Canterbury: a day in the sunshine!

After an incredibly dreary winter in London this year, we were so overjoyed to wake up Saturday morning to blue skies and sunshine! It made for a particularly scenic train ride east to Canterbury.

Saturday highlights:

We walked from the platform and down around the corner and found ourselves in front of the Westgate tower. 

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Walked into Westgate Park and pass the stunning Guildhall, very much in the style of a church, beautiful stone and arched windows set along a picturesque river, lined with grass and flowers and set in a peaceful park.

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We loved this tree!

We stopped in at Weavers for a full English, which was simple but hearty, and a great value.

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Next up was Eastbridge Hospital, where we met Rebecca and Alan, very knowledgeable and lovely locals with lots of tips including the Greyfriars garden and where to find some hidden ruins.  Eastbridge Hospital is a really neat site, and is properly called the Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr.  We were surprised to find that there is a small chapel inside to the left, another upstairs with much of the original wooden beam ceiling, a main chapel hall complete with a fresco, and an undercroft.  Then we learned that hospital at that time meant a place of hospitality. Mystery solved!  It was founded by the Archbishop of Canterbury for pilgrims coming to see the tomb of St. Thomas Becket and served as a shelter for pilgrims for more than 800 years, and for more than 400 it has been a permanent home for elderly residents. Love that it’s still in use!

Next up was C&H- a fantastic family owned crafts & textiles with 8 shops in south & south east England. The main floor featured fabrics, the first floor up had a whole host of fabric, pattern books, quilting cottons, and notions. I was in heaven and was VERY proud that I resisted buying the Jane Austin knit book- but I have to remember that I’ll have to bring all of these books back to Canada so I am working very hard at sticking to library books!! Then, the big surprise: the basement houses glass encased ruins of Roman steam baths!  It’s not generally open to the public, so we were really grateful to Alan and Rebecca for the tip.

We stopped in at the library.  It has been quite renovated inside but THANKFULLY people stepped in when renovations were set to include demolition and modernization of the facade as well! I was horrified to learn that it was even considered, just look at how beautiful this building is! I did love a modern art installation inside though: a double pane glass with strands of yarn between the panes creating an ombre effect.  It was beautiful!

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Then to Canterbury Roman Museum where we saw intricate mosaic tile floors that have been unearthed and preserved, alongside exquisite examples of glass and textile work and many others crafts: bone hair pins, metal clasps, complex rings with inlaid patterns in stone and glass: in granules and then heated. 

Returned to tour the Franciscan building in the Greyfriars garden, the Greyfriars Chapel.  Built late in the 13th century, it is the only remaining building from the first English Franciscan Friary and believed to have been a guest house.  At one time, a back room on the ground floor (the window at bottom left) was a prison, revealing just one interesting layer of this building’s life story.

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The website notes that:

“After the Dissolution it was secured for £100 by Thomas Spylman, one of the Receivers of the court of Augmentations who disposed of former church property and it became a private house. Over the years it had many uses and the graffiti and studded door on the ground floor indicate that it was once used as a lock up for the Bridewell then in the Poor Priest’s Hospital, now the Canterbury Museum.

The house was restored in 1919 and later through the generosity of a Canadian QC, Harry Jackman, it was modernised and the upper rooms furnished as a chapel and vestry, where an Anglican Eucharist Service takes place weekly on a Wednesday at 12.30 at which the public are welcomed.”

With some walking under our belt, we sat on the grass in what is appropriately  known as the secret garden.  It was warm and peaceful, and a gentle breeze made it the perfect setting for a Saturday afternoon picnic lunch!

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Done by half 3, headed to the Old Brewery tavern for a bevy- no good today and limited options on tap so just a quick stop for a cider before heading to our B&B to drop off our bags and relax a bit.

En route to the B&B, we did a loop around the gated property of Canterbury castle. Sadly, this Norman treasure has closure signs warning of falling masonry. Research to be sure: walls that appear to be 5 to 6 feet thick must’ve been quite impressive in their time.

After a quick nap, we went back into town for dinner.  First, we stopped at Yo Sushi (they have them in London but I had never been).  It was meant to be a light appy but everything was so good that we ended up being too full for dessert later- but we’ll get to that 🙂 It’s a fun concept: sushi travels around in covered dishes on a conveyor belt. Each colour has a different price, and you are given a menu with food descriptions and a legend for the pricing.  When you’re done your meal, they collect your plates and calculate your total.  You can also request items that aren’t out, and they will make them fresh for you.  It’s still nothing compared to sushi in Vancouver (oh home, how we miss you when we crave sushi!!) but by English standards, pretty good- and the fresh tuna that was made up for us was tender and delicate.

We eventually made it to our planned dinner destination: The Parrot.  It’s a bit beyond the main city in what looks to be a residential neighbourhood which meant it was mostly locals eating there. We were very lucky to get a table as a couple of women were ready to leave just as we were looking around!  Our server, Sarah, was lovely! We took her recommendations, and I had a steak and ale pie for dinner, paired with a local Kentish gin with tonic.

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It tasted as scrumptious as it looks

After our meal we went upstairs (where they tend to host parties and large groups) to see the stunning, exposed beam, vaulted Tutor ceiling.  We ate downstairs with the typical low ceiling and beam and doors that make T look like a giant!

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We took a cab back to our Airbnb and had an awesome chat with the driver, Vali, Who has lived in Canterbury for 27 years prior to that lived in Richmond for two years and Langley for seven. Had a great chat about the things that are awesome about Canada and in particular the mountains. We returned to the Airbnb and finally got to meet our lovely hostess. Sat down for a short visit before heading to bed at 11. It was it an action-packed and yet laid-back lovely sunny spring day. 

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