Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Canterbury

Though widely travelled, neither The Silver Vixen nor the Gorse Fox have ever been to Canterbury. Today was an opportunity to rectify this. So it was, with bags packed, Jasper fed, and camera to hand, that we hit the roads and headed to the north-east corner of Kent.

The journey was unremarkable - 108 miles of free flowing traffic and just over two hours of driving. It was clearly a good time to travel. (At least in that direction, it didn’t look so clever in the opposite direction).

Arriving in Canterbury we were challenged by the narrow streets and suicidal pedestrians. The hotel, accessed by car down little more than an alley, had a tiny car park. This was blocked by a delivery truck as we arrived and we had to shuffle in and out to allow other cars to pass whilst awaiting access.

We were lucky, however, we got the last but one parking spot. We were sorted for next 24 hours. We checked in to the hotel but as we were early and our room not yet ready, we wandered off into the High Street to grab a coffee and start to get the lie of the land.

It turns out that the hotel, right on the pedestrianised High Street, is only a couple of hundred yards from the Cathedral entrance - but we decided to save that for tomorrow.

As we wandered the narrow streets, The Silver Vixen found a sewing shop and ducked inside to have a mooch around. The Gorse Fox was left outside with his camera to watch the world go by and soak up the atmosphere. Whilst waiting, a small group of teenage Spanish students approached. Two of them stopped and asked the Gorse Fox if they could take selfies with him. Somewhat bemused (he isn’t often mistaken for George Clooney or Daniel Craig) he acquiesced. Photos were taken and examined. They came out rather well - he should have asked for copies. Oh well, the Gorse Fox can only assume that the lads were interested in antiques.

We returned to the hotel to take our bags up to the room and decide on our next move. Unexpectedly, it turns out that our next move was to get stuck in the lift. We entered, we pressed the button for reception, the doors closed, and that was where we stayed. Buttons were pressed - nothing. The door opening button was pressed - nothing. Finally the Gorse Fox pressed the Alarm. That did the trick. The maintenance chap was there in moments and rushed down to the basement to reset the controls. A couple of minutes later we emerged on the ground floor - adventure over.

We turned left out of the hotel and headed towards Westgate and the gardens that follow the course of the River Stour.  The walk along the old Hight Street towards the Westgate revealed some wonderful buildings and sights. Perhaps once of the most iconic (other than the Cathedral) was the old Weavers Cottage, perched on the riverside by a bridge.

The gardens were delightful and provided plenty of opportunities for photos.

Little bridges led the walkers across the crystal clear waters of the river and back again. Picturesque cottages lined the waterside and well-kept lawns and lush flower beds decorated the route.

It was whilst we were walking through these gardens that the Gorse Fox’s phone rang. It was Cousteau-cub. She was just ringing to say that she was now home safely on Koh Lanta and had had a good journey - even managing to sleep much of the way. The frozen food she had packed in here luggage, though perhaps no longer frozen, was at least very cold still and would, no doubt, be consumed immediately. It was lovely to hear from her and it had been so nice to have her home for a week when Urban-cub needed a little tlc.

The walk continued under the old Watling Street (now Rheims Way, at this spot) and back across the river. We followed the City walls to the old Norman Castle. We had a look around the outside of the keep, then wandered around inside to see the skeleton of its former rooms, stairways and chimneys.

As we left we were treated to a vignette of Canterbury drama as a young chap came sprinting up the road at full speed - pursued by two policemen. We didn’t see the outcome, but the Gorse Fox suspects, given the speed differential between pursued and pursuers, that pursed youth escaped.

Next stop was the hotel for a cream tea which gave us a relaxing break before we headed back out.

This time we turned right and wandered past the shops and up to the Dane John Gardens. Whilst nicely laid out - and well maintained, they were not quite as inspiring as Westgate gardens visited earlier.

Dinner at the hotel was excellent. They had a special offering - Steak and Lobster with Prosecco. We debated for a nano-second and decided the “special” sounded great. We were not disappointed. The food was simply excellent and staff were utterly charming (even if one waiter seemed like a Monty Python character; his level of obsequious grovelling was such that the Gorse Fox suspects that if he had commented that his shoes were dirty, said waiter would have dropped to his knees and licked them clean).

It was dark by the time we finished dinner. Time for another stroll and some photo opportunities. Many of the sights were lit and a full moon smiled down across this corner of Kent.

It really was most picturesque and provided the perfect end to a lovely day.

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