26 September 2011--No breakfast again, so I sleep in again, and then spend some lazy time in Caffe Nero.
My original plan was to arrive here early enough yesterday to see the cathedral, and take the train down to Cambridge
to spend the day today (or maybe the other way around). I'm still not feeling up to snuff, though, and am not really
getting good use of the hours in the day. Today, then, is my day to get a good look at the cathedral; Cambridge is
out the window. Something else has come up for this evening, anyway.
A monastic community was founded in Ely in the 7th century by Etheldreda, or Ăthelthryth--Ăel■ry if you want to go really old school, Audrey in modern form. Etheldreda was the niece of Ăbbe, abbess at Coldingham, which I visited last year (6 October 2010). The monastery had its ups and downs--marauding Danes were no help--and then was entirely rebuilt by the Normans following the conquest, starting with the abbot Simeon and continuing well into the 12th century. The stone was quarried in Northamptonshire, paid for in eels, mainstay of the Fens' economy (and genesis of Ely's name). The Lady Chapel was added in the early 14th century, and around the same time, the central tower collapsed, and was replaced by the current octagonal tower, the cathedral's most distinctive feature. The church itself survived Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, although not without damage to much of its statuary, considered idolatrous by the Protestants. More damage was done by Cromwell's forces during the Civil War. Hard not to think of the Taliban blowing up Buddhas. Much else of the monastic complex has been lost over the centuries, but what remains is remarkable. I am very much reminded of Durham.
I take a short nap midafternoon, then catch the train south past Cambridge to Audley End, whence I am driven to the village of Debden to meet whisky forum member C57--Nick--and his family. I'd already booked my stay in Ely before realizing I was just a stone's throw from Nick's home, and the serendipity of it is too much to ignore. It's a great pleasure to meet Nick after years of online acquaintance, and we pass a most convivial evening. We have several marvelous drams out of his beautiful hand-built cabinet, a couple of pints at the local pub, and an excellent lasagna dinner prepared by Mrs C57. Too soon I must catch the train back to Ely. Nightcap at the Kings Arms.