Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Visiting the Canterbury Tales

Canterbury is famous for two reasons: One, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162-1170, was cane-slaughtered in front of the Canterbury Cathredal. Two, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the gaudy, boozy stories of pilgrims venturing to Canterbury.

I've already been on Canterbury's "ghost tour" where a man in a black cape and top hat showed us where Becket was murdered. I visited the Canterbury Cathredal. I figured all that was left on my must-see list was the Canterbury Tales.

Luckily, there is a Canterbury Tales exhibit where you can tour musty-smelling rooms and hear/see each pilgrim's story. One lackadaisical Sunday my roommates and I decided to do it, excited to see our 9th grade reading assignment unfold.

The exhibit is in an old medieval church, where, according to our ghost tour, they used to throw naughty (or Catholic) nuns off the top of the building. With that in mind, we headed inside to the brown-paneled room. 

                  Zoe posing with the priest                 

Me imitating the Wife of Bath

You take an audio guide and are hustled into the first dark room, where the dungeon doors to the lobby shut menacingly behind you. I think they sprinkled horse manure about the area to give it that "medieval-chic" smell, because it stunk. Molded casts of double-chinned priests, beggars with beard stubble and empty flasks and bacteria-laden porridge bowls littered the room, only seen by firelight. 

                 The first room on your pilgrimage                     

Drunken buffoon

We wandered room by room, with our audio guides pressed against our cheeks, wondering why we paid 3.50 for manure and dirty casts of horses. 

We saw the Wife of Bath riding in a glossy forest, which reminded me of  being in the Rainforest Cafe, saw murals of Chauntecleer, a naked bum hanging out the window and getting branded, fake rats, dirty streets and smelled that lovely manure. Thank goodness I'm not a pilgrim.

Typical medieval street

The trip was a great refresher of Chaucer's tales, but I was ready to get my hand sanitizer and fresh air as soon as I left those dungeon doors. 

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