Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Canterbury Tale

Today was a great day, and as I write I am in a fantastic mood.  Oskar, my mythology tutor just told me my paper for this week is the best one I've written, and ironically it was the most fun to write (looking at wolves and werewolves in myth from Aesop and Romulus to Harry Potter and Twilight).  Yesterday I registered for classes at Catholic, and it is my final registration ever, since I don't think I'll go past the Master's level academically.  As part of registering I submitted my first proposal for my MA Thesis, and applied for Graduation this May.  The end of a long academic career is in site!

After dinner last night, I went to the Wheatsheaf pub.  A queue (line) forms very fast every Monday for the Oxford Imps, who perform above the pub in a small theatre/bar every Monday.  I went to the show, sitting right up front and laughed very hard.  I had tried out for the Imps earlier but didn't get in.  They're fun, filled with energy, and were really funny.  Had a good evening.

Today I woke early and took the train to Canterbury.  I spent six hours total traveling (3 hours either direction, changing and using the Tube in London) and only 4 hours in Canterbury, but it was good, because I got a lot of reading done on the train, and also worked on my lines.  The weather was also not the best, very overcast, cold, and it was raining by the end of my time there.  A lot of the attractions closed much earlier than I had expected, since it is off-season, some closing at 3 and 4, which also was a problem.

Despite all of those things, I had a wonderful trip.
I hadn't known it was so associated with Kit Marlowe, but it is the town where he was born and baptized, and it had a parallel feel to Marlowe the way Stratford-upon-Avon feels about Shakespeare.  One of my first sights entering the city walls was the massive Marlowe Theatre, and the statue of his characters, again similar to the statues of characters in front of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford.

I visited a hospital where pilgrims, similar to those in the Canterbury Tales stayed.  Then I went to the Cathedral, which was amazing- I liked the spot where Thomas Beckett had been murdered by knights acting for Henry II.  Beckett was beatified as saint almost immediately, and his tomb was a major pilgrimage, inspiring stories of pilgrims.  Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are based on a group of pilgrims traveling to the tomb.  The Cathedral was both massive and stunning, but also filled with history, including kings and the Black Prince buried there, and of course Beckett, for whom I was given the middle name Thomas.

After the Cathedral I wandered the town a bit.  Canterbury has many old features, a Norman wall, part of which is Anglo-Saxon, a ruined Norman castle built by William the Conqueror, a ruined Abbey, and the Cathedral itself, which is now a World Heritage site.  But the city itself feels remarkably modern in a distinctly English way.  I walked to a 45-minute self-guided tour through The Canterbury Tales using lights, wax figures, sets, and some animatronics, etc.  It was really well done, I expected it to be a bit touristy, but they did a fantastic job of both telling some of the best stories, and conveying the sense of the pilgrims' journey.  I went to the castle but it was closing, walked through some gardens and wandered around before heading back.  

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