Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Canterbury, and then home

After a looong wait at Heathrow, a 12-hour flight, a 12-hour sleep, and an uneventful day at work, I can safely say that I'm home at last.

Waiting for the bus into Canterbury I met a girl named Kathryn, who had just talked to another Canadian who had also just come from Oxford and was headed to the same hostel on the previous Bus. I sat and talked with her on the bus, and we bumped into Andrew (the other Canadian) at the grocery store beside the bus station. Kathryn helped us find the Hostel to drop off our luggage and then she took us around the town to see what's what.

I stayed at a hostel not too far from all the major sites, so the next morning I got a good long look at the Cathedral and St. Augustine's abbey before my bus back to London. The Cathedral is just so... Full of history, I suppose, but there's more to it than that. Highlights for me included the crypt and the chapels with original wall paining. The ornamentation set up around the site of Becket's martyrdom is a bit odd, but the approach is relatively historical. (Come look! See! A famous guy died here! He was stabbed with swords!)

What has caught me off guard most in England's cathedrals are the numerous military memorials in the most prominent places along the walls up and down each side. The English really give their fallen soldiers the places of highest honour. I suppose it's not an entirely different approach than we take here, only more visible. (There's also another thousand years of warfare to remember when you're in England, not just the last two centuries.)

St. Augustine's abbey was interesting, but I wouldn't pay $5 to get in again as it's not much more than some ruins. The free audio guide was a nice touch, though; quite thorough and narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi.

After my bus back into London I took in as much atmosphere as I could in the last day, mostly riding around on the bus to see the place from a different perspective. London is huge, busy, loud, colourful, and expensive.

After a night in Heathrow terminal 3 (reading and writing things down and listening to music, mostly) I checked in with Air Canada as soon as they opened. Customs and security took almost an hour, I think. Waiting in the departure lounge was interesting, because the whole place is designed to make you miss your flight: shops everywhere, coffee and clothing and souvenirs and liquor and DVDs that won't play in your North American player. Heathrow is such a busy airport that the gate wasn't assigned for my flight until 50 minutes before takeoff.

Finally, at 8:27AM I was on the plane and off the ground. The girl beside me looked almost as tired as I felt.
The in-flight movie was _Firewall_ (with Harrison Ford and Paul Bettany.) I should have slept instead of watching, it was a pointless movie about the family man (Ford) whose life and loved ones are put at risk while he's forced to do the things he's worked his entire life to prevent people from doing. The ending took only two or three minutes: The family manages to get away from the bad guy, good and bad guy kick and punch and throw each other, good guy finds a pickaxe and bad guy is dead. Good guy walks toward his waiting family while police cruiser rolls up; fade out, roll credits. I almost laughed out loud (except that I was tired and you can't laugh when the beat-up good guy is hobbling toward his family.)
The girl beside me was coming back from a programme in Barcelona where she studied Architecture. She agreed with my overwhelmingly positive assessment of studying overseas instead of traveling solo.

The connection at Toronto was a cruel joke. Land at 11:30, take off at 12:30, that's lots of time sitting around, right? Wrong. I had to transfer my own luggage, so the first stop is the carousel where you wait to grab your two bags at the same time as 100 other people who are connecting and in a terrible hurry. Oh well, you'll just grab a luggage trolley and... wait, you have to pay to use a luggage trolley? Oh well, that's why I have a backpack and a wheelie-suitcase.
Next stop is customs, where I have to wait twenty minutes and declare that I've brought back a half-jar of Nutella. That one-hour layover doesn't seem so long anymore.
After walking from one end of the terminal to the other I can finally drop off my checked luggage again. Then it's the security check again, because obviously I've had lots of opportunities by now to take the weapons out of my checked baggage and I've hidden them in my boots. After walking another ten minutes (where does all this terminal building come from? It must be bigger on the inside!) I arrive at the departure gate, where the flight has already started boarding.

The flight to Edmonton is only four hours. I sat beside a retired couple from Lacombe; the husband used to work for John Deere and visits lots of farm equipment dealerships, so He's actually been to Killam quite a few times. He also had the same .mp3 player that I do, which is how the conversation started. His wife is a bit of an A/V hobbyist, she does a bit of video editing on her computer so we chatted about the latest and greatest.

The in-flight movie was Ice Age: the Meltdown. I've already seen it, so I only tuned in to the parts with Skrat.

Home at last: we landed a few minutes early, I found Grandpa, and we were on our way. I did some laundry, carved and ate some of Grandma's fabulous roast (with potatoes and salad and pie with fresh raspberries and all kinds of other good things,) and I was sleeping by 7:30. I'm not really feeling the jet-lag today, but that might be because I hadn't really slept for 36-odd hours before last night. A twelve hour sleep after that should act like a full-system reset as well as anything I can think of.

Ah, home sweet home.

Slippers! How oft my poor abused feet have longed for thy sweet embrace!

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