Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende…

Up early, left the house just gone 9. Took puppies to Serendipity. Both a bit shakey, particularly Day-z, but they’ll be fine. Set off at 10 and had a dream run. The dreaded M25 did NOT live up to expectations. Got to the outskirts in two hours, it then took quite a while to go that final mile. Had a bit of bother manoeuvring around the one way street system before getting it right.

St John’s Court (our B&B) is very, very close to the city centre and has a car park. Given the total lack of street width and no through roads and roads that are through on the map but end in steel posts, this is indeed an excellent thing.

The entrance to the B&B is just through that arch

Nigel, the guy who runs the B&B is South African and has yet to learn the art of silence. This is fine for the first hour but when you have a limited amount of time in a place, you really want to go out and enjoy it. Eventually we extricated ourselves…well, actually, another guest turned up so Nigel wound himself up and started with him. With a pair of relieved sighs, we breezed onto the street.

I remembered a lot of things from our previous visit, although we only stayed a night and two days. As I saw things, the memories flooded back. I guess the city hasn’t really changed for a thousand years so what could happen in six?

On Nigel’s recommendation, we attended evensong in the cathedral at 3:15 and it was superb. The choir in the quire, the lessons, the vaulted ceilings, indeed an experience to treasure. When I first saw Canterbury cathedral I wasn’t exactly impressed. Sure, it was an amazing building but I thought it dour, unfriendly, cold – Mirinda reckons a lot of this is due to the priest who came up to me and said “In our church, we take our hats off…sir”, when I accidentally left my baseball cap on. This visit, my opinion has taken an about turn – it is now friendly, warm, inviting and glorious – Mirinda reckons this is because I remembered to take my baseball cap off this time. Whatever the reason, it is lovely, and listening to the choir was like an aural slice of heaven.

Canterbury cathedral

Afterwards we walked down to revisit St Augustine’s chapel, which impressed me so much last time. It, however, has undergone some changes. There is now a museum and a lot of the site is roped off. I remember being able to roam all over the place but now you are restricted to a path for most of it.

They now have the information things that tell you everything as you walk around – I don’t know what they’re called but they look like big telephone receivers and you hold them to your ear. These are good except, as Mirinda pointed out, it means you end up seeing things as an individual rather than a couple. This is true, but then again we tend to roam around separately anyway, meeting up now and then to compare notes (or order tea/coffee). The entrance fee has gone way up – because of the improvements, I assume.

St Augustine's

An open air performance of The Dream is on tonight in the chapter house but it’s sold out. Pity, it would have been nice. The guy said we could risk stand-by but we’re not that keen to see an open air Shakespeare! We’d already popped into the Marlowe theatre to see if there was some exciting reworking of Edward II but no, they have the national tour of Whistle Down the Wind, something we missed in Woking.

On the way back to the B&B, we booked into Jacques, a French restaurant just across the road. When collared by Nigel (while trying to make a cup of coffee in the kitchen) I found out that the last time he went to Jacques, the food was shit – great! It had been good but the boss had been away. Fingers crossed he’s back. Whatever the state of the food, I was warned to get a table as far away as possible from the piano, unless I preferred shouting across the dinner table.

I managed to finally free myself, my coffee and Mirinda’s, by now well and truly brewed, tea and we spent a leisurely few hours chatting, reading and writing this.

Jacques was fine, though interestingly the food did not exactly match the description in the menu. I had a slow cooked lamb in orange and rosemary sauce with new potatoes and vegetables of the day which ended up being lamb casserole in runny gravy with cabbage and zucchini. On the other hand, Mirinda had lamb shank with anchovy sauce on a bed of mashed potatoes and artichoke which ended up being lamb shank casserole in runny gravy with mashed potato, cabbage and zucchini (no sign of any anchovy or much artichoke).

Don’t get me wrong here, the food was lovely just a little disappointingly inaccurate. If you went into a pub on a Sunday and asked for a lamb casserole, this is what you’d get. Dessert, on the other hand, was perfect. Cappuccino brulee, mmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Bliss. Oh, and the pianist wasn’t THAT bad. We didn’t have to resort to much shouting.

After dinner we had a wander round the mean streets of Canterbury where lots of single sex packs roam unhindered, hunting each other down through a blur of hormones, alcohol and displays of revealing fashion. After not very long, it all got rather ugly so we retraced and returned to the mature safety of our B&B. Ahh, bed at last.

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