Friday, March 25, 2016

The Canterbury Rails

Wednesday, 23rd: Arrival
It’s Ann’s birthday on the 25th, so we thought we’d slip away for a few days.

The destination of choice this time was Canterbury - and we did it all by train! (me, on a train, what, for ALL of the journey? – some mistake surely!). 

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Actually it was a bit of no-brainer. By car it’s around 150 miles, suggesting about a 2.5 hour journey - assuming no holdups - and it was about the same duration by train - only a lot cheaper and no hassle trying to find somewhere to park!
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Our accommodation was at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge Hotel unsurprisingly located within the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral itself - and as we had the Cathedral on our to-do list, it made the decision even easier! Better still, the accommodation allowed us free admission to the Cathedral. Kerchinnnng!


And so, after a trouble-free journey from Kettering to St Pancras International and then the same for the final leg to Canterbury West, we were soon checking-in; Lee next door in room 202 and us in 203, both with a fantastic view of the Cathedral.


The View from Room 203

After unpacking, it was straight into the Cathedral. Ann hasn’t been here for 40 years-or-so, and I’ve never visited Canterbury at all (not sure why not!). It was only when we got inside that we fully appreciated the scale of the place! I think it’s one of the few Cathedrals we’ve been to where there was more than one ‘floor’. The whole place has been expanded over the centuries – in many directions – and that meant there was an awful lot to see.


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Wow! you can’t fail to be impressed with this Cathedral – even if you’re not religious – so many years of toil for so many people through the centuries has resulted in a massive expanse of stonework… tall… long… and wide.

With our senses assaulted (in a good way) it was off to find somewhere to eat. One great thing about Canterbury is there are plenty of places to eat. On one of our journeys of (food) discovery, we discovered a street where virtually EVERY outlet was an eatery – we really were spoilt for choice. In the end we dropped into The Shakespeare in Butchery Lane.

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We weren’t disappointed! The food was excellent! and we arrived just before it got too busy too, so we had a relaxed meal in a not-too-noisy atmosphere. Lee settled for ‘posh fish fingers’, Ann had the Steak whilst I had the Lent-friendly Duck with Sweet Potato fries, Salad and Onion Rings. Yummy! No-one could fit in a dessert, so Lee settled the bill (thanks Lee!) and we headed back to our accommodation. Lee was tired, so we settled her in her room, whilst Ann and I went for an evening stroll and some window-shopping. By now the temperature had dropped quite dramatically, but luckily Ann had packed all the essentials – gloves, scarves and hats! We discovered even more eateries on our walk – and perhaps surprisingly, given that there were so many posh shops, quite a few people were sleeping rough.

We walked in a very large circle, and 1.7 miles later, we were therefore back where we started. We headed for our room, fired up the radiator, and spent the rest of the evening watching the TV.

We’re planning a relaxed day tomorrow. We’ve got a table booked at Cote Brasserie for 12.30, but apart from that, we’re probably going to do some more sight-seeing and get some retail therapy.


Thursday, 24th: Retail Therapy
Our day began with breakfast in the Lodge. It was a pretty good menu and the service was polite, if a little slow. After one (almost) full-English (Ann), Eggs Benedict (me) and two-thirds of a croissant (Lee), we were ready for our dose of retail therapy. Lee unfortunately became our first casualty within the first hour - she wasn’t feeling too well. We thought it best to take her back to her room – and some familiar surroundings – that meant the TV permanently on ITV3 and the radiator on full 11!

Ann and I then headed back into town for a more detailed look around the shops. First stop was Fenwick’s, the department store.




Boy, this place was very impressive! It must have been the retail experience in our genes, but we loved looking round all the neatly arranged displays. Fantastic!

Lunchtime arrived, and as planned, we headed for Cote Brasserie. We were hoping to meet up with an ex-business colleague of Ann’s and his wife, but they were down with a flu-bug, so our table for five was reduced to just us two. In spite of the lack of numbers, we enjoyed a fab meal with great service to match!

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After lunch, it was a brisk walk down Canterbury Castle (or what’s left of it) and a quick look round. It’s one of the oldest in Britain, and although there wasn’t much to see, it was good to see it still standing.

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By now the skies were turning very grey and the temperature had dropped quite significantly, so we headed back to the Lodge to see how Lee was, and eventually to put our feet up for a few hours.

At 5pm, Lee still wasn’t feeling 100% so Ann and I trotted into town for a small bite to eat. As we’ve discovered, there’s plenty of choice in Canterbury, but as it was starting to rain and getting really cold, we simply picked the nearest place that looked OK! And that place was Wildwood. We’d not heard of them before, but the Italian menu looked varied – and they didn’t look too busy. Just like last night, we timed it perfectly – it was quiet when we arrived and heaving when we left (and we were only there for around half-an-hour).


We shared their Italian Platter and weren’t disappointed. There was just about the right amount of meat and cheese - and the bread had been gently warmed through. Delicious!


…and then it was back to the Lodge for the last time. We check out tomorrow and we thought it a good idea to pre-book the taxi back to the Station just in case they were all taken tomorrow as part of the Easter events at the cathedral.

Canterbury has been great. Lots to see, lots of shops and plenty of places to get a meal. The weather could have been kinder, but we coped whilst still managing to keep up with our new walking regime. We’re leaving by about 11 tomorrow and if all the connections work, home by the middle of the afternoon.


Friday, 25th: Birthday Sun

Ironically, on the day that we depart – and Ann’s Birthday – the weather brightens up!
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So, we just had time to grab the camera and re-visit the exterior of the Cathedral for some better shots…

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Exterior shots of Canterbury Cathedral

…and then it was back to the Lodge to wait for the taxi to take us back to Canterbury West, and our journey home.