Monday, 6 May 2013

Canterbury and Dover -- A weekend in Kent

Hello, Blog Fans.  We've just returned from a quick visit to Canterbury and Dover in the county of Kent (SE corner of England).  Today (Monday) is a Bank Holiday so the extra day gave us the chance to venture out for the weekend.

We left on Saturday and drove to Canterbury (B).  We stayed at a very nice B&B (Bluebells Guesthouse).  We toured Canterbury the rest of the day.  On Sunday, we spent the day in Dover (C).  Normal people would have taken in some sites on Monday, but, alas, we simply returned home as laundry, chores, homework and shopping beckoned prior to starting the new week.

The drive back was just over 3 hours.  Unfortunately, a key section of the M25 was closed on the way down.  Given the warnings of delays on the M1, we picked a more easterly route that cost us about an hour.   Oh well.

Canterbury -- what comes to mind?  For me, it is the Canterbury Tales and having to memorize the first 20-odd lines of the prologue in 12th grade English.

WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Right.  What the heck is that?  Ultimately, I'm a knuckle-dragging engineer who doesn't have the time or interest for that.  But, being the curious sort, I did happen to notice a new "modern" version that I picked up for £4.99:

Sacrilege for sure, but it's making some sense now (and funny too).  For those that may not remember, the Canterbury Tales tell the story of a motley crew on a Pilgrimage to visit the grave of St. Thomas (Becket) in Canterbury.  More to the point, it is a tale of their tales (Miller, Knight, Wife of Bath, etc.)

Thomas Becket was a clerk who worked his way up to the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  King Henry II thought he was on his side but found that Thomas was very much on the Church rights side.  They quarreled over many things including the right to try crimes by the Church (see the Constitutions of Clarendon).  The King uttered something to the effect of "can anyone help me get rid of this guy?" and it was taken quite literally (1170).

So, clerk --> Archbishop --> Martyr -->  Saint

Tales of his healing powers (in death) grew and Canterbury's popularity grew as many made the pilgrimage to see for themselves.

Alrighty then, enough from me.  On to some photos. 

Note:  parents don't forget (like me) to print out your voucher for your kids to get into the Cathedral for free (link).  General visit info here..

at the entrance Gate to the courtyard of the Cathedral

 in the nave, looking down towards the quire

a monument to Thomas Becket ("The Martyrdom")-- the 4 swords of the knights that attacked him, including the one that shattered during the fatal blow

a view of the Cloister

 back down the Nave

in the quire

the symbolic candle left burning to mark the spot of his shrine (that Henry VIII had destroyed)

 stained glass above the Corona Chapel

The Black Prince -- Edward, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Edward III and an exceptional military leader

We enjoyed the Cathedral and learning more about Thomas Becket since we were fairly ignorant to begin with.  We've seen quite a few the last 2 years and they do tend to run together a bit though this one has the whole Becket thing going for it. 

We still hold the Yorkminster in high regard and I remember the tour there talking about how York was equal or ahead in the church power struggle, but then Canterbury lucks out by having its Archbishop murdered and the rest is history.

After the Cathedral, we walked over to the Canterbury Heritage Museum.  What a great find!  We really enjoyed this museum which walks you through from the Stone Age to present day Canterbury.

 Canterbury during Roman times (AD 300 or so)

 post-Roman, deserted Canterbury; the early Anglo-Saxons opted for a more rural life

Note:  in 597 Augustine was sent by the Pope (in Rome) to Kent to spread the word among the pagan Anglo-Saxons.   (As you can see from the map up top and as a re-occurring theme, this area is the closest point to the continent so is a likely landing spot).  King Aethelbert allowed the mission and Christianity began to spread -- over 10,000 were baptized on Christmas Day!

 circa 700 AD -- the Anglo-Saxons begin to set up home inside the city walls

I didn't note the date, but it's obviously later with the Cathedral now built up

My favorite part of the museum was this modern, simple 60-ft frieze that tells the tale of Thomas Becket.

 Thomas struck down

King Henry's penance

 the early tomb/shrine up top (and the early selling of relics down below)

just in case you'd forgotten that capitalism has been around a long time, here is one of the early "I made the Pilgrimage" pins

quick aside:  Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, made famous by Ian Fleming, were race cars made in Canterbury in the 1920s.  In Fleming's book, it first "flew" to escape a traffic jam on the Canterbury ring road!

After the museum we walked around town a bit, including around this nice little park.  They had a flat boat "punting" down the "river" in about 6" of water (or so it looked). 

We stopped off at an old bookstore (Chaucher's Bookshop) and found a 1962 OS map of Derby and an early 1900's travel book for the Peak District.  I didn't purchase either though.  We then went to Waterstones though and I did buy the revised Canterbury Tales along with a book for Alex.

On our way back to our B&B, we also made a quick stop at

the Canterbury Castle -- Norman, after the Battle of Hastings (1066)

After a quick rest, we walked back into town for dinner.  We ate very well on this trip (as you know, this is a key part of my research).  On the first night, we ate at Deeson's -- excellent British cuisine (no, it's not an oxymoron).  Service was also very good -- I'm beginning to think we are simply getting the short end of the stick here in Derby.

Kuk's seafood platter starter

and my duck main course (I tend to order duck when going out as I haven't found a good source or way to cook it for that matter)

The meal was very good.  I pride myself on trying everything, but I should have pulled up short on this one.  I saved the ball on the right for last.  It's a duck "faggot".  Faggots are made from meat "off-cuts" and offal (i.e. stomach lining).  You usually get a bonus of a few extra organs mixed in there.  Duck haggis I guess.  Interesting, yes; tasty, not so much.  I'll chalk that one up to cultural differences.  That was an exception, however, as the rest of the food was fantastic.

Sunday -- Dover Castle and the Cliffs

We awoke Sunday to a glorious day.  Sunny and in the mid-60s.  Perfect.  First stop, was Dover Castle.  It was about 25 minutes from Canterbury.  We got there slightly before opening (10) and had to wait to park but we got in.  After getting our (free, thanks English Heritage membership) tickets, we headed straight for the Operation Dynamo tunnel.

view of Dover from the castle grounds (queue for the tunnel is forming on the left).  Dover itself is not much to write home about.  Being the closest entry point from the continent, it is a port town.  But, it does have a neat castle and those cliffs you've heard about.

 ready to enter -- unfortunately we are at the front as we just missed the last tour

No photos allowed inside.  I really enjoyed the tour and learned quite a bit (never thought I'd get so much WW II history along the way).  

Backing up a bit, the castle site dates way back to the Iron Age.  There is also a lighthouse still standing from Roman times.   Work began shortly after William the Conqueror but the castle really took off under Henry II in 1160.

In Napoleonic times (end of 18th century), significant rebuilding took place which included "building" tunnels underneath the castle to be used as barracks and storage.  Further tunnels were made during the early stages of WW II and they were used extensively during that time.

The multi-media tour through the tunnel taught us about Operation Dynamo which involved evacuating soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940.   Now, you don't tend to think of a massive retreat as being a success; however, the British Expeditionary Force had been cut off.    Over 300,000 were evacuated.

 lone seagull on the rooftop outside the tunnel exit


view of the cliffs and the port of Dover from the Admiralty Lookout

we've now walked up to the medieval area -- this is Church of St. Mary-in-Castro and the Roman pharos (lighthouse)

view of the main castle and Great Tower -- one of the last rectangular keeps

 Alex manning the lookout

 and on the throne

looking back at the church and pharos

strong seaside breeze snapping the Union Jack

up on the roof top, looking out

After the castle, we headed to the National Trust Visitor's Centre (link) for a walk along the cliffs.  Now, as you can imagine, the best way to see the cliffs is not to walk on top of them.  That would be from the sea or air like the photos (snagged from the web) below:

However, it was such a nice day and I figured we see a little bit of the cliffs so off we went.  Our destination was the South Foreland Lighthouse 2 miles down.

ready, set, go

to prove that I actually went as well

a little hard to tell, but this is a fairly significant "crater" along the way (we took that route on the way back)

 different cliff (same family)

 and the lighthouse -- notice all the kites to the right (those aren't bugs)

 Father and Son and a rare moment to soak up some Vitamin D -- ah, the good life

 my view from my resting spot

after a rest and some ice cream, we are on our way back

one of the better cliff views along the walk
 Mom and Daughter  (Nicole has overtaken Kuk in height but the slope of the land is exaggerating that fact)

we walked back at the mid-cliff level which took us by the port/docks -- you could hear all the announcements about boarding/leaving/arriving in English and French

Funny note:  both Kuk and Nicole's mobile phones sent them a text while on the walk.  Kuk was welcomed to France; Nicole, Belgium.  I guess the international border isn't too far out in the water and the phone coverage got confused.

As you can tell, it was simply a gorgeous day.  As we were driving away, a very quick fog rolled in.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get the best shot but this will have to do.   Amazing how quick that rolled in.  Glad we weren't walking when that happened!

We had another nice meal once we made it back to Canterbury.  This was at Pinocchio's.  Good food, good service.  Two for two.

 veal and eggplant for me

pasta with clams for Kuk

As always, we wish we had more time but we were glad to go even with a 3-day weekend.  The weather was great and we had a good time.  We realize that there is so much more to see in Kent, but we can't see it all, at least not this weekend.  Hopefully, we can return.

Thanks for reading and have a good week everyone.  I've got some Canterbury Tales to read . . .


  1. Glad you enjoyed it all, sounds like we enjoyed the same things; learning about Thomas, the museum and Dover Castle. Great weather. Loved the tee shirt pic, that will be a rarity over here.

  2. We didn't make it to the Dover castle when we went, so I'm glad I got to read about it here. Also looks like some good weather, except for that crazy fog!