I bought some miso paste for a cod recipe I will be cooking soon. Then I delved deeper into the town centre.

I crossed over the River Stour that runs through Kent and under a stone archway that used to be the city’s jail. And that took me into the city centre. I liked how it was fully pedestrianised. In central London, people drive like maniacs so it was nice to get away from that.

Westgate Canterbury

There were also lots of independent cafes, as well as the usual chains, so I knew I wouldn’t go hungry at lunchtime. After a little walk around the town centre, I found the cathedral. To be honest, it was a bit difficult to miss. The massive bloody church in the centre of town. But I thought I would have a bit more of an exploration before I went in. And so I ventured to the edges of the town centre where I found the ruins of the Augustine Abbey and the Christ Church university campus before I did a little shopping in the local Wilkinsons.

I also had a little look around the Thomas Beckett Catholic church.

St Thomas Beckett Roman Catholic church

I will explain why this chap is so important in a bit. After taking a roundabout route back to the Cathedral, where I earmarked a tea room I wanted to go for lunch, it was time to explore one of Kent’s most famous tourist attractions. Adult tickets are £15.50 and they last for a year!

Canterbury Cathedral dates all the way back to the 6th century AD before being rebuilt five hundred years later. After a fire and the murder of archbishop Thomas Beckett where it became a pilgrimage site, the cathedral was expanded massively. Thomas Beckett was archbishop of Canterbury during Henry the II’s reign. The two were close friends, but they fell out after Becket began siding with the church over Henry. In a moment’s frustration, he decried “won’t somebody rid me off this troublesome priest?” Four knights promptly went to Canterbury and killed Beckett.

Canterbury Cathedral exterior

Anyway at half 12, it was time to start looking at the cathedral. Let me tell you, it was stunning. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to cover it. And it was massive as well. There was some beautiful stain glass windows and plenty of chapels. A confirmation was taking place in the crypt and the cloisters boasted a lovely little herb garden. One of my favourite features were these little prayer alcoves carved out of the wall. You could kneel and lean your head into the alcove. The stone muffles any outside noise, but also stops anybody hearing you, so you can pray in peace.

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral stained glass
canterbury cathedral prayer

Anyway, after almost an hour around the cathedral, it was time for lunch. I returned to the tea rooms I saw earlier. I really wanted to try their eggs benedict with hollandaise sauce.  The other night I made a hollandaise for the first time, but it was slightly too thick and acidic. I wanted to try a more authentic version. But alas the tearoom was very busy and nobody served me, so instead I went to this little French cafe: France St Pierre.

And this cafe was very lovely. The staff were all jolly and attentive. I had a delicious spinach and brie quiche with apple juice for £11. If you’re ever in Kent, I would definitely recommend going here.

Lunch - brie and spinach quiche

It was 2 by the time I finished. The weather was hot and sunny, so I decided to go for a little walk down the river Stour. It was very picturesque. After half an hour, I came to this massive Asda where I did yet more shopping. And at 3ish, I followed the river back to the city centre.

River stour
River Stour
River Stour

At this point, I was ready to go home, but I realised I had made a slight boo boo and booked a 19.37 train back home. I thought I had booked an earlier one. Oops.  But looking up train times, I saw I could book an anytime train ticket for only £20. I could get the 6.37 train home.

My old school friend Rachael messaged me saying she studied in Canterbury and recommended I go to the fudge kitchen. How could I turn down the chance to buy some fudge? After sampling their lemon sherbet, jam doughnut and chocolate chip, I bought a slice of jam doughnut. It is yummy if very rich. I definitely recommend going here too.

After I went to the station and bought a new train ticket. It was about half 4ish so I thought I would go to the local Wetherspoons for an early dinner. For any of my international readers, Wetherspoons is a nationwide chain of British pubs known for their cheap and cheerful food and drink. I opted for a beer and smothered chicken and it filled a hole.

Wetherspoon's food

When I finished, it was time to get the 5.37 train back which returned me to London at quarter past seven. I returned to my flat an hour later. Two hours earlier than if I had caught my original train. Ultimately, I very much enjoyed my day. Canterbury is a picturesque and historical city. Thanks for reading and I will see you in the next city. Chelmsford! You’re next.

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