|rebecca and i decided to go on a pilgrimage to the canterbury cathedral. unlike the medieval pilgrims, we have trains, the tube, buses and cabs to assist us. we took the train in from cambridge to london, king's cross station. check out my photo of platform 9 3/4. we took the tube from king's cross station to victoria station, but while we were in route a "code amber" was issued and we were evacuated off the tube by police. it was a pretty orderly exit, with the police helping us off and directing us up through the station. some londoners, fed up with terrorists and transit delays, didn't want to get off and asked the driver to continue on with the route. they were trying to get other people to stay on with them. it's hard to fault their conviction but with the way the police were pushing us, it was apparent we were leaving the tubes whether we wanted to or not. we evacuated the line up through oxford circus station. things got kind of hairy with so many people moving up the stairs and escalators. the distance up to the street is several flights. but came up out of the station into the mayfair district. possibly the poshest and safest place in london.
we grabbed sandwiches and found a bus, which only got us part of the direction we needed to go. we found another bus that took us down toward victoria but we had to walk the last mile in because the streets were closed off by police. i'm still not positive which events yesterday (because there were several investigation-related pursuits and a possible attempt on the prime minister's life) caused which delays but this is where i compliment the british authorities. they have armed, highly visible security on the streets and in front of the seats of government, and even the bbc. they are a visible presence on nearly every tube and in every station. the bbc reports that this is the largest manhunt in their history and i can believe it. they seem to be on every corner and i've been searched practially everywhere i've been.
we connected with a train at victoria (trains were delayed by 30 minutes to an hour) and arrived in canterbury in the middle of the afternoon. unlike the trip into the forest, we actually talked to the attendants at canterbury station and made plans for our return trip in advance. we left the station and crossed a bridge and were transported into the past as we found ourselves in the shadow of the ruins of canterbury castle, a norman stronghold more than 1,000 years old and constructed of remnants of an ancient roman fort that preceeds it. canterbury castle has the largest floorplan of any norman castle in england. in the 16th century, bloody mary used it to imprison dozens of protestants who were eventually martyred there.
we walked on to canterbury cathedral, which no words can capture the majesty of. i was literally overcome when we walked through the main doors and crossed the stone floor pitted and worn shiny by the footsteps of the millions of pilgrims before us. it is a gothic cathedral, designed deliberately to evoke the presence of God, and it does. much of the stained glass is medieval and is incredibly vivid. the choir was rehearsing and they filled the chapel with gregorian chants through our entire visit. i came with several people on my mind, so i lit candles for them and prayed with the other petitioners. i spent some time alone at the shrine that marks the place in the northwest nave where thomas beckett was martyred. i came to this shine for many reasons, but primarilly to fulfill a promise i made to my high school british lit teacher, mr benjamin, when i was 16. he was very influential in my life, and chris' too.
one good thing, i bought a student permit that allowed me to take some interior photographs. obviously some places are restricted from photography completely. i also bought books of photographs of the architectural features and the stained glass you can see when i get home. those photographs are much better than mine because the cathedral is lit my natural light and it was raining. still, it was amazing to wander around and read all the monuments and follow my tour guide pilgrim's pamphlet they hand out to everyone.
we left the cathedral and found ourselves looking at what remains of the old roman wall that surrounds the original keep. i also found an ancient tree that apparently is disease-ridden and has been for centuries, but manages to continue to grow in the shadow of the cathedral. one of the priests told me that they are "terribly fond of the hideous old boy."
we caught a train back to london. the victoria tube line was open again, so we caught a tube back into king's cross and a train home to cambridge. by this time, we'd been traveling for something like 18 hours, so we decided to take a cab the less than two miles back to our college. i IM-ed chris to tell him i was back at college safely. i told him i was exhausted by the events of the day and he said it was ok, i could sleep when i got home :)