Saturday, 14 December 2019

The Last Graduation


By High Speed Train to Canterbury


From the first primary school events in which our first child participated, as parents we have always supported our children and celebrated their achievements whenever we could. And so, thirty years on we found ourselves attending Canterbury Cathedral to witness our youngest receiving her doctorate. An occasion not to be missed, and, wedged in between many other diary commitments, we could not extend the visit into a proper holiday, but we did enjoy the trip - and a surprisingly good hotel room. It is worth mentioning the hotel in some detail, actually, but first, the journey there.

We packed after breakfast and with no hurry set off to Peterborough on the 13:00 Cross Country train from Stamford, which makes a very handy connection with the 13:30 LNER train from there to London. We had Advance tickets throughout, giving us affordable First Class travel between Peterborough and London, and enjoyed our sandwiches, wine and cake on that leg of the journey. There was plenty of time at Kings Cross to stroll across to St Pancras for the SouthEastern High Speed service on to Canterbury. We took a few moments to look around some of the shops at St Pancras, and by the time we reached the platform to board the train it was a struggle to find two seats together! We shall not make that mistake again: I had not realised how popular this high speed service had become, even between peak times. We did get seats, though, together, right at the front of the train. Many stood. We had a long walk along the platform at both ends of the journey, too, but it was a fast, comfortable ride. There is nothing special about these train except the speed: no First Class, no refreshments, but they do deliver what they promise and we were in Canterbury very quickly. I shall be going there again quite soon and look forward to using this service again; next time it is just a day trip, now quite feasible with this quick service and quick change in London.

Which brings me to The Cathedral Gate Hotel. Our large, comfortable double room with two armchairs and en-suite bathroom with bath and shower cost just £90 for the night, including an excellent continental breakfast with fresh croissants. There are some snags with this hotel if you are mobility-impaired, but if you can ascend and descend stairs and don’t mind going outside on a roof-level walkway to get to and from your room it is amazingly good, friendly, efficient and comfortable.

We asked at reception for advice about restaurants and for that first evening we tried Posillipo, a genuine Italian restaurant off the city centre where we were able to try out our fledgling Italian language skills with the waiting staff (the menu was in Italian, which helped). I ought to mention that we are learning some Italian for a trip to Rome next year, not just for eating pasta in England! Posillipo was again excellent value: terrific food and service at low price; they have restaurants in Faversham and Broadstairs, too, if you want to try other places.

The following day was the graduation ceremony in the cathedral and I attended with my son-in-law while Granny looked after their little boy. Graduation ceremonies are not the most entertaining events but it was amazing to see all these young (and some older) people receiving degrees of one sort or another and to hear the topics on which doctoral theses had been composed.

Afterwards we went for coffee (I’ve never had coffee with someone in doctoral robes before!) and after the disrobing we all visited Chapman’s, a seafood restaurant which our daughter had booked conveniently near the rail station. We thoroughly recommend this restaurant, too, but unlike the previous evening’s one it was not such a bargain.

And so back to the station and the High Speed train to London, a short visit to the shops at St Pancras and the a wait in the First Class lounge at Kings Cross and the 21:00 LNER Azuma to Peterborough for the connection home.

I was not at home for long, though, because the following morning I was off to Birmingham... but that is another blog post!

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