Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday

The unreliability of the wifi internet connection in our London hotel lobby was annoying to us all, to say the least. It was impossible for me to get a post out either of the last two nights. But Sunday was was a good day. We attended the 11am Sung Eucharist at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, a lively parish in a vibrant shopping district, and it was my joy to accept the invitation of the rector to be the celebrant for the liturgy, a great honor. (The photo of us all before the service is on the diocesan Facebook page.) Afterward, we hopped on our bus and made our way to a dock on the Thames right across from the iconic ferris wheel (the Eye), and boarded a tour boat for a cruise down the river (yet, oddly, against the flow, as the tide was rising strongly), disembarking at the Tower of London (the Traitor's Gate, through which once passed many malefactors and other enemies of the state, is no longer accessible via the river). After self-selecting into smaller groups for the purpose of finding lunch, we passed through the admission gate and spent the next two hours in this place that is so historically important. At 5:15 we returned to our bus and were driven to All Saints' Church, Margaret Street for Choral Evensong & Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. All Saints' was one of the standard bearers of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England in the 19th century, and is a feast for the senses--visually, musically, and olfactorily. We were warmly welcomed. We got back to the hotel around 7:30, and went various way (under benign but vigilant supervision) in the neighborhood for dinner. Many chose Indian, others pizza.

Yesterday we reported to the bus at 9:15 and were taken to St Paul's Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of London (and its some 900 parish churches), and the 17th century architectural masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren. We had a wonderful unscheduled guided tour from a volunteer docent who just happened to be available. The young people particularly enjoyed the opportunity to climb the stairs to the Whispering Gallery in the cathedral dome, and two or three intrepid ones further up to an outdoor observation area. We then walked across the Millennium Bridge (pedestrians only) to the Tate Modern art museum. We didn't go there to look at art, but to avail ourselves of the various eateries for lunch. Then, at 1pm, it was next door to the Globe Theatre--not Shakespeare's original, but an accurate replica thereof. We enjoyed another splendid guided tour, and got to watch part of a dress rehearsal for a production of "Julius Caesar." Then, after some down time in the hotel area, we were driven to the Victoria Station area for dinner, and then the musical "Wicked" at a nearby theater. Another memorable day.

This morning our call time was earlyish--7:45am, with bags packed, having already availed ourselves of the hotel breakfast. We loaded up the coach and wound our way through central London traffic toward Cambridge, which is only 45 minutes by express train, but it took us two hours because there is nothing that Americans would call a freeway or expressway that actually comes into the heart of the city, so there are a lot of what Californians call "surface streets" to negotiate before getting to the open road. We were  greeted in Cambridge by another splendid guide, who took us on a walking tour, the highlight of which was the magnificent chapel of King's College, with its full complement of original equipment stained glass still intact, the only collegiate chapel or cathedral in England that was not ravaged by the Puritans. We enjoyed lunch in the market square area, and then re-boarded our coach and continued northward and eastward into rural Norfolk, arriving in the ancient village of Walsingham around 3:30. We walked the final half-mile or so of the medieval pilgrimage route to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. There we were greeted energetically by Bishop Lindsay Urwin, who was kind enough to share with us the experience of drinking and being signed with and otherwise reveling in water from the medieval well, which has long been said to be one of those "thin places" where the Holy Spirit ministers healing in a special way. We were all deeply moved. We then joined in the regular 5pm celebration of the Eucharist. After some time to enjoy the grounds, it was back in the bus for about a 90 minutes drive from Norfolk and Lincolnshire into the fens and the cathedral city of Peterborough. We checked into a lovely hotel called The Bull, and enjoyed a pre-arranged dinner in their restaurant. 

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