Saturday, 20 February 2010

Ande so here begyns these Canterbury tayles...

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a PERFECT day in the Mother Country. MAN, was it perfect! However, let's wind it back to last night and catch you up quickly on how we started the weekend.

Friday was a big day for the project, as we had a huge presentation due. Hats off to my crew for some TREMENDOUS work, as we had a very successful project review (insert big sigh of relief here). After that (and after taking 5 pounds from Grimshaw for successfully predicting when the session would end), we needed to blow off some steam and celebrate! And of course, there's only one way to do that properly in Canary Wharf - THE CAT AND CANARY, BABY!!!!

15 minutes later, the gang met up with Brother Morgan and his friend Steve (went to high school in Nashville, hence he and I form the "Tennessee Union") at the C & C for some pints and relaxation. It was a great evening, and four of us (Lynda, Kat, Muffin, and me) then rolled to Sri Nam, where we were tucked in to a GREAT meal (Mad City- those Singapore noodles are THE TRUTH - thanks for the tip!).

We passed out around 12:30 last night, and we popped up (seriously this time!) at 8 AM for the first day trip in months - I'm pretty sure the title of the blog says it all. That's right - following in the footsteps of those characters made famous by Chaucer - we made the pilgrimmage to Canterbury!

Today was JUST PERFECT. We had a very easy train ride (with a GREAT Delice de France pastry and Starbucks for the journey), and the sun was shining amidst GORGEOUS blue skies and white, puffy clouds. Honestly, I'd just about forgotten what a sunny day looked like, so this was a much needed morale booster.

The journey up was 90 minutes, during which time Jenny researched her upcoming trip to Slovenia whilst I started a new novel - The Afghan. This book flat ROCKS. I'm about a quarter of the way through, and I LOVE IT so far. I'm still working on another book as well (The Alienist), but it's some thick work, so I have to break it up with some murder, mayhem, and espionage.

We started the day with a walk along the old Roman wall, passing along the high street and through the shops before arriving at the West gate. This gate is famous because it was the original entry point from London and where tens of thousands of pilgrims passed through to visit the shrine of Thomas Beckett (more on him later). The gate closed at 7 PM every night, so if you had a horse and were running late to get to the city, you needed to ride your horse "at a Canterbury pace" to avoid being locked out. Incidentally, this is where we get the term "canter" in equestrian events.

Honestly, the city (bigger than we expected), was just BEAUTIFUL. So much medieval and Tudor architecture, and we were CONSTANTLY amazed at how so many of the Tudor buildings weren't level (some classic photos of buildings that would have been CONDEMNED in the states but are still very much working shops and apartments here - AWESOME).

Canterbury hearkens back images of York, Chester, Bruges, and a host of other cities we've been fortunate enough to visit during our European travels. The River Stour, the swans, the pubs, the black and white buildings (all of which are older than the United States) - it all combined to make a simply FANTASTIC day outside of London.

After the gate, we visited the Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr, where destitute pilgrims could lodge a single night before visiting the Cathedral the next day. After that, it was over to the marquee attraction: Canterbury Cathedral.

So Puffin and I have been in a TON of churches, but I must confess - this one was seriously IMPRESSIVE. Absolutely massive, it featured a spectacular nave with lots of light and beautiful stained glass. The choir loft was just beautiful, and behind the high altar a single candle burned, signifying the spot where St. Thomas' tomb/shrine stood for over 300 years (until Henry VIII decided to destroy it - such a charmer he was...). Ascending the "pilgrim steps" to view it, you pass the chapel of Edward the Confessor, the tomb of Edward the IV, and the tomb of "The Black Prince" (that's Edward Plantagenet - Mrs. Ware, I know you explained who all these people were - as did Professor McVaugh - but I was struggling to remember if he was the first of the plantagenets. The timeline seemed out of order with the history of Hugh Capet and the Capetian dynasty, but I'm sure I'm just missing something).

We then saw the spot where Beckett was murdered (they didn't allow photos, but it was this WICKED monument of jagged swords seemingly drenched in blood, along with the word "Thomas" scrawled in bloody script on the ground) before wandering down into the crypt. This is where Henry II (the king who had him murdered) slept for a night in penance 4 years after the assassination.

The best part of the whole thing was the Evensong rehearsal. Whilst we were walking around, the choir was practicing for the upcoming service, and they sounded ANGELIC. Seriously, a memory I will carry a long time is standing in the dark crypt with the only light being candles illuminating the altar and listening to a choir above me that I can't see (but sounded like they could have been from Heaven).

After that, we saw the remains of St. Augustine's monastary before taking a walk to a really unique spot - St. Martin's church. This church, built in 580 A.D., is the oldest continually active church in England. It was in the middle of nowhere, but it was surrounded by this absolutely GORGEOUS cemetary, filled with Celtic crosses. Amidst the huge trees, with the sun streaming down on the shiny, green grass, it was SUCH a peaceful moment.

We did pop into a recommended pub (imagine that) called the Thomas Beckett, complete with hops hanging from the rafters. After 1 pint, however, we decided to head back for home.

En route, JT found a kiosk called "Chips and Dip," and 2 quid later, we were some happy campers. I mean, hey, when you're feeling peckish, what's healthier than a pound of chunky fries cooked in oil, doused in vinegar, covered in salt, and served with ketchup and mayo (and I DON'T think that's miracle whip in that tub)?

We caught the 5:32 back, arriving in London just after 7. We then hopped the tube home, stopping for dinner at this GREAT Turkish joint called Efes 2. We'd eaten there once before, and I am happy to report that it still does NOT disappoint (not to mention the free "after dinner shots - QUALITY). Mom - this is on your "must eat" list when you visit.

We're now back at the flat and READY FOR BED. Muffin is already in her ski jams, and I'm not far behind. All in all, this was an absolutely PERFECT day - I could NOT have asked for anything more.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

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