When you hear Canterbury one immediately thinks of the Canterbury Tales, the first major work written in English with literary merit. But have you ever read it? Not me, I don’t even know why I know of its existence to be quite honest with you. After my visit to this city, I have an inclination to find a copy of this book. Probably a translated copy to modern English though as I’m afraid I won’t be able to understand anything if it’s in its original version.
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that Canterbury is beautiful and it’s one of the places I’d love to visit here in England since I moved to London last year. It’s only an hour and 30 minutes away from Waterloo East station with a price tag of £12 per way per person so it was a very easy decision for me to spend my free weekend there.
After spending the night over at my friend’s house in Royal Tunbridge Wells, we drove to Canterbury the next day together with some of his other Portuguese friends. I have to say that this trip was made much more special because of the company I was with. Portuguese are incredibly warm, friendly and hospitable. I was a bit concerned that I’d feel left out but the awkwardness was gone as soon as I was greeted by warm hugs and kisses upon introduction. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by it after all, Mediterraneans are well-known for their warm hospitality.
Our first destination when we arrived in Canterbury was to visit the cathedral. Since it was a Sunday, the cathedral closes at 1430hrs. There was an entrance fee of £12 per person which I thought was quite steep but after reading how much money they spend to keep the cathedral up and running I kind of understood why.
The Canterbury Cathedral surpassed my expectations, it was absolutely amazing and breathtakingly beautiful! The sheer size of it made me realize that one probably needs about 2 hours to explore every nooks and crannies of this cathedral. You can get an audio guide for an additional fee once inside but I skipped it since I know for sure that I’d spend more than 2 hours there if I do get it. I’m planning to take my aunt there when she visits and probably by then we’ll both get the guide.
Some Important Facts About The Canterbury Cathedral:
1. There’s been a cathedral in the same site since 600 A.D., the present cathedral that we see now dates back from the 10th century.
2. After the murder of Thomas Beckett inside the Canterbury Cathedral, it became an important pilgrimage site in Medieval England. It was believed though that the four knights who killed Thomas Beckett overheard King Henry II say “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” and believed that the king wanted Beckett dead so off they went and did the deed. I’m not sure if that “misunderstanding” is a fact though but the murder is. The site inside the Canterbury Cathedral where the archbishop was murdered is called “The Martyrdom”.
3. As with any cathedrals that I’ve visited, Canterbury Cathedral has beautiful stained glass windows which adds up to an already beautiful overall aesthetics. It houses some of the most important and beautiful medieval stained glass in the country.
4. One of my favorite areas of the cathedral is the Great Cloister which connects the different parts of the monastery. One can’t help but marvel at the intricate and beautiful carvings on the arches of the Great Cloister.
5. It costs approximately £18,000 per day for the upkeep of Canterbury Cathedral. With over 300 staff working in it, the visitor income only covers a third of its annual needs.
6. The burning candle in the Trinity Chapel at the east end of the Canterbury Cathedral is to mark the tomb of Thomas Beckett which was was destroyed on the orders of King Henry VIII in 1538.
After visiting the cathedral, we had our lunch in one of the many restaurants in the high street before taking the Canterbury Historic River Tour which came highly recommended when visiting this city. I do love the look and feel of the pedestrianized high street of Canterbury but exploring it via the beautiful Stour river is a welcome alternative. I did love the tour but I do feel like it was too short and we weren’t able to explore much of the river during the 40-min ride.
Note: The river tour costs £9.50 per person and payable only by cash. You need to check the availability of the tour as soon as you arrive in Canterbury as it operates on a first-come-first-serve basis subject to time availability.
Some Important Facts About Canterbury:
1. Canterbury is historic a cathedral and university city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A popular tourist destination and one of the most visited cities in United Kingdom. Canterbury’s economy relies heavily on tourism and Canterbury Cathedral alone generates over one million visitors a year making it one of the wealthiest towns in the South East.
2. Warner Bros. approached Canterbury Cathedral back in 2000 to ask that it be used as the location for Harry Potters’ Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Despite of the generous amount of money offered, the cathedral declined due to concerns at the stories’ use of pagan imagery.
3. Westgate Towers Museum & Viewpoint is housed in the country’s largest surviving medieval gatehouse and offers one of the best views of Canterbury from its viewpoint.
4. Canterbury has the highest student-permanent resident ratio in the UK as it is home to three universities together with several other higher education institutions, colleges, primary and secondary schools including the oldest continuously operating school in the world, the King’s School.
5. Orlando Bloom was born 13 January 1977 in Canterbury and yes, this fact is important.
Our half day visit to Canterbury was clearly not enough for me to explore it as much as I’d love to. I think I’ll have to spend a minimum of 2 days there next time. Staying in Canterbury Cathedral Lodge is in my bucket list which I’m planning to cross out on my next visit. 🙂
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