Saturday, August 4, 2012

Have You Heard the One About the Baby in the Abbey?

This is where we dive for the camera to show our enthusiasm!
Today we finally crossed off another item on our Things To Visit While We Live Here list: We went up to take the guided tour of the chapel and crypt up at St. Michael's Abbey. The tours are run every Saturday and Bank Holiday at 3pm. The Husband and I knew about this for ages: it was part of a list of things to do that we made long before Ethan entered the picture. Lately, though, we've been taking a much more gung-ho approach to the weekends. Why not do something fun? we told ourselves, otherwise the weekend gets taken up in nothing but grocery shopping, cleaning, and church. And that, we had decided, was just a bit too depressing to happen every weekend. So, we're making more of an effort to do something fun during our weekends.

From the north side where the first abbot and others are buried.
The chapel was gorgeous. No pictures of the inside, because in case you haven't heard a sound-obsessed 9-month-old in a cavernous Catholic's loud. Very loud. Even with mouthfuls of water and Cheerios and raisins; it's loud. And it doesn't stop being loud because he loves the sound of his own voice echoing back to him. So he keeps shouting...and smiling about it. So you go stand on the front steps to let him shout his excitement to the trees, where it won't echo and drown out the voice of your tour guide. You then try not to be miffed that you're missing the bit about Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie.

The main entrance to the chapel down the nave.
After looking around the chapel, we went round to the crypt...which was pretty cool. Because the only people buried in there are Bonapartes, there's a door on the side that has only ever been used by the Empress Eugenie to visit her dead husband and son. See, her house - now a Catholic girls' school - is right next door to the abbey, over the train tracks, so she could just walk over through her garden and come to pay her respects whenever she felt like it.

Sarcophagus of Napoleon III

In which Ethan meets some stone stairs
By this point, Ethan had calmed down with the screaming (much to our relief) and he was perfectly well-behaved given the chance to be free of his Moby and wander around the crypt to his heart's content. Though, when Daddy introduced him to the stairs, the best reaction he could muster up was to give them a friendly pat. He really didn't know what to make of those stairs.

After snagging a few pictures, we were back outside at the end of the tour. Just to get to see that a place like this is hiding out in our home town is pretty nifty! I mean, we knew it was here, and once we did a service project helping the monks clear some hay from one of their fields (they have the only farm left in our borough). But still: getting to see it was quite fun. And the monks have a gift shop! Complete with old-school illuminated greeting cards! How brilliant is that? Needless to say, we have a card of St. Michael which will be framed and on our walls some time soon.

One day, my son, you will learn to love these sorts of trips.

You can tell they're father and son: they make the same faces in pictures.
Hopefully, the next few weekends will yield some more interesting trips. Maybe a jaunt back to Waverley Abbey, or even - dare I dream - and excursion down to Winchester like I've wanted to do for ages! There's too much stuff around not to go see things. Hey: like I told the little old lady who was admiring Ethan, "there's no escaping this kind of trip when your mum's an historian!" And really: why not take these trips when I can always use the excuse of civilising educating my children?

Hope you keep reading long enough to join me again as a vicarious tourist! Until then...

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