We were a bit loath to leave London, but ready to drive into the final legs of our roadtrip. Bidding farewell to the city, we drove on to Canterbury, England.
A long desired location on my bucket list, there was no way I was going to leave England without stopping through. It was easy to add it into the roadtrip as it was an easy drive from both London and Dover (our last English stop and departure point). We needed only a short amount of time to amble around the lovely village.
Much like the other places in England, Canterbury holds a long and old history. It’s arguably most well known for its UNESCO world heritage site: Canterbury Cathedral. But if you remember high school literature class, Canterbury was also known for the poet Geoffrey Chaucer.
Visiting the cathedral came with a few inconveniences. Extensive upkeep on the Norman building was underway, decorating the outside with scaffolding that made it difficult to see the cathedral in its glory. Parts of the inner cathedral were closed off too, though due to a belated graduation ceremony – one of many taking place at the cathedral. While it was a bit inconvenient to share the space with so many vying for the perfect photo, it was also nice to see the graduates finally getting to celebrate their hard work – something they weren’t able to do because of COVID.
Canterbury Cathedral was established by St Augustine, who became the first archbishop of Canterbury. He came to England in 597AD, where he worked to convert the local population to Christianity. The original building rest below the nave of the cathedral. The Saxons, then Normans, added on and rebuilt the cathedral.
The Cathedral became a place of pilgrimage after the slaughter of its Archbishop in 1170. Thomas Becket had once been the greatest friend of the king, Henry II. Not long after the ordination of Becket as the Archbishop, he and the king fell out over the jurisdiction of criminal clerics. Their dispute over this matter was long; Becket even fled to France at one point to escape the wrath of the King. However, it all came to a head upon Becket’s return to Canterbury – he excommunicated a group of bishops that had participated in the coronation of the heir to Henry II’s throne. You see, it was tradition that the Archbishop of Canterbury performed this duty, and so Becket retaliated.
Henry was furious. He flew into a diatribe against Becket which resulted in egregious actions lead by four knights of Henry’s court. They cut Becket down inside the North West transept of the Cathedral (also known as the Martyrdom). And so, the Martyrdom, the place in which the Archbishop was murdered by his one-time friend’s knights, became a holy pilgrimage and place of miracles.
Sadly, centuries later, Becket would once again be attacked by another Henry. In 1538, his shrine was destroyed on the orders of King Henry VIII as he began his dissolution of the Catholic faith in England.
The Cathedral has also been the final resting place for many throughout history. One of these is The Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock. He was the first ever English Duke, and later the Prince of Wales and Aquitaine. He is most known for being the eldest song of King Edward III and Queen Philippa d’Avesnes (Countess of Holland-Hainaut), becoming a chivalrous and valiant commander in the Hundred Years’ War. He married a woman of choice, Joan of Kent, sired two heirs: Edward and the future Kind Richard II, and became the hero of his age. Yet he died young and before his father of what is thought to be dysentery.
His tomb sits near the Martyrdom of Thomas Becket, replica’s of his surcoat, helmet, shield, and gauntlets hanging above. The originals can still be seen in the museum beneath the floor of the cathedral.
Many moments I stood before his tomb, bowing before the closest prince I’ve ever stood before. I was in awe.
Another that awed me was the tomb of King Henry IV, the son of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster, and his wife Joan of Navarre. He was the first king since the Norman conquest to speak English instead of French.
Enjoy the rest of the photo’s from Canterbury Cathedral.
As I learned from further reading about Geoffrey Chaucer, it isn’t known if he actually ever visited or make pilgrimage to Canterbury. It seems likely that he would have seeing as he was a King’s Messenger and Ambassador, traveling often to other parts of Europe. It is also assumed that he’d have attended the Black Prince’s funeral as he was a close friend of the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt.
Though it’s not known if Chaucer actually visited Canterbury, he is arguably more well known for his contribution to English literature with his most famous work: The Canterbury Tales.
Canterbury as given birth to many authors, playwrights, and poets through the centuries. Christopher Marlowe, Richard Lovelace, and Rupert Bear are some of the talents to hail from this famous village.
Dover, England: The White Cliffs and Dover Castle
A couple of nights did quite well in Canterbury, so we scurried off on the final leg of our adventure.
It had been Tristan’s idea to take the ferry across the channel, but I knew heading home, we would be eager to hit the road without much delay. Homeward bound, I booked a ticket using the Eurotunnel (a train that runs under the English channel). We would “hop the train” in Folkestone which was a short drive from Dover. Since we’d not been able to see much due to the fog on the ferry ride over, I really wanted to stop and see the White Cliffs. So, back to Dover we went.
Dover is a bustling port town on the narrowest part of the English channel. On a clear day, you can see France in the distance. It’s home to a castle and the White Cliffs of Dover. It’s been populated since the Stone Age, and became a stronghold for the Romans – the ruins of which can still be seen at the castle.
On our ferry trip across the channel, it had been my hope to see the White Cliffs as we came into port, but the fog draped the cliffs making them invisible until we disembarked from the ship. Our second attempt was exceptionally more successful as the day began with the brightest blue skies. The green-blues of the water looked tropical, though the chill in the air dissolved the illusion.
We set off on one of the many trails that ran parallel to the channel. I felt as if I were ambling through one of my many favorite British crime drama’s, half expecting to come across something unsavory hidden in the bushes.
The clouds in the sky bustled along with the brisk wind, and the tall grass swayed along with it. We met with horses enjoying their breakfast in the fields, and Tristan attempted to climb the white chalky cliffs as I gathered a couple fragments scattered across the path to take home.
The boys enjoyed purposely walking in front of the camera as I aimed it out into the distance. I could have easily meandered farther and longer had we the time to do so.
We couldn’t tarry long as we had one more stop to make before boarding the Chunnel back to the Continent: Dover Castle.
The site upon which the castle sits has been an advantageous and strategic vantage point since before the Roman invasion. Through the centuries, and well into modern times, the castle has been holding the defense of the British isle as Dover lands the shortest crossing point across the channel. You can read a little more about it on my post here.
As we drove out of Dover, and made our way down to Folkestone, I wished we’d made a little more time for exploring some of the coastal towns and villages. And even as we boarded the train, the cloud suddenly rolling in with a Spring snow flurry, I knew I’d be back .
Sources: The History of Canterbury, Canterbury Cathedral, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia , History of the White Cliffs of Dover
3 responses to “The Great English Roadtrip: The Final Part”
I am so proud of you. I have watched you grow into a confident young woman. Keep exploring. ❤️
Ms Sue! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog! I think of you often and how wonderful it was to be a part of my mom’s work family. Come visit one day!
Continue to enjoy what you are doing. Life is short and you need to explor and have fun. I know what you do is hard so when you have down time get out. Thank you for sharing your life and adventures.❤️