Chaucer fan wants to follow the pilgrims' progress from London to Canterbury

TRAVEL Q & A

October 24, 1993|By New York Times News Service

Q: My daughter is a serious student of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." Can you tell me if there is a day-trip tour from London to Canterbury following in the footsteps of the pilgrims?

A: Tour Guides International, a group that represents guides registered with the London Tourist Board, is a specialist in theme tours, of which yours would be one.

The company says that a one-day tour to Canterbury along the route of the pilgrims would take about 10 hours. It would start at Old London Bridge in Southwark, on the south bank of the River Thames, where the pilgrims gathered.

It would then follow the pilgrims' way past the site of medieval inns, many of which still survive as pubs, and through the fruit orchards and hop fields of Kent. The route would then run through Rochester and over the River Medway to Canterbury, where the pilgrims worshiped at the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on Dec. 29, 1170. He was canonized three years later.

A day could also be spent in the Southwark area, visiting the sites familiar to the pilgrims, including a number of old pubs. In addition to Chaucer, the area is rich in associations with Shakespeare: The Globe Theater is in the Bankside district, and the playwright's brother is buried in Southwark Cathedral.

For a group of up to three people, guides knowledgeable about (( Chaucer would conduct tours in their own cars. The charge would be $360 for a full day, calculated at $1.60 to the pound, and $168 for a half day. This would include the services of the guide and the cost of gasoline and parking charges. Meals and any admission charges would be extra.

For group tours of up to 50 people the charges would be $184 for a full day and $120 for a half. Meals, any admission charges and bus rental are extra. A 12-seat bus is $300 for a full day, $144 for a half. A 35-seat bus is $374 for a whole day, $176 for a half.

More information: Tour Guides International, 57 Duke St., Mayfair, London W1M 5DH, England; call (71) 495-5504, fax (71) 495-5323.

If you wanted to travel independently, Canterbury is easily reached from London by train or bus. Trains for Canterbury East leave from Victoria Station and for Canterbury West from Charing Cross and Waterloo. Trains run hourly, and the 62-mile journey takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. The round-trip, off-peak fare is about $19.

The round-trip bus journey by National Express from Victoria Coach Station costs $15 and takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

A good place to start a tour is "The Canterbury Tales," an attraction housed in an ancient landmark building on St. Margaret's Street. The display, which aims to bring Chaucer's tales to life, is described by its operators as "a medieval adventure conjured up using the latest electronic wizardry, in light, sound and smells." It takes 45 to 50 minutes to see, and a total of 10 people are admitted every three or four minutes.

The Canterbury Tales, (0227) 454888, is open daily. Admission is $6.80, $4.75 for children 4 to 16.

The Tourist Information Center in Canterbury, at 34 St. Margaret's St., (0227) 766567, can help with other information about Chaucer and the city.

Q: I am planning a vacation to Greece next summer and would like to rent an apartment big enough for a small group or family. Can you give me the names of any agents?

A: There are a number of agents in the United States who deal with villa rentals in Greece. You might try contacting one of the following, drawn from a list put out by the Greek National Tourist Organization. The organization, at 645 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022 -- (212) 421-5777 -- can help with general information about the country.

* Vacation Home Rentals, Worldwide, 235 Kensington Ave., Norwood, N.J. 07648, (800) 633-3284, has two-bedroom villas and apartments to rent in Santorini, Crete and Mykonos. Prices from June to September range from about $1,600 a week on Santorini to $2,870 on Mykonos.

* Villas International, 605 Market St., Suite 510, San Francisco, Calif. 94105, (800) 221-2260, has two-bedroom rentals, in Crete at $1,000 to $1,500 a week and in Mykonos at about $2,000 a week.

* Rent a Home International, 7200 34th Ave., N.W., Seattle, Wash. 98117, (800) 488-7368, has two-bedroom rentals on the mainland and in the islands from $630 a week to $2,800.

* Complete Vacations, 38 W. 39th St., New York, N.Y. 10016, (212) 944-7909, has two-bedrooms in the islands from $980 a week to $1,820 week.

Q: We will be going to Britain soon. Could you refer us to an organization that could help us identify British birds?

A: The British Tourist Authority in New York offers a fact sheet on bird watching, covering organizations in Bedfordshire and Norfolk and properties owned by the National Trust. It also provides information from the British Ornithologists Club and four organizations that offer bird-watching trips.

Here are the addresses of organizations to write to for more information on bird watching in Britain: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, England SG19 2DL; British Trust for Ornithology, the Nunnery, Nunnery Place, Thetford, Norfolk, England IP24 2PU; the National Trust, 36 Queen Anne's Gate, London, England SW1H 9AS; British Ornithologists Club, c/o British Ornithologists Union, Zoological Museum, Akeman Street, Tring, Hertfordshire, England HP23 6AP.

If you are considering joining a group with a guide, the following organizations offer trips: Youth Hostel Association, Trevelyan House, 8 St. Stephens Hill, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England AL1 2DY; Scottish Field Studies Association, Kindrogan Field Center, Enochdhu, Blairgowrie, Tayside, Scotland PH10 7PG; Scottish Youth Hostel Association, 7 Glebe Crescent, Stirling, Scotland FK8 2JA; Field Studies Council, Preston Montford, Montford Bridge, Shrewsbury, England SY4 1HW.

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