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After we came, saw, and (in Nap’s case) conquered Dover, our pilgrimage continued to the main event: Canterbury.

I have always wanted to go to Canterbury.  It is loaded with history and a gratifying number of literary allusions.  It is a feast for the eyes and filled with one gem after another.

We came just in time for Easter Sunday, which was such a delight.  Celebrating Easter in Canterbury was a dream come true.  The service was incredibly beautiful, solemn, and worshipful. The Archbishop of Canterbury entered in great ceremony to lead the service and deliver the sermon.  It was a very good Easter sermon, in case you wondered.

I know that many people were there as tourists (us included), but we were also there to celebrate the most triumphant moment of the Christian faith: the resurrection. Every song, every word, every prayer centered beautifully around that theme.

Sitting in that great room and listening to the choir, I was overwhelmed. It is a moment I will never forget.

Normally, you pay quite a bit to get into the cathedral for photos, but since we went for the morning services, we stayed afterwards and were able to take pictures for free.

A candle sits on the floor where St Thomas a Becket’s shrine once stood – before everyone’s favorite King Henry VIII destroyed it.

The tomb of Edward, the Black Prince brought me straight back to Henry V and England’s long war to gain France as its own.  I impressed a woman standing there giving talks with my knowledge of the Black Prince.  She declared, “You know your history!”  My response was: “I know my Shakespeare!”  We literary folk have reputations to uphold.  We, many of us, see the world through stories.

This picture gives the illusion of sunlight.  There was none.  It was a gray, cloudy day and it rained off and on.  We did not let it dampen (ha ha) our spirits.  It was too glorious a journey for that.

We were able to walk around to the back of the cathedral.  There was so much lovely architecture.  The pictures all started to look the same, but I couldn’t stop taking them!  A common problem for me…

Ever since reading The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, I have wanted to make my own pilgrimage here.  And then I watched the movie A Canterbury Tale, a charming old film about three travelers in England during the second War who experience their own miracles when they find their way to Canterbury.  That settled it.  I needed to come here.

The cathedral is certainly the central and foremost sight of the city, but there is plenty more to do in Canterbury.  The town itself is lovely, filled with interesting buildings and cheerful streets.

Canterbury offers river tours.  On a sunny day, these tours must be heavenly.  On a cloudy day, it was still enjoyable.  Joelle and I signed up for a tour, went and had lunch, and then came back for our boat ride up and down the quiet river.  Our tour guide gave us lots of great background about the city and the history of the buildings.

We were watched by eery duck sentinels as we passed by…

After the tour, we followed our map of sites to the outer limits of the city to see the old Westgate Towers and the Holy Cross Church and garden.  Some of my favorite shots are of this garden.

The Greyfriars monastery sits on a sort of island at a split in the River Stour.  This seems like a good, peaceful place for some monks to sit and think and pray.

Canterbury Castle stands along an old Roman wall.  The castle is not the first one ever built here – William the Conqueror had an older wooden fortress nearby – but it is still nearly a thousand years old.  It wins my respect even if it was not pretty and leaked a bit.

Nap appreciated its simple, imposing structure.  He decided to go ahead and claim this one as well, though he likes Dover better.  It has roofs, you know.

Napoleon was even more impressed with the walls since they’ve been around since about 300 AD. Now that’s power.

After a hot drink and rest for our weary feet, we walked a ways from the town center to find St Augustine’s Abbey, a church built by St Augustine and the converted King Ethelbert in 613 AD.

We had a bit of time before dinner and heading back to the hostel, so we decided to investigate one last site that the map recommended: St Martin’s Church.  What I didn’t realize (shame on me!) was that this is actually the church that St Augustine founded in 597 AD as the first English church of the Christian faith.  Amazing.

The sign explained that King Ethelbert permitted Augustine and his monks to worship in an old building of Roman origins (the remains or which are still part of this church).  It is still being used today, which I found particularly astonishing and fabulous.  What a legacy!

I couldn’t help being amused by this sign.  After reading it, we walked to Subway and I bought a steak and cheese sub.  I confess that I thought about this sign as I ate it. I’m contrary that way.

We happened to pass by a Catholic church on our way to dinner with this lovely sculpture of Pope Gregory with an Anglo-Saxon slave.  He was the one who sent St Augustine to Britain.

My final wish to be fulfilled was seeing the city at night.  I love photographing glowing buildings on quiet, old streets.  I also happened to know that the cathedral would look splendid at night.

Yes, I would have preferred the weather to be warm and sunny, but it’s hard to complain about a day that involves so much beauty, history, and literature!  And to finish a day off with a sight like this, well, it speaks for itself.

Chaucer’s stories from over five hundred years ago have always ensured that Canterbury would be one of my top destinations and it did not disappoint.  Not only did I go on my own pilgrim’s journey to the cathedral, but I encountered the ghosts of Thomas a Becket, St Augustine, the Black Prince, and two millenia’s worth of history.

And yet, the journey was not over.  Joelle and I had one more day and one more stop to make.  This one has literary ties as well, but slightly closer to the modern day.  More soon!