Monday, January 16, 2012

Our Holiday in England (Part 3 of 4): Canterbury

After a fairy tale-esque day in London, we were jolted back into reality the next morning as we awoke to find Peter under-the-weather.  I can't think of anything worse than traveling with a toddler with the flu.  Cue:  mom guilt.  Cue:  parental worrying.  Cue:  stress.  Unfortunately, we couldn't afford another night in the expensive city of London, nor could we afford to cancel the car rentals and hotel reservations waiting for us.  So, we packed up our suitcases, packed up our little man, and took a cab to the car rental office. 

We started to feel more hopeful as we got settled into our fancy automatic rental that cost us an arm and a leg (neither of us felt confident enough to try driving a manual in a foreign country on the opposite side of the road and car...therefore, we had to spend more on an automatic).  We drove down the road to Canterbury as Peter rested in his car seat. 

Upon arriving in Canterbury, we discovered that the quaint little town had been overrun with relatives and guests attending a university graduation in Canterbury.  We grumbled as we searched in vain for parking as we drove through the confusing, narrow streets.  Finally, we found a spot and breathed a sigh of relief.  Peter was starting to improve, though he was in no shape for sightseeing.  Dan and I took turns watching Blues Clues videos on our portable DVD player in the car with Peter while the other hopped out to take a quick tour of the Canterbury Cathedral. 

The Canterbury Cathedral is the site of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket.  Saint Thomas Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until he was murdered in 1170 inside Canterbury Cathedral.  Becket had a conflict with King Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church.  King Henry II, disgruntled about Thomas excommunicating bishops who supported him, said in front of some of his followers:  "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"  This statement was interpreted as a royal command and four knights, Riginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton set out to confront Thomas.  The knights arrived at Canterbury Cathedral and ordered the archbishop to go to Winchester to account for his actions--Thomas refused to go with them.  The knights left, picked up their weapons that they had placed outside the cathedral, and rushed into the cathedral for the killing.  They entered the church as the monks were chanting their evening vespers, found Thomas, and murdered him with their swords in the church. 

St. Thomas Becket was seen as a martyr for the faith and was canonized just two years after his death.  His shrine at Canterbury Cathedral became a major shrine of pilgrimage and many miracles occurred through his intercession.  Many pilgrims from London would journey 60 miles to visit the Saint's tomb.  The famous English work, The Canterbury Tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1300s, contains fictional tales told by fictional London pilgrims as they made their 60 mile journey from London to Canterbury (the same path we drove on our own pilgrimage!).  It was amazing to be following in the footsteps of so many pilgrims throughout history!

The charming little town of Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral

These are the Pilgrim Stairs leading up to the place where St. Thomas Becket's Shrine (tomb) was. Medieval pilgrims would climb these stairs on their knees.  The stone stairs are worn from the numbers of pilgrims who climbed them.

This candle burns where the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket stood from 1220 to 1538 when it and St. Thomas' bones were destroyed by order of King Henry VIII (Henry had little respect for a Saint who had defied an English king).  Near the candle, you can see grooves in the stone floor worn down over the centuries by kneeling medieval pilgrims...incredible.

The main altar

After visiting the cathedral, we drove a little farther down the road to Hastings.  After a long day with a sick child in a foreign country, I nearly cried tears of joy when we pulled up to our hotel.  Rather than a little European B&B, we arrived at a big chain hotel, very similar to a Holiday Inn in America.  And across the street from our hotel, like a beacon in the night, stood the glowing Golden Arches...yes, that's right, a Mc Donald's!  Now, let me clarify; I love little European B&B's and I'm not a huge fan of Mc Donald's.  BUT, when living and traveling in a foreign country gets stressful and tiring, there is nothing like a little comforting taste of home.

 Our hotel had a actual bathtub (rare in the European/Middle Eastern hotels we've found)--God bless America...and hotels that remind us of America.  The bath perked Peter right up and soon he was clean and acting like himself again.  What a blessing.  Dan picked up Mc Donald's for us while Peter stuck with 7-Up and a bagel.  Dan and Peter relaxed and watched a little more of his Blues Clues video before bed.  The whole Beaudoin crew was fast asleep before 8:00 pm, a much needed rest after such a day.

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