Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Jaunt through London Town

Sunday in London began with Solemn Mass at Westminster Cathedral. The church was built in a neo-Byzantine style, and featured rich colors and mosaics. I loved the crucifix; it drew my eye throughout the liturgy. The choir there was very good, as well. After Mass, I ran into Emily and her friends, but we didn't have time to stick around and talk because we were headed in different directions.

Solemn Mass at Westminster Cathedral

Then it was off to Buckingham Palace. I got a picture of myself with the tremendous monument to Queen Victoria, a significant thing for me, since she is one my my favorite historical figures. We had a picnic in the St. James gardens which lie before the palace gates. I think there is no better place for a picnic than an English garden. There were plenty of people there: families with young children, people jogging or walking their dogs, and a few reclining against trees and reading. We strolled after lunch and saw the Duck Island and a charming little Victorian house on the lake.

Down the street we then went, and saw a monument to Winston Churchill across the way from Parliament. The sculptor did a fine job portraying him- a broad, stout figure in a greatcoat, grasping a cane. But they forgot the cigar. We saw Big Ben, the Parliament buildings, the London Bridge, and the London Eye. It was thrilling to actually see Big Ben. I have seen and read so many depictions and descriptions of it, and the real thing definitely lived up to my expectations. Parliament, sitting on the side of the river, was impressive as well.

Later, we saw the Tower of London, and sat on a bench by the waterfront for a while, talking and (in my case, at least) people-watching. In the afternoon, we tried to see the crypt of the forty English martyrs, but it was closed. We did, however, visit the beautiful Jesuit church of the Immaculate Conception. It was built in the 1840s, just a few years after the Catholic Emancipation.

All about the church were chapels and statues of various saints: St. Aloysius, St. Ignatius, St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. John Nepomucene, who died defending the seal of confession; St. Anthony of Padua, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Winifred, St. Francis of Rome (who is my mother's patron), and the Saints Thomas- the Apostle and the other of Canterbury. There were also alters of Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Dolours.

St. Margaret of Scotland

When we returned to the Clovis house, we ate a delicious dinner and met some of their relatives who were visiting. The house was merry and crowded; there were far more children than I could keep straight. I said goodbyes to the children then, because we were to leave very early the next morning and wouldn't see them again. The youngest daughter of the family gave me a small blue box to give to the youngest daughter in my family; the two of them are the same age and have been pen pals for a few years, but have not yet met each other.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Visiting Oxford was a dream come true for me. Within a few minutes of arriving, I decided that it was the most charming place I have ever been. It is a small city surrounded by gorgeous English countryside. The city itself is, of course, filled with distinguished university buildings, quaint shops, pleasant neighborhoods, and tidy gardens and parks.

After walking around and getting a feel for the town, we sat on the street with our backs against a sunny wall and unpacked our hearty lunch, courtesy of the excellent Mrs. Clovis. While we munched on our sandwiches and Taxi bars, I people-watched (this is one of my favorite pastimes).

We walked past the Eagle and Child pub, where the Inklings met regularly. We didn't eat there, but I looked around inside for a bit. I could hardly believe that I was walking in the footsteps of my beloved English Gentlemen. We visited Wolvercote cemetery, the burial place of Professor Tolkien and his wife, Edith. The cemetery was a green, expansive place, and shortly after entering the Catholic section, we found the grave.

After spending a few moments in silence, we read two of his poems aloud. One was the Lay of Luthien, which was fitting because Edith was Tolkien's beloved just as Luthien was Beren's. The other poem was the lament for Gandalf, which I read because I liken Tolkien to Gandalf. We also visited the church Tolkien attended, St. Aloysius, and Merton College, where he was a distinguished fellow and professor.

In the evening, we went to Mass at the Dominican friary before catching the bus back to London. We sat in the very front of the bus's top level, which afforded us an excellent view of the passing countryside. Brian and I had discussed theology on the bus ride to Oxford that morning; the bus ride back was quite different- we joked around and were ridiculous. It was a fun time. We arrived back at the Clovis home after ten o'clock, and went to bed soon after. We needed our rest; the following day we would explore London.