Canterbury: British Invasion, Day 2

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Wednesday morning started out at Hej (pronounced Hey) in Bermondsey.  I was, and still am, madly in love with this place.  As in, we went there twice during our stay, and I still wish we’d been able to go there more.  The coffee was good, but the sandwiches…  Dear lord, but those were good.  Plus, the place was absolutely adorable (in a slightly hipster way, but that’s sort of what you’re looking for in a coffee shop, yes?), and the staff was very friendly.  In short, if you have the chance, get thee to Hej and thank me later.  (And also bring me one of their smoked salmon, cream cheese thingies, pleasethankyou.)

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After fortifying ourselves with coffee and the best sandwich in London*, we hopped the tube to the train station and rode the train as far as Canterbury.  (We bought a three day rail pass, and it worked out beautifully.  No waiting in line to buy tickets, and the three days were flexible. You just marked down the dates you used it, and that was that.  Very hassle-free.)

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Obviously, the first thing we hit up was Canterbury Cathedral.  The religiosity of the site was neither here not there for us, but we’re talking some major history and architecture here, so it’s well-worth a visit, regardless of your particular inclinations, or lack thereof.

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Historically, aside from being the seat of power for the Anglican church, I suppose the cathedral itself is best known as the site of the murder of St. Thomas Becket (then archbishop of Canterbury) on orders from King Henry II in 1170 A.D.  Becket later became St. Thomas Becket, and the floor above was part of a shrine in his honor, but the shrine was destroyed by order of Henry VIII when he orchestrated the move from Catholic to Anglican church in the 1500s.

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After thoroughly exploring the cathedral itself, we wandered around the cloisters and grounds for a bit, trying as much as possible to avoid the rain.  (You’ll note that my hair, obviously, was not able to avoid the humidity, and by lunch, it was nearly twice the size it was at breakfast.  This is probably of next to no importance to you, but I was annoyed.)

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Poor Dean.  No one's listened to him in, literally, centuries.  Especially Mary.  She took. her. time.

Poor Dean. No one’s listened to him in, literally, centuries. Especially Mary. She took. her. time.

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However, eventually even amazing feats of pre-industrial architecture and artistry could not drown out the growling of our stomachs, and so we headed out the gates and back to the city center for lunch at La Trappiste, chosen not only for its proximity but also for its quite extensive collection of authentic Trappist beers.

No, this is not a "Trappist" beer.  Most of them are from Belgium, and I'm not a big fan of Belgian beer.  And no, beer geeks, this does not make me BROKEN.  I means I have tastes that are different from yours.  And my tastes don't run to beers that taste of nothing so much as bananas.

No, this is not a “Trappist” beer. Most of them are from Belgium, and I’m not a big fan of Belgian beer. And no, beer geeks, this does not make me BROKEN. I means I have tastes that are different from yours. And my tastes don’t run to beers that taste of nothing so much as bananas.

Bellies full, we followed the Great Stour river through Westgate Gardens, stopping only to once and for all confirm that I do not get English toilets.**  Most of them have two different flush buttons, and I always push the wrong one, and in this particular instance, a bathroom in the park, there was a cord you had to pull and stuff, but then there was beeping and a light started flashing, and so…I just left.  Sorry, England.  Your toilets made me nervous.

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The gardens ended up in front of the ruins of a Norman Castle, so of course, Jon and I poked around and took some pictures.  The castle dates back to 1070 A.D., when construction was begun by William the Conqueror.  It’s pretty run down now, but the fact that any of it is still standing is a testament to its builders as it’s been a “ruin” since the 17th century.

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I loved that there were wildflowers growing all over this thing. I found it almost unbearable romantic, in the most Victorian of ways.

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Taking pictures is really painful, apparently. SMH. I don’t even know what my face is doing half the time…

Having accomplished all the touristy whatnot our feet could take for the day, we high tailed it to Canterbury Brewers to sample local beers (and ciders) before eating dinner at the Thomas Becket (because of course) and heading for the station.

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The view of the cathedral from the train station.

The view of the cathedral from the train station.

Tired me, now and then, would like to tell you that our evening ended there–that we went back to Bermondsey and to bed, but no.  I was on vacation with Jon, and Jon wanted to walk over London Bridge and take night photos of Big Ben and Westminster and make my feet cry some more.  So we did that.  Sadly, none of the pictures turned out that well, so I’ll spare you the blur and the grain (you got enough of that with Day 1) and call this one done.  I’ll be back as soon as Jon gets all his pictures of The Tower edited and ready for public viewing.

P.S. – First person to get the “How I Met Your Mother” reference buried in this post gets a beer on me.  🙂

*Of course, it should also be noted that Jon and I have a habit of falling head over heels in love with whatever we first stuff in our faces the morning after a long day of travel.  The same thing happened in Ireland, and we still talk about that breakfast, even though it’s been over five years since we were there.

**Who knew this entire trip was going to be so full of stories about bathrooms?