|Saffron-Walden & Ely Cathedral|
Rental Car & Driving
So who knew that you could haggle at the rental car place? At first we didn't realize that's what we were doing, we just said, "No, we can't afford 300 pounds extra for the automatic transmission even though we'd like it." And the guy said, "well, I could give you a G class car of the same make & model for 150 pounds extra." And we said, "No just give us what we contracted for." And he said, "Well what about an F class car, that would be the same make and model for a 100 pounds extra." And we took it. (On the website it was 300 extra.) So who knew that the Hertz people haggle? But the guy was British and so polite that it was hard to tell that that's what he was doing.
So we got ourselves and our luggage to the rental car placed, haggled, got the car, and were on our way by 10am. Ox has never driven of the left hand side of the road, and the first thing we had to do was get onto an interstate to leave London. He was fabulous all day. Of course, all of us had to participate in trying to figure out the road signs and the map.
So there's a great little museum in a pretty little town called Saffron-Walden that has household furnishings from the Tudor period, and a textile display. Maggie had THE glove that she wanted to see, and Ox wanted to see all that furniture.
THE glove was fabulous. Long fingered embroidered cuff glove from the mid-fifteen hundreds. The Tudor bed was pretty splendid as well. (And the baby's cradle.) Ox signed a copy-right statement and so they let him take photos of the furniture, but no glove pictures for Maggie.
Have I talked about how hard it is to get vegetables here? Well, I tried again today at a pub in Saffron Walden, and hit the jackpot. Peas, Carrots, Asparagus. All nicely cooked but not mushy. The food was fabulous. Ox & Maggie decided to comp my meals since we were getting to do the Marriott thing. So that's just lovely. Terribly clever of them as well, since they don't have to worry about whether the poor college student can afford a place or not. But having said that, the meal was very reasonably priced and was some of the best food I've had while I've been here. There's a photo of the front of the pub in todays photos. We got to sit in the front in the bay of the front window.
Near the Museum is the inner core of some of the castle walls of Walden Castle. Henry II had it destroyed after some unrest in the area. The town is still built around the now-nonexistant castle walls. So it runs in a big oval.
Ely Cathedral, which I saw from the train to King's Lynn a couple of days ago, was on our agenda for the day. It's really magnificent and a much nicer place to visit than the "big city" churches. They have a little stain glass museum up in one of the right upper galleries. (Looking across the nave to the other gallery, I think they've got a repair shop set up in the other gallery.)
There was an awards ceremony going on in the sanctuary, so we went up to the stained glass, and spent a pleasant hour looking at pieces and listening to the occasional bit of singing that was going on down below us. The sound filled every cranny of the cathedral, even when I had walked to the far end of the gallery, behind the altar. Very cool to get to walk around upstairs in one of the big medieval churches.
Later when we were allowed in, one of their choirs was practicing in the really large "Lady Chapel." The music was so loud (completely unamplified) that it was just truly amazing. The acoustics were fabulous. They were singing a Latin Motet.
The Cathedral has a long history. Ethelreda, a Saxon princess, was a Christian at a time when most of the Saxon's were still pagan. After the death of her husband, she founded an abbey at Ely. After her own death, her tomb was a pilgrimage site for hundreds of years. When the Normans invaded, William the Conqueror built a Norman style cathedral in the spot to solidify their hold on the land. If you doubt how effective that would be, go look at that train photo. The cathedral dominates the lands that it sits in. Visually, it's still the most imposing feature of the surrounding fields.
Saint Ethelreda's chapel has been redone by people who wanted to honor the Cambridge graduates who died in the Great War. (Ely is very near to Cambridge.) The statue of her is new, because the shrine to Ethelreda was destroyed when the monasteries were dissolved under Henry VIII. They also smashed in all the stain glass windows, toppled all the statues, and defaced all the carving on the inside. I took a photo of one of the headless figures in the Lady Chapel so you could see how strangely vicious it seems to destroy such beautiful things.
Now don't get me wrong. One part of me looks up at the soaring Gothic architecture and understands exactly that desire to lift up one's best, most creative work to God. And then another part of me thinks that the humble carpenter from Nazareth must get ho ho's about the austentatiousness of it all.
Wasn't this supposed to be a cathedral tour today?
We were going to hit Lincoln as well, but it was just too far, and we were just too pooped. However, since we'd turned the nose of the car in that direction, we ended up driving through King's Lynn on the way to Grantham. I find that very amusing since most people wouldn't go to King's Lynn once on a trip to England. And here I've been there twice in one week.
I think we're hitting Sherwood Forest (Leslie warned us that there's only 3 trees there), and then a museum someplace, and then on to York. Sheepishly we realized that the British don't use the metric system for anything to do with roads and driving. So the short trip to Lincoln almost doubled in reality, when we realized the map is in miles, not kilometers.