We had scheduled an extra day in Canterbury to explore and just catch our breaths. Waking up in the morning knowing that there were no miles to walk was rather pleasant, but also disconcerting. For nearly four months, our regimen in the morning had been to rise, pack up and start walking. Now it was over. More thoughts on that topic in a few days, but onto Canterbury.
The main landmark/attraction of Canterbury is the cathedral. We visited it briefly on our arrival, but we returned to spend more time and explore at our leisure. It’s a magnificent building, although the scaffolding enveloping the exterior was a bit of a disappointment. A building this old and massive requires lots of ongoing TLC, but, of course, we were hoping it would receive it sometime other than during our visit.
Canterbury Cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous Christian buildings in England, is home to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest office in the Church of England and the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It was built as a Catholic cathedral, but as you will probably remember, when Henry VIII was denied a divorce from Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn back in 1527, he broke with Rome and by royal decree, announced all churches would then become Church of England with Henry VIII as its head.
According to Wiki, the cathedral was ‘founded in 597 [… and] was completely rebuilt between 1070 and 1077. Before the English Reformation, the cathedral was part of a Benedictine monastic community known as Christ Church Canterbury’, hence the name of the portal entering the cathedral grounds is known as Christ Church Gate.
‘The east end of the cathedral was greatly enlarged at the beginning of the 12th century, and largely rebuilt in the Gothic style following a fire in 1174, with significant eastward extensions to accommodate the flow of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket, the archbishop who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170 [by Henry 11].’ The Martyrdom is the room in which Becket was slain by Henry II’s knights.
The cathedral is enormous and magnificent. Here’s just a small glimpse of what we saw. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the image.
A note about the Black Prince …
‘Today, Edward of Woodstock is commonly referred to as “The Black Prince” although he was not called that in his lifetime. The first appearance of the reference occurred more than 150 years after his death. It is thought it may refer to Edward’s black shield, and/or his black armor or from his brutal reputation, particularly towards the French in Aquitaine.’
After leaving the cathedral, we decided to check out the rest of this charming city. We walked through the Christ Church Gate which opens onto Buttermarket Square. With its half-timbered buildings, it is a hub of pubs, buskers and shops. Prominent in center of the square is the Canterbury War Memorial erected in 1921, honoring those men who died in the Great War in the name of Great Britain. Note the distinctive Canterbury Cross that tops the statue.
The narrow streets and pedestrian malls were crowded with tourists (like us). We contemplated visiting Canterbury Tales, a Chaucer-based tourist attraction housed in the 12th century St. Margaret’s Church, but decided it was a bit too commercial for our tastes.
We didn’t miss the opportunity, however, to photograph Geoffrey Chaucer’s statue further down the street. Dressed in pilgrim garb, Chaucer was larger than life and looked right at home on the cobbletone streets of Canterbury.
‘The Westgate is a medieval gatehouse. This 60-foot (18 m) high western gate of the city wall is the largest surviving city gate in England. Built of Kentish ragstone around 1379, it is the last survivor of Canterbury's seven medieval gates, still well-preserved and one of the city's most distinctive landmarks.’
We finished off the day in a local pub and made our way back to the Cathedral Lodge. The nighttime view of the illuminated cathedral from our room was our dessert.
Off to London & Windsor
We caught a late morning bus to London’s Victoria Station, except the bus didn’t go to Victoria Station this day. Instead, it dropped us off about a mile or so away since all the roads were closed for the Prudential Ride Bike Race. We seem to run into bike races wherever we go.
We walked through lovely Hyde Park to our cramped hotel room nearby where we met up with cruising friend, Candy of s/y Endeavor. Endeavor was moored in Orford and Candy made the 2-hour train ride to London to join us for a pub dinner and lots and lots of chat. It was an early night. We were, for some reason, exhausted and hit the sack early. Perhaps the two pints at the pub contributed to our fatigue?
We met up with Candy again for morning coffee, then bid adieus and walked to Paddington Station to catch the train to Windsor. We hadn’t spent much time in Windsor on our Thames Path walk and wanted to explore it just a little further (and, yes, I did mean to write that!). We de-trained in Slough (rhymes with plow), walked the three miles to Windsor via Eton and crossed the Thames into Windsor.. For a few minutes, we were back on the Thames Path.
Windsor Castle is a residence of England’s royalty. The original castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I, it has been used by the reigning monarch and is the longest-occupied palace in Europe. Most recently it was the venue for the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and it was evident that the town had made the most of it.
Our 4th floor room at the Harte & Garter was outstanding. We’d stayed here last time with hotel points and we were able to do it again. Quite the splurge. We were right across the street from the castle and the view was superb.
The lines to visit the castle were long and we just couldn’t justify paying the admission price of £25/person. We did, however, watch the changing of the guard from the comfort of our lovely room.
We walked the narrow streets of Windsor, poking into this shop and that one. We wandered up small alleyways, trying to take it all in. After dinner and a pint in a local pub, we headed back to our room to pack for the final time.
Home Again, Home Again
Our British Airways flight was scheduled for a late afternoon departure, so we enjoyed a leisurely morning. Windsor is only 7 miles from Heathrow and our Uber ride was short and sweet, albeit expensive. The flight was uneventful (the best kind). We got to watch a zilllion movies (or at least four) during our 10 hours aboard. Las Vegas’ heat met us at the jetway and we knew we were home. Paul met us at the airport and here we are … home again.
It seems incredible that it’s all over. David plans to post some trip statistics and an overview of our gear list in his next Blue View. We both want to provide some reflections on our walk and we’ll share those with you sometime next week. We’re already planning our next adventure … stay tuned.