While studying in London and travelling to different countries, it’s sometimes hard to remember that there is more to England than this incredible pocket of diversity. A weekend trip outside of London can be a great way to counter that perception and the county of Kent was my choice for this experience. My journey to Kent included a visit to the well-known city of Canterbury, where I saw the Canterbury Cathedral and a very odd tour depicting Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
While Canterbury has been a significant religious site for centuries, literature lovers like myself think fondly of it as the inspiration for Chaucer’s tales. One of the best aspects for me of being abroad has been seeing the actual places I’ve read about in some of my favorite works. I’ve gotten to read Virginia Woolf’s novels while actually living in the city she often tried to capture in her writing. I saw the Brazen Head Pub in Dublin, where Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, a work I’m currently reading in my Satire course, used to hang out. Traversing the final point of Chaucer’s pilgrims’ journey was certainly just as spectacular.
The Cathedral with its incredibly detailed design gave me a greater understanding why people would have made extensive journeys to this place, even though I only took a two-hour bus ride from London to get there. The rich history of the Cathedral including the murder of Thomas Becket provided me with a foundational background for Chaucer’s work. It was spectacular to actually be in a place that was so intimately connected with something I had read in a classroom. My trip to Canterbury allowed me to have an interactive experience with a piece of writing from the fourteenth century, which was eye-opening for me, in part because I don’t have that opportunity in the U.S.
Of course, the city of Canterbury acknowledges this connection to a very old text, and provides an interactive museum of manikins, which I can only describe as creepy and uninformative. It was still slightly entertaining, though, and mimicked the kind of unclear humor lurking beneath Chaucer’s writing.