Thursday, May 26, 2011


One of our first stops in Britain was Canterbury Cathedral.

I say "one of our first" because, in order to leave London, we had to pick up our car. I volunteered to drive, and have been since.

Those who say that driving in Britain is difficult...are right. It isn't really physically difficult, although driving all day is exhausting and yet manages to keep me up later than I should be...For the first day, I had to make a conscious effort to stay out of the right lane. I found myself drifting over to where it felt natural to be. So much so, that I have earned a reputation for driving up on the curb to my left, and, the first day, I clipped a car and a post wtih the left-side mirror! But I'm getting used to it. I am becoming very skilled in the roundabouts, or so I'm told! They scared me at first, but now I wish we had them in the US. So sensible!!

I really, really, really wanted to attend Sunday worhsip in Canterbury, but we were about an hour and a half late, due to difficulties in the car rental office. The Cathedral and the close were lovely, and we enjoyed our visit there. We saw the Black Prince. Well, his casket, anyway.

All through Europe, we noticed that cathedrals and other elderly buildings are in a constant state of "being worked on." We saw more scaffolding this past month than, probably, in our entire lifetimes. The main job is sandblasting/cleaning the old stone. You can see the difference in these two pictures of Canterbury Cathedral. The first I posted is pre-cleaning, and the second is post-cleaning. We joked about it, but it really is necessary.

Canterbury Cathedral is the worldwide center of the Anglican Church. It was established by St. Augustine in 597, when he came as a missionary to Britain. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1077, by the Normans. Other changes were made to the building, but it continued as a monastery until 1540, when Henry VIII ordered the monasteries closed. During the English Civil War in the late 1600s, most of the medieval stained glass was smashed, and the Cathedral was used as a stable. After the Restoration, repairs were made. Later, the Cathedral suffered damage during the Second World War. It continues as a place of worship.

Canterbury was always, from its beginning, on the pilgrim road to Rome. Then, in 1162, Thomas a Becket was made Archbishop by King Henry II. After this, his allegiance transferred from Henry to the Pope. Henry was not pleased, and complained aloud about Becket. Four of his knights took his complaints very seriously, and murdered Becket as he was saying Vespers. Three days after his death, a series of miracles occurred which led to his being canonized in 1173. Canterbury became a destination for pilgrims, and thousands came to pray over the years. Henry II himself showed up himself in 1174, barefoot and in sackcloth.

Didn't mean to include all that detail, but it is an interesting story when you hear some more of the detail. Hunt up the story. You also have heard of this place through Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories told by pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St. Thomas.

Our plan was to spend the late afternoon at the site of the Battle of Hastings, but, as we continued to learn about Britain, driving distances are deceiving. We were also deceived by a sign leading us to Battle, the site of, you guessed it, the Battle. It turned out to be the slow route, and we never did make it. Instead, we found our hotel in Brighton and settled in for the night.

I headed out about 12:30am to pick up John, who was taking the National Express bus from Heathrow. I went down to the desk to ask where the bus station was, and had a wonderful surprise. Whoda thunk that, of all they myriad hotels in Brighton, we picked the one whose backside was the bus stop? It was a safe area, so I just walked over and picked him up. I did get an interesting look at the late night folks of Brighton. The bars were closing, so you know what I mean when I say, "interesting."

That was a Wednesday night, I believe. We headed out the next morning for adventures in Portsmouth....


  1. Glad the British driving is going ok... I really want to drive in Great Britain at some point in my life, but at the same time, the thought scares me out of my ever-living mind!

  2. Mel did a fanastic job, even with john freaking out a tad here and there.