The Chronicles of Oxford Part 4: The Lost Canterbury Tale

I wrote this soon after an excursion to Canterbury, sponsored by Exeter College at Oxford.  This meant an approximate 2 1/2 hour journey to get there.  I guess that kind of factors into what happened…

I went to Canterbury on Saturday with about 45 people from the Exeter college program.  This offered us a chance to visit Canterbury Cathedral in all its vastness, walk the pathways of the Canterbury pilgrims from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and see many of the other historic landmarks and cultural highlights which make up this ancient city.

Canterbury Cathedral

Inside Canterbury Cathedral


Arriving at 11, we had about 6 hours to explore the town.  We were to be back at the bus no later than 5:15 to return to Oxford.

Guess who was late.  By 30 minutes.

I had a wonderful time perusing the ruins of the St. Augustine Abbey, marveling at the structure which had stood there since 598 AD before the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.  It is purported to be one of the oldest monastic sites in England.  I have a real interest in Christian monasticism and the types of communities which formed under the Rule of St. Benedict, so this was definitely a treat.

Around 4:45 I decided to wrap up and head back.  Now please let it be known that I have NO sense of direction whatsoever.  It’s only through literature that I know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  This puts me in company, happily, with GK Chesterton, who once famously had a taxi take him to an address which was right across the street from where he was standing.  But since I lack the inherent joy and adventurous spirit of GK Chesterton, my situation was a little less charming.  I panicked.

Reading the map incorrectly, I went to the wrong bus station, which was clear across the other side of town.  Then Vicky arrived.  In my growing panic I collared the first person I saw on the street and asked “WhereamIandhowdoigettothebusimsolatetheyregoingtoleavewithoutmehelp?!?!?!”  This fantastic person walked me all the way back to the station, about a 25 minute walk, taking time out of her day to help a strange half-witted American.  I did not get her email or phone number to call and thank her.  But Vicky- Ph.d student in Statistics living in Canterbury- thank you so much for your heart and kindness in leading me back home.

Needless to say, there were some grumpy people on the bus, but most were gracious and kind and forgave my blunder.  Except for Isabella, for whom I owe dinner and a drink.  (But now that she’s in Spain and I’m in the States, I might be off the hook).

You try to look for blessings in all things.  For me this is a constant struggle as my mind usually veers toward worrying about the edge of the cliff.  Given that I’m the type of person who always likes to be “in the know,” the experience of being lost and having NO CLUE was disconcerting to say the least.  And yet what happened?  There was a person out there willing to help.  Not exactly the end of the world, right?

Funny enough, the lectionary reading for the next day was about the Good Samaritan.  Happy to say I met her.

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2 thoughts on “The Chronicles of Oxford Part 4: The Lost Canterbury Tale

  1. Wow! That’s so scary!! I was really afraid of getting lost in Stratford-upon-Avon when I went and I ended up spending the last hour in the bus station because I was paranoid about missing the bus. I’m not sure which of us had the less fun time. I kind of wish I had more of your adventurous spirit to browse around like that.

    By the way, this comment (and all other comments) are late because I haven’t been reading blogs in weeks!! I’m incredibly behind and am now catching up.

  2. No worries, Sarah, good to hear from you! We’ll have to meet up and compare notes about England. I ALMOST got lost in Stratford, but stuck with a group of friends…I would have been infamous if I had done it twice!

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