Where am I?

The Consultant's Tale

December 17, 2006 at 05:02 PM | categories: travel, beer, UK | View Comments

With training over (job well done, guys!), I decided to get out of London for a night. According to the BBC, this Saturday night was the peak for holiday parties, and I wanted to be elsewhere. Hmm... someplace close to London, interesting to visit for a day, and as yet unvisited by me? Ah, isn't Canterbury a World Heritage Site? I'm collecting those - everyone needs a hobby.

So I found a web site for the Miller's Arms, a Shepard-Neame gastropub in the old city center. Their rooms are named after Chaucer's tales, and I booked into the Pardoner's Tale. Saturday morning, the 11am train took me from Charing Cross to Canterbury West, arriving some time after noon. It's a fine-looking old cathedral town, with views of the cathedral towers around every corner. Canterbury, looking toward Westgate Canterbury skyline The Miller's Arms turned out to be a nice little place, with several seating areas and a long, L-shaped bar. The Shepard-Neame beers are some of my favorites, so I was pleased to stay there. For some reason they put me into the Wife of Bath, rather than the room I'd booked, but I think I got the better of that deal. My room was spacious, by English standards, with a modern bathroom and a view of the cathedral towers. I also gave thanks that I wasn't arriving on 31 December.

Rumors of my demise are exaggerated

I dropped off my bags and went exploring. Once I got my bearings, I quickly realized that Canterbury has been thoroughly re-purposed as a tourist destination. The Cathedral actually charges for admission, and the old city center is entirely surrounded by parking lots (also for pay). The cars look like an invading army laying siege to the old walls.

Have you no shame? Still defending the city?

Since it was winter, most of the tourists were Europeans - and mostly Catholic? I don't know. And despite the tourism, it's well worth visiting. I walked around inside the old walls, and stopped at a number of interesting pubs. It's great to drink in a genuinely old pub: London doesn't have many, and nothing as old as (say) Simple Simon, which claims to be 14th century.

The Cathedral looked even better at night, I thought.

Cathedral, with Christmas tree

Canterbury has been occupied since pre-Roman times (it means something like "fortress of the Kentish"), and it continues to develop. This results in a lot of mixed construction - bits of Roman masonry in a modern brick wall, for example. And there are other, stranger contrasts.

Fancy a curry?

I went to Simple Simon's again, in the evening, for a plate of fish and chips and some live jazz. They were both good, and so were the pints of Incubus.

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