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Archive for the ‘UNESCO Heritage Sites’ Category

You’ve got to know when to carry on
Know when to quit,
Know when to stop each day,
And know when to rest.
You never count your blisters
When you’re sitting at the table (ewww)
There’ll be time enough for walking
When the feet are healed…..

Okay, so I’ve used a bit of artistic licence with the lyrics of ‘The Gambler’ – one of my favourite Kenny Rogers songs, something my daughter and I often sing along to.

That song was running through my mind on Day 3 after I reached Faversham having hobbled the last 4 kilometres in driving rain, feet blistered and aching, soaked to the skin. LOL Alright, I admit it….it wasn’t THAT bad; it did rain but just short shower (albeit enough to soak me to the skin mind!), my feet were blistered and I did hobble….but I wasn’t actually dying!! hahaha. I did however make the sensible decision to quit while I could actually still walk and on the morning of Day 4 I took the train to Canterbury.

The blisters were by that stage seriously eina (painful) and I knew for sure that I wouldn’t be able to walk the final 9+ miles into Canterbury and live to tell the tale. I also had to get back to work within a couple of days, and that was more important than pushing myself beyond what was necessary.

As mentioned in Day 3’s blog post, my daughter joined me for a scrumptious Afternoon tea with champagne with scones and cream, and I spent the night at The Falstaff, the fabulous 14th century inn just outside the West Gate of Canterbury city.

I so enjoyed the feel of spending the night in a 14th century inn, it’s quite phenomenal. After checkout I popped in at the Hospital of St Thomas of Eastbridge to get a stamp in my passport…no date, just the stamp in case they were closed when I did my final day. Then I hopped on a train to home and spent the day with my daughter. Back to work and I took some time out, not making any lengthy walks anywhere…I really needed to rest my feet, allow the blisters to heal and the bones to recover their equilibrium.

The days whizzed by and finally I was ready to start; Faversham to Canterbury – the finale 🙂

faversham history

Faversham architectural history

Taking the train from Tonbridge at 06:15 I arrived in Faversham just after 8:30. The trains don’t run very early on Sundays so I had to just bite the bullet and start when I started. First I went back to The Sun Inn to say hello and thank you and take a few photos, and then explored the town centre.

the sun inn faversham

The Sun Inn Faversham. A most amazing place to stay

With oodles of history going back to the 1086 Domesday Book and earlier, Faversham definitely bears further investigation on another day.faversham

It was market day and the stall holders were busy setting up. I bought a sweet pastry to get me going and set off….Canterbury here I come.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

I’m on the right road

I was of course under no illusions now about how tiring and painful this could be, so I tried to set an easy gait and get my backpack settled. For some reason it just did not want to sit properly and I spent the whole day shifting it about. Weird since it was packed almost identically to the first 3 days I walked and was no heavier.

Again I was struck by how beautiful the English countryside can be. Kent is known as the food basket or garden of England and seeing the fields of crops and dozens of fruit trees, you can certainly believe the name fits.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Kent countryside

The first village of note was Boughton Under Blean; a stunning village lined with the most marvellous array of medieval architecture you could wish for I was hoping to stop for coffee and something to eat and had bypassed the pub at the beginning of the village expecting to find another suitable place. Lesson learned: stop at the first place you find…there may not be another. I was still really early (10:04) and most places were still closed. Oh well. Onwards.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Boughton Under Blean

I stopped to ask a lady if there was likely to be anything open, but being Sunday….however we had a wonderful conversation and she was quite intrigued by my journey. I think that is one of the aspects I really enjoyed chatting to various folk along the way. I spotted a history board as I left the village and note that there was a parish church…but again too far to walk to that day. A car would be good LOL. The history is amazing and the village has links going back to the 16th century and earlier, as well as the Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes.

Boughton; (originally ‘Bocton’) means ‘land held by book, or charter’ and lay on the main route between London and Canterbury and is mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in ‘The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue’. The High Street forms part of the old Roman road (‘Watling Street’) from London to Canterbury and Dover and in days gone by would have hosted thousand of pilgrims on their way to the shrine of Thomas Becket.

faversham to canterbury finale

Chaucer’s pilgrims passing through Boughton Under Blean

Moving on from Boughton Under Blean I passed Christ Church Dunkirk ….Dunkirk??? Jeez did I teleport to France? LOL Bears further investigation. The church is now a private residence but the graveyard was still open to exploration.

parish church of dunkirk

Parish Church of Dunkirk

I passed another row of houses further on that turned out to be the village of Dunkirk. 🙂 How cool is that. Time now was 11:36. I was looking forward to reaching Canterbury LOL

I had been following the route on my app: map my walk and suddenly the roadway ran out…just after passing through Dunkirk I quite literally hit a dual carriageway with absolutely nowhere to walk. I had been walking on a narrow pavement up until then and the traffic whizzing past was nerve-wracking…again coming from behind and when a large truck roared past I could feel my body being pulled in the slip-stream. I retraced my steps and turned down a road that was a cul-de-sac. This took me into wild country and I passed a paint-balling group who said I should just carry on along this narrow road, that turned out to be the old Roman Road to Canterbury, and eventually I would reach a point where I would find a better road….which I eventually did.

Along the way I came across some wild blackberry bushes; fat juicy pollution ripened blackberries 😉 delicious nonetheless. I ate my fill and carried on. Really wanting a cup of tea.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Blackberries enroute

I spotted a Holiday Inn sign in the distance and decided to stop for that tea and a snack to eat and charge up my tablet. Following the Roman Road I passed through Harbledowns and eventually reached the A2050 which lead me to Canterbury Christ Church University…and this is where the road seriously ran out for me. There was just no way around it and the verge, although wide was just grass and bushes lined with high walls…probably to reduce the traffic noise levels for the houses behind. If I was limber enough I would have climbed over the wall LOL. But I’m not and I didn’t.

The walls also meant that I couldn’t get to Westgate Court Avenue which is the road I had wanted to follow into the city. I walked along the grass verges which were quite wide and so I felt safe from the traffic but I’m pretty certain I wasn’t meant to be there. I finally spotted a roundabout that became Rheims Way and at the same time a sign-board that read CANTERBURY! Hoorah Time was now 14:19 and I had left Faversham 5 hours previously.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Finally reaching Canterbury

From there I scooted across the road and picked up the London Road that took me to St Dunstans Street and a wonderful church. Stopping off to explore, no way could this marvellous place; The Parish Church of Saint Dunstan Without the West Gate be bypassed. Dunstan was Archbishop of Canterbury from 960 to 978 and canonised soon after his death, becoming the favourite saint of the English until 200 years later he was supplanted by Thomas Becket. Dunstan was buried in Canterbury Cathedral but his tomb was destroyed during the Reformation.

st dunstans without the west gate

St Dunstan’s Without the West Gate, Canterbury

Finally I was in Canterbury. I cannot tell you the sense of achievement and relief. It had rained, shined, pained and here I was….almost at the end of my journey.

After exploring St Dunstans I headed towards the West Gate, finally entering the city as a proper pilgrim. I was so tired and so chuffed.

west gate canterbury

The West Gate Canterbury

After entering through the gate into Canterbury city my first stop was the Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr of Eastbridge. And now I could have my passport dated 🙂 The gentleman behind the counter was happy to oblige and well impressed at my journey. We chatted for a while and then he invited me to take a tour; as a pilgrim. I was nearly in tears. I am a pilgrim 🙂 Awesome.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

The Canterbury Pilgrim’s Hospital of Saint Thomas

Founded in the 12th century the Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr of Eastbridge in Canterbury, was in fact similar to today’s hostels; a place that provided overnight accommodation for poor pilgrims to the shrine of St Thomas Beckett….although of course we pay for hostels, in those days pilgrims usually donated or worked for their keep.  The ‘Hospital’ is a grade I listed building and one of the ten almshouses still providing accommodation for elderly citizens of Canterbury.east bridge hospital and chaucer

Do visit, it is fabulous. I went upstairs to the Pilgrims Chapel and said a prayer of thanks for bringing me this far in one piece. I’m not religious by any means, but I do find it very comforting and special to say a prayer of thanks….and I was really grateful to have been able to walk this journey. It had taken such a long time from when I first started.

Situated on the King’s-bridge, near the Westgate, in Canterbury, the hospital was established sometime after the death of Thomas Becket (1170), possibly as early as 1176, when Canterbury Cathedral became a site of pilgrimage. There are some fabulous medieval paintings on the walls and the crypt is ethereal.

From there I set off for the Cathedral 🙂 Finally I could get my pilgrims passport stamped at journey’s end! I entered the gate as a Pilgrim at 15:36 and was escorted to the Visitor Centre by the young man who welcomed me and called out “Pilgrim coming through” – I was so emotional and overjoyed…

Pilgrim's Passport - Southwark to Canterbury In the footsteps of Chaucer

Pilgrim’s Passport – Southwark to Canterbury In the footsteps of Chaucer

To my absolute delight I had quite unknowingly arrived at Canterbury Cathedral on Pilgrim’s Day; 29 July 2017. The cathedral had hosted a series of events on that day and even though I was a tad late to participate in many of them, I did get a passport of sorts, a badge and managed to get 1 stamp for one of the activities.

pilgrims day at canterbury cathedral

Pilgrim’s Day at Canterbury Cathedral 29 July 2017

I spent some time exploring the cathedral; my first stop the shrine of Thomas Becket. This area is where he was murdered in 1170 by four of Henry II’s knights.

shrine of thomas becket

Shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral

Henry and Becket had been friend since their youth but once Becket became Archbishop his demeanour changed and in due course he and Henry had a conflict. This resulted in Henry becoming incensed and uttered the infamous words “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest!” The 4 knights took this to heart, and on the 29 December 1170 they murdered Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

 

I love Canterbury Cathedral. Like Westminster Cathedral and Winchester Cathedral it soars skywards to the heavens. It’s filled with an extraordinary array of historical treasures, tombs and memorials. I spent a good hour there and then set off for my reward for all the walking.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

a delicious treat

And as a treat for my epic journey I treated myself to a most delicious crepe with dark chocolate, fresh strawberries and cream at the Chocolate Cafe in Guildhall Street. Best ever crepes and highly recommended.

Distance walked: 20.1 kms – 7:37 hours – 42063 steps – elevation 185 meters.

I love to explore and am usually quite happy to take numerous diversions to visit something that takes my interest, but one thing I learned on this journey….not matter how intriguing the place may be, I have my limits LOL After walking for hours and miles with a backpack, I find myself quite unable to summon up any enthusiasm for adding another mile or so.

So that’s it, my Southwark to Canterbury in the footsteps of Chaucer journey is now complete. Only took 7 years hahaha. It was worth all the pain and tiredness; I had a most amazing time and saw so many fantastic places and learned some fascinating facts about the history of this amazing country.

If you’d like to read up on the first 3 days, here are the links:

Day 1 Southwark to Gravesend

Day 2 Gravesend to Rochester

Day 3 Rochester to Faversham

What’s next? Way of St Augustine from Ramsgate to Canterbury…starting 30/07/2017 & finishing 31/07/2017

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One of the most exciting aspects of my Southwark to Canterbury pilgrimage was arriving in Rochester. According to the Canterbury Tales Chaucer and his pilgrims stopped in Rochester to visit the Cathedral, a site of pilgrimage in it’s own right, comparable to Canterbury.

Rochester Cathedral; 2nd oldest cathedral in England

Rochester Cathedral; 2nd oldest cathedral in England

I’d visited Rochester twice already in the past 2 years and although I did visit the castle, I wanted to save the cathedral for when I did this particular journey; Southwark to Canterbury in the footsteps of Chaucer, and suddenly here I was….just across the river. I could see the tower and the turrets and my heart quickened…at last I would step through those hallowed doors!

entering Rochester Cathedral - pilgrims shell

entering Rochester Cathedral – pilgrims shell

Rochester is famous not only for it’s cathedral, the 2nd oldest in England, but also for the fantastically well-preserved Norman castle (well worth a visit any day). Charles Dickens, as mentioned in a previous post had many associations with Rochester and a number of places feature in his stories.

During the 13th century, Rochester Cathedral became an important place of pilgrimage for those wishing to venerate William of Perth, a Scottish baker who was murdered nearby and enshrined in the cathedral. Although no trace remains of the shrine today the well-worn Pilgrim’s Steps can still be seen; now protected by a series of wooden steps.

Rochester Cathedral; the Pilgrim's steps - worn away by centuries of footsteps

Rochester Cathedral; the Pilgrim’s steps – worn away by centuries of footsteps

Although the well-known Pilgrim’s Way, a series of track-ways used since neolithic times, has been used across the centuries as pilgrim’s made their way to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Archbishop Becket, Chaucer’s pilgrims did not use that route from Southwark.  It’s quite difficult trying to tie down the exact route Chaucer and his fictitious pilgrims followed, since not only are the tales fictitious but so is the apparent route. There is also quite a LOT of dissension from various experts, each of whom regard their information as being correct….a moot point really since it’s a work of fiction.

Stepping through the doors after my journey that day was quite surreal. I had waited for this moment for many years and now finally I was here. The cathedral is beautiful. Not as ostentatious as many of the other cathedrals I have visited, but has a simple beauty that enchants. I spent quite some time just looking and absorbing the atmosphere and marvelling at the fact that I was finally there.

Rochester Cathedral; the interior of the cathedrals are designed to inspire and awe

Rochester Cathedral; the interior of the cathedrals are designed to inspire and awe

The next step was to find someone to stamp my passport……I saw a man in a long black cloak waft down the stairs and along a short corridor, turn through a doorway and disappear. I therefore made my way in that direction figuring if he went in, he must surely come back out….and so he eventually did. (it’s weird how their cossacks make it appear as if they’re floating across the floor). Anyway, I digress. I went to the doorway with the intention of following him, instead my way was barred by a sign: ‘staff only’. Hmmm. So instead I called out ‘hellooooo’…..I got no reply. In a bit of a quandry now, I wasn’t sure what to do, so banged on the door rather loudly. Still nothing. I could hear voices echoing from somewhere in the corridor, but got no answering reply. So I figured I would just sit there till someone came back out again…..which our gentleman in the black cloak eventually did. In no time at all he had hailed a lady from the depths of the cathedral and she came armed with the relevant stamp 🙂 🙂 Hoorah!

Getting my Pilgrim's passport stamped at Rochester Cathedral

Getting my Pilgrim’s passport stamped at Rochester Cathedral

I meandered about the cathedral enjoying the tranquillity and peace. I managed to track down the name of the Bishop of the time; one Thomas Trilleck who was nominated Bishop of Rochester on 6 March 1364 and consecrated on 26 May 1364. He died between 12 December and 25 December 1372 so would have been bishop at the time of the pilgrim’s journey. I found his name inscribed on the wall above the quire. Some of those dates are seriously astounding.

So there I was, finally at Rochester Cathedral. The lady who had stamped my passport managed to track me down and invited me to attend a service of thanksgiving at 5:30pm, which I duly did after a quick shower and change of clothes at the B&B.

Rochester Cathedral organ...appears to soar.

Rochester Cathedral organ…appears to soar.

Rochester is one of those cities that really captured my imagination. I had seen the cathedral and castle so many times from the train between London and Broadstairs, so when we finally visited I was enthralled. It’s certainly not the prettiest city I’ve visited, but there is so much atmosphere and character with the ancient buildings and alleyways, cobbled streets and phenomenal history, it’s quite impossible to not be charmed. There are numerous places that feature in Dickens’ books (as mentioned previously),

Charles Dickens and Rochester

Charles Dickens and Rochester

there’s the Restoration House that is an absolute must visit; phenomenal, two of the city Gates still stand. The castle moats are till visible, and many of the streets bear the names of ancient history.

Rochester Castle and remnants of the moat, two city gates

Rochester Castle and remnants of the moat, two city gates

Rochester has also been an important centre for many a royal visit and a number of kings passed that way between landing at Dover and travelling to London.

Rochester History; oldest pub in Kent, Restoration house, ancient streets, significant people

Rochester History; oldest pub in Kent, Restoration house, ancient streets, significant people

Rochester, we may have only spent a brief time together this time around, but I shall be seeing you again……

Further information via The British Library

What is ‘The Canterbury Tales’ about?

Chaucer’s long poem follows the journey of a group of pilgrims, 31 including Chaucer himself, from the Tabard Inn in Southwark to St Thomas à Becket’s shrine at Canterbury Cathedral. The host at the inn suggests each pilgrim tell two tales on the way out and two on the way home to help while away their time on the road. The best storyteller is to be rewarded with a free supper on their return.

This literary device gives Chaucer the opportunity to paint a series of vivid word portraits of a cross-section of his society, from a knight and prioress, to a carpenter and cook; a much-married wife of Bath, to a bawdy miller – an occupation regarded in Chaucer’s day as shifty and dishonest.

Chaucer mixes satire and realism in lively characterisations of his pilgrims. The tone of their tales ranges from pious to comic, with humour veering between erudite wit and good honest vulgarity. Taken together, the tales offer a fascinating insight into English life during the late 14th century.

Chaucer’s original plan was for over 100 stories, but only 24 were completed, some of which had already been written for earlier works. Their order varies in different surviving copies, the Hengwrt manuscript being valued most for its accuracy.

More about the journey:

Prelude – Day 1 Southwark

Prelude – Day 2 Southwark and the City of London

Day 1 – Southwark to Gravesend

Day 2 – Gravesend to Rochester

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After a fitful sleep brought about by a noisy crew at the inn (hostel) I woke early and partook of a hearty breakfast.

I had planned a side excursion for today – to the Battle of Britain Airshow at Headcorn Aerodrome…I wonder what Chaucer would have made of these flying beasts?? My train left from London Bridge which gave me the perfect excuse to explore the area before I left.
First I walked onto London Bridge once again; love that view.

 Then I popped in at The George Inn to get some photos before the place filled up with patrons intent on becoming merry!!

The George Inn is the last galleried coaching inn in London, and the current building dates from 1677; rebuilt after a devastating fire.

In Chaucer’s day there would have been many such inns, and in fact he and his pilgrims gathered at the Tabard Inn in Talbot Yard before setting off on their journey to Canterbury. I sought out and found The Tabard Inn blue plaque in Talbot Yard

and then made my way back to the station for my trip to Headcorn; the Airshow was fantastic. 😀😀 loads of photos.
I was back in London by 19:30 and went straight over to The George Inn for my final London Pilgrim’s meal; Battered Cod, chips and  mushy peas washed down with London Pride (of course 😉).

There were still a number of places I wanted to visit before setting off tomorrow; places Chaucer would have been familiar with, albeit some have changed dramatically and some are just remnants.  So after supper I waved fare thee well to the Patrons and set off on a quick whizz around the city:
1. Winchester Palace – once home to the very wealthy and powerful Bishops of Winchester.

2. The Clink Prison – oldest prison in London

3. Crossbones Garden – final resting place of the ‘Winchester Geese’, the prostitutes of the city and some of their children and babies.

4. The Ferryman’s Seat – Chaucer would likely have used a ferry to cross the River.

5. St Paul’s Cathedral – the one Chaucer knew would have been destroyed in the Great Fire of London 1666.

6. The Thomas a’Becket sculpture in St Paul’s Churchyard.

Thomas a’Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral and to visit his grave was the ultimate purpose of Chaucers journey.
7. All Hallows by the Tower Church – the oldest church in London; undoubtedly Chaucer would have visited.

8. The Tower of London – On 12 July 1389, Chaucer was appointed the clerk of the king’s works, a sort of foreman, organising most of the king’s building projects. During his tenure, but he conducted repairs on Westminster Palace, St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, and continued building the wharf at the Tower of London, as well as stands for a tournament held in 1390.

As I walked back across the River Thames via Tower Bridge I wondered what Chaucer would make of London today? Bet he wishes he’d hung around a few years longer for this view 😉

 And that brought my whistle stop tour to a close after which I hopped on a bus back to my abode.

Of course I also went past Southwark Cathedral that looked lovely with the light from the setting sun.

Tomorrow morning my walk begins. Wish me luck. 

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Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in the footsteps of Geoffrey Chaucer.

6 years ago, after discovering the George Inn in Southwark and seeing the Chaucer window in Southwark Cathedral I was inspired by my love of London, the River Thames, my love of walking and my interest in Chaucer to follow in his footsteps to Canterbury.

Although I did indeed complete the walk from Southwark Cathedral to Greenwich, life got in the way and I never completed the rest of the journey.geoffrey-chaucers-probable-route-to-canterbury-pic-via-httpfaculty-arts-ubc-casechard346map-htm1

However, since I’ll be walking the Camino de Santiago this year in September, I decided that not having completed my journey to Canterbury is just not on! So as part of my Camino training and in order to complete one journey before the next, I resolved to walk from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in July of this year over a period of 4 days. This will not only complete my original journey, but will add 60+ miles to my walk 1000 miles challenge (#walk1000miles) and enroute I will visit a few cathedrals, a couple of UNESCO World Heritage sites and hopefully add one or two new places to Project 101.

To this end I have continued apace with my Camino practice walks (640 miles since January 1st 2017)….only now I am carrying my lovely new Osprey Mystic Magenta Tempest 40 litre backpack with me…75% loaded. I did try one day to carry it fully loaded (8.5 kgs) but I nearly put myself on the ground in agony! So I emptied the water bladder and removed my toiletries and for the month of June and part of this month till I leave for my walk I’ve been practising with 5kgs on my back and slowly built it up to 7kgs.

nordic walking poles and osprey backpack

my nordic walking poles and osprey backpack looking fairly benign….

It’s been heavy going and I can see the impact the weight has on my joints and my back, as well as which I am constantly tired. But persevere I must as time is fleeting and although its now July and not April, I can identify with Chaucer’s comment: On Wednesday 18 April, I stood in Talbot Yard off Borough High Street in London getting wet: an April shoure soote was piercing me to the roote. Some days walking with the Osprey has had me feeling like the backpack was ‘piercing me to the roote’. LOL

Chaucer and his merry band of pilgrims left from an inn called the Tabard Inn and although the Tabard Inn no longer exists, I shall repair to the George Inn, the last of the medieval London Coaching Inns, for a meal on the night before I begin my journey. I’m not sure what to eat; fish and chips with mushy peas or sausage and mash with onions…but one thing is for sure….I will be having a glass or two of a suitable brew!!

the george inn

pulling a pint at the George Inn in 2011

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387–1400 of a journey taken by himself and a number of pilgrims from Southwark to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

In the year 1387, Geoffrey Chaucer and his motely band of pilgrims gathered in the yard of The Tabard Inn before setting off on their pilgrimage to visit the shrine of Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. They travelled mostly on foot but in one or two of the images I have seen of Chaucer on his pilgrimage he is usually seated on a four-legged animal…ergo a horse.

geoffrey chaucer canterbury tales pilgrims route to canterbury

a sketch of Geoffrey Chaucer as he may have looked on his route to Canterbury

Therefore I shall endeavour to travel by foot for as much of the way as I can and revert to horse-power if and when necessary.  I have carefully worked out my daily routes, taking distance into account, and will follow as closely as possible the same route that Chaucer followed….with 2 exceptions: from Southwark Cathedral in London – I will follow the banks of the Thames to Greenwich and from there to Erith

southwark cathedral and geoffrey chaucer

Southwark Cathedral – a place of worship since 606AD

….the road that Chaucer travelled along from Southwark towards Deptford; Tooley Street, is now a very busy, polluted highway with hundreds of cars, trucks and whatall travelling along and frankly; it’s unpleasant. The 2nd exception will be between Dartford and Rochester. Dartford is not a lovely place to spend the night (sorry folks 😉 ), so once I reach the town I’ll take a 7,000 horse-powered vehicle in the form of a train from there to Gravesend (which is not where Chaucer stopped), but since this is my journey…..

As a prelude to the journey I shall once again visit some of the places that were around in Chaucer’s day….albeit today they are somewhat altered and some even have different names.

London Bridge – in Chaucer’s day (14th C): Late Medieval: the Peter de Colechurch Bridge – There was a Stone Gate House on the bridge and on its roof stood poles where traitors’ heads were placed. This practice started in 1304 and continued until 1678.  In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell’s head was placed on one of the poles.
Southwark Cathedral – a place of worship on this site since 606AD –  a medieval priory which today has become Southwark Cathedral.
Winchester Palace – the remains/ruins of a 12th century palace, London residence of the Bishops of Winchester.
The Clink Prison – 1144-1780 now a museum – The Clink Prison Museum is built upon the original site of the Clink Prison which dates back to 1144 making it one of England’s oldest, if not the oldest Prison.  Now a museum (great fun for a visit)

Saint George the Martyr Church on Borough High Street – a church that was in existence during the 14th Century and before. The earliest reference to this church is in the Annals of Bermondsey Abbey, which claims that the church was given by Thomas de Ardern and Thomas his son in 1122.

And of course The George Inn – in it’s present incarnation, having gone through a number of fires over the years, and rebuilt.  The George Inn was situated next door to the Tabard Inn from whence Chaucer commenced his journey to Canterbury.

On Sunday 9th July, I will stand opposite Talbot Yard off Borough High Street in London getting ………wet? Who knows….we often have rain in July…..but I have a poncho 😉

I’ll be posting photos on instagram as I go and updating my progress. If you’d like to follow along you can find me @notjustagranny and the hashtags I’ll be using are #SouthwarktoCanterbury and #inthefootstepsofChaucer amongst others.

Hope to see you there and if you happen to see me along the way….say hello 🙂

And so to Canterbury……..

southwark to canterbury in the footsteps of chaucer

This plaque on Titsey Hill on the North Downs shows various routes and distances to faraway places….one of which is Canterbury…53 miles from the Titsey Estate

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After my stint in Co. Wicklow where I worked for 3 weeks, I decided to spend a few days in Belfast and explore this city I had last seen 10 years ago. As part of my Project 101, I planned to visit Belfast Castle, Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway…amongst other explorations. I had a fantastic 4 days and before long the time whizzed by and so my time in Belfast came to an end – all too soon.

Explore Belfast - Northern Ireland

Explore Belfast – Northern Ireland

I had to be up early, no lingering in bed as I had to get to the station and back to Dublin in time for my flight to Heathrow. After a hearty breakfast, at 08:45 I left the BnB and walked to the bus-stop and so the the station for the train back to Dublin enroute to Broadstairs…13 hours travelling door-to-door 🤣🤣🤣😔😔 oh well. I actually got to Belfast station 45 minutes early, which is so much less stressful than rushing to get there on time, but due to the station personnel being ever so NOT helpful, I was directed to the wrong place and despite being early I eventually ended up at the back of a very long queue that snaked out the station. Sometimes I think they do that just to annoy the traveller….misdirect you that is!!

Travelling from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland is surreal…..one second you’re on UK time then next on EU time. There are no discernible borders, so unless you know at which station you’re entering or leaving the UK, you’d have no idea just by looking out the window of the train. Talking of which, the scenery in Ireland is just stunning.

I had a fantastic 4 days, saw some amazing places, visited the Dark Hedges,

the dark hedges northern ireland

The Dark Hedges – scenes for Game of Thrones were shot in this area

Bushmills (as in the whiskey),

explored the Giant’s Causeway,

saw Dunluce Castle that appears to cling precariously to the clifftop,

dunluce castle

Dunluce Castle; a now-ruined medieval castle in Northern Ireland. It is located on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim. Built by the MacQuillan family around 1500, the earliest written record of the castle was in 1513.

saw the most spectacular coastline along the east coast to Carnlough

carnlough county antrim

Carnlough – from Irish Carnlach, meaning ‘place of cairns. A village in Co. Antrim is has the prettiest harbour

where we found a delightful little harbour and stopped for an ice-cream (delicious).

stunning Co. Antrim coastline

stunning Co. Antrim coastline

I climbed Cave Hill (370 meters/1200 feel above sea level) with fantastic views of the city and lagoon, stood in a 1000 year-old hill fort,

visited Belfast Castle,

Belfast Cathedral and the Town Hall,

walked along the river Lagan, visited the Titanic Quarter and Queen Island,

saw extraordinary yet poignant murals and memorials on the streets of Belfast; Shankill Road, Crumlin Road and Antrim Road,

depicting history I learned about in school – absolutely fascinating!!  I walked and walked and walked over the 3.5 days covering well over 60kms, and above all I had superb weather with temperatures in the high 20’s – how marvellous are our summer days!

The Waterworks Belfast

The Waterworks Belfast with Cave Hill to the right

It was overcast on my last day with some rain in Dublin and thankfully a lot cooler. Much as I love summer, I cannot bear humidity.

Once I arrived in Belfast city centre I walked to the station via St George’s Market; a lively, colourful venue for good fresh food. I had coffee there the day before with the host at the AirBnB and spent a few minutes walking around just looking at all there was on offer. Loved every minute of my stay.

Belfast, I’ll be seeing you again…

Once at the airport there was sheer chaos. As usual when you have an enquiry at the airport you get sent from pillar to post and back again….I needed my boarding pass printed so went to the customer services desk for AerLingus…..the woman behind the counter was not very friendly and chastised me for coming to the counter (bloody cheek), but printed the pass anyway…why not just do it without the accompanying attitude.  Anyway, it appears that British Airways had a computer meltdown and AerLingus are affiliated so I’m guessing there was a lot of pressure. I was instructed to check in my own suitcase (nerve-wracking) but at least now I know how to do it. And then I had to weight it and send it off along the conveyor belt into the depths of the airport …also something I had not done before, so I stood behind a couple who were doing it, made a comment of the procedure and they kindly assisted me on the ‘how to’ and now I have learned 2 new travel processes LOL.

Anyway at least my bag arrived on the same plane and at the same time as I did in London, unlike the thousands of travellers affected by the BA computer melt-down whose bags went into the abyss.

I loved the fab new sculpture at Heathrow arrivals: pretty awesome. Then onto the tube, and finally onto a train to home…..my daughter picked me up at the station at 21;35…..

broadstairs kent

Viking Bay, Broadstairs, Kent

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Palazzo Pitti was quite frankly just extraordinary. I think I went a little mad with my camera and photographed every inch of the walls and ceilings, the displays of treasure, those fragments of clothing from 500 years ago take your breath away. Finally after I had explored every inch I could, I left via the main entrance on Piazza Pitti and looking back quickly took a #selfie…I just couldn’t believe what I just seen and felt like I needed to record the fact that I had actually been there….it was so surreal. And I hadn’t even mentioned the Grotto!!

palazzo pitti Buontalenti grotto florence

Palazzo Pitti and the amazing Buontalenti Grotto in the Boboli Gardens, built by Bernardo Buontalenti between 1583 and 1593, commissioned by Francesco I de’ Medici

Florence truly is a city of opulent architectural gems and the centre highly deserves it’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Where to next? I didn’t think I could see anything else that was so amazing, but I was wrong!! Making my way back to the river I crossed over Ponte Vecchio again and within a couple of minutes I entered the Palazzo Vecchio. Well!!! What do you say when you are stopped in your tracks by something that is so amazing you almost have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming….what I saw in front of me was someone’s dream, and it was magical.

palazzo vecchio florence

the magnificent Palazzo Vecchio, once home to Cosimo Medici and his wife Eleanora of Toledo

On the Visit Florence website they talk about time-travel and walking through these extraordinary buildings it seriously is like stepping back in time: “Palazzo Vecchio offers Roman ruins, a Medieval fortress and amazing Renaissance chambers and paintings” Do visit their website for more information. This building, now the Florentine Town Hall is magnificent, influenced by Moorish architecture, if you blinked you could be in Morocco. I’ve seen similar crenellated buildings in Gibraltar. It’s amazing! During the mid 16th century the Medicis; Cosimo and his wife; Eleanora of Toledo (the clothing fragments in my previous post belonged to her) turned this into their residence and much of the paintings and decorations you can see today were influenced by them. Sadly I had a very strict daily budget and if I wanted to eat…so I didn’t get to visit the interior, which is such a shame since the rooms are decorated by people like Michaelangelo and Donatello. I guess I’m going to have to go back LOL

palazzo vecchio florence

the sculptures in the courtyard are stunning

The courtyard; Piazza della Signoria is equally as impressive with a towering replica of Michaelangelo’s most famous ‘David’ along with some other stunning sculptures. Ohhh so beautiful. If you’re a fan of art, then seriously Florence is a must.

palazzo vecchio Piazza della Signoria in Florence

Palazzo Vecchio overlooks Piazza della Signoria. The Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I is a bronze equestrian statue erected in 1594 in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence

After satiating my appetite for ‘amazement’ I went walkabout again, just meandering here and there, aiming for towers I could see towering above those gorgeous red roofs. Plunging into the warren of streets I slowly but surely make my way towards my goal: Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence’s main cathedral.

Along the way I discovered the Oratorio dei Buonomini di San Martino founded in 1441. Closed, but the history looks well impressive. Then the Museo Casa Di Dante….only Dante’s home. I mean seriously!!! Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265, on the site where the Museo Casa di Dante stands. Poet, politician, writer; author of The Divine Comedy, one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature, Dante is considered the father of the Italian language. Again I had to bypass = (bigger budget next visit I guess LOL). Discovering all these places, of people I had learned about in school was truly awe-inspiring. Never in my wildest dreams/imagination did I ever envisage actually visiting.

casa di dante and oratoria dei buonomini

amazing discoveries; Casa di Dante and Oratorio dei Buonomini di San Martino, Florence

Next discovery was The Badìa Fiorentina; an abbey and church, now home to the Monastic Communities of Jerusalem, situated on the Via del Proconsolo, was founded as a Benedictine institution in 978 by Willa, Countess of Tuscany. Dante grew up nearby and would likely have heard the monks singing the Mass and the Offices here in Latin Gregorian chant. It looked totally intriguing and stepping through the door you are transported to another era. Chiesa Della Badia Fiorentina; place of silence, eucharistic adoration and liturgy  – I couldn’t believe what I saw….at the front of the church were a number of nuns and monks kneeling on the floor in front of the altar!!! I have never in all my years of visiting churches around Europe and the UK seen such an ethereal and other-worldly scene. I sat down with a bump on one of the pews, just stunned into overwhelming amazement. It was totally surreal. I felt like all my sins were emblazoned on my forehead and that I should immediately ask for forgiveness. It didn’t of course stop me from taking as many photos as possible, although I did feel like I was intruding on a very special moment. The church is filled with wonders: the altarpiece showing the Virgin appearing to St. Bernard painted by Filippino Lippi between 1482 and 1486, the funerary monuments, and the magnificent elaborately carved wooden ceiling, made in 1631 by Felice Gamberai, looking up before I left I had noticed this extraordinary ceiling; solid looking and elaborately carved it looks way too heavy to remain in place!! Wonderful place. I love churches and visit them often, but I can honestly say this is the first time I felt so insignificant. Seeing those nuns kneeling in supplication…..wow.

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Chiesa Della Badia Fiorentina; place of silence, eucharistic adoration and liturgy

Slipping quietly out the door I continued on my way. Okay so there is an abundance of churches in Florence, and I was in my element….I learned my lesson in Venice, where I mostly ignored the churches, except for St Mark’s obviously, until the last day of my visit….at which time I ran around like a chicken without a head trying to visit as many as possible….I had never realised how magnificent they are; the paintings, the treasures, the ghoulish relics venerated in their elaborate ossuaries. To be able to stand on the exact same space where the old masters had stood, transferring their extraordinary talent onto the actual walls of the building is just mind-blowing!! Not canvases painted elsewhere and hung in the church, but painted right there onto the actual wall…..so now, I never pass a church that’s open without stepping inside, especially not in Italy that must surely be the birth-place of extraordinarily magnificent art!

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

Anyway, before I wax too lyrical, the next church I stumbled into was the huge, massive and very imposing Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri. The size and facade of this church are overwhelming (yes, I was overwhelmed quite a lot in Florence LOL). On the website they describe the building as huge…uhm yes rather. I spent only a few minutes exploring this enormous cavern of a church; the altar is just amazing, since it was just on 6pm and they were about to close. But I saw enough to be well impressed.

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

I continued my meanderings and passed the ever so delightful and quirky Pinocchio shop; Bartolucci!! Oh the temptation to buy something….Too cute. They’re located on Via della Condotta, 12, 50122 Firenze.

Pinocchio shop; Bartolucci

Pinocchio shop; Bartolucci

After wandering around some more getting closer and closer (or so I thought), photographing all the street names as I went, I found myself suddenly impatient; not wanting to delay any longer….I instead found myself back in the Piazza della Signoria, I have no idea how…seems I had walked in a circle LOL. So catching my bearings (yay for mapmywalk) I made my way with determination now, past Piazza della Repubblica then followed Via Roma and suddenly, as I walked around the corner into Piazza S. Giovanni, there it was….OMG!!! Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower. Writing about it now I’m in tears. I cannot explain in words the emotions that rushed over me.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

It is quite simply magnificent. Like I said to my daughter afterwards, I had seen a number of images of the cathedral viewed from the side, photos of the very recognisable dome, close up and from afar, but I had never before seen the front of the building!!! It is exquisite. From that edge of the piazza the view of the front entrance is blocked by the fabulous Baptistery; Battistero di San Giovanni, which in itself is very impressive, an outstanding building of glowing white marble with green inlays – but walk around the corner and ohmygosh!!!

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower; this most amazing facade is so beautiful I just couldn’t believe it. I have seen some beautiful cathedrals in my life and was to see many more over the next 3 days, but oh my word….this was the creme de la creme!! I confess that I just stood and cried. And then camera in hand I proceeded to take a photo of just about every inch of the building LOL. I couldn’t wait to see the interior. That was planned for the following Friday at which time I would also climb the dome and the tower. It’s free to visit the cathedral (which I didn’t realise at the time) but you have to pay to climb the Dome and Tower and visit the Museum.

The facade of this cathedral is like an explosion of fondant icing; brilliant white, delicate pink, subtle shades of green all framed by delicate lacy carvings, exquisite mosaics and astounding sculptures. I’ve tried putting into words how it looks…but I’m afraid words desert me.  I guess you’ll just have to go and see for yourself 😉 From the website Santa Maria del Fiore, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, is the third largest church in the world (after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London) and was the largest church in Europe when it was completed in the 15th century”. Surprisingly the facade was only completed during the 19th century, and of course followed the fashion of the time.

The bell tower right next door is equally impressive, just outstanding; white marble inlaid with green and red marble fading into pink, with elaborate designs and a few sculptures. One of the 4 principal monuments on the Piazza del Duomo, the tower, designed by Giotto di Bondone, stands 84.7 metres tall and about 15 metres in breadth; a classical example of 14th c Gothic architecture in Florence.

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Bapistery of St John, Florence, Italy

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Bapistery of St John, Florence, Italy

All I can say about these buildings is that the people who designed them had the most extraordinary imaginations! If you consider they didn’t have computers and the tools we have today, their buildings mostly leave many of our newer architectural creations in the shade…and mostly they seem to last a lot longer!! Started in 1334 by Giotto, it was completed in 1359 by Francesco Talenti. I mean seriously 1334!!!! And it’s still standing!!!

After photographing my fill of the cathedrals facade and the tower I walked right around the whole building. I was sad to note that the east side (dome side) of the building was quite grubby and tatty but there is restoration going on. I’m guessing it costs a whole heck of a lot of money to maintain this magnificent building.

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

The Museum of Opera of Saint Maria Fiore is located in this area and proved to be a stunning place for art lovers to spend a few hours. I visited on Friday 28th, on the same day as the Dome, Cathedral, Baptistery and Tower. Combined ticket.

After walking right around the cathedral I took a closer look at the Baptistery; the Baptistery of St John, is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. Constructed in the Florentine Romanesque style around 1059, the construction of white Carrara marble with green Prato marble inlay was finished in 1128. More about this on 28th 😉

the Baptistery of Saint John, Florence, ItLY

the Baptistery of Saint John, Florence, ItLY

After I had walked around the cathedral at least 3 times, and inspected every possible angle, I popped in at the Museo del Bigallo….wow, beautiful interior. There is one other area of the museum that you can visit but they only open that at certain times of the day for a short period, so I didn’t get to go in. I finally tore myself away from the Piazza del Duomo and started to make my way back towards the station. It was already after 7pm and the sun was beginning to set. I had been walking for hours and needed some food!! But first, as I passed the open doors of the Chiesa dei Santi Michele I couldn’t resist popping in for a look. Goodness gracious. I’m sure that if the Catholic Church organisation sold all the paintings and gold and silver treasures that fill their churches they could solve world poverty at a stroke. It’s just too much! Seriously. But hey, meanwhile, I loved seeing all these beautiful places.

Chiesa dei Santi Michele

Chiesa dei Santi Michele, Florence, Italy

From there I headed towards the river…the evening was so gorgeous I wanted to see another Tuscan sunset…while standing at the bridge looking downstream I saw what looked like a group of people walking on water. After all the churches I had visited during the day, I would not have been one bit surprised!!!

River Arno Florence, Italy

River Arno Florence, Italy

But on closer inspection it turned out to be a weir that stretch across the river between the two bridges. A brilliant optical illusion.

the weir stretching across the River Arno in Florence

the weir stretching across the River Arno in Florence

Of course this needed closer observation so after walking around a bit, and crossing over to the opposite bank I finally found where I could access the lower reaches of the riverbank and the weir. As a bonus I also discovered some of the old city walls.

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City Walls in Florence

The list of Project 101 discoveries was growing!!

I walked along the river till I reached the weir and after a bit of climbing and unsteady walking, watching my step on uneven cobbles and concrete, I too was ‘walking on water’. The water level was lapping the edge and a misstep would have seen me taking a swim with the fishes. Nearby a group of gorgeous giggling girls having a celebration asked me to take a their photo…of course!! Then they did some for me 🙂 Turns out it was the birthday of one of them and I took delight in telling them that it was mine the very next day!! I got to eat a slice of heavenly chocolate cake while standing on a weir in the middle of the River Arno in Florence. Isn’t life peachy!weir 3 I took loads of photos….surprise!!! I sometimes wish I could just take one photo of any one place and be satisfied. As if!! LOL

By now it was getting quite dark, the sun had slipped behind the horizon and I had some exploring to do.  I walked back towards the old walls I had seen earlier and left the city for the suburbs, but not for long. Just to have a look. Then following the wall I walked along just looking and enjoying the night, it was sublime. I found a convent, Chiesa e Convitto di San Francisco de Sales established in 1700, now a girls boarding school.

I meandered along, the light fading and the night drawing in, just loving being alone and on my own with not a soul in the vicinity who knows me. Marvellous. I love the anonymity of travel. By now I was HUNGRY!!! It was 8pm and I hadn’t eaten a thing since 10:30 at Caffe Dei Fossi. Right find me a trattoria. I really wanted to eat at a traditional eatery, so scanning the streets I walked and walked…..finally I found just what I was looking for……Trattoria Dante – perfect!!!

Trattoria Dante, Florence, Italy

the Convent top left, empty streets, Trattoria Dante, Florence

I, without further ado, entered, found a table and by 8:30pm I was tucking into a most delicious pizza…yum yum yum!!!

An hour later I was on the streets again and heading back to the apartment. The night was wonderful, Florence looked so pretty all lit up and I so enjoyed my walk through the now much quieter streets.

The River Arno, streets at night, my square, Chiesa Santa Maria Novella

The River Arno, streets at night, my square, Chiesa Santa Maria Novella

I was tempted to go have another look at the cathedral nut managed to resist…I had an early start on the morrow….a visit to San Gimignano for my birthday. Yayyy. Besides which, my bed was waiting – 12.5 hours after I set off in the morning it was time for sleep. Goodnight.

my bed...calling me

my bed…waiting for me

Connect with me on instagram as I continue my travels. I’ll be writing about San Gimignano in due course; come back soon.

Website links you may interested in:

Dante’s House

Badia Fiorentina

Chiesa di San Fillipo Neri

Bartolucci

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

More on the cathedral

Baptistery of St John

 

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Hello, you’re back. This is a continuation of my one day in Florence adventure. So yes, the Baboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti. May I just say that if you ever decide to visit this extraordinary location, enter the gardens via the Fort Belvedere entrance at the top of the hill. It’s a heck of a climb and I was puffing by the time I got there, but what I found is that the story of the place seemed to unfold before me as I walked. To think that I very nearly, and only because I had no idea of where I was and the significance of the place, didn’t go in. The entrance fee is not really that much but since I hadn’t heard of the place, I almost decided against it. The cashier gave me a flyer on request and on opening it, my decision was made…..do go, it’s fantastic.

florence as seen from palazzo pitti

the wonderful city of Florence viewed from the Baboli gardens, Florence

I have no idea where to start, there is so much to tell and see. The Medici were a very powerful family in their time and produced Popes and Princesses. Their wealth was extraordinary and they spent it well. The interior of the palace is quite simply breathtaking. The exquisite paintings that cover the walls and ceiling; just unbelievable.

palazzo pitti

interior of Palazzo Pitti; home of the Medici family

Instead of much dialogue I’ll just post some photos for you to enjoy. Suffice to say I had a marvellous few hours wandering about and admiring this fantastic legacy left for us to enjoy from 5 centuries ago! Wow.

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In one of the rooms there’s a double padded bench where you can sit to look at the paintings on the walls…much like they have in museums…well I lay across them looking up at the ceiling in one of the rooms. It was so exquisite and so breath-taking that you simply had to just lie there and look at it. All too soon I had a few companions…seems my idea took off 😉

A seriously stupendous place. I would love to go back again just to look at those ceilings. I know I took loads of photos….and I’m really glad I did. You forget the details all too soon other wise. The remnants of clothing that you can see in the images are actual clothes worn by the Medici’s in the 16th century. Now that is mind-blowing. Imagine how fragile they must be. What a terrific heritage.

The Baboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti are a UNESCO World Heritage Site; quite rightly so.

If you’re interested to find out more about the Medici, I have located this link. Happy reading.

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