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Canterbury in General
Member Name: cyberem78
Canterbury in General
Advantages: Beautiful buildings. Very 'English' feel to everything.
Disadvantages: Lots of tourists. Busy. Expensive.
I recently visited Canterbury, Kent as a long weekend whilst seeing a relative who recently moved to the area. So my review is that of a traveller/tourist rather than as a resident.
I travelled by train via London. There are two ways of doing this if you are coming from London: either via Victoria station or via Charing Cross. There are two stations in Canterbury, East and West. Leaving from Victoria will usually take you to Canterbury East and from Charing Cross to Canterbury West. Either way, Canterbury is so small that if you are staying somewhere central it will be within walking distance of either station. The train trip from London is rather long: over an hour and a half. The train stops a lot along the way and is quite slow moving. On the South Eastern train I travelled on there were luggage racks available - either above seats or at the end of the carraige. There are also refreshments (including alcoholic beverages) and snacks sold after all tickets have been verified.
On arrival at Canterbury East I noticed that there were taxi cabs waiting outside if you need them. There is a fly-over style bridge opposite the station which you must cross if you intend to walk into the city. The bridge leads up onto the old city walls which look grand and ancient. Routes lead off the high walls into a park where there is a mini castle maze for children to explore as well as a tree spotted quiet area and lawn. You may also spot an ancient 'hanging' pole which is located at the top of an incredibly steep hill and is a macabre reminder of olden day practices.
I stayed at the Abode Hotel which is very central in the town. It is located on Stour Street, a busy bustling street that has a lot of shops and restaurants on it. The Abode is directly opposite the old library, a historic building of magnificent beauty. The library is currently closed (as of March 2009) for refurbishment. The Abode is a four star hotel whose assets include the brilliant chef Michael Caine's restaurant with his exquisite dishes. Room rates vary from approximately £89 per room for a double or twin room. Rooms are all ensuite. There is a small lift and staircase leading to all three floors. There is a bar and restaurant on the ground floor and a resting area or lounge on the first floor. Continental or cooked breakfasts are served and there is a large selection of cereals, breads, fruits, yogurts, porridge, juices and smoothies. The cooked breakfasts are plated beautifully.
Around the Catherdral, which is the major tourist attraction in the city, there is a condensed area of shops, tea rooms, cafes and restaurants. The streets are very busy. Expect to bump into groups of foreign tourists and children as well as a large student population. Buskers also frequent the streets. The appearance of many shop fronts and buildings in the city is remarkable - many having a Tudor design. It looks very unique and pretty and almost unreal - as if you might have stepped back in time. There are of course your share of large multinational chainstores and companies alongside your quaint tea-rooms. Starbucks has a prime place right next to the entrance to the catherdral although thankfully it's gold and brown facade has been re-designed to blend in with the ancient architecture.
Whitefriars shopping area is a large collection of well known stores located in the east end of the city. Large clothing outlets like Dorothy Perkins, Esprit, Topshop and Marks and Spencers take up residence here. There is a large Tesco store which sells food and this is the best grocery superstore in the nearby area. The stores are huge and offer a lot of choice.
As a visitor I stopped for a coffee break here and there. One place I visited was a cafe called Ferns. This is located opposite the entrance to the cathedral. It is upstairs and you need to be able to climb a steep staircase to get inside. Gregorian music is piped into the small cafe. They serve lunches and teas. Typical choice on the menu includes scones with clotted cream and tea. The treacle tart they serve is divine!
Another cafe I stopped at is Tiny Tim's Tearoom which is located on St. Margarets Street. This is reportedly the most haunted street in Canterbury. The cafe has a ghost story of it's own - after rennovation work revealed child's teeth, linen and shoes stashed in a wall. Since the removal of the objects the ghosts of three children are said to haunt the cafe. They serve fabulous cakes and scones and specialise in exotic teas and coffees. The majority of customers were quite old and whilst I was there Al Jolson was playing on their sound system! It was quite relaxing though and the food and service is faultless.
Tourist shops are many and there are lot's of typically 'English' charms. The Catherdral shop a few buildings away from the entrance to the Cathedral has lots of items to purchase - most of them with a Christian design. The Catherdral itself is of course worth visiting. Whilst looking small on the outside it seems to go on forever inside. It is a charming beauty although it is always packed full of tourist groups. I would say that if you can still find a union with a spiritual sense here. Tickets are £7 for adults to enter. There is also a pass card available to buy which gets you entry to several attractions.
Restaurants are plentiful and whatever choice of cuisine you desire you are bound to find it. There are the usual chains like Pizza Hut and Ask Pizza located quite centrally as well as smaller independent bars and pubs.
If you are planning a visit to Canterbury a great website to visit is:
which has full details of all major attractions in the City including the Roman museum, Rupert the Bear Museum, River trips, Canterbury Tales experience (a re-enactment of medieval Canterbury - rather like the Jorvic Centre at York).
Overall I would say that Canterbury is a very pleasant place to visit, although it is busy and packed with chatty tourists. I would recommend taking time to stroll through the streets and looking at the older buildings. I would also suggest getting out of the main tourist hub and spending some time at local park areas like Blean Woods, to take a breather from the hustle and bustle! I think that the spirit of Canterbury can be absorbed in a couple of days and that if you intend staying any longer than this you may run out of things to do. Great place for any non-British visitors too, as I imagine this place will be their idea of what England is really like!
Summary: A great tourist city.
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