Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Trip to England 2010 - Canterbury and Margate

Wednesday 14 August

It is amazing what some people will do to get a cup of coffee. It was cold as we left the hotel and we passed a lady in her night clothes, presumably going to the coffee shop. She was skimpily dressed and she must have frozen her, considerable, assets.

We decided to take advantage of the last day of our Flexipass to visit Canterbury. The South Eastern Javelin trains are now in full operation between London St. Pancras and Margate (via Canterbury), Faversham and Dover.

Javelins waiting to depart at St. Pancras.

The journey to Canterbury takes 59 minutes and is good for tourists.

The medieval signal box at Canterbury fitted in well with the rest of the town.

We arrived at Canterbury West station and crossed into the exit through a whitewashed tunnel which looked as if it could have been the remains of an archaeological dig. The first thing we saw was an Asian food market. Passing a number of thrift shops we came to the main road into Canterbury. The buildings were all quaint, half timbered and were mostly empty store fronts, tattoo and body piercing parlors, Asian restaurants, run down pubs (The Bishop's Finger seemed particularly appropriate) and comic shops - all in a medieval setting.

It was with a feeling of relief that we found the cathedral and paid to go in, only to be beset with a large number of church-sponsored shops all selling the same range of mostly cheap souvenirs. A gift shop is the first thing you see when you enter the cathedral and it gave the whole place a very tacky feel. Having recovered from the attempted money grab we found the cathedral light and airy and pretty well maintained. We were able to see much of the items up very close and it was a good visit. The stained glass is very good and does not suffer from under or no maintenance as in Leon.

There were several houses within the grounds of the cathedral itself which looked to have people living in them. They must have a pass to get in.

There were several groups of students from schools speaking German and French. They come for a week or so and are billeted with English families in the area. They were having a good time. At the end of the visit the exit is through another gift shop which had a much better selection of tasteful items - this should have been enough.

We found a pub which had Shepherd Neames (of Faversham) Spitfire Ale. It was a very good bitter.

The other attraction in Canterbury is the Chaucer Canterbury Tales exhibit. This was pretty well done. Several of the rooms had appropriate scents. The inn smelled of smoke and the stable of horse shit while the orchard smelled of apple blossom. There is an audio guide which moves things along very well although we found the end somewhat abrupt and were suddenly thrust out into the gift shop.

It was cold and Canterbury did not appear to hold much more for us so we decided to go on to Margate (pron: Margit) to see the seaside and search for some Margate Rock. We passed a few oast houses and the country became progressively flatter. Around Broadstairs there are some good cuttings in pure white chalk. Much of Margate seems to be suffering from a blight and many buildings are empty or under repair/demolition.

There was a model shop which advertised model trains - so I went in. The shop keeper was on a step ladder at the back of the store trying to get down a few small blue buckets that the kiddies use to make sand castles. He dislodged the pile and they came tumbling down all over the floor. He shouted "Bollocks," climbed down and proceeded to vent his feelings by savagely kicking the buckets around the store. He looked up, saw me for the first time and said, "Can I help you?" I replied "No, I am just looking, thank-you." I didn't see any model trains in the store, quickly left and burst into laughter on the sidewalk. Pure Monty Python!

The Frying Scot

We found a Fish and Chip place which was run by the manager of the Ramsgate Football Club. He had recently taken over the place and was proud that the paper had given him some coverage. We had cod and chips, mushy peas, a pickled onion and a cup of tea. The fish was freshly battered and fried and the whole was pretty good. A girl was writing up the chalkboard menu which was placed outside by the door. It took her a lot of time and she used several different colors.
She was at the bottom of the board and had just put in “Cheesy Chips” then called out:
“Joe, Seein' as 'ow we ain't got no cheese should I put on Cheesy Chips?”
“Naw, rub it 'aht,” was the reply.
I wonder if cheesy chips is the equivalent of our poutine?

From there we had an ice cream with a chocolate bar stuck in it and bought a stick of rock. It is now called "Holiday Rock", is made in Dundee, instead of locally, and had gone soft.

We decided to cut our losses, walked along the sand and caught the next train back to London where the Hamersmith and City Line was staggering along trying to recover from a series of signal failures. The Underground is also very good at apologizing.

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