Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Denny and Me

Basilica Saint-Denis.
After lunch the downpour ceased and the sun came out. I traded my soaked shoes for a pair of sandals and pulled out my damp and battered Lonely Planet guidebook, for I had one last destination: The Basilica of Saint-Denis.

I took the subway nearly to the end of the ride, about 20 minutes and popped out on a sunny square. No tourist hordes here; Saint-Denis was off the beaten path, even if nearly all the French kings and queens are buried here.

The Last Judgment Portal at Basilica Saint-Denis.
Saint-Denis is a very early Gothic Cathedral, built in the 1130s. Like Notre Dame, there are three portals in front, but see how more rounded the Saint-Denis portals are, looking a little more Romanesque. Like Notre Dame, the center portal depicts the Last Judgment. Christ is the judge, surrounded by apostles. Overhead the good guys are on the left side of the arch and the damned on the right.

Basilica's interior.
The basilica was nearly empty: just me, a few local school groups, and a bunch of European senior citizens. It was smaller than Notre Dame, but exquisite, with sunlight pouring through the stained glass and casting bright blotches on the floor. I admired the nave, then headed over to the Royal Necropolis ("Royal Death City"). 

Sunlight through the stained-glass windows
cast colors on the floor.
The tombs were a quick quiz in French history — I'd read "La Belle France" the month before, but I was still hazy on the Charles and Philippes, not to mention all those Louies.

Charles V (in wig), Queen Jeanne (with crown)
lying with other French royalty.
I admired the tomb statues of Charles V and his wife Jeanne of Bourbon, who is shown holding her pouch of entrails close to her heart.
During the Crusades and in medieval times French royalty would dither for years over where to be buried and would often write complicated wills commanding that their heart be buried in one place, their heart in another and the rest of the body in a third. Even the Pope's objection to cutting a body up couldn't make them stop until it finally fell out of fashion.

Childebert I.
More royalty, including Pepin the Short and Louis III.
The Frankish king of Paris Childebert I, who fought the Visigoths and died in 558, was there, and Charles Martel (died 741), the founding figure of the Middle Ages who helped develop feudalism and knighthood.

King Henri and Catherine D'Medici.
I saw the tomb of Francois I, the king who met Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn at the Cloth of Gold, and Henri and Catherine d'Medici, whose sickly son was briefly married to Mary Queen of Scots.

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

The heart of little Louis XVII.
Revolutionaries desecrated many of the tombs during the Terror, but afterwards the bones were reorganized and put in their proper places. Statues of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were brought in, and even the remains of their 10-year-old son, Louis XVII, who died in prison, were brought to the basilica, including his heart, which is still on display in a glass urn.

Saint-Denis was my last sight on this European trip and I lingered, not wanting it to end. I thought of returning to the apartment and helping Ron and Benny pack up our big backpacks again. I didn't want to fly back to San Francisco. I wanted to take the Metro to the Gare du Nord and catch the next train to Prague the next day. Ahead of us was a 20-hour day full of security lines and flight delays and officials digging through my backpack only to find that the threatening object inside was Benny's six-inch tall Big Ben figurine. The Brits apparently didn't trust the French and required an additional security check before they'd let us transfer to another plane, and the airline kept the gate number for the flight to San Francisco a state secret until 15 minutes after it opened. But our flight landed nearly on time and we were the first through customs.

"Two weeks?" the customs officer repeated. "And that's all your luggage?"

"Yup," we said proudly.

But that was all ahead of me. I had a glass of wine on the sunny square before the Basilica Saint-Denis, my bag on my lap and my head stuffed with medieval carvings and French history. It was time to go home, I thought. We were almost out of money, energy and clean socks. Next week Ron had a biotech panel, Benny had tennis camp and I needed to prepare for a writer's conference in Seattle. Au revoir, Europe.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Notre Dame, or Mary Goes to the DMV

Well, it's time for literally the mother of all Gothic cathedrals, Paris' Notre Dame. It's on the Ile de la Cite, the center of ancient Lutetium and medieval Paris. In 1160, the Bishop of Paris decided to build a new church to Mary using the new, cutting-edge Gothic style. Notre Dame is an early Gothic church, so it isn't as big and pointy and airy as the later cathedrals. (The Basilica of St. Denis, where French kings and queens are buried, is an even earlier Gothic, but we'll get to that later.)

You can see how solid and imposing the front is; it still feels a little Romanesque. Benny, Ron and I sat on bleachers in the sunny square while I read out loud about the facade. You've got a big rose window that looks like a halo on the Virgin and Child statue in the middle. Below that is a row of 28 kings of Judah, Mary and Jesus' ancestors.

Portal of the Last Judgment.
Then we have three large portals. The center portal is the Last Judgment — Christ is in the center, and Michael weighs the souls of the dead and assigns them to heaven or hell. The souls to Christ's right head off happily to heaven in an orderly line (Medieval artists had a huge thing for orderly lines) wearing little crowns and looking at Christ. The damned souls are shoved off to Christ's left by nasty demons, all clutching a chain. This led to all kinds of uncomfortable questions from Benny, many of which would require two theologians and a Bible to answer properly, but Ron and I did our best.

The right portal featured Mary sitting in state like a queen, with a crown and sceptre and the baby Jesus. The left portal shows Mary's death, her ascension into heaven and her crowning as Queen of Heaven. Throughout this cathedral are numerous depictions of Mary's life, from birth to motherhood to death and ascension, over and over. I half expected carvings of Mary doing laundry, making dinner, going to the DMV, etc.

Little boats in the fountain at Luxembourg Gardens.
We actually didn't go inside the cathedral that day. The place was mobbed and it was just too bright and sunny that day. Instead, we walked around the Left Bank and had a picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens. That place was a just heaven for young children: they could sail model boats on the fountain, play on the playgrounds and the carousel, ride ponies and more.

An ominous cloud front over Paris.

The next day we rose early and started the 20-minute walk to Notre Dame. The skies were ominous and as we crossed a bridge into the Isle de la Cite, the clouds burst open and it just poured. We arrived at the cathedral soaked to the skin and squishing with every step.

And so we had a dripping look around the Cathedral: the incredible nave and various statues of the Virgin and Child. Outside was a severe statue of Mary, stiff and Romanesque. The central statue is 19th-century, showing a new mother juggling a baby on her hip. Finally we have a romantic statue of Mary, all sweet and windblown with a cherubic Jesus.

Here's a shot of the high altar, and the modern bronze altar by Jean et Sebastien Touret, another example of how Europe incorporates modern art into its historic sites.

After a while we became tired of dripping water all over a priceless religious and historical site and left, sloshing through the downpour back to the Rue de Rivoli. We swam along the Rue de Louvre to the post office, where I mailed some sodden postcards and a package. (I forgot the word for air mail and hand to flap my arms to get my point across.)

Then we had a quick lunch and returned to the apartment. Ron and Benny were finished for the day — we were flying out of Charles de Gaulle the next morning and the apartment was just trashed. But then the sun came out and I thought there was time for one more medieval church. But that's a story for another post.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Biking in Versailles

Benny and I in front of the Grand Canal.

Big day today, for today we go to Versailles. I woke up pretty jazzed at 5:30 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. I was excited about leaving Paris for the day, excited about touring a sight I hadn’t seen before, and this wasn’t just a sight, it was Versailles, the extravagant palace of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Marie Antoinette and Louis VI lived there too, and were dragged from Versailles back to Paris by a mob during the French Revolution where they were later executed.

Versailles holds a vital place in French history. It was the center of political power, not Paris, from 1682 to 1789. Louis XIV transformed it from a hunting lodge to an opulent palace. It remains the symbol of the ancien regimewhere Marie Antoinette played at being a milkmaid with porcelain pails embossed with her crest.

So I just couldn’t wait to see it for the first time, and prowled our tiny studio until it was time to wake Benny and wheedle him into dressing and eating breakfast. “No,” I repeated. “Versailles isn’t just a museum. We’ll get to ride bikes.” 

Well, those were the magic words, because Benny perked right up and agreed to walk through the Tuilleries Gardens to the Seine, then cross the Pont Royal to the Museum d’Orsay. (“No Benny, we’re not going into this museum.”) The train station to Versailles, actually a suburban rail line — rather like BART for Paris — was in front of the Orsay. 

The train was feeling kind of Muni that morning, though. A small crowd of tourists gathered, milling around, looking at the departure boards and trying to buy tickets. The station attendant at the one open ticket window announced there were computer problems, pulled the window shade down, walked away, and didn’t return. But I didn’t even consider giving up — our museum passes were only good for Friday and there was no way I was going to Versailles on a Saturday. Finally, after multiple tries, I managed to buy three tickets and we ran for the 8:34 train. 

One of Italian artist Giuseppe Penone's tree sculptures in the
Versailles gardens, created to blur the boundaries between nature and art. 
We were dismayed to find a middling-long line, maybe 70 people, waiting in the courtyard. This was the ticket holders line, there was no escape, so we patiently shuffled along as Benny repeated, “Where are the bikes?” I had to break it to him that we were seeing the chateau first, before the tour groups arrived. (My pathological horror of tour groups really came through on this trip. You’d never guess that I’d traveled in one of those groups myself, with my own dorky red “Globus” bag.) Anyway, only a few giant buses were disgorging passengers, and I wanted to get through the chateau before the 10:22 senior group from Chantilly showed up.

We were just in time — soon after we arrived, the line just exploded from a lazy little winding worm to a giant python, growing fatter by the minute, stretching out past the front gate. The only amusement was watching people come up the harried French museum guy at the head of the line. The scene was repeated endlessly: 

Vistor: Where is the line for ticket holders?
Museum Guy: Zis iz the line.
V: No, for ticket holders.
MG: Zis! Zis iz the line!
V: (horrified) This line?
MG: Oui! This line!

Then the visitor would linger a bit, perhaps hoping the Museum Guy would change his mind, (“Mon Dieu! But of course, you can enter by this secret ticket-holder line!”) then trudge halfway to Paris to join the back of the line.

We entered the chateau before this scene had time to pall, shuffling through a series of rooms that brought to mind Prague’s Baroque cathedrals (and I thought those places had a lot of cherubs). Every square inch was covered with either crystal, gold gilt, Roman gods or Louis himself. Sometimes all four at once, with Louis as the God of War, wearing a gold helmet and a crystal spear. 

Benny had fun for a while identifying the various rooms: Ares, Hermes, Athena, Apollo, etc., but bikes were never far from his mind. We had audioguides this time and shuffled from treasure room to treasure room, simultaneously impressed and appalled. No wonder the French revolted.

Finally we took pity on Benny and headed outside. Ron and Benny sat in the sunshine while I bought souvenirs, then we walked through the gardens, eating lunch at a little outdoor cafe. We were a good half-hour ahead of the hordes, who were still gaping at Louie's bedroom, and the day was warm and sunny. We strolled over to the Neptune Gate to rent a bike, but alas! the bike rental booth was only open on weekends. Benny was devastated. "Let's go north," I suggested, thinking of the central square with a gift shop, restaurant and electric vehicle. "Maybe that bike booth is open."

Well, I felt like a hero when we got there, because the bike rental booth was doing brisk business, with waves of tourists wobbling off on their bikes, barely avoiding pedestrians. Benny's face when he saw the row of children's bikes was priceless.

Apollo Fountain.
I hadn't been on a bike in six years, so I did a little wobbling myself, but Ron wiped out first, hitting the dirt to avoid a car. For a time it looked like we'd have to leave the bikes and the garden and find a pharmacy. (The scrape was quite deep and bloody, and there were no first aid facilities at Versailles.) But Ron cleaned up the wound in the men's room and I wheedled a few bandages out of the nearby restaurant.

Then we headed off once more, taking two hours to circle the gardens and the Grand Canal. Benny was in heaven; the bike ride ranked right up there with the ferry trip, the Roman museum and the London Eye.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sneaking into the Louvre

Benny and The Wedding Feast at Cana in the Louvre.
I woke up in Paris to the sounds of a garbage truck coming through our apartment’s tall, open windows. Ah, just like home. Ron was out on an early morning run, so I made a cup of tea, moving around quietly so as not to wake Benny.

We were going to the Louvre today, and Ron and I were placing bets on how long we could keep our 9-year-old son in the building. Benny is pretty game for cathedrals and outdoor sights, but museums have been a slog. He liked the Tower of London, Dover Castle and Roman Canterbury museums, but big institutions like the British Museum have left him cold and I had no illusions about the Louvre.

My only hope was to gain admittance as early as possible and ply Benny with French treats to keep him moving. To this end, I planned to avoid the long line outside the Louvre’s glass pyramid by sneaking in through an underground tunnel. Apparently if we entered the Carousel mall, went down a couple of escalators and turned left at the Apple store, we’d find the Louvre's secret entrance. It was worth a shot.

Benny with Winged Victory.
Ron returned all glowing from his run to the Arc de Triumphe, and I hustled the whole family out of the apartment and on the Rue de Rivoli by 9 a.m. We entered the mall and by gum, it was just as I’d read: down the escalators, past the handbag stores and Apple outlet and there was the Louvre entrance, with a short line of other savvy patrons. 

Within minutes we were in the glass Pyramid, debating which wing to enter first. We headed for the Mona Lisa before the tour buses showed up, but the path to Mona was paved with Winged Victory and long galleries packed with Renaissance art. Nearly every painting depicted one of four scenes:
1. Madonna and Child.
2. The Crucifixion.
3. David and Goliath.
4. St. Sebastien.

I didn’t quite understand the obsession with St. Sebastien. I could answer Benny’s questions about the other scenes; I even could talk about how David was sometimes portrayed as a little wimpy guy with a slingshot, or a godlike warrior with a sword. But St. Seb had me beat, at least until I could get Ron’s iPhone and look him up on Wikepedia. A Roman emperor had orded Seb killed with arrows, so they tied him to a tree, but no matter how many arrows the soldiers shot, he could not be killed. For some reason, Renaissance artists loved to paint this. Sometimes Seb had arrows sticking out all over like a porcupine and sometimes just the wounds. Sometimes he was dressed and sometimes naked, but there was always the rope and the tree.

I couldn't find The Raft of the Medusa, but I did find one of Gericault's preliminary sketches.
I know you’re thinking: How could Benny not be enthralled by such scenes? I know, it baffled me too, although he did like the statue of a boy riding a turtle.

After a morning of classical sculpture and Renaissance art, we took him to the cafe for crackers and water (all we could afford, at those appalling prices). Then we managed to coax him into Napolean III’s apartments, which were nothing compared to those of Versailles, according to a nearby tour guide. But that was it. It was 1 p.m. and Ron left with Benny to find some real food.

Which left me alone and at large in the Louvre. I walked through the medieval galleries, then toured the Dutch and Flemish paintings. I couldn’t find the Giotto picture of St. Francis, which first introduced early Renaissance features like facial expressions and natural movement, as well as a flying Jesus that looked like a giant bat. But I did find the The Dying Slave and Venus de Milo and the Rembrandt self portrait. 
Anne of Cleves

I even found a nice surprise -- the Holbein painting of Anne of Cleves, the painting that so dazzled the English King Henry VIII that he agreed to marry her sight unseen. (Boy was he disappointed when he saw Anne in person. He gave her a quick divorce and Hever Castle and she considered herself lucky.) 

I saw one of my favorite paintings, The Cheat Holding the Ace of Diamonds, and too many more to count. I spent nearly four more hours there, limping near the end from a fruitless search for the Raft of the Medusa, and returned the apartment exhausted but happy.

The Cheat Holding the Ace of Diamonds. The servant, courtesan and card player are conspiring to cheat the young nobleman on the right.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Top 20 Things Christine Figured Out Today

Walking along the Seine.
You find me on the field of victory tonight as I gorge on French pastries after dinner.  Today in Paris I learned how to ...

1. Turn on the shower.
2. Turn off the shower.
3. Open my apartment door. (There's a little knob on the side you pull out.)
4. Turn on a hallway light so we don't keep bumping into walls.
5. Open my building door. (There's a little button you push.)
6. Find a Paris laundromat in the Latin Quarter.
7. Run the clothes washer. You pick a washer, pile your clothes in, add soap, then go over to a machine across the room to pay and start the
Paris from the Arc de Triomphe.
washer. Don't just hit washer buttons randomly and curse under your breath. (Another lesson learned: when the pay machine won't accept your euro note after you enter your washer number, don't keep entering it feverishly. Reread the little screen and consider that "validate #" might mean "enter #.")

Benny eats a hot-dog-in-a-baguette at a Latin Quarter cafe while we wait for our laundry.
8. Order lunch.
9. Read the restaurant receipt (tip is included).

I also figured out ...

A French lawn mower in the Tuileries Garden.
10. Which Greek goddess is guarding the Tuileries Garden with a handful of wheat (Demeter).
11.Which bus line gives the best tour of Paris.
12. How to pay for a bus ticket.
A Paris mailbox. I thought it was for paper recycling.
13. How to validate your ticket.
14. What a message beginning with "nouvelle destination" means and whether you have to leave the bus.
15. Whether the stuff at the market in a little yellow tub is actually butter.
16. How to call the U.S. from France.
17. How to find the secret underground entrance to the Louvre.

18. Where the closest post office is and what a Paris mailbox looks like.
19. How to open the drain in my apartment's bathroom sink so I can swish out some clothes. (There's a tiny lever in the back of the sink.)

... and finally ...

20. How many euros I can get out of the ATM without hitting my daily withdrawl limit.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dover to Calais

View of the Channel from Dover Castle.

On the train to Dover.
Our trip to Dover was quick and easy, although I tried to enliven things by lingering by the vending machine as our train pulled into Canterbury East Station. (That Coke machine had my 2 pounds!)  Ron and Benny stood on the platform yelling and waving my backpack and we hopped on the train with seconds to spare. They probably would have left me there, but I had the tickets.

Benny at the Churchill House.
We pulled into Dover Priory station and marched up the hill to Churchill House, a B&B just below Dover Castle. All the rooms were named after Churchill's family or favorite homes: Clementine, Patricia, Blenheim. We stayed in the Winston Room, which turned out to be our favorite B&B room in England — it was a shame we were only staying for one night. We wanted to catch an early ferry to Calais the next morning so we ordered the earliest breakfast possible R 7 a.m. which the B&B owner reluctantly accepted. ("We were hoping for a bit of a lie-in," he said mournfully.)

View from Dover Castle.
We had two orders of business that day: buy tickets for the Tuesday ferry and tour Dover Castle. Ron and I had given the castle only a cursory look when we drove around Britain in 1997, but it deserved more. But first we went to the city's tourist center, which was housed in a tall, ugly public-housing-looking building on the edge of town. This building reminded me of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, where Alice keeps walking toward a hill, but never gets any closer. I never saw such a town for getting in the way of such an ugly building, which was playing peek-a-boo around all the historic buildings. Finally we cut through an alley and found ourselves there and bought tickets for the 9:25 a.m. ferry and entry to Dover Castle.

St. Mary in Castro and Roman lighthouse.
Dover isn't a single castle, but an extensive complex, from a Roman lighthouse to the medieval towers. Underneath lies a network of chalk-cut tunnels originating from medieval times and extended during the threat of a Napoleanic invasion. Military personnel worked in the Secret Wartime Tunnels during World War II, especially during the evacuation from Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain. The exhibit on Operation Dynamo, where the British evacuated a total of 338,326 allied soldiers from Dunkirk almost exactly 73 years ago (May 27-June 4, 1940) after France fell, was especially vivid. Scenes were projected on the tunnel walls as narrators described the evacuation. We also toured the medieval walls and keep, built by King Henry II, and admired the views, then we checked out St. Mary in Castro, a 1,000-year-old Saxon church next to a Roman lighthouse.

So close, and yet so far.
The following morning started with a great breakfast, where we met an American military contractor who just arrived from Germany and debated internet privacy with the B&B owner. He said the ferry terminal was just a short way around the castle and Dover Harbor, but he must’ve been used to directing car drivers, not pedestrians with big backpacks. We trudged and trudged, looking in vain for signs, until we stood on the wrong side of a spaghetti bowl of roads, looking hopelessly at our ferryboat on the dock. We tried to walk along the harbor to it, but were stopped by fences, so we circled around and went under an overpass until we saw the small station for foot passengers.

The ferry itself was wonderful ... we sat on the deck and ate crackers and apples since we were too cheap to stand in line for overpriced ferry food. From the port we took a bus to the train station, where I haltingly bought three tickets for Calais to Boulogne, then to Paris. We arrived at Paris' Gare du Nord at 5 p.m. — rush hour — but fortunately all everyone was going the opposite way. We took the subway to the Tulieries station and found the apartment on Rue St. Roch with no trouble. The apartment owner Mario introduced us to our tiny studio, I handed over a big pile of euros for the week, and we collapsed on the sofa. Then we dumped all the contents out of our big backpacks and stuffed them in the closet. No more traveling -- we had a week in Paris ahead and wouldn't need those big bags until we headed to the airport on June. 18.

Calais from the ferry deck.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Our Canterbury Tales

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury was windy, cool and overcast this morning, which was fine with me, because all this warm, sunny  English weather was starting to weird me out. I mean, I went out the weekend before this trip and bought the only hooded windbreakers I could find, paid a ridiculous amount for them at that sports store that has replaced bookstores across the U.S., and not one drop of rain since we arrived in London. Very un-English. So I was pleased to dig out our dorky, matching windbreakers in fashion colors. We pulled up our hoods and marched into town.

I wanted to look at the Cathedral right away, but since we'd gotten such a late start (we'd gotten a late start every morning since that first one with Westminster Abbey) we already wanted our lunch. We found some odd European bistro-looking place with skinny tables and plastic highchairs for everyone. I didn't know whether to expect a martini or a bib. (The best places offer both, of course.)

Here we followed our usual M.O. with restaurant food, where I order some expensive dish I'd never get in the States (fish and chips, steak and kidney pie, bangers and mash, etc.) and Ron and Benny would split a hamburger or some plain chicken breast. I expected this routine to continue into France, with Ron and Benny eating breadsticks while I tucked into coq au vin. After two weeks, I'd most likely roll into America 10 pounds heavier while my family trailed after me, too weak to carry their bags.

I'm a big one for chronological sightseeing; I like seeing the Romanesque church before the Gothic cathedral and the Norman castles before the Baroque chateaux — you get the drift. So I herded us into Canterbury's Roman Museum, where we stood behind a lovely Indian family who spent half-an-hour mulling whether to get a city museum pass before declining. This gave Ron plenty of time to pick out historically themed school supplies, including a Caesar pencil sharpener and a Roman Ruler (ha ha).

Benny the Roman Gladiator
The museum cost 6 pounds a head, but believe me, it was worth every pence. We practically had the whole place to ourselves, and it was quite informative and tastefully high-tech. Britain has obviously invested some money in their museum exhibits, because the new techie touch-screen presentations have been first rate. The Crown Jewels at the Tower, Roman Canterbury and later Dover Castle were all presented in that interactive, 4th-grade-reading-level strategy that was too easy for the 9-year-olds but perfect for their tired, middle-aged parents.

We had to tear ourselves out of there though, because Canterbury Cathedral beckoned. I was fully prepared to pay serious money to see the place and was all psyched up not to say "You're shitting me!" when presented with the 25-pound admission price, but it turned out the Cathedral was free because it was Sunday. Or we just snuck in accidentally. Either way, we saved some money and it partially made up for the 6 Pound chicken Benny wouldn't touch at lunch.
The cathedral nave.
We'd barely had 10 minutes there — hardly enough to gawk at the rose windows — when people started gathering for Evensong in the quire, with the King's School Boy's Choir. This was not to be missed, so we lined up and found ourselves sitting on the ancient, red-cushioned benches. I let Benny read his book until the procession began, with a dozen boys Benny's age pacing by in robes with Elizabethan ruffs. Ron and I were hardly able to follow the service; instead we sat agog, mouths open, at the pure voices soaring up to stained glass windows. By the time we left though, Benny had had enough, so Ron took him outside while I toured the rest of the Cathedral.

The "Adam Delving" stained glass window. What's he digging, a well?
There are few things I like better than wandering around some historic place alone with some dorky guidebook, and Canterbury Cathedral was no exception. But I kept getting lost, ending up at the Adam Delving stained glass window when I wanted to see the spot where was Thomas Becket was murdered, or stepping into St. Anselm's Chapel when I hadn't seen the Black Prince's tomb yet. This makes chronologically obsessed tourists like me crazy.

The modern Altar of the Sword's Point where Becket was murdered, so named because a knight's sword point broke with the ferocity of the blows.
The figure made of iron nails hanging above the original spot of Becket's tomb, cryptically named "Transport."
I lingered as long as I could, admiring the chapels and crypts. Another thing Europeans do well is integrate modern art into the most ancient of sites. The dramatic modern cross above Becket's murder site and the human figure made of nails hanging above the original location of Becket's tomb are two great examples of this. (I noticed some distinctive modern art in the Louvre gardens as well.)

We tried to have dinner at the King's Head again, so Benny could pet the cat, but Sunday hours are pretty strange in Britain. We arrived and settled ourselves at 6 p.m., when dinner service usually begins, but a quick look at the menu revealed that on Sunday, the pub doesn't start dinner until 7. So we ended up at a fish and chips place across the street that apparently didn't care about the Sabbath, and once again went to bed ridiculously early, since we were catching a morning train to Dover the next day.