Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Capital of England....circa 828

Well it used to be Winchester, as you all obviously know its London now. We had heard much good things and how lovely Winchester is so we decided to head down on the train after being couped up in London for the past couple of weekends. When I heard that the cathedral has the longest nave, and is the longest in the country, I was SOLD!! I didn't do too much research as well it would spoil it if we did. Must say thanks Amy, it really was quite lovely with sweet treats and all.

Winchester Cathedral

Its only an hour away from London in the heart of Hampshire, which for some reason I think with the name should be North, like Hampstead, Hamptons...all North... Nope not Hampshire...quite South, near New Forest and Southampton actually.

The highstreet view up to St Giles Hill

We weren't 5 minutes out of the station when we found an English lolly shop - yum. I stocked up on Sherbert lemons...mmmm, before we wandered down the quaint little high street, complete with Tudor style buildings. Then we found Winchester Cathedral. It simple appears out of nowhere, in a lovely park full of families enjoying picnics, and it is indeed rather grand. We weren't sure where to start, so we started with a guided tour.

The Nave, very Long

Our guide took us around over the space of an hour, starting with the Chantry chapel of William of Wykeham, who as Bishop remodeled the cathedral to Gothic style; he also was involved in Oxford university and each year students come to pray for his soul - spooky. The Quire is the very original dating back to the 1300's and the oldest medieval quire in England, with amazing carved woodwork. Antony Gormley's work - Sound 2 - occupies the crypt and creates a very peaceful space, which is neither cold nor damp. In keeping with my love of anything relating to the 15th century and the Tudors, I was delighted to discover that this was where Mary Tudor married Prince Philip II of Spain in 1554.

Anthony Gormley's Sound 2 statue in the Crypt.

The cathedral is the resting place of a woman whose knack for literature gave us the stubborn Elizabeth Bennet, self absorbed Emma Woodhouse and of course the dashing, sigh, Mr Darcy; it can only be Jane Austen. She also lived nearby in the years before her death, even though she lived most of her live in Bath (visiting there soon with Dad). It was definitely one of the more interesting cathedrals I have visited, it even has a place in movie land, staring in Elizabeth and in the Da Vinci code, as the Vatican!

Jane Austen Memorial

Following that Mark and I took a walk around the outside and back up the high street, past the Westgate and the very naked man on horseback - go figure (yes a statue) - to the Great Hall. The great hall is all that is left of what was once 13th century Winchester castle and it has housed THE round table, of that great man King Arthur for 700 years. It also has a recreated garden that once would have been that of Queen Eleanors.

West Gate .... well Gate, it was also a prison for 150 years too

The Great Hall - Queen Eleanors Garden

King Arthurs Round Table...yes the very one

Skip ahead 2 hours of my life - we watched Australia lose to South African in the rugby in a very dreary O'Neils pub - we find ourselves back around via the cathedral so we could continue our walk. We took a lovely stroll, the weather was superb, past Cheyney court (gorgeous half timbered houses - Tudor style), Jane Austens house, Wolvesey castle ruins and up towards the lovely St Giles Hill.
St Giles View back to the Cathedral

Mark was sure we were going the wrong way, despite significant signage to the contrary- yea of little faith - as it was too residential, when out of nowhere we were at the entrance to a park with LOTS of steep steps. Ugh, but the view of the town made it worthwhile, a spectacular view to end the day.

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