The University of Kent is subtly bizarre in ways that are difficult to explain. It seems like a good school, but something just felt a bit strange about it. The campus itself is beautiful. The room numbering system is Byzantine - I never did work it out completely. The en suite dorm bathrooms are like big showers with a toilet and sink inside them - and no barrier between the shower tile and the bedroom carpet, so water will seep into the bedroom if you turn the shower on all the way. But the upside: they gave us University of Kent branded soap and body wash (why doesn't Exeter do this?!) The University of Kent branded one-use disposable bath mat was a little weird. I think one thing that disoriented me is hearing so many American voices in a quintessentially English place. Parallel universes... slowly... colliding...
My favourite experience was at breakfast in the cafeteria. I asked one of the workers if she knew what food was vegan. Looking helpful, she said she would check with the cook and be right back. A few minutes later she returned. "The beans and tomatoes are vegan, of course. The vegetarian sausages are vegan as well. Unfortunately the potato wedges have onion in them though" she said sincerely.
"Oh, eh, well, thanks for checking."
The cooks also cut the crusts off of my vegan sandwiches (and none of the others.) Not sure what that was about. The complete non-comprehension of veganism was almost like being back in Georgia. The food was tasty though.
The conference ended on Friday afternoon, so I headed to Kipps Hostel for the evening. It wasn't bad, especially for £15 for the night. I headed to a pub to meet a friend/fellow-conference-goer to watch the rugby game. It was my first time watching rugby. All I can say is that I've never seen that much blood coming out of peoples' ears. During the day Saturday I wandered around the city of Canterbury. It's really the perfect size to see by foot in a day. There are plenty of things to see, many for free. Here are a few pictures:
The domjohn behind the city walls is the mound that was the basis of the original Normal motte and bailey castle. It was originally a Roman burial mound. Now it is a public garden with a panoramic view of the city.
The city walls were originally Roman, but have been rebuilt a few times through the millennia. Like most of the stonework in the city, they are made of cloven black flint river cobbles. Canterbury gave in to William the Conqueror without a fight, so they didn't see action then, but they did successfully fend off a number of Viking raids in the centuries before. Now a highway encircles the area where Vikings and Saxons fought and died for control of the city.
St. Mildred's again. The flint cobbles were gorgeous. They are glassy black, almost like obsidian, and surprisingly sharp.
Greyfriars, the oldest Franciscan building in the UK, is perched upon the river Stour. It's small and humble, but the gardens were some of the best in the city.
I found most of my lunch in the Greyfriar gardens actually: hazelnuts, beech masts, blackberries, haw berries, apples, pears, and sprigs of rosemary and peppermint. This juicy pear was soon to be eaten.
This sycamore tree near Greyfriars had a trunk about the size of a small car, shaped like a mound. There was no sign to say there was anything special about the tree, but it looked to be one of the oldest in the city.
Just a few feet from the sycamore tree is the River Stour, down which you can see the massive Westgate Tower. You can see cars driving through the main archway between the towers.
Canterbury Cathedral was founded by St. Augustine at about 600 CE. As you probably know, it is the centre of the Anglican church. You probably didn't know you can buy the Archbishop's own special orange marmalade in the gift shop for £3.50.
The cathedral again. It was impressive, but not head and shoulders above other cathedrals I've seen. There are several shots of the inside in the video below.
The castle keep's ruins were desolate. I spent about 30 minutes there and did not see a single other person (on a Saturday in good weather.)
I took this video of Canterbury with my regular digital camera (ie decent camera, but not meant for taking high quality videos). In order, it includes the city walls, Grayfriars, the Cathedral, the town centre, and the castle ruins. I did the editing in a hurry, so it is a bit of a rush-job. The music is from Sigur Rós' Taak.