Since Ryan and I have started on our second year here, we’re trying to renew our commitment to traveling more in and around London. Ya know, getting to know the UK a little better and all that. So this past weekend we took the train over to Canterbury. The weather was ugly, all gray and misty, but the sights were quite lovely.
It was Palm Sunday so the Cathedral, which is the main attraction, wasn’t open until later in the afternoon. So, we started at St. Augustine’s Abbey. This is one of those places that is astounding, beautiful, and older than America. The Abbey was found in 597 and marks the rebirth of Christianity in England.
It’s a fairly sizable complex and over the years buildings were added and expanded. There’s a nice video in the welcome center that shows blueprint models of how everything grew. Today, this site is an English Heritage site but it was used as a monastery all the way until 1538 when Henry VIII dismantled it. For hundreds of years it was in ruins, but since 1848 it has been preserved and used for education. How cool is that? Anyway, I really love the architecture of the buildings. Old stone, pointed arches… so gorgeous.
After we walked around in the misty rain for awhile and once we got too cold we popped into Tiny Tim Tearoom for afternoon tea. It’s cozy and charming – and also apparently haunted. There’s a room by the bathrooms that has a plaque saying it’s the “ghost room.” Anyway, we felt a little touristy going for tea, but I really wanted to, and we overheard English people also having afternoon tea so we felt ok about it. Also when we were soaked and cold, hot tea was just what we needed.
On paper, tea with some sandwiches, a scone, and cakes seems like not a ton of food, but it really was. Ryan had Earl Gray tea and I had chai. We were impressed with all the teapot paraphernalia – a strainer and a little dish for it. We’re used to store bought teabags and a kettle. Everything was tasty, but we were especially smitten with the clotted cream. We slathered our scones with both the jam and the cream. It was decadent.
Full and happy, we walked around a bit more then finally went over to the Cathedral. Also founded in 597, that actual building was rebuilt in 1070. Side note, I can write these dates no problem, but when I think about who old these buildings are and that people were actually there building and worshiping and creating this awesome history my mind gets blown away. This church is the cathedral for the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the leader of the Church of England. One of the most noteworthy things to happen in the cathedral was the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170.He was later seen as a martyr and a shrine was built in the church. Today, the shrine is marked by a candle that always remains lit (top left in the photo below).
The details throughout were really lovely as well. I’m always impressed with high arches and stained glass, but one of my favorite things was this eagle-like lectern. It’s wonderful to see how much beauty and care went in to one building. That’s something I’m loving about traveling throughout country: there is so much rich history that is hundred, and nearly thousands of years old, and it’s also so present and relevant. It’s amazing. I went home excited about what we saw and looking forward to planning another trip elsewhere in the UK.