As part of the too-brief description of this trip, I should have mentioned that I was very fortunate in having the opportunity to spend two months seeing more of England than most Englishmen (or so I’ve been told). While I traveled all over the country, my base was in London, where I stayed at the home of my generous and gracious cousin. Today, I’m leaving Capel le Ferne and traveling to Canterbury (yes, of Canterbury Tales fame!) for a quick visit and then on to London where I will spend a few weeks with my cousin.
Capel le Ferne
The T____s are excellent conversationalists, and I didn’t leave their house until about noon or one. They were so kind and generous. Mr. T___ looked up the directions for London for me on the computer. He used Mapquest UK. At first the directions seemed pretty good, but there were a lot of turns with no distances and no landmarks at all. Mrs. T___ loaded me up with biscuits, smelly cheese, caramels, and a cereal bar to bring to London. So sweet. I wish I’d had more time to spend with them. But as it was I got off to a late start for Canterbury.
Readjusting to driving on the left presented no problem at all. However, I did have a bit of a problem following Mrs. T___’s verbal directions, and ended up taking the long way around Dover rather than straight through to Canterbury. Once there I put the car in a car park and took a shuttle into the town. I met a nice gentleman on the shuttle who told me how to get to the cathedral, and gave me the rundown on how the car park worked.
The town of Canterbury is adorable: open-air stalls, old buildings, cobble streets. I stopped for lunch at a pasty shop and bought a Steak & Stilton pasty… delish! Then I went on to Canterbury Cathedral where I rented an audio tour to point me to the highlights.
This is the cathedral in which Thomas á Becket was murdered by the guards of Henry II. It is a fascinating story [and the topic of my next post]. I saw as much of the church as possible in such a short time. I found the undercroft particularly interesting, with its chapels and crypts. Unfortunately the staff began closing while I was there. They don’t allow tourists to stay for the choral evensong at 5:30, so I didn’t get to finish the tour and wasn’t quick enough to pretend to be anyone other than a tourist. Disappointed not to have had more time, I left Canterbury. This seems to be a theme so far. I’ve got to get up and moving earlier.
It took a reasonably short time to get back to London. I abandoned the Mapquest directions and went with my usual navigation by instinct and map, and it served me well. I didn’t even have to stop for directions! I took the M2/A2 straight into London and followed the signs for Central London after that. Then there were signs for Westminster and Victoria and the only time I got turned around was in M____’s little neighborhood. She was relieved to see that I had found my way back, and we stayed up and had another long chat. Later on I got online to catch up with home and upload some photographs.
Did you notice the bit about Mapquest UK? This dates my trip to 2007, when we were all just transitioning to mapping web sites. The downside of these sites (for me) has always been that they offer no landmarks!
A pasty, or pastie, is a pastry filled with savories rather than sweets. Some come in the same shape as a turnover, and some are like a little pie, but the pastry itself is a little sturdier than a turnover, and flakier than a pie. I’ve only eaten them at lunchtime. Pasties are particularly associated with Cornwall, and the Cornish pasty is made in a particular way. I’ll discuss that when we get toward the last weeks of this trip.
This “instinctual navigation” that I once thought I possessed has turned out to be no more than, at best, an enjoyment, and at least, an acceptance of getting “lost.” Unless I’m truly in a hurry, the prospect of arriving at my original destination and that of turning up somewhere new and possibly interesting rank about equally on my happiness scale.
Also, that theme of getting out the door just a bit too late to accomplish all that I’d hoped lasted through my entire tour of England, and is a constant in my travel experiences. I believe it’s a mechanism for bridging the divide between a vacation and a trip. We think of the former as a “getting away” from the hustle and bustle of everyday life; the latter as a rigorous “going to” a place in which sightseeing is an important part of the plan. I’m always at odds with myself on this… I feel entitled to take life a bit slower when I’m out of my normal routine. Or maybe I just like to sleep late when I’m traveling!
See you in London…