Monday, 16 February 2009

My pilgrimage to Canterbury and to some extent Leeds Castle

That's right! It's St Valentine's Day! To wish you all well, around the world, Miranda and I struck this attractive pose. There is actually a story behind this photo. We were eating really hot mints and joking that you look really unattractive as you swish the hot mint around your mouth. So because it was Valentine's Day we would have lovely breath for kisses but due to our expressions we probably wouldn't get many offers... Rather amusing.

Okay! So today is a HUGE day because I went on a tour to see Canterbury cathedral and then onto Leeds Castle. Was up very early and ran to the bus because we didn't want to miss it. We weren't the last ones but they "did enjoy our running". They couldn't have signalled us to stop running? Anyway I had a nice little nap on the bus on the way and so did Miranda because she was woken up last night by a fire alarm at 3am! Haha! I just missed it getting in at 3:20 so that was lucky. Hopped off the bus and into Canterbury where many many people made pilgrimages to to see Thomas Beckett's shrine. Beckett is a martyr because he had a disagreement with Henry II about the place of the church and so on and had his scalp removed by various individuals of the king. Fun times! We pilgrimaged our way through town, delicious crepes with nutella and banana in hand, and witnessed what was supposed to be "the most beautiful cathedral in England". Miranda and I are spoilt though... St Paul's, we think, is still much prettier. Apparently, Henry II felt so bad about murdering Beckett he made a pilgrimage through the streets on his hands and knees wearing a really itchy shirt made of hair or something. So overall I don't think our pilgrimage was as epic what with the crepes and our lovely warm and soft clothes and all. It was very lovely inside, as you can see, but there is scaffolding at a lot of these sites - damn Olympics! It seems that every historical site in Britain has had some influence by Henry VIII! From memory the only reason there are some stained glass windows in this cathedral was because Henry VIII missed them on his changing-religion-and-therefore-smashing-windows rampage. He went quite mad it seems... I guess he really wanted Anne Boleyn... at least for some of his life or rather her life.

The next photo is the actual shrine of Thomas Beckett, or rather the modern one that replaces the original because, as we know, one particular King destroyed everything that seemed to have any historical/religious meaning. There are four swords in the shrine because there were four men who came to assassinate Beckett. Now you can probably only see two swords and this is because apparently the shadows provide the other two which I think is cheating but whatever. The tour guide was saying that the final blow that whipped off the tip of Becky's head was so forceful that after the blow the sword dented the stone floor. Ouch. I think that's all I have to report about Canterbury. Oh! There was a dunking stool that survived the test of time over one of the rivers. It was NOT for witches. It was for gossips! So if you gossip about someone remember that you may be strapped into a wooden chair and dunked into freezing and disgusting water which everyone used for... everything vile. Lesson learnt! My final photo from Canterbury is one of me - in the gift shop of the cathedral. I was in the cathedral looking through a view finder showing images - of the cathedral! Ha ha very witty of me I KNOW. I don't think the guy behind me thought it very funny - that or maybe he's wearing an itchy shirt for his pilgrimage. Who knows with these crazy Brits!
Next stop! All aboard the bus for another nap and then Leeds Castle! Away! There was, typically, some useless roadworks going on around the castle so we had to take this long winded detour which, using British slang, we were "going round the houses". Eventually we went via the detour and ended up trapped BY the roadworks! What is wrong with these people? After much discussion and cursing on all our parts we had to get off the bus and walk through the roadworks to the castle. Oh I must first clarify that Leeds castle is not in Leeds it's in Kent. Leeds is very far away from where we are which is around the bottom of England. So the bus ride wasn't THAT long. It was built in the 12th century and is therefore VERY OLD. Just so you realise. It was appropriate that on Valentine's Day there is a love story that goes with this castle. Edward I absolutely LOVED his wife Eleanor of Castile and gave the castle to her as a gift. They were actually married when they were 8 and 10 and, no, it wasn't consummated until years later. In fact, Edward I loved her so much that when she died he was so sad that he brought her body to where it is buried now, in Westminster Abbey, and everywhere the crew stopped to rest for the night he made a little shrine to honour her. One of these spots is Charing Cross which is a big railway in London and also on the monopoly board I think. The reason it's called "Charing Cross" is because when they stopped in this spot he wrote "cher reine" and left a cross. "Cher Reine" means dear queen and when you say it slowly it blends to become "Charing". Pretty cool huh? I hope that made sense.

The castle was eventually given to Catherine of Aragon who was married to, that's right, HENRY VIII! That guy really made a name for himself history wise. The castle was taken over by a rich millionairess, Lady Baillie, in the 1920s and she refurbished it all so it was very non-historical inside which was pretty disappointing. I mean all these kings and queens of thousands of years had slept here and yet I was distracted by the 60s style furniture. Once again it was very cold and the lake that surrounded the castle was pretty much frozen so there was signs saying "Danger ice" around it. Naturally, Miranda and I assumed that "danger ice" was just a new dance move according to the little man on the sign.

Now the castle was lovely but the best part of Leeds castle is the MAZE. It was ... aMAZEing. Yes it had to be done. But seriously it was great and we managed to get to the middle with Miranda's excellent navigational skills and the postcard that Victoria may, or may not, have bought which had an aerial view of the maze on it. Tee hee! It was funny because we were in a maze we just HAD to take photos looking like the kids from Harry Potter in the forth novel where they go through a big scary maze. Victoria and I had star shaped lollypops which did for wands and so the hilarious magic was made!
The point is we made it to the middle and we assumed that there was just a boring gate which would let us out but no. I turned to the exit and saw a downward staircase leading us into a tunnel of darkness with blue and green lights spookily leading the way. I got a bit spooked at the start but inside there was a huge fountain with poetry being read from somewhere within the walls. Statues made from loads of little shells and water dripping from the ceiling - it was awesome. It was called the grotto and I loved the grotto - forget the castle and the history! Go the grotto! Time was up so we had to rush back to the bus and back to Royal Holloway. Absolutely exhausted but nevertheless Miranda and I completed our Valentine's Day with pizza and a corny film - "Enchanted". A complete success. Stay tuned for tomorrow which involves pretty much 2000 years of English history - including Romans! Yay!

1 comment:

  1. Again a marvellous success story - how did you get out of the maze??