Brussels to Canterbury by Train, Ferry and Car

posted September 19, 2010 by Holly Hayes part of trip: The Great European Road Trip

We are back in the UK and so happy to be here! It's kind of strange in a way - everything is so familiar that it seems like returning to the USA was all a dream and soon we'll just drive back to our home in Oxford. We've revisited several of our favorite things already: Marks & Spencers, Pepsi Max (even more delicious than I remember), and Wagamama.

But to start at the beginning, we went to bed early in Brussels and got our first good night's sleep (despite drunken Belgians shouting at each other outside all night), which allowed us to get up at 6am without too much suffering and take an earlier train out of Brussels than we'd planned (7:16am).

The trip from Brussels to Calais took about 2 hours; we changed trains in Tournai and Lille. It was generally a good trip - the trains weren't too full and there was some pretty scenery. At Calais we had to wait for a shuttle bus to the port, then just got checked in in time to make the next ferry, which departed at 11:40am. We were starving by the time we got on the boat, but there was a nice restaurant on board where we enjoyed pasta bolognese with a view of the English Channel. 1 hour and 40 minutes later, the White Cliffs of Dover came into view and then we were back on English soil.

In the terminal building we met up with Brian, a very nice New Zealander who delivered our rental car from London. We have really been looking forward to having this car! In light of the ambitious itinerary I planned for us all over the UK, which David accepted good-naturedly as always, I thought we should splurge on something a little more fun for him to drive than usual. We decided on a BMW M3 diesel, and she's lovely in person. After inspections with Brian and a few signatures, David was behind the wheel on the wrong side of the car and we were on our way.


David behind the wheel at the cathedral this evening.

We both love the car so far - it is really comfortable and seriously fast. Shortly after leaving Dover, David tried stepping on the gas and it actually knocked my head back against the headrest! And on the motorway, he got it up to over 90mph (briefly) in the blink of an eye. But despite all the power, it still gets over 40mpg thanks to the efficient diesel engine. What a treat.

We got to work right away: only 6 miles north of Dover is a village called Barfrestone (a contender for best English village name we've encountered, rivaled only by Toot Baldon), which has a 12th-century church notable for its carved portal. I loved it, as I knew I would.

View from South
South Tympanum
South Portal: Archivolt Detail
Nave Looking East

We took lots of pictures, then continued on for just 10 more miles to Canterbury for the night. I had booked us in the Cathedral Lodge, a hotel and conference center owned by the cathedral and located right next to it. Trying to drive to a cathedral in the middle of a medieval town meant that David had to revisit all the less desirable aspects of British driving right away - lots of roundabouts, narrow roads, dodging parked cars, remembering to stay on the left, and a lack of clear signage. Eventually we gave up, parked in a public parking lot, walked to the Lodge to ask for directions, then went back to get the car.

Our room in the Cathedral Lodge - that's the cathedral itself right outside our window!

So the arrival was a little stressful, but we've had lots of fun ever since. The weather didn't cooperate (the sky was bright-white overcast, which is the worst for photography), but I got some decent interior photos of the cathedral and we had a good time walking around town and enjoying being in Britain.

We had dinner at Wagamama, one of our favorite restaurants, and we were so hungry that we completely forgot to take photos of our meals. But we'll certainly visit another one of these before the trip is over!

At 6:30 we attended Evensong in the cathedral, a half-hour service of hymns sung by the choir interspersed with a few Bible readings. The singing was quite beautiful and it was nice to sit still and just admire the cathedral for awhile, instead of my usual fast photography pace.

After the service we got our tripods out like good aspiring photographers and took some exterior photos at dusk and after dark. I don't know if we got any masterpieces, but there are probably a few decent ones in there and it was fun and good practice. We chatted with the chief warden of the cathedral precincts for awhile, who was really nice and friendly and very concerned to get the cathedral lights on for our photos.

Now it's after 11:30 and I'm barely staying awake long enough to get this published before crashing for the night, so I'm going to have to leave the cathedral photos for tomorrow. David is already fast asleep. In the morning we'll take more cathedral photos, then move on to Cambridge for two nights.

next: Canterbury Sneaky Beak

previous: Leiden and Brussels with Jet Lag

Article Info

Page Title
Brussels to Canterbury by Train, Ferry and Car
Added By
Holly Hayes
Date Published
September 19, 2010
Last Updated
April 15, 2024