The last leg of my Great Britain trip is at hand. The train is about an hour from St. Pancras Station in London, which many Americans have seen without realizing it – it’s used in the Harry Potter films for the outside shots, instead of King’s Cross Station (from what I hear, there’s plaque for Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross with a statue of a cart going through the wall; I’m sure it’s well-photographed). From there I’ll be heading to the Generator hostel nearby.
This morning I went to the 10:30 service at the Liverpool Cathedral, and it was just as wonderful as I would have hoped, and also gave me the chance to observe some of the differences between a church service in America and one in England – there were few. The organ, as hoped, was simply incredible. I sat in the third or fourth row of the cathedral and listened to the thunder of the pipes as I stared up in the vaulted stone ceilings. I understand now what it is to feel small in the presence of God; the combination of the high ceilings and the raw power of the organ is enough to make the building echo for at least 10-15 seconds after a note is played, and we had the honour of witnessing a professional choir in from London to sing for us. I’m glad that I went to it, and it gave me a great starting point for getting right up to the Vestey bell tower as soon as it was over to see the amazing bells and look out over the city of Liverpool. I could see the sights I visited yesterday – from the Beatles Story over on the Mersey bank, to my hostel over to the west, and even a glimpse of the football stadium farther to the north.
However, the train system has done me in once again. I didn’t dally at the cathedral, rushing out to catch what I thought would be my train to Nottingham at 12:50. However, when I reached the now-familiar Lime Street Station, I was told that “the train was cancelled for maintenance on the tracks” and my next option was another hour later, with 2 transfers instead of zero. Oh well…I should be used to this by now. As many Brits have told me now during my trip, the rail system really isn’t that great; without a rail pass it can be hundreds of pounds to make a trip without time aforethought and planning to lower the price. I’m glad I have the pass, especially since it allowed me my memorable (or it would have been, had I the energy to remember anything at that time) night as a hobo between York and Manchester.
My stop in Nottingham was sadly brief, especially because I had lost 2 hours due to the change in my rail trip plans. I had originally planned to see the gallows tour, which had exhibitions of the dungeons and prisons of the era and was well-recommended by my guidebook and see the ruins of the castle too, but those had both closed by the time I had arrived at 17:10 and I consoled myself with a pint of house ale at the “oldest pub in Britain,” the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. The pub is so named for its founding in 1189, about the time of the crusades, as it’s where the soldiers would gather before starting off for the Middle East with Richard the Lionhearted. The pub had the further benefit (for a time-strapped traveller such as myself) of being embedded in the base of the ancient castle itself, so with only an hour from arrival to departure, I was able to see the castle too, or at least the outside of it. Then it was back on the train to London where I am now.
I’ve been spending my time on the train thus far by going through my guides to London; there’s so much to see and do in a city like this that unless I go through the books and make a list of specifically what I want to see, I know I’m going to miss something that I’ll learn about later and be sad that I missed my opportunity.
Only about two and a half days remain, and then it’s back to Chicago and then to Wisconsin! I’ll make them count.