Getting to Know Canterbury
These past few weeks I have had the opportunity to get to know the town of Canterbury a bit better. I walked into town on a snowy Sunday and officially got lost in Canterbury for the first time (check!). Thankfully, the Canterbury Cathedral served as a compass for me – you can see it from just about anywhere in town! Once in the city, I visited the Beaney Museuem, an art museum and library that is situated right between the shops in the city centre. It was just a small museum with typical Victorian portraits of people that I’m sure were important at some point (I need to start reading portrait captions better). The real importance of this museum was the beauty of its architecture! See for yourself:
I continued my exploring down the cobble streets to find little boutiques, English-looking buildings, and a beautiful church called St. Peter’s. Here’s a look:
After exploring, my friends and I made our very first trip to the place to the staple of the city – the famous Canterbury Cathedral! We went for a chamber choir concert that was great, but we were freezing inside the stone walls (I have a new appreciation for central heating). It was definitely gorgeous to look at, though…a nice distraction from the cold air. I didn’t get a chance to look around at the famous tombs inside of it, but I’m willing to bet I’ll make it back there by the time my five months are up – if I can make that daunting 10-minute bus ride…
Next to check off the list of “must-dos” in England was afternoon tea! There’s a little place in town called Marks and Spencer – it’s ridiculous! Basically, just picture a department store, Whole Foods, and adorable cafe in one. It’s much cuter than it sounds! It was here that we had our VERY FIRST of many afternoon teas to come. In case you aren’t familiar, traditional afternoon teas are served with a fresh pot of the tea of your choice, finger sandwiches (to be eaten with your pinky up, of course!), and the famous scones with clotted cream and jam! I’ve been dying to try clotted cream ever since I saw it on an episode of The Girls Next Door when Hugh Hefner went to England with his girlfriends (yup, it’s the truth). I thought it would be gross, actually. But it’s DELICIOUS! Picture a spread with the look and taste of butter but the consistency and texture of cream cheese. Top it with fresh jam on a scone and you have a wonderful way to clog your arteries. Moderation is overrated, anyway.
What better way, though, to work off those scones than to do some quality retail cardio? Every Wednesday through Saturday, the town shops are complemented with a market of vendors selling everything from fresh crepes to flowers to outerwear (the hat booth got me, of course!). In addition to shopping, I’ve had a chance to visit some of the local pubs with friends and have found it’s just what you’d picture it to be – circles of friends gossiping over mulled cider (it’s like warm apple juice!), groups of guys rooting for their favorite rugby team on overhead televisions, and business gentlemen discussing work over a pint. The English are known to be a reserved group – until they get into the pub, that is! What’s funny, though, is that everything closes around 11:30pm – so even though the British go out for drinks much more often than we do, they’re used to it and aren’t out partying until 3 in the morning, so it’s pretty casual. It is weird, though, to see a guy with a beard holding a pint who looks like he’s 25 – only to find out he’s 18. MIND = BLOWN. This is legal?
On another note…
The first three weeks I’ve been here have been incredibly cold! It’s in the 30s in degrees Fahrenheit, but the air here seem much more moist, which makes the cold so much different than what I’m used to. I swear it feels like -4 degrees, and standing outside for just a few minutes is absolutely miserable! We had the “big” snowstorm of the year, (5 WHOLE INCHES) and everyone went crazy! Being an Ohioan, it’s easy to scoff at what, to us, is just a typical mild day. When you think about it in terms of Canterbury, though, the amount of yearly snow they receive is too small to merit having snow plows, so you can imagine that when the roads become covered, everything pretty much shuts down.
Thankfully, I’ve found that Canterbury weather is just as variable as Cleveland’s (though not nearly as extreme), and we have our green grass back with some sunshine and 50 degree weather. I’ve officially hung pushed my tourist boots into my closet (for now, at least) and become a student again (Princess Procrastination has resumed the throne!). The school system here is so much more independent than what I’m used to. Basically, professors (called lecturers here) are only there as guides…they expect you to be read up on everything on the reading list and then some! Apparently, the idea is that you should automatically be reading up on topics within your course (major) because you find them interesting. Again, MIND = BLOWN.
Students spend most of their days in the library, but once the sun goes down, there’s things to do every night of the week – karaoke to comedy nights to society (what they call a club) meetings. Never a dull moment – I don’t know how they do it. Me? I joined the Tea Society. AH I love it – just my pace. After three weeks here, I’m finally starting to feel like I fit in as a student (or at least that I don’t stand out too much!). Now that I’m comfortable, I need to start travelling – I’ll keep you posted!