It’s not just the Cathedral that’s been inspiring thirsty travellers for centuries.
Canterbury luxuriates in the kind of art and culture other historical cites can only dream of. Chaucer tempted his pilgrims with tales of lust, avarice and greed in the way that would make an EastEnders’ scriptwriter blush. Jacobean celeb Christopher Marlowe engaged in fisticuffs in the city he was born in – putting to bed the myth that poets are delicate creatures. Both writers are immortalised by statue in the city with the Chaucer one keeping his eye on the Eastbridge Hospital – not a hospital at all but a shelter for weary pilgrims resting after making their journey to the city.
Steeped in tourism you’d be right in thinking that Canterbury is overflowing with watering holes for the ale and gin fans amongst us. Beamed and inglenook fireplaced, the city is replete with many pubs vying for the crown of Canterbury’s oldest. Debate rages over this this but The Parrot is pretty old at 14th century and the upstairs dining room makes you feel as if you are banqueting with Archbishops.
A breath of fresh air
For modern diners, Café Boho is decorated with a wall of clocks all set at one time – the 1960s. Star shaped and mirrored the clocks adorn the walls where the city’s arty and intellectual types fit in a vegan burger before heading off to outdoor yoga. And talking of outdoors, Canterbury has plenty of green spaces where you can escape the tourist parties. Dane John’s Garden at the Fenwick end of the city is particularly verdant and has a grisly past – once the sight of a Roman cemetery it later became the final resting place for unfortunate plague victims. At the other end of the city, Westgate Gardens is centred by a peaceful stream. Just in case you find it all a bit twee this idyllic resting-spot is interrupted with a bit of a beast – thankfully a benign one – the oldest tree in the city with a gargantuan trunk.
Shopping in Canterbury
For shopping, Canterbury has places to suit every budget and taste. From the independent shops lining the King’s Mile which includes Madame Oiseau whose sweet-toothed owner appears to have been inspired by the film Chocolat. Glinting alongside her confections are antiques and jewellers fit for any self-respecting medieval king or queen.
Culture in the city
For museums, be sure to take in the Beaney – home of Bagpuss. Yes, that Bagpuss – the altruistic puss that has spurred many a nostalgia-fest amongst dewy eyed Generation X’rs. The brains behind the 1970s cat were local (Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate) and now Firmin’s daughter sells fine ceramics at Cosmo China. Other delights in the Beaney include memorabilia from fellow Canterbury author Mary Tourtel who dreamed up Rupert the Bear.
If you are sharp you will be able to discover the paving stones laid by Walter Cozens alerting you to some of Canterbury’s enduring landmarks including one outside the Sidney Cooper Gallery which is where Tourtel herself studied. Now it features a free and rotating display of thought-provoking art. For cinephiles the tucked away Curzon screens blockbusters and more avant-garde films. The nearby Marlowe theatre, glittering amongst the medieval structures, offers the rare Canterbury pleasure of a contemporary building. Recent acts at the theatre include Lou Sanders and Al Murray – but more adventurous pleasure seekers will seek the Studio for contemporary. The perfect way to round-off your stay in the city that inspired thousands of words and will no doubt inspire thousands more.