The National Gallery reigns over Trafalgar Square with two massive, bronze lions and a giant blue rooster guarding the entry. A marathon concluded in Trafalgar Square today and to no one’s surprise, two Kenyan women came in first and second. I was sleep deprived and exhausted which made the visit a bit of a blur for me. The National Gallery houses some of the world’s greatest paintings from the 13th to the 20th century in grand salons with silk covered walls, black marble columns and high domed ceilings. The building by William Wilkins is itself a work of art. There’s a wonderful Rembrandt self-portrait at age 34 and an intriguing painting titled After The Misdeed by Beraud of a woman weeping on a sedan. A really creepy Picasso of Bibi La Puree and an Egon Schiele entitled Danae which is a direct rip off of his mentor, Gustav Klimt. Took a chance on a Chinese restaurant a block from our hotel. Big mistake! The Kung Pao chicken was like nothing I had ever tasted. The sauce was primarily tomato ketsup. Ugh.
Took the train out to Canterbury. According to the taxi driver, the village is populated by 50 thousand students attending multiple colleges in the area. Imagine 12th century architecture and narrow, cobblestone lanes flooded with newly arrived kids in hoodies and skate shoes. Jarring dichotomy. Caterbury Cathedral is a marvel of gothic architecture. In 1170, King Henry II inspired then archbishop Thomas Becket’s assassination by pleading, ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ for refusing to break with the papacy. Four swordsmen entered the cathedral and cut off the top of Thomas Becket’s head as he knelt in prayer. The spot is marked by a stone in the floor reading, simply, Thomas and a cross on the wall in the shape of two swords. The crypts below are silent, somber and eerily beautiful. People still come to pray there in serene chapels. The surrounding grounds are home to what I believe is a large flock of gray and white grouse foraging in the grass. Nearby is a small, quiet herb garden beneath a crumbling, ancient stone wall green with moss. So glad we ventured out of town. It’s a magnificent cathedral and a lovely village. Found a pub down a lane and had lunch of greasy fried fish and chips and a cold, and I do mean right out of the fridge cold, pork pie with cheese and apple. A really touristy, bad lunch but the pub was warm and atmospheric so we didn’t much mind. During the train ride back to London I closed my eyes and dozed to the sound of humming rails and crackling chips bags.