Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010. Dazed and confused in Canterbury.

Canterbury Cathedral is covered with sculptures of important business men, saints, queens and kings, and gargoyles and grotestques.
The first view of Canterbury Cathedral
You know how your neck feels when you've been painting the ceiling all day? Well, that's how my neck felt after Canterbury Cathedral. Just like St. Paul's Cathedral, the town has grown right up to the cathedral, so you have to stand close and crane your neck to see the whole cathedral. It's impressive and old in a good way. The first Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Augustine, presided over the Cathedral in the year 572!  When I stepped into the cathedral, my eyes were drawn up to the ceiling irresistibly. The audio guide explained that this is because of the Perpendicular architecture used in the building of the cathedral. The cathedral is held up by a series of surprisingly thin columns that meet in the ceiling vaults to create a pattern of stars. It was gorgeous! There were some amazing stain glass windows, some of which are a thousand years old. That amount of age is such a foreign concept to me. I can't seem to get use to it!

This is looking from the entrance of the Cathedral
down to the Alter.  There is another huge section
behind this stone wall where the choir sings. 
It doesn't seem logical that the choir could be
heard from behind a stone wall,
but it works beautifully.
The overwhelming theme of the cathedral was, "Thomas Beckett - good; King Henry the Second and King Henry the Eighth - bad!". The first Henry casually mentioned to his murderously loyal knights, "It sure would be nice if somebody would bump off that worrisome Archbishop."  And then when they did and the people were shocked and horrified, he claimed plausible deniability! Pretty devious. He was finally pressured into making a public apology.  He walked on his knees from Richmond to Canterbury.  Once he was at the scene of the crime, the priests whipped him with a cat-o-nine-tails in the town square.  Now that's a public apology! Maybe some of our politicians would think twice if they had to make this kind of apology.

This is the actual spot where three of  Henry the Second's
 knights murdered Archbishop Thomas Beckett. He was
leading a prayer service in a side chapel when they found him.
  The knight who killed him, hit him with such force,
that part of his skull flew across the chapel and the sword
was shattered!
Then three or four generations later, the other Henry got annoyed by the popularity of the Archbishop's shrine. By that time, Beckett had an almost cult-like following. So Henry, always jealous, decreed that the shrine and any mention of Thomas Beckett be destroyed. That Henry, he was a rotter!
The cathedral is filled with amazing stained
glass windows. Some of them are about a
thousand years old.  In places, the windows
are so bowed that they look
llike bubble wrap. 
The cathedral was stunning! The town was not. Outside of the tourist pedestrian area it was dirty and smelly. It was clearly a working class town that just happened to have a world heritage sight right in the middle of it. Plus, because it is a medieval town, the streets expand out in a circular pattern from the cathedral. I got very lost, very confused. But I've adopted a Scarlet O'Hara philosophy. I am relying on "the kindness of strangers."  I asked the sweet girl at St. Augustine's Cathedral ruins to mark the most idiot proof way to get back to the train station in highlighter on my map.  She giggled a little, but helped me out.

The delightful village river and riparian garden.  They must be required because every town had them!
By the way, riparian is a fancy word that means "by the river."  I learned that from Hyacinth Bucket.  Who says t.v. is not educational?

Sherrie's Travel Tips
Because, you know, I'm such an experienced traveler now!

1. Buy the best noise canceling ear buds you can afford. They help
    not only on the plane, but in the hotel and the tube.
2. Be kind to your feet! Wear the comfortable shoes. Pamper your

    feet in the evenings.
3. Smile and talk to everyone who shows an interest. You never

    know what great stories you will hear.
4. Go grocery shopping. This is where I see the biggest cultural

    differences. And, it's fun! Do you know milk is not refrigerated in
    the U.K.?
5. Don't get a bed and breakfast down the street from a hospital and

    across from a university. Both make for some noisy nights.
6. Don't panic! There will be problems; there will also be
7. Eat the dessert!
8. Follow your nose, but remember your toes. Exploring is great! But

    there is always a price to pay.
9. Watch the local television. The commercials are sooo different.
10. So what if you are a tourist. Enjoy it! You paid big bucks; you

      have the right to walk slow, take a million pictures, and gawk at
      the sights.  Those locals, the ones rolling their eyes, they would
      do the same if they came to our towns.
11. Go to the bathroom every time you see one, even if you don't

      really need to. You never know when you will see another one.
11 1/2. Wash your hands with soap every chance you get!

12. Fend off homesickness by emailing home and by listening to your

      favorite music on your I-Pod. It's amazing how a little Willy
      Nelson can restore a girl's equilibrium.
13. Don't avoid people. We are all here for each other's

14. A big, friendly American smile is your secret weapon!  The drawl

      doesn't hurt, either.
15. Don't shave your legs with a new razor when you're jet lagged!

A view of The Thames which is  still a working river.  In the midground in the HMS Belfast which served in combat during World War II.  You can take tours of it.  And of course in the distance is the most beautiful crossing, Tower Bridge.

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