London Journal – Saturday, May 2, 2009

Today we visited the most important site for Anglican Christians worldwide. The site holds the story special to the Catholic Church as well. More about that, later.


Today we took a bus tour into Kent, the county east of London, the county that occupies the very southeast of England.

First we went to what some have called the prettiest castle in the world, Leeds Castle, situated on two small islands in a lake.

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Then we went to see the white cliffs (chalk cliffs) of Dover.

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Striking views. From here France is only 20 miles away, but the horizon was hazy today, so we were not able to see the coast of France.

At the top of the cliff we ate lunch at The Lighthouse Inn. I had a typical English meal, sausage and mash (meaning mashed potatoes). It was served with “onion jus,” which is a delicious dark gravy with sauteed onions in it, poured over everything else. For dessert I had an item totally new to me: banoffee pie – toffee, crushed bananas and cream in a biscuit crust. Definitely NOT a low-fat item a heart patient, but I decided to splurge.

Our tour took us next to Canterbury to visit the famous Canterbury Cathedral, the place I referred to in my opening paragraph above, a reference that the astute reader recognized immediatley.

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You no doubt know the story of the death of Archbishop Thomas Beckett, murdered in 1170 in his own Cathedral by four French knights. The deed took place just inside the side door of the Cathedral. The spot is marked by the name THOMAS in red letters on the floor, and by this modern metal art work on the wall.

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The two swords represent, of course, the swords the knights used to kill Thomas.

This martyrdom is one of the greatest possible tragedies that could ever happen in the Christian faith – that Catholic knights killed a Catholic Archbishop, thinking to please a Catholic king (Henry II).

By this time, of course, this Cathedral is Church of England, not Catholic, and is in fact the headquarters of the Anglican Church.

Both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches honor Thomas Beckett as a saint and martyr.

Back into our tour bus and off to Greenwich, a suburb of London, the location of Greenwich Observatory and the arbitrary, imaginary line separating the eastern and western hemispheres.

From here we took an hour cruise up the Thames River. We saw many ancient landmarks, such as the impressive Tower Bridge (so called because it is situated next to the Tower of London; and not to be confused with London Bridge, which is now a modern structure and is a bit farther upriver.)

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But all is not ancient. We also looked in amazement at London City Hall.

We disembarked near the Houses of Parliament and took the Underground “home.”

This ends these three days of vacation, days that were restful, educational, inspirational – and yes, expensive.

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