In keeping with British theme songs, who remembers this one?
On Thursday morning, we caught the train for Victoria Station and picked up our rental car. The rental guy sent me upstairs to pick up the car. The test was to see if I could get it out of the parking garage. I followed the Exit arrows and it took about three circuits of the fourth floor to realize that I wasn't going anywhere. I decided to go against the arrows and finally arrived at the entrance. They wouldn't let me out but pointed me to the actual exit. Phew! By the time I pulled up on the street outside the rental agency I was all in a sweat.
Miraculously, we made it out of London without any adverse incidents. I had spent a lot of time in the bus on Wednesday studying the driving tactics on the streets, which kind of gave me a head start. London drivers must be accustomed to tourist drivers because they were very tolerant and helpful. I have to say that we found Londoners in general to be that way.
We wended our way slowly to Canterbury, enjoying the picturesque villages but not so much the narrow country roads. Our first stop was Canterbury Cathedral, which was high on Jeff's list of places to see. After paying the exorbitant fee of one pound an hour for parking (forget free lunch, there is no such thing as free parking in England) we walked down charming narrow streets to the cathedral itself.
The cathedral is made of limestone from Caen, which deteriorates rather quickly and is in the process of being restored. Often, the blocks are replaced with new ones.
It is imposing from the outside. The first Archbishop of Canterbury was St. Augustine, who arrived as a missionary in England in 597AD. He was given the church by the local King Ethelbert, whose wife was already a Christian. Augustine's original building lies beneath the nave of the present building, which was extensively rebuilt and enlarged by the Saxons and completely rebuilt by the Normans in 1070 after it was destroyed by a fire. More about the Normans in a later post.
If you think you're going to get out of this without learning some British history, you are so deluded!
It was in this very cathedral that Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170. His tomb is prominently displayed inside the building.
The inside walls of this massive edifice are covered in stone memorials. This one was particularly poignant.
Whereupon, my camera ran out of battery.
Just as well, I can hear you thinking.
Evensong was at 5:30, so we dashed back to the parking lot and put another pound coin into the machine, then dashed back to the cathedral. I cannot describe the sublime sounds of the great organ and the angelic voices of the boys choir. The acoustics of these vaulted churches and cathedrals are like nothing I have ever experienced. The planets must have been lined up just right on this night, because we attempted to catch similar services in other cathedrals later in our travels and it never worked again. But I will forever hold that short time in my memory bank of great musical moments.
We had to leave a few minutes early to dash back to the parking lot before our hour ran out. It was a short drive to Ashford to our next bed-and-breakfast hosts.
Space seems to be at a premium in this small island. The roads are so narrow that it seems as if the very fields resent the space they occupy. I freak out frequently when driving through villages or narrow lanes when I see cars or trucks heading towards me and I think that nevernevernever will there be enough room for us both. But, somehow, there always is, and on we go again.