A Travellerspoint blog

May 2013

Paris--Tuesday through Thursday

London to Paris--Par le vous English?

rain 52 °F

Paris--Tuesday through Thursday

Hallo, Paris! Bonjour! Vive la France!

I was up early, had my last Full English Breakfast, then took a cab to S. Pancras International, where I caught the Eurostar (bullet train) under the English Channel to Parish. I had a full window seat, as recommended by the website: the Man in Seat 61. It was incredibly smooth and fast (speeds up to 300KPH); none of the clickety-clack or rocking back and forth.

I was in Paris in about 2 hours, 15 minutes, took a cab to my Hotel, in the 1st District, most centrally located, and a two block walk to the Louvre.

It was cold and rainy. I walked about to get myself oriented, walked along the Right Bank of the Seine River, and couldn’t believe I was in Paris. I don’t even SPEAK French; what am I doing here?

Finally, on the Eurostar, I had broken out the iPad and plugged in my earbuds to listen to some French phrases, only to discover that what I was listening to were French carols! I quickly consulted iBook’s Lonely Planet guide, which gave me some good phrases laid out phonetically (basically, forget trying to figure out how things should sound by looking at the phrase; just memorise how they are supposed to sound!). That and sister Debbie’s advice on French manners was going to have to do for this American in Paris.

This was my first time in Paris, and definitely outside my comfort zone. It’s far more comfortable to be travelling in a group (which we all do and have done), and someone else speaks the language, makes the arrangements, etc. I was deep into the solo part of sabbatical journey. I began with one of my sisters, Robin, and will end it with the company of Navy chum Kevin, sister Debbie and dear friends Fr Michael & Elizabeth Pumphrey. So, this is all balanced by companions and solo time.

But this part is the solo part. Stephen the Hermit; solo in the middle of Paris.

This makes me ponder what God has in store for me in Paris; not merely being the proverbial American in Paris (which I would listen to later in the evening). It’s not merely new experiences; as beneficial as these are for any attentive traveller.

But what will God say to me here? I’m aware that some of these questions may not reveal answers in the midst of my journeys; but only subsequently, days or weeks later. I’m finding it helpful to have a few days’ lag on the blog; not only because sometimes the day is filled with activities and shooting and then transferring photos, but because my heart and mind don’t necessarily process everything on the same day.

Though I didn’t plan it this way (remember my quote: if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans?), train travel is meditative, and allows me the opportunity to think out-loud on the keyboard.

Wednesday in Paris
The day broke cool but sunny. I took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower (yes, braved the subway; out of my comfort zone again).

I hadn’t planned well enough in advance, and the Fast Pass tickets were not available. But I was determined to go all the way to the top, regardless.

Some of you will recognise my internal schedule at work here; once I have it in my mind to do something, once it is scheduled, I’m going to do it; even if it turns out to be not so good an idea after all, and I’m fully aware of it as my carefully scripted plan is unfolding. This was one of these times.

The line was daunting, but I persevered. After 1 hour and 45 minutes, I was at the first level; 30 minutes later, at the top. Of course, it was windy and cold, and I was starving for lunch along with everyone else. Still the views were spectacular. Another item on my Bucket List checked. Like Ellis Island in NYC, I’m glad I went; but I won’t go up again, no matter how many times I wonder past or raise my camera to get yet another shot of it.

I found a good way to get MY picture taken: spot a couple taking pictures of one another (always spot the guy with a big Nikon or Canon), and ask if they’d like me to shoot them together. Then I ask the guy or gal with the big camera to shoot me, which they are happy to do. It simply doesn’t work to point the camera at yourself, like you see folk doing with their iPhones.

After about half an hour, I was done.

Like I say, I’m glad I went up, but this was very touristy, and it shot a big hole in the day. I walked the entire way back to the 1st District along the Seine, coming upon the American Cathedral.

In perhaps a metaphor for the American Church in general, it was closed for prayer and meditation, but in the gymnasium below, there was a martial arts class in progress.

Along the Seine, I came upon the cleanest free public toilet in Paris. After every use, the door closes, it self flushes and disinfects itself, and the floor is washed. Naturally, I had to try this out, if only for the experience.

After a refresher break at my hotel, and with tired feet and joints that were crying out for Motrin, I went to dinner at a sidewalk cafe on the Plaza of Joan of Arc. I found a single table (they all face out to the street so you can people watch and make comments), and had a glass of wine and a quiche.

It was so calming and quintessentially Parisian that I found myself staying longer than I had planned. Finally, I looked at my watch, realised it was past 9.30PM (though still very light), and reluctantly paid my bill and returned to the room to download more photos.

Today I took a walking guided tour. Tyler, our young 20s something guide from Philadelphia, had his BA in French literature and culture, so was the perfect guide. We walked all over central Paris, and he gave us history, monument information, etc.

It was marred only by an Ugly American; basically loud, rude and arrogant (oh, and wealthy; he made sure we all knew about that). Still, even he couldn’t mar the entire tour.

I had a late lunch, my major meal of the day. It had increasingly turned cold and rainy, so I ate indoors. Of course, I had to have escargot and fillet of duck, both of which were excellent. Then it was home to pack and get an early bed; I had plans for my last morning in Paris!

Posted by stbrides 10:17 Archived in France Comments (0)

Monday--Au Revoir Walsingham

Hello London!

semi-overcast 55 °F

Monday: I attended the early (0730) Mass, which was simple, and done according to the Roman Missal (3rd translation); an elderly priest was the celebrant. Then it was to do final packing and hit the road.

My pocket camera had broken. Foolishly, I had it in the same pocket as some other things, and I bent the lens cover. I had contemplated going to the site of Downton Abbey, but that was three hours west of London (and I was about 2 hours East of London); and their tickets were all booked through September anyway. So that will have to wait for another trip to Jolly Ol’.

I found a camera shop in Norwich, on my way to London, where they fixed the camera. Then it was to Julian’s Shrine (Dame Julian of Norwich, the 14th century anchoress and mystic), and a quick tour of the Cathedral. I was last here with Fr Tony Noble and his pilgrims in 2007. It was good to return to these familiar sites, if only briefly.

Then it back into the Golf, and the motorway to London. I checked back into the Union Jack Club, went to their convivial bar, had a dinner of a club sandwich, then went to pack.

Hmmmmm. I notice a pattern here: pack/unpack; pack/unpack.

I’m glad to be seeing all I’m seeing, but am glad I had a complete fortnight in one place at the beginning of these journeys.

Posted by stbrides 09:44 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Sunday in Walsingham

Mass at the Village Church, Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding, and a Last Visit/Farewell to the Virgin of the Holy House


Sunday: Mass at the Parish Church at 1100 for Pentecost Sunday; so in comparison to the other days of the week, it was a late start (NOT my usual Sunday morning!). It was a packed Church. The liturgy was what we would call Rite II from the English Book of Common Worship, and it was a mostly full Church.

In contrast to the liturgies of the Shrine, the Parish Church seemed simply High Church; certainly not spiky. But my priest colleagues tell me that this is perhaps how most Anglo-Catholic parishes would be like on a Sunday morning.

The Church itself is beautiful, light and airy. About 50 years ago, it caught alight and ruined; when it was rebuilt the stained glass was not replaced, but plain glass was put in; not as dark, Victorian gloomy as previously.

It all had a very comfortable Sunday Morning Mass feeling to it; though few people receive kneeling here in the UK. I had a chance meeting with Stephen Parkinson, retired director of Forward in Faith. We had first met when I was in London for the 150th anniversary of the SSC in 2005. Fr Warren Tanghe (known to us at S. Bride’s) had introduced me. We had a good chat, and commented on his love of Paris and gave me some pointers. In retirement, he and his wife have bought a house in the Village; which seems to me to be a splendid retirement.

After Mass several clergy and staff had drinks (sherry) in the Administrator’s Cottage in the College, and then it was off to the Refectory for a Sunday dinner of beef roast and Yorkshire pudding. This was so filling (and late, about 1.30PM) that I wasn’t hungry for supper.

In the mid afternoon came the last visit to the Holy House, beginning with devotions and a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament. It was bittersweet, and the closing hymn certainly summed my feelings: that, as much as one would like to stay forever at the Shrine, Jesus calls us to the strife and struggle of daily life. Our times of healing and refreshment are not an end in themselves: they are to strengthen us for better service to our Saviour.

It was time to pack; reluctantly. God had spoken to me here, but he was asking ME questions. Usually I’m the one asking the questions. It will take me time to come to some resolution on these.

Posted by stbrides 02:21 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Saturday in Walsingham--18 May 2013

Sandringham Estate & a new crowd of Pilgrims

overcast 49 °F

Saturday I went to the early Mass. Another load of Pilgrims were arriving. Having a car and having stayed in on Friday, I went for a drive to the Sandringham Estates; the Norfolk personal residence of Queen Elizabeth. It a beautiful house, of course, but the grounds are spectacular.


I visited first the Sandringham Church: S. Mary Magdalene. This is where the Queen and other royals attend Sunday Church, but where many local people in the area also attend. The Queen and family are generally here during the month of July, and of course, everyone in the family comes at Christmas and Easter, practically filling the Church.

This Church is best known for all the silver: the Altar is solid silver, just one ounce shy of being a ton, and a gift of Wanamaker, of Philadelphia department store fame. The processional cross is likewise sterling, commemorating the Great War, when 150 of the village lads went off to war and none returned.

The house is open for tours, but when the Queen wishes to visit, things are put back into place, and it is transformed from a tourist display to a family home once more.

In the evening, I participated in the Pilgrims’ Healing Liturgies; concelebrating Mass and hearing confessions. After, I chatted in the cottage with Fr Robert, an English SSC priest whom I knew from online chats, but had never met in person. Of course, we talked until way late, and solved all the problems of the Church.

Posted by stbrides 02:21 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Friday in Walsingham

Time in the Holy House; Village wandering; Institution of new Vicar @ the Village Church

rain 49 °F

Friday was a stay around the Shrine sort of day. Thursday’s weather of sun and almost warmth was replaced by overcast skies and chill, and by late afternoon it would be raining steadily. I spent significant time in the Holy House with the image of Mary, Mother of God, before me, and tried to listen to God’s voice.

Much of this time of renewal has been travel and sightseeing; not unlike any other tourist, I suppose. To be a pilgrim, as I am, doesn’t exclude some of the touristy aspects of travel; think of Canterbury Tales!

And, thankfully, there have been moments of God bursting in: High Mass at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin with a wonderful choir; Ascension Day Mass at S. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin where it was only us three priests at ‘Holy Communion’, but which was quiet and meditative; the sad wonder of wandering through S. Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare with it’s stark simplicity and apparent neglect (the Holy Virgin of Kildare seems more venerated almost everywhere else but Kildare; certainly at S. Bride’s).

But it was at Walsingham where all my pondering, questions, and seeking after God came to a head. As I said in a prior post, God can be encountered anywhere; He is God, after all. He is not limited to shrines or place. But I always find God at Walsingham; or, perhaps better, He finds me. In the beauty and grandeur of this holy place, I experience His presence in a way that strips away all my pretense and lays my soul bare, and I sense myself being healed even when I didn’t realise I was broken and in need of healing.

I didn’t spend all my time in the Shrine Church, of course. I wandered round the village, which as they say is ‘quaint’ and which seems as though one has walked through a time warp, and found oneself transported to the 13th century … except for the cars charging up the High Street.

Friday night was the Institution and Induction of Fr Andrew as the new Vicar of the Parish Church of S. Mary the Virgin. I walked through the village and found a good seat, and the Church was packed. This was a Village and civic event, as well as a religious one. No separation of Church and State here. The Bishop of Norwich was there to Institute, the Patrons of the Living (benefactors of the parish) rose to speak in favour, and so on. The Archdeacon did the Induction. It was a bit familiar, where water for baptism is presented, etc., but with very proper Anglican ceremonial.

The Parish Hall is located about a five minute walk, up on the High Street, and a party was given after the Institution. After a few minutes, it was absolutely jammed with people, and more people were crowding in (free drinks and food after all!), so I went outside into the rain, and walked home to S. Hugh’s cottage, where the heat was on once again on this cold and rainy May evening.

Posted by stbrides 06:47 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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