A couple of weekends ago Andre and I took a day trip to Canterbury. Our adventuring started first thing when we had to navigate our way through St Pancras station to find our train. What a terribly-signed station!
We entered through the side entrance (straight from King’s Cross station where we bought our tickets) and there were no signs, no departure boards, we had no idea which platform we needed. The guy who sold us the tickets had told us the platform was upstairs, so we headed up the first escalators we came across. Well, we found Platforms 1 – 3 but none of them were headed to Canterbury. No signs saying where the other platforms were (the next platforms across were for the Eurostar and so are barricaded as a result of border control, so you can’t walk through/past them), and we still didn’t know which platform we needed anyway! Train due to leave in 5 minutes. So we head back downstairs while Andre is on his phone looking up platforms, where he discovered we needed platform 12 (yes the internet is more helpful than the station itself).
Once we got downstairs we headed through the station a bit more and finally found signs for Platforms 11 – 13. Train due to leave in 2 minutes. We finally pass the main ticket hall where the departure boards are. The signs direct us through a food court. The corridor going off the food court is clearly towards toilets and baggage storage, and not platforms.
Did I read the sign correctly? Look back, yes. Andre is just as confused as I am. Train leaving in 1 minute.
Follow the path through the food court, which makes a 180 turn back out into the corridor we came from, but spits us out at the bottom of more escalators (which we would have come across if we’d gone straight down that corridor instead of following signs).
Run up the escalators and see the right platform. Train gone. Next train not for an hour. Thank you, St Pancras, for your exceedingly inept signage.
Canterbury was lovely though, when we finally got there. It is most famous, of course, for its 12th century cathedral, which is where we visited first. Part of it was closed for an event, so entrance was discounted by a few pounds.
Like St Patrick’s Cathedral in Northern Ireland, Canterbury Cathedral had some relatively modern stained glass windows with very vivid colours which I liked. We enjoyed the gardens outside, planted among the ruined monastic dormitory and full of herbs, medicinal and edible plants.
The cathedral also had several tombs inside, mostly belonging to Archbishops, but a few royal ones too. Westminster Cathedral still remains probably my favourite, but I did enjoy Canterbury.
We were then off to find some lunch, which we found in a pub down an alley off the main street. The pub was several hundred years old and Andre had to watch his head walking under the roof beams. My ‘fish finger sandwich’ and Andre’s chicken pie were absolutely enormous. For £4.50 I was expecting normal fish fingers between two regular-sized slices of bloomer bread with a pile of lettuce, tomato, carrot and dressing on the side, but my goodness! There were basically two fillets of fish on two huge pieces of bread nearly an inch thick!
In the afternoon we took a row-boat tour down the canal that runs through the old town, and had to seriously duck to get beneath some of the bridges. There actually wasn’t really a lot to see from the canal aside from a few pretty buildings, but the commentary was interesting – not least the story of how King Henry VIII, when unhappy that the superstition of rubbing Thomas Becket’s skull for good luck had not worked for him (a daughter was born instead of a son), put him on trial for treason, and when he didn’t turn up to court (as he was, well, dead), was found guilty and sentenced to death.
We finished the day with a walk along the river to try and find a building which had been pointed out to us on the boat ride, but it was inaccessible to the public.