5 things to do in Canterbury, England

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Canterbury is a contradictive city: Medieval buildings preserved for posterity and modern, ever encroaching university buildings march forward to take the town, in the name of Christ Church.

It seems the only arbitrator is the old Norman wall, barely holding them apart, and struggling under the load of tourists crippling its back. The cathedral stands proud looking on, at what its fair city has become, and although still standing tall, it can’t help but shudder and watch as a few more tiles fall off its ageing face as tourists’ pennies fail to provide it with the life it once knew.

I love this city; I fear for this city but most all I want you to enjoy the beauty of this city before more medieval buildings become chain coffee shops and before the eternally shining cathedral dims ever so slightly.

Here are my 5 things to do in Canterbury (and it was hard to choose 5!) if you ever happen to find yourself in the garden of England’s heart.

 

1). Visit the cathedral

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As I write I can see the Cathedral from my window, a monumental feat of construction, built in an era before any of the machinery, we take for granted today, was available. A monumental feat to the tenacity of man, and the arrogance of the church, all manifested in a building that seems to try to reach the heavens itself, with its astonishing height and awe inspiring presence.

Walking around most street corners in Canterbury will lead to a magnificent view of this building which has a very dominating perspective and seems to tower over you, despite being far away. Inside you can find the Black Prince’s tomb and opposite, his son’s deposer, Henry of Bollingbroke ( Henry IV) giving a medieval style middle finger and demonstrating his power for all to see. You can even see the clothing and weaponry of the Black Prince and the lone candle where Saint Thomas Becket’s tomb once was, before Henry VIII melted it’s golden frame down for coin and threw the saint’s remains in the sea. This place exudes history and is a must visit.

Both internally and externally the Cathedral is impressive. Outside there are gardens to walk around and cloisters to explore where a small herb garden, tucked away can be found, with a small bench in the corner, where you might find me, if the hussle and bustle of the high street has become too much.

Furthermore the gardens are open for free in the evenings and although many return to visit the internal wonders of the Cathedral, I find myself forever drawn back to that little herb garden.

2). Visit the never ending list of historical buildings

To think the Cathedral is the only historical building in Canterbury is like thinking that the earth is flat. Almost everything inside the city walls is old and dates from every conceivable peroid you can imagine. Pilgrims’ hospitals from the Mediveal age to Elizabethean houses by the river, now restaurants, and 18th and 19th century gentry housing, now serving as offices for lawyers and accounts. And I am not talking about only one of these representatives of bygone eras exsiting; there are dozens all more beautiful than the last and all as equally intriguing. Simply walk around and look out for the time the building was built and be astounded by the preservation and restoration that has gone into them.

There are plenty of old churches too, some only a little younger than the Cathedral itself, and all made from the local flint stone that abounds in the chalk so representative of Kent. I highly recommend visitng my favourite church St Peter’s, tucked away just off the high street next to the Cricketeers pub, it is absolutely delightful. The finest of all these religious monuments are the ruins of St Augustines abbey where the pre norman cathedral stood and where the man who converted the Saxons to Christianity lived and worked, St Augustine. 

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If you haven’t tired by this point then a walk along the city walls, by the bus station, is a great way to spend some time. These walls, along with a little restoration from various conquerers, have stood more or less in the same place for 2000 years and lead you past a pleasant park called Dane John and along to a mound used formerly as a Roman burial ground, where a quick steep trip to the top gives you amazing views of Canterbury.

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Further along the wall, after a small break in it, you get to the ruins of Canterbury castle, which features a spectualar hole where a Victorian gas pipe has smashed its way through, with little regard for historical signifance. The victorians did a number on this town: painting the Black Prince black for example… causing irreplaceable damage.

The list really does go on and on and on. Visit the old West Gate and look for the scratches the busses left as these 20th century mechanical beasts tried to make their way through a 14th century gatehouse, the largest city gate in the UK.

I haven’t even mentioned the museums with the Canterbury Tales museum really taking top spot for me.

3). Explore the quirky old town bars and restaurants

Many bars and pubs have thrown off the shackles of the Shepeard Neame brewery monopoly and are embracing the modern trend of strong craft beers and supporting local cider makers. No longer are you left with 3% piss water you can have local lager, local ale even a local milk stout all made either on the premises or just down the road. I tried to name as many pubs as possible off the top of my head with a friend recently and we stopped at 15 depsite there being many many more.

The quality of the bars and pubs is getting higher and higher and inevitably attracting the hen parties and stag dos, where pubs that were once pleasant now have to have a bouncer on the door, but the students of the city help lift the atmosphere of the town on a Friday and Saturday night by lifting it out of the hen party terror, of cow eyed girls pissing in the street, and hunched back protein shakes fighting with police, and into a place for all, whether it be a quiet pint or a rave.

You can really eat in Canterbury too. Foods from all over the place such as Greek, Lebanese, English,  French, Turkish, Mexican and Spanish whatever takes your fancy you will find it here. However, the fish and chips in Canterbury are awful but to have the chance to eat al fresco on a cobbled medieval street, whilst 5 piece busking bands serenade you, is an experience you’ll never forget.

 

4). Spend some time in the many parks

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All the parks in Canterbury are so perfectly placed and idyllic; you can forget you are in a city sometimes and not infact in an orchard. They are incredibly well looked after and sadly being municipal have a closing time of around 9pm but I’ve seen students in there much later, perhaps a middle class break-in had occurred.

Several of these miniature chunks of paradise are placed alongside the river, where on a hot day, many try to dip their feet and nearly fall off the large wall that stems the river. They are used; they are alive and they are for everyone and I highly recommend finding ‘Abbots mill garden’ It really is a treasure.

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5). Take a punt or a walk

For a price you can take a little ride down the river on a flat bottomed boat, whilst waist coated men try desperately to recount multiple tales of the town, all the while, puffing and panting; your only form of locomotion being a long stick and a stone river bed to push off. I’ve always wondered what you call these men, I mean, they punt so they are punters right?

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If you aren’t too enthused by paying a pretty penny for a very pretty ride then my advice to you is simple… walk. Walk down every tiny street you can find, walk through parks and by rivers, walk into the countryside, to the marshes, to the tucked away houses and the secret pubs. There is so much to explore and never enough time to do it.

To finish my top 5 things I would like to say that Canterbury is by no means a perfect city: with tuxedo clad men driving their Bentleys past homeless people who stick their hands in bins looking for a meal. I don’t want to sugar coat it, there is division in this town with signs being placed around telling people “don’t give money to beggars” alongside “don’t feed the pigeon” signs but away from the politics, the city truly shines and despite the people’s failings, this 2000 year old town lives on and is ever welcoming and ever beautiful.

 

 

5 types of ESL boss

If you’ve been teaching a while you will definietly have seen bosses of all shapes and sizes. Some are great and some are the embodyment of  your nightmares.

 Here are 5 types that we have seen in our teaching exploits across Spain (this is all tongue in cheek of course):

The Tyrant

It is 8 am in the morning and you’ve been asked to do some ghastly one on one or a business class a hundred miles away from your academy. As you walk into the academy all hell breaks loose as you are bombarded with the type of abuse that gets your dog taken off you by the RSPCA. 

You are already juggling a million teaching responbilities but the Tyrant doesn’t care; he has money to make and teachers’s lives to make difficult and you are in his sights. 

You entered his domain and the silver back is angry! No one knows how he became so tyranical, or why everything has to go through him before it gets done, but that is the way it is and like it or lump it, unless you want his curses to wake you up and make you realise what a nightmare you’ve found yourself in.

The Diamond

Well organised, friendly, reliable, a decent human being, a good man manager and the list goes on and on. Many bosses think they are these things or strive to be but will invariably fall into one of the other types mentioned, as most excellent bosses don’t even know they are so good: they just think they are doing it the way it should be done and that respect and doing a damn fine job are part and parcel of running a business. 

We need these types of bosses, as in some places they are in very short supply and can make the difference between a living hell and the finest experience of your life. In fact these bosses are like shiny Pokemon cards, super rare, and not worth trading for anything.

The Artefact

“DICTATION DICTATION DICATATION. Children should only study grammar; it worked for me and it will work for them”. 

After escpaing from the museum of teaching antiquties this boss somehow got the money together to buy an academy and fooled you into coming to teach there. An oracle of nonsense, clinging to his one rigid teaching method that has gone unchanged since first carved into rock all those years  ago.

 Teaching in this enviroment can be a disaster for teacher and student a like. There is no doubt that you start to feel like you are going backwards and becomming a worse teacher for being there… you may even be becomming the Artefact yourself. Afterall:

 ”He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.”

The Teacher vs The Businessman

This guy is not so bad. He gets it: life as a teacher is hard and he wants to be there on the front line with you, following by example. However, you don’t get paid on time and his office is just a mess of paper and blue tack. Man management has gone out of the window and whenever you need help or advice he is in a classroom somewhere, leading from the front, despite chaos at the back.

 There is a lot more to running an academy then just teaching and striking a balance is always a good idea.

 This leads me onto the businessman boss. The enemy of the teacher boss this guy is in it for the profit, mercilessly squeezing every penny he can out of you and the system. He is all that is wrong with said system, the money grubber, who puts teaching last and MONEY MONEY MONEY first.

The Sleaze

“OOOOOOOO IF I WAS 20 YEARS YOUNGER”

 Wretched old coots abound in Spain and they love to walk the line between playing it safe and unerving young female teachers who find themselves alone in the car after a lift back from a lesson.

 I was once told, after requiring a lift to a further away destination than normal, that I was ruining the boss’s and  a young teacher’s ‘private time’ to which an akward laugh burst forth from said teacher’s mouth, then a sigh of defeat and introspective turmoil. She was promoted soon after, so I guess all’s well that ends well.

 

Finding a half decent boss in Spain can be a chore and for many a simple roll of the dice. I don’t know what possess a person to open an academy and become some of the demons mentioned above but perhaps they weren’t always like that and the ever changing teaching world just got the better of them.

Support and guidance is always needed in the classroom, and outside of it, but some bosses simply don’t care, some bosses dither and writhe and others are pure diamonds worth coming back for year after year. They really do make or a break a school, they are the face, the heart and the soul of it all and ultimately it starts with them and it ends with them.

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Teruel- Mudejar and a little Bull

RADING CO.
El torico

Rushing through the bare Aragonese countryside, our train desperately trying to outrun a summer storm chasing us across the plateau, we have time to reflect on our 8 months in Logroño and time to plan for our final week in Spain a trip from Logroño to Teruel to Valencia then Madrid and finally home. Continue reading “Teruel- Mudejar and a little Bull”

Logroño- Where the wine flows freely

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El Rio Ebro slowly meanders round this pretty little city, flowing as smoothly as the wine it helps to produce. What Logroño lacks in size it makes up for in curiosity as narrow streets and parks await exploration by anyone who stays the night. The capital of the smallest autonomous community in Spain, La Rioja, it is also the capital of wine and tapas whilst acting as a beacon for weary pilgrims, making their way along El Camino; their destination Santiago de Compostela.

Continue reading “Logroño- Where the wine flows freely”

5 things to do in Thessaloniki, Greece

 

DINING IN TOKYOThessaloniki is the second biggest city in Greece and sits on top of thousands of years of history from the Ottomans to the Byzantines and all the way back to the Macedonian Empire and is in fact named after Alexander the Great’s sister. From walks along the promenade to traditional food in old tavernas, all that is Greek can be found here, and with enough time and inquisition, you may just find a few of the wonderful things that this metropolis has on offer. Here are our top 5 things to do in Thessaloniki: Continue reading “5 things to do in Thessaloniki, Greece”

Am I cut out for the job? 

the-modern-school-teacherTeaching at times is a thankless job. It can make or break a person and many good teachers leave the profession due to the never-ending torrent of stress that comes their way. The system will chew you up and spit you out and another will take your place. Here is a personal story from a guest blogger, that maybe you can relate to. Continue reading “Am I cut out for the job? “