My Canterbury Tale of Misfortune and Misadventure

I decided to go to Canterbury on a whim. I woke up itching for an adventure but unsure whether I should spend the money. I had already been to Canterbury in 2011 with Kendall — was it worth returning? Silly question since I’ve returned to Bath over 5 times (including, most recently last Saturday; however, Bath is my favourite place in England). 

I kept changing my mind. I got as far as the online checkout, but, right before purchasing the ticket, I negotiated with myself to eat breakfast then decide. I’m prone to impulse decisions, and often suffer from buyer’s remorse. But is there an equivalent related to travel? Does remorse exist for buying a chance at an adventure? 

While eating my toast and marmalade (fancy and British, I know) I decided that, no, there was no such thing as traveller’s remorse. I needed to make the most of my remaining time in England. I resolved to purchase the tickets before I second-guessed myself. 

I quickly selected the tickets and pressed “purchase” before I could change my mind. And that’s when it happened. 

Normally, I review an online purchase multiple times, triple checking the details. But no. This time, in my haste to thwart my misgivings I instead hastened a mishap.

I bought two train tickets to Canterbury!

Why. 

Every mistake can be corrected, right? Once I bought the wrong ticket back to Norwich and received a full refund because it was cancelled within an hour. However, luck was against me. They charged me £10 to refund my mistake. I would receive a measly £7.50 credit. Yet, in order to claim that money, I would first need to collect the ticket from a station, print out the claim, and mail both to Edinburgh. 

Edinburgh! 

This mishap put me in a sour mood and on edge. It’s bad luck to start a journey with a mistake. 

However, I had to go to Canterbury now — I had 2 tickets! 

I took the train into Waterloo and then had to transfer to Waterloo East. During my wait for the train to Canterbury, I Decided to sit on the bench and resume reading Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. 

While engrossed in the novel, I noticed something drip, drop, and splat near my person. 

I surveyed the overhead beam and, sure enough, a grey-feathered poo machine was stationed above me. The pigeon moved about, obviously agitated to miss its mark. I didn’t want to wait for the bird to resume its target practice; I moved to stand at the platform. 

I knew it. My earlier mistake would continue to haunt me and colour my journey. Everyone knows unlucky things happen in threes. After the first two, what would be next?

I arrived at Canterbury West. The weather was lovely for late September. I was feeling positive and, dare I say, optimistic. Maybe my luck would change. 

It was lunch time. I was feeling a bit peckish, but my failed attempt to secure a table at a pub in Winchester still weighed on my mind. I’m not really good at eating alone. I mean I can physically do it. Eating is a solitary activity. But I prefer having fellow humans seated with me if I dine at an establishment. 

Solo travel? Sure. Relocating to another country and continent? Why not. Dining solo? No. I do not enjoy this. 

However, Eleanore Roosevelt said “do something every day which scares you” (just one of the many brilliant quotes of hers — except the teabag one. Not for me).

During my visit to Canterbury I would tackle my discomfort of eating alone. Thanks Eleanore.

I resolved to avoid someplace too crowded to minimise my anxiety. Walking down St Dunstan’s Street, a cute bistro caught my eye. Through the window the interior looked welcoming and rustic. And bonus: 3 women sat at 3 different tables. Solo ladies. One was even so cool she was reading a book and casually picking at her food as though the meal were an afterthought and possibly an inconvenience. 

This was my place. 

Refectory Kitchen

Street view towards Canterbury city centre from the bistro

When I entered the Refectory Kitchen a girl approached me saying “table for one?” My secret was out. She didn’t even politely ask if I had anyone joining me. She knew I didn’t. I played it cool, smiled, and nodded. 

And that’s when things went horribly wrong.

To my horror she didn’t seat me with my fellow kick a$s solo females! Nope. A second seating area existed, tucked behind an antiquated brick fireplace that divided the space. 

The second space was packed with patrons. And there I sat, solo. 

I pretended my feathers were unruffled. I pretended I was someone cool and important.

The menu was incredible. The Refectory Kitchen offers several appealing vegetarian options. Usually places only offer a veggie burger or some cheese-laden dish. I love cheese but try to limit how much I have. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised by the choices they offered. 

In the end, i decided to treat myself in this moment of stress, and to reward my bravery with cheese. As you do. I ordered the halloumi aubergine burger and a mint tea. 

While waiting for my meal I pulled out my phone and tweeted about my distress. 

The bistro wasn’t that large. There were two couples sitting at tables on either side of me; a party of five sat opposite me. The interior was cozy with exposed beams and brick.

My food arrived and the generous portions reminded me of America. However, they’re stingy with ketchup, which is extremely British. I’m one of those ketchup connoisseurs. The person who is particular about the taste of ketchup. That friend who needs a bottle of the stuff not some paltry packets or condiment cups. 

Overall, I highly recommend lunch at the Refectory Kitchen. It was delicious and reasonably priced. 

Once happily satiated, I felt reassured that my luck might be taking a positive turn. 

But no. Disaster struck once again. This time with large, pointy…beauty-obscuring scaffolding. 

Canterbury Cathedral was under renovation.  

The sobbing emoji was invented for such a catastrophe as this.

Luckily, I do have some photos from 2011. However, my mission was to take new ones with my brand new Sony a6000 (cuz I think I’m fancy now with this blogging).

DSC00548

Canterbury Cathedral exterior from 2011

The exterior was not the only part under construction.

So was the nave. I was more disappointed about this. I especially love a cathedral’s nave and seeing the vaulting.

Luckily, I have a photo from 2011 to show off what it’s meant to look like.

The interior of the Cathedral is worth a visit, especially for anyone who loves medieval history or the Canterbury Tales.

At the end of the Nave is the Choir Screen, a common feature in late medieval church architecture. The ornate partition divides Canterbury’s nave and chancel.

To the left of the Choir Screen is the Martyrdom: the spot in the cathedral where Archbishop Thomas Becket was slain by four knights of King Henry II on 29th  December 1170.

On the other side of the Choir, alongside the Presbytery, is the location of an interesting tomb. The Archbishop Henry Chichele (d 1443), founder of All Souls College Oxford, has a cadaver tomb.

DSC01536

Archbishop Henry Chichele’s Cadaver Tomb

When I first saw it in 2011 I thought it was the tomb of two people. But when I asked a nearby docent, he explained the top level represents the body before death while the lower level is a reminder of fleeting earthly glory.

At the east end of the Cathedral is Trinity Chapel, completed in 1184 specifically built for a shrine to Thomas Becket. A candle marks the spot of the shrine prior to being demolished during the Reformation.

DSC01556

The original shrine of Thomas Becket

Also located in the chapel is the tomb of the Black Prince (d 1376). I vaguely remember the Black Prince from my medieval history studies — he was the first English Prince of Wales to not become King of England — however, I distinctly remembered his tomb from 2011 as something pretty impressive.

The photos on the right are from my visit in 2011 depicting the obscured effigy and missing ‘achievements’ shown on the left from my September visit.

Over the summer a team of scientists and art historians investigated the tomb. Their findings will be discussed in the upcoming Black Prince Conference on 17 November 2017.

If I was still in England, I would totally go to this.

There are plenty of things to see in the Cathedral. Here are just a few of them:

The Cathedral’s website doesn’t mention the restoration; however, the work will continue through 2021.

Canterbury Cathedral Restoration

Description of restoration projects and targeted dates of completion

In the meantime, take a virtual tour of Canterbury Cathedral to see key features without the scaffolding.

After my quick solo tour of the Cathedral I walked around Canterbury a bit. Here are some of the photos I took:

Even though my day started out with some bad luck and disappointment regarding the restoration work, I enjoyed visiting Canterbury again.

Until next time 🙂

-Jenn

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4 thoughts on “My Canterbury Tale of Misfortune and Misadventure

  1. I really loved reading this travel narrative. I also dislike dining out by myself, but I give you immense credit for doing it! Sounds like a great adventure. I’ve never been to Canterbury but it is now on my bucket list for my next trip to the UK!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Places in England to Visit | Sonder Scribbles

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