Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Canterbury, now with less chatting!

Hey!  Captive audience...hey guys!  listen to my tale!  Let me tell you the story of how I came to be on this pilgrimage and blah blah blah blah....

Oh, never mind, we're there already.  Carry on.

Pilgrims in the days of yore would have spent at least a week walking from London to Canterbury to pay homage to St. Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop who defied his friend, King Henry II, and paid the price with his life.

While I was probably the only nerdling in school who actually enjoyed reading Chaucer's prose and enlightening us on every day people of the time making this journey (wife of Bath, you are my hero...), you might back yourself in a hole and end up chatting up some old geezer who won't shut his trap for but a minute on the short path from the train station to the church.  This is where I wish the strong wine passed around in the tale would suddenly materialize.  It would be a miracle!  Thanks, St Thom!

Because of this industrious trade in pilgrimages, Canterbury prospered.  The Cathedral does not look shabby and run-down, but a grand place with multiple additions over the centuries.  

People still come here to see the amazing, soaring cathedral, with the place were St Thomas was murdered by French swordsmen on the King's orders marked by a rather gruesome memorial:

His ghost still haunts apparently.  England is really going to run out of real estate for ghost to haunt one of these days.

The shrine to St Thomas was ordered removed and destroyed to discourage pilgrims in later years, but still, they flock.

 Canterbury itself is not terribly interesting at this point.  It was founded by the Romans and there are still bits of Roman walls to be seen, but it's just a jumble of Starbucks and Pret a Manger and other high-street shops that you'll find anywhere, but perhaps cozied into an ancient storefront instead of a strip mall.  So, maybe not worth a weekend, but it's something to see in an afternoon.

It's really quite a cool structure.  It was originally founded in 597, destroyed by fire 500 years later and rebuilt, with a huge central bell tower that makes it unique as far as Cathedrals go.

Did I mention that I hit another blistering hot summer day to make a journey?  No?  Well I didn't.

One day, my camera lens will cease being constantly smudged up with rain drops.

It takes about an hour and a half to get to Canterbury by a slow, local train from London.  There might be a faster way, but it wasn't immediately apparent to me.  It's worth seeing if you are a fan-boy of the Canterbury Tales or Historic Pilgrimages or Beautiful Old Cathedrals or UNESCO sites.  You can still walk the Pilgrim trail, although most of it follows a pretty busy highway at this point.

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