“Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore — Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore." - Edgar Allan Poe
Yesterday, we rolled out of York bright and early. One thing I forgot to say about York is that they are big on cats! They have statues of cats, life size, features throughout the city - atop roofs, in a window, climbing up a wall, etc. This homage is due to their appreciation of cats keeping the mouse and rat population down. Please don’t tell Lola I forgot to mention this earlier. We left York and made our way to Stratford-upon-Avon and toured Shakespeare’s birthplace. His birth home was much larger than I’d imagined it to be. Behind the home were beautiful gardens. Great stop. We then rolled on to London! We arrived late in the afternoon and took it easy. We made up for any lost time on Saturday morning. We toured past the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben (obstructed by scaffolding and silenced as it undergoes a facelift), Westminster Abbey, the river Thames, Eye of London, etc. We learned that Westminster Abbey is closed a year prior to coronations so that the Abbey can be properly outfitted to accommodate the event. We stopped at Buckingham Palace where, according to the flag atop the palace, the Queen was not present. You may know that the Queen will be 93 next month. With 66 years on the throne, she is the longest reigning monarch. We also toured St. Paul’s cathedral. The original cathedral burnt down in 1666 as the result of a fire that originated from a bakers shop and soon spread to wooden scaffolding at the back of the cathedral. Christopher Wren had submitted plans to renovate the cathedral prior to the fire. Subsequent plans that Wren submitted to rebuild were rejected at least 3 times before finally being given royal approval in 1675. It took 35 years to rebuild. Clearly, Wren was a persistent and patient fellow. Interestingly, Wren didn’t like stained glass so the cathedral windows are clear. Martin Luther King Junior preached at the cathedral in 1964. In 1981, Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married there. The tour ends in the cathedral crypt. As you enter the crypt, 3 (not real) skulls are atop the archway reminding us of impermanence. I have a mala made of small, wooden skulls to remind the user or wearer of impermanence. Mala’s are similar in appearance to a rosary & are often described as “Buddhist prayer beads”. They are commonly used to count the number of times a mantra is recited or breaths while meditating, etc. The Duke of Wellington is among the many buried in this crypt. We also toured the Tower of London today. I had pictured just that - a tower. In reality, it’s a palace/fortress/castle arrangement. The Crown Jewels are on display there - in their mind blowing, ornate splendor. And the rest of the place is a bit of a living museum - memorializing when wild animals (polar bear, lions, tigers, monkeys, etc.) were kept there (eventually turned over to the zoo). Torture was also carried out there but “only” 80 times or so and this is memorialized with reproductions of torture devices like the rack. At present, the tower is home to 7 ravens. It’s believed that should they leave the white tower would crumble and the kingdom would fall.
After touring the Tower of London, a pigeon took a a large, satisfying (for the pigeon) dump on my head. Andrea mopped it up as best she could but pigeon crap is smelly! And sticky!