It is hard to believe but by the end of this day, our first day in London we will be close to the halfway point of this pilgrimage. It seems like we just started and yet, we have done so much and have made some wonderful connections. If the first half of the pilgrimage has been this awesome, then I pray that it continues as we move on to London and then the final leg of the pilgrimage in Oxford.
When we were looking for a hotel in York we were struggling to find a reasonable hotel that was in close proximity to the city center. We found some cheap places but they were so far removed from York we might as well have stayed in the countryside. But then fr. David was able to rely upon his extensive travel experience and booked us a gem of place, the Novotel York Centre. It exceeded my expectations and it was a great place to rest up and recharge.
After a good nights rest we arose early and enjoyed a vast spread for our hot buffet breakfast. Once our stomachs were full we packed up the coach and began the longest coach ride of the trip, a three and a half hour ride to London. Fortunately we decided to break up that beautiful ride by stopping at Saint Albans Cathedral.
After winding our way through the streets of the town we found the cathedral set upon beautifully maintained grounds. For those of you who may not know who Saint Alban was he is the first English martyr. According to tradition Alban was a Roman citizen who had become impressed with the local priests and monks, and harbored a fugitive priest who was escaping persecution at the hands of the Romans. When they discovered where the priest was hiding Alban switched clothes with the priest and was arrested in the priest’s stead. They discovered that it was Alban and tried to get him to give up the priest but he refused and was executed and as such became England’s first martyr.
We all enjoyed the tour and our lunch in the refectory. After spending a little mroe time we made our way back to the coach and settled in for an hour or so ride to the Royal Foundation of Saint Katherine (RFSK) where we will stay while in London. As we worked our way through the London traffic we were able to see some of the famous tourist attractions and you could feel the excitement building. We arrived in the East End of London and found the Royal Foundation tucked away in what is an oasis of prayer and beauty in the midst of the hustle and bustle of London.
The RFSK was originally founded as a religious community. They were did not follow a strict rule of life but maintained a religious presence in the East End. The foundation has benefited from royal patronage and has grown and shrunk over the years as the patronage passed to new monarchs who may or may not have had much interest in the goings on of the community.
Now it serves as a retreat and conference center. Since it is not a parish and does not have a congregation they are trying to find ways to create ministries that impact the surrounding neighborhood. One such initiative is their Yurt Cafe that was erected on reclaimed land belonging to the Foundation.
Our rooms are well appointed and the food was excellent. This pl;ace definitely has the feel of monastic grounds and is the perfect place for us to stay while in London.
With the day coming to a close we were all ready for a good night’s sleep so that we could be ready for our day trip to Canterbury. So until then…cheers mates.