Today, after living in Kent for 20 years, I fell in love with Canterbury.
I was aware of its beauty of course long before today. The tudor square, the little streets filled with quirky shops, the startlingly beautiful cathedral...yet I always felt that Canterbury was a little complacent in a "yes I'm beautiful and I know it" way. The streets are always teeming with the French and hyperactive school children and I preferred to rush, or rather squeeze past with an "excusez moi", to the quieter outer streets of the city.
Today was different. We shunned the main shopping streets and headed down Stour Street to the Canterbury Punting Co. and each bought a ticket for a river cruise around a part of the city. The charming ticket officer sold us student tickets (£6/full price £7) with a wink and we boarded a few minutes later. The next 40 minutes passed in a green dream of reeds, tudor buildings, gardens, tree-lined banks and crystal clear water full of fish. This was the Canterbury I had been waiting to find.
We awoke on disembarkation and bought lunch which we found a lovely park to eat in. The park is home to some pear, apple and quince trees which the boat punter said are for the public to pick as much fruit from as they wish. What a lovely idea and I was reminded of the apple orchards in other parks of Kent which are jealously guarded by barbed wire fences,
Near the park there is a beautiful wild flower meadow which was empty save for a knowing couple sitting on a bench on the other side.
I happy am!
A field of flowers in the centre of a city? That's the Canterbury I already want to go back to.
So, yes I know the cathedral is lovely, and the Old Buttermarket is very charming..but today I discovered my own favourite Canterbury.
The tour company we used: http://www.canterburypunting.co.uk/haunted-river-tours/
The haunted river tour costs £10 and is done by candelight, which sounds wonderful. The chauffeurs are very friendly and speak beautiful English. They are all clearly locals who love the city. My favourite story was about the Belgian and French immigrant weavers who once made up 40% of the population of Canterbury.
Also of note is an arts and crafts warehouse on Stour Street, which claims to be the largest in Kent. It's certainly crammed full of things, most notably supplies for painters and drawers-there is less for other crafts so I think I'd still head to Hobbycraft. Still, it's worth a visit just to see a whole aisle of colouring pencils in every imaginable shade.
The meadow...I'm not going to tell you where that is as it's my secret, though I'll gladly take anyone who wants to come with me.
And perhaps if we decided to have dinner? Well, there's a little restaurant right by the riverside, near the meadow...