Buckle your seatbelts … this will be a long post.
Well let’s start out with the great news this morning that both our Day5 Covid tests came back negative and we are officially released from quarantine. Yay!
That means that this morning we boarded a bus for London Victoria. On the agenda included a few bits and bobs (Underground to our hotel to drop of bags, etc) and a short walk to St Paul’s Cathedral to make an unofficial start to our pilgrimage. (more later).
The weather is sunny and warm this morning and other than my back (which is acting up again) we are in good spirits but eager to get going. As I write we are still on the bus to London. It’s a 2-3/4hr ride, the last part of a quarantine-extended arrival to our first hotel.
I guess because I’ve been to London many times it doesn’t feel strange or exciting to be here. In some ways I’m used to it. It’s a wonderful city, full of history and art; it is very much alive and thriving; but it’s also almost too familiar. Still as we drive past the Fullers brewery and Cadbury chocolate adverts, trains and brick homes stained with vestiges of old coal soot, memories of past adventures fill my mind. … I’m in England.
<Later> Our first order of business after dropping our bags off at the Hotel was to head to St Paul’s Cathedral. Why? Well somehow it seems right. It seems fitting to start our experience (if not our actual walk) with a visit to St Paul’s London knowing that we will end at St Peter’s Rome.
The symbol of St Paul are the crossed swords. As a Citizen of Rome he was entitled to a more civilized martyrdom and was, by tradition, executed by beheading. The crossed keys, as I’ve already written are the symbol of Peter and thus Rome. So we will be walking from cross to cross as it were. Probably just me, but I find that kind of neat.
The next big event is one you will see repeated literally hundreds of times. Those of you that have been on the Camino will understand the emotion and impact of this moment. But at St Paul’s we received our first Stamp on our Pilgrim Credential. This beautifully clean and empty book will slowly get filled with stamps from Gites, Tourist Info Booths, Churches and Albergos as we March south. If you want to know more about the Credential etc, check out the History bits page.
We arrived at St Paul’s in time for a Eucharist service and the Anglican priest (Chaplain Giles) called us forward just before the end of the service to recognize us and offer a pilgrims blessing. It was pretty surreal to stand there under the dome of St Paul’s and experience that, I must say.
After a bite to eat (we were pretty hungry) we swung back to the hotel to check in. And then made a quick purchase at an outdoor store (stopper for Allison’s hiking pole).
So here we are, winding down our Via Francigena Day0. Wow!
We had a nice seafood dinner near Covent Garden and then headed back to the hotel to crash and get ready for the start of our Via.
Are you Ready? After all this build up are you ready to start on a pilgrimage? Are you tired of all the preliminaries. Well we are. Let’s GO!