Long Easter weekend and a longing to hit the road again is what got us behind the wheels once more to spend the day a stone’s throw away from London at the historic Cathedral city of Canterbury. While enjoying the light banter, Canterbury was reached in less than two hours invoking the first reaction in our mind that why didn’t we visit this place before!
The city hosts the much famous Cathedral of Canterbury which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. However, we thought to keep the best for the last in our day trip and started with a little promenade along the Westgate Gardens River Walk. River Stour – which is the lifeline of this historic city – appeared more like a canal with its monk-like stream flowing in one direction.
Who knows perhaps due to its gentle and calm stream, the River Stour allowed the punts to sail along without much precipitation. The flower beds along the river walk were radiating a vibrant yellow even though the clouds above were rather in the grey mood. All in all, we received a befitting introduction to Canterbury as we contemplated at the idyllic landscape created by the combination of the Daffodils in bloom, the sage Stour and the historic structures in the backdrop.
We then made our way through the cobbled High Street which was abuzz with a fine melange of history and modernity. It somehow felt as if the High Street in Canterbury was more like a linear open stage of a Shakespearian play where the theatricals were performed continuously. It felt as if a flash-mob would appear any time to transport the visitors back to the medieval days. Then there were sudden glances of the River Stour appearing at nicely paused intervals. As an omnipresent source of life and movement – it kept embracing the banks of this Cathedral City for ages. Don’t forget to venture into the fabulous Beaney House of Art & Knowledge or atleast explore its design details from outside.
No rush to see the Cathedral yet as we knew it would close only at 5pm, we queued up instead to try out some authentic local delicacies at another historic site for dining at Canterbury – Old Weavers House. Built in 1507, this is where the Flemish and the Hugenot weavers who fled from France took refuge in the 16th and 17th centuries to avoid religious persecutions. Elizabeth I allowed the weavers right to trade in Canterbury and the building is situated just next to River Stour.
An interior unparalleled to any historic pub, stacked with bits of history and local craftsmanship – it was worth the wait for an odd 40 minutes or so before we were led to our table. In order to avoid queueing up any longer, reservation is suggested through their website. We were content to have ordered for lunch a traditional English Sunday chicken roast and stuffed Yorkshire Pudding with salmon and prawns. While it was fun to watch various eateries along the High Street, it was the best decision to have the lunch at Old Weavers. It only made sense to dine while being immersed in history in such a historic town.
Happy in the tummy, we finally started walking towards the iconic Cathedral of Canterbury and found ourselves in front of the Christchurch gate – the principal entrance to the Cathedral. Kent was the first Anglo-Saxon kingdom to convert to Christianity and the Cathedral was founded first by St. Augustine from Rome in about 600AD. Now it is the official ‘seat’ of the Archbishop of Canterbury who is the leader of the Church of England.
Even before we were awestruck by the magnitude of the architecture and historic details of the Cathedral, what got us bemused was the thought provoking artwork in the Nave by artist Arabella Dorman – called “Suspended” – highlighting the plight of refugees around the world. This co-existence of art and faith was a favourite topic in many of our voyages around the world and we were equally delighted to see this beautiful artwork inside this monumental building holding a key stature in the history of England and Christianity in this country.
Before signing off our day trip at Canterbury, we paused for some Turkish mint tea, Turkish coffee and falafel at the Tulip Restaurant. A moment of reflection while sipping some mint tea was a perfect concluding act before hitting the roads again back to London.
Perfectly ideal for an overnight stay or for a few days more, even a day trip turned out to be worth its while to Canterbury. Take note that we are going to have another Bank Holiday weekend in end of May. So why not plan from now to spend that weekend in Canterbury? Time spent in Kent surely was time well spent.0