Almost five years ago, in an MA English Lit class when I opened the original text of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and attempted to make sense of the verses in Old English, the thought never crossed my mind that I was myself a traveller like the 32 mentioned in the text, inching my way close to Canterbury, one story at a time. I never planned that ahead in life and although I knew and loved Shane, I never really thought about the prospect of moving to the UK and visiting the places I only read about in my classes. Ankita from five years ago, who buried her nose into Othello and the Lyrical Ballads didn't even think that she'd get to see the family homes of Shakespeare and Wordsworth, let alone go on a less traditional pilgrimage to Canterbury, remembering the tales of the travellers.
So last Sunday, when Madam Madan and I hopped on a train from London to Canterbury, everything still felt surreal. Our first stop, of course, was the famous Canterbury cathedral, where the shrine of St Thomas of Canterbury stood until it was destroyed by one of the only British monarchs that I have shown interest in. But I'd be lying if I said that my interest in the cathedral superseded my interest in food.
We made a quick pit stop at a local pub and God knows Canterbury has some of the prettiest and coziest pubs I've seen in the UK. The only reason I remembered to take pictures of our starters (don't get your hopes up, the starters are all I documented) is that I found it funny when we ended up ordering cheese, a slab of fried cheese, some mushrooms and cheese, and some more cheese for breakfast.
Ever since I discovered my love for Saganaki in Greece, I've never held back from stuffing myself with some yummy fried cheese whenever the opportunity presented itself. What it does to my body, in turn, is a story for my clogged arteries to tell when I'm hospitalised at the age of 35. I might even set up a blog for them.
After a very rich and heavy breakfast (which I couldn't finish by the way), we slowly made our way to the cathedral. One thing you notice in Canterbury is that the Cathedral is visible from all parts of the city.
And all you have to do is follow your view of the spire to get there. I later learned from a guide that the city council in Canterbury doesn't permit a building to be taller than three storeys so as to not block the view of the Cathedral from any corner.
But honestly, it's quite hard to miss this magnificence.
Every time I visit these old cathedrals in England and Scotland, it blows my mind to think about the times in which they were built. To think that these structures were erected hundreds of years ago without the aid of modern technology and equipment and to see the amount of detail that still went into it. Just look at this ceiling for example.
Or this hall of prayer.
Most of the interiors are done in stone and have very intricate carvings on them. I keep thinking about how they figured out to use stone to build their structures in a way to ensure that they're cool during the summers and warm during the winters.
But can I just distract you from the intricate stonework to check out the glass paintings that have stood the test of time?
These photographs cannot do justice to what I witnessed with my own eyes. Quite a marvelous place to have a shrine, don't you think? Until of course, it was destroyed by the one and only Henry VIII. All we have now is this.
But coming back to less depressing things, the one word I noticed that I kept repeating in this city was "pretty". Everywhere I turned, I said, "So pretty, pretty, pretty". Because what can beat this old-timey charm?
We also happened to take one their historic river tours which tell you a little bit about the history of the city, and the destruction caused due to the German bombing during the second World War.
The river Stour is actually quite shallow and the ride on a little boat with cushions and blankets and a handsome man punting single-handedly offers quite the view ;)
But in all seriousness, I'm glad we went ahead and did it or I wouldn't have seen this Marlowe theatre, built to honour Christopher Marlowe.
There are a lot of theatre enthusiasts and students in Canterbury who benefit from this theatre but apparently, the locals were not at all happy with the modern design of the building that they thought was a striking contrast to the traditional vibe of the city. But if you ask me, it's quite wonderful to see the modern in juxtaposition with the traditional, at least in this case.
Also, before I forget, what post about this trip can ever be complete without a Harry Potter thing thrown in the midst? You might already know that Hardy's original sweet shop in London did influence some of the sweets and candies in Harry Potter. And in turn, they now sell some Harry Potter treats themselves. Although I never got to go to Hardys in London, I did get a chance to snoop around the store in Canterbury.
And finally, we also embarked upon the most stunning riverside walk I have ever had the opportunity of going on. Can you believe these tulips?
Quite like the cathedral itself, these can also be spotted from nearly anywhere because of the vibrant red colour. I haven't seen anything like this before.
This day trip to me was the perfect way to get away from my daily life and escape into something magical. This trip to Canterbury was for the soul.
Whenever I visit a new place, I like to bring home a little memento from there. It doesn't necessarily have to be a touristy show piece, but any object that speaks to me and assures me that I will remember the place and my experience there every time I look at it often comes home with me. And what could be more perfect in this case than...
I didn't bring that building home. What I did pick up was my very own copy of the Canterbury Tales, a retelling in modern English because I doubt I have the patience to go through the original Olde English version again.
I can't wait to curl up on a rainy weekend with a cup of steaming tea and my Canterbury Tales, with the memory of this day lingering in every page I turn.