Friday 15 May 2009

Exploring Canterbury ... and beyond

Most car parks in Canterbury don’t have height barriers and midweek in September, there were always plenty of spaces including room for larger motorhomes, however, the buses were so convenient and cheap that was better to leave the ‘van parked up at the Canterbury Camping and Caravanning Club site and use public transport into the City.

Our exploration of Canterbury started with walking the wall – always one of the best ways to orientate yourself and see a city from an elevated position. A booklet detailing the walk is available from the Tourist Information Centre - £2.00 and a leisurely stroll takes about 1.5 hours.

Now regarding the Cathedral, you can only get up close and personal by paying £7.50 and going through the gatehouse into the grounds. As with so many English attractions, dogs are not allowed even in the grounds (do they realise how much money they are losing?) so one of us (him) had to stay with the dog. Therefore, a quick gallop round was in order to stop the male one getting bored. Allow at least two hours, 3 or more if you want to do it full justice. The atmosphere is truly amazing as hundreds of years of history is there to be explored.

The "Canterbury Experience" visitor attraction a short walkk away was next on the “to do” list – a similar type of experience to the Jorvik Museum in York (but on a much simpler scale), except I didn’t really enjoy it. It’s self-guided with an audio guide, triggered automatically as you walk round, but it just tells stories from the Canterbury Tales. Call me a heathen, but I found it boring, I’m afraid. A word of warning, it is not suitable for young children – one poor child’s screams could be heard ahead for several minutes before the parents had to reluctantly call it a day – and no refunds.

Wanting to explore further afield, we’d researched public transport options online and decided on a “Kent and Sussex Explorer Ticket” for £6.50 per adult, which departed from Canterbury Bus Station. The faithful No 13 bus took us into the bus station, from there it was straight onto the bus which took a triangular route to Herne Bay, Whitstable and back to Canterbury. Herne is approximately 40 minutes journey, but somewhat tortuous through various housing estates. But it got us there …… eventually. The sun came out, the sky was deep blue and people started smiling again.

Herne Bay is a small traditional resort, not as grand as Eastbourne but gracious, quiet and an interesting little place to potter around for a while.

Whitstable was a real find – a trendy, quirky town with an excellent mixture of shops and boutiques, clapperboard houses and the atmospheric harbour with its fresh fish market. Moules Mariniere were on the menu at the sea-facing and fashionable Pearsons Arms – and as we stood outside looking longingly at the menu and noticing that there was no outdoor seating, the outstandingly friendly staff waved us into the bar, and allowed us to bring the dog in so we could all have lunch. The service, the welcome and food was outstanding and after a few glasses of wine, it was a struggle to get going again to catch the bus back to Canterbury.

Above image: Canterbury Cathedral. Copyright AvailablePitch 2008

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