Travel: Come for an old church, stay for the place

With the peak travel season just around the corner, now is the time to start planning a summer getaway.

The following three places — in no particular ranking — are worth visiting. While each place has a notable old church, tourists will find more to do and see than ecclesiastical architecture or objects of religious art.

Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican) in the Canadian provincial capital of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican) in the Canadian provincial capital of Fredericton, New Brunswick. | Dennis Lennox

Fredericton, New Brunswick

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Fredericton, the provincial capital of Canada’s New Brunswick, can feel more like a small town than a capital city.

For many, the draw is Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican), a nearly identical copy of an English Gothic church from the 14th century. While smaller than more famous cathedrals, it punches well above its weight.

If you didn’t know better, Fredericton could be somewhere in New England. That’s because New Brunswick was founded by loyalists who fled to Canada after the American Revolution.

Just down the street is the seat of the province’s temporal power, the Second Empire-style building housing the New Brunswick Legislature.

Of course, like just about everything else in New Brunswick, the British influence is omnipresent. This includes the legislative chamber, where a portrait of George III by Sir Joshua Reynolds hangs next to a throne used when the lieutenant governor, as King Charles III’s viceregal, opens the provincial parliament in a ceremony comparable to the president’s state of the union or a governor’s state of the state speech.

Other sights include the old British military buildings of the Historic Garrison District. Here, a community market is held every Thursday in the summer. Then there is Government House, a kind of palace where the lieutenant governor lives and works.

When in Fredericton, book a room at the Crowne Plaza Fredericton-Lord Beaverbrook Hotel. Some rooms face the St. John River.

Inside the National Churchill Museum on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.
Inside the National Churchill Museum on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. | Dennis Lennox

Fulton, Missouri

This English baroque church overshadows the small liberal arts college that surrounds it.

The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury is one of the oldest churches anywhere in the United States. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built after the Great Fire in 1666 destroyed a much-earlier medieval edifice, it served the needs of a London parish for three centuries until the Nazi Blitz in 1940.

Largely destroyed — the Portland stone walls remained standing — it stood in a ruinous state until British authorities developed plans for resurrecting London. While other churches were rebuilt or restored, St. Mary the Virgin remained a bombed-out ruin until its acquisition by Westminster College — historically a Presbyterian institution of higher education.

Fulton was where Sir Winston Churchill delivered his 1946 speech titled “Sinews of Peace.” Speaking at the invitation of President Harry Truman, the legendary wartime prime minister warned of the Soviet Union’s post-war expansionism and what later became the Cold War.

Reopened on the Westminster campus in 1969, the church is part of the National Churchill Museum.

Located in the undercroft of St. Mary the Virgin, the museum tells the story of Churchill’s fascinating life as a historian, journalist, politician, soldier and statesman. Then there is the church, which rivals any of the Wren churches in London. Outside on a plaza stands a sculpture by Edwina Sandys, a granddaughter of Churchill, made from eight sections of the Berlin Wall.

Stay at the Loganberry Inn, a bed-and-breakfast and the best option in Fulton. You might even get the room where Margaret Thatcher once slept.

Nightfall over Spokane, Washington.
Nightfall over Spokane, Washington. | Dennis Lennox

Spokane, Washington

Washington state’s second-biggest city is probably the last place you would expect to find one of the last examples of Gothic architecture.

And yet, the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, which serves as the seat of the Episcopal (Anglican) bishop, is one of the finest examples of Gothic anywhere in the United States. I consider it Gothic and not Gothic revival because it was constructed entirely of masonry in the same manner as true medieval Gothic, which is pretty impressive considering the fact that traditional architecture was well out of fashion by the time of its construction between 1925 and 1961.

Beyond the sacred space of the cathedral is a great city with lots to offer visitors.

Spokane, which hosted the Expo ’74, a successor to earlier world’s fairs and international expositions, truly has something for everyone to see and do. Just as world’s fairs in 1899 and 1900 gave Paris the Eiffel Tower and other iconic landmarks, Spokane, too, has its own iconic leftover: the one-time U.S. Pavilion that today anchors Riverfront Park.

The once-neglected park, which occupies land formerly blighted by industry and railroads, straddles both sides of the Spokane River around the unoriginally named Spokane Falls. Here, a gondola, the Numerica SkyRide, takes passengers on a 15-minute scenic ride above the falls.

No visit to Spokane would be complete without an adventure on its namesake river.

A couple of different outfitters offer excursions ranging from stand-up paddleboards to whitewater rafting and casual floats. I went with the approximately two-hour float from Wiley E. Waters that can easily be done by anyone, including those with zero experience.

Arguably, Spokane’s hidden gem is her wine scene.

Several wineries, including Arbor Crest Wine Cellars and Barrister Winery, are producing wines from grapes that are, admittedly, sourced from elsewhere in Washington State. The quality — to say nothing of the value for money — are superb.

One of the best hotel options is The Historic Davenport, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection brand.

Dennis Lennox writes a travel column for The Christian Post.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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