2018 Day 27 – Canterbury

It’s lovely to wake to a lazy second day in Canterbury. Having seen the Cathedral yesterday, we’re free to explore at leisure.

A more detailed walk through town is in order. I had to be dragged away from the river yesterday, so it’s our starting point, amongst the gorgeous flowers that lead into the gardens, then to true wilderness and a haven for wildlife.

We see a speckled thrush, but none of the water voles or kingfishers that live here. Lots of ducks though! We follow the river through to the city’s Norman castle ruins.

The river is crystal clear – it’s lovely, full of greenery.

Just before the castle is a section of land that’s been donated to the city by its private owners. It was once the location of the town’s tannery and in acknowledgement of its past is a statue of a bull.

After work we pop into town for lunch and, starting as we mean to go on, we select a French restaurant and have a delightful meal: Bretton seafood stew for Chris and my favourite, warm goat’s cheese salad.

Desserts are delightful too: classic French treats. Getting a little excited to be in France tomorrow.

After lunch we take a tour of the Canterbury Tales. Thankfully modernised of their 1300s language, we’re “pilgrims” travelling with the troop, being told five of the Tales along our way. It’s interesting to hear the Tales in modern language: they’re quite bawdy, clearly before puritanical times hit.

The best parts of the tour are the live sections presented by our guides where we learn a little more about the history of drinking houses in the UK. The early public houses, for example, were private homes that had brewed ale or mead, in excess of requirements and therefore would open their homes as public drinking houses. If they also served food they could be called a tavern and if they offered accommodation, it would be known as an inn.

We also learn that Canterbury, being a gated town, had a curfew, after which the gates walls would be closed. If you were a rich pilgrim, you’d arrive on a horse and you would aim to reach the gates before they closed. This led to the phrase of “going at a Canterbury pace” which in later times was shortened to our modern word, canter. Fascinating!

I also read a little more about the Tales and discover speculation that the Tales are actually incomplete.

In the opening notes to the Tales, Chaucer speaks of 30 pilgrims not 24, and each having 5 Tales apiece. The Tales were a competition in which the best Tale teller would win a meal in the inn, at the end of the pilgrimage.

I forgot to mention yesterday, that we saw Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, immortalised in stone, at one of the Cathedral entrances. A poignant reminder that they may not be around much longer.

It’s been a lovely lazy day. Off to Europe tomorrow. Yay!

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