My Canterbury Tales

The next stop in my UK travels was to see my friend, Monica, in Canterbury, England. So on Sunday, January 25th I boarded a flight from Edinburgh to London Gatwick, took the Gatwick Express train to London Victoria rail/coach terminus and caught a bus heading east. This was definitely the leg of my trip where I was most grateful for my hiking backpack and duffel combo – a wheelie suitcase would have been such a pain!
Monica was waiting for me at the bus stop and it was so welcome to see a smiling face after my travels! Moni and I survived our MA’s together and, like anyone who has been to war and back, we have a fierce unspoken bond. Although we both declared after graduation that there was no way in heck we’d do our PhD’s for a good long while, she capitulated and is now at the University of Kent in Canterbury working away on 17th century masculinity and horsemanship.
So us two history geeks grabbed the bus back to where she’s living on the outskirts of town. By then it was about supper time so we decided to try out this pub down the way. Braving the rain, we walked the 10 or so minutes with our hoods up, and found ourselves in front of an unassuming little pub called the Hare and Hounds. It looked like any other pub I’d been in: footie was on the tv, there were a group of men at the bar drinking beers and commenting on said footie game, etc. We settled ourselves into a table, I ordered my one and only Guinness of the trip, and asked to see menus. What a surprise that was! No run-of-the mill pub fare here: we each ordered the pear-stilton-watercress salads as a starter and had delicious pub-inspired mains that were beyond delicious. Then we shared a pear crumble for our pudding (what the Brits call dessert) while sipping one of the best darn decaf coffees of my life! Whoever said food in the UK was bad is very mistaken or just very unlucky.
The next day Moni and I headed into the town of Canterbury where we basically shopped till we dropped, people-watched, and enjoyed catching up with each other’s lives. Moni found the perfect skinny jeans after a long hunt and I stocked up on knickers (gotta love that word!) at Marks and Sparks. And of course I breezed by the Canterbury Cathedral, appreciating its architecture but not willing to spend the 9 GBP to explore its innards.

A shot of the Canterbury Cathedral at dusk through the narrow, shop-filled streets.

On the last morning of my all-too brief visit, Moni let me tag along to her supervisor’s undergrad course on 18th century English literature. I was enthralled: the topic was Samuel Johnson, whom I’d never heard of before. I will definitely have to look into more of his stuff, though – love the irony and sarcasm! Dr. Landry started off her lecture by showing a clip of an episode of the classic British show, Blackadder, in which Samuel Johnson is trying to explain to the king that his new book – the first English dictionary – is not a novel. Of course, hilarity ensues!

The lecture was also the perfect segueway into the final leg of my UK trip, as Johnson famously wrote: “When one is tired of London, one is tired of life.”

Aerial shot of the University of Kent – best seen from far away since it was all constructed in the 1960s-1970s and is really quite unattractive!

Away for a wee bit

Sorry for the silence but I’ve been in Scotland the past week and there was the pre-trip insanity before then! I really, really wanted to have the whole draft off to my editor before my departure, but that wasn’t possible once I realized how long it would take to sort through 1200 photos and decide what went into the “must” and “optional” lists. It also takes a surprisingly long time to write captions…
In any event I managed to get four chapters off before I left, and then spent a jet-lagged morning editing chapters five and six once I arrived. After I finish procrastinating with this blog entry, I’ll get down to fixing up at least one more chapter this morning 🙂
It’s been fun being back in Scotland. The last time I was here was during my university exchange year in 2003-4 when I was living in Leeds, England. Of course Doug was on exchange that year as well – in Glasgow, Scotland – and so we spent quite a bit of time exploring the UK together. Not much has changed in the last few years, although it does seem much cheaper! It’s amazing what a recession, having US dollars (versus Canadian ones), and not being a student can do for a budget.
Doug’s living in Livingston, a suburb of Edinburgh, while he does his three months of training. Yesterday I did a day-trip in to Scotland’s capital and hiked to the top of Arthur’s Seat with my little trainers while clutching my purse. Then I walked up the Royal Mile, stopping in for one of the best bowls of soup I’ve ever had at this little cafe. In typical Eden-style, what started as a brilliant sunny day turned into drizzle and icy winds by afternoon, so I escaped into shops on Princes Street. The newest fad here is Western-style clothing, leather bags with fringe, and Little-House-on-the-Prairie prints. This, of course, made me laugh now that I live in Wyoming where those types of clothing would be seen not as fashionable but old-fashioned… Ah, but I have been enjoying rummaging through the sale racks at Oasis, H&M;, Monsoon, and Topshop.

A shot of the trek up Arthur’s Seat

I’ve also been enjoying drinking my weight in British teas and beers. Not to mention tasting all the goodies I came to love while I lived here: Revels, shortbread, sticky toffee pudding, Cadbury’s chocolates, curry, fish and chips. Yum!

Good thing I’ve been doing lots of walking and hiking the past week! Aside from Arthur’s Seat and hoofing it around Edinburgh and Livingston, Doug and I also went on a nice hike while we were staying in Inverary. Our initial trek up to this little tower went too smoothly so we decided to head over to yonder hilltop – which led us through mucky terrain and clambering over slippery logs. It doesn’t count unless you’re wet, cold, and exhausted, right?

The view of Inveraray from our second hilltop

This hike occurred during our stay at the quaint Loch Fyne Hotel and Spa overlooking the picturesque loch. We weren’t there during oyster season (too bad for Doug) but we thoroughly appreciated the view, the swimming area, and some quiet time together. Doug also took the opportunity to catch up on some much-needed sleep and relaxation. He was gone on his training job for about 40 of the previous 48 hours!

Tomorrow morning I’m heading south to England – more news of my adventures to follow!

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.