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Trip Report Winchester, London and Wales

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This report will focus on a ten day trip we took in late April.

We arrived at Winchester after a long flight, delayed on takeoff and again on landing, which forced us to take the bus to Woking and board a train there (as advised by flanneruk), rather than bus directly from Heathrow. We stayed at the Wykeham Arms, a small hotel with a good restaurant and pub (Fullers), very close to the cathedral and the college. I had a ham sandwich on granary bread and a pint of London’s Pride before flopping into bed at about 2:30 PM.

By the time we had napped, showered and dressed the afternoon was nearly gone. We walked the town, and decided that rather than spend Saturday on an awkward day trip, as planned, we’d simply stay in Winchester. Our hotel restaurant was booked until 9:30. We made a reservation for the next night and asked for a recommendation. They sent us to the Old Vine, across the cathedral close, a charming place where they quickly made room for us. My wife had the plaice and I the salmon -- mine in a yoghurt based tandoori glaze - very good, after a great starter of fresh grilled sardines.

I had a pint or two (two) of the HSB for a nightcap . The walls of the pub are lined with tankards and a few swords, and pictures of the local sights, as well as a portrait of Nelson (who supposedly had a drink there) and desks from the college, carved with long gone student’s names. A very comfortable place with a loyal clientele of locals with considerable staying power at the taps. Back to the cosy room for a good night’s sleep.

Next morning we passed through Kingsgate, under tiny St Swithin’s Church, around the close and into Winchester Cathedral. This is a simply astounding place. Winchester was the ancient capital of England under the Saxon kings, and for a period under the Normans. Construction started in 1079 (the early Norman style was replaced with fine Gothic work in the 14th and 15th centuries). In addition to the architectural details you can examine archaeological finds from various epochs, see the mortuary chests containing the bones of early royalty, including King Canute, the 12th century Winchester Bible, a fine old library with two 17th century globes (one of which shows California as an island), a chapel in the south transept dedicated to Isaac Walton, author of “The Compleat Angler” where a corner of the stained glass window shows the master at rest on the banks of the Itchen, with the quote “Study to be quiet,” another showing him on the banks of the Dove with Charles Cotton, and his grave, where some anglers are said to touch fishing hooks to the stone in hopes of acquiring some ju-ju, the grave of Jane Austen, and another memorial which brought to mind present times, dedicated to one Edward Henry Le Marchant, who died at age 45 in 1899, “shot by a fanatic in Peshawur.” We spent over two hours in the cathedral.

Uptown we visited the Great Hall, with its supposed Round Table of King Arthur, site of the bloody assizes under Lord Jeffries (you might remember the scene from “Captain Blood”). Then downtown for a late and quick lunch, further past the statue of King Alfred, crossd the bridge over the river Itchen where we saw a brown trout finning in his lie, past a splendid half-timber building housing a restaurant called the Chesil Rectory, through the ruins of Wolvesey Castle, and out along the river to the water meadows, with Winchester College on our right. We saw an otter (much despised by Walton) swim to our side of the stream and disappear under the bank, which made my wife a bit uncomfortable.

Our final stop was Winchester College, founded in the 14th Century by Bishop William of Wykeham, where we caught the last tour of the day. Our guide was a charming woman whose son had been a day boy there. She brought us by the quarters where the scholars live, the classrooms where they and the commoners study, the chapel with its wooden fan vaults and Fromond’s Chantry with its beautiful cloisters where even today classes are held in summer. We saw the perfect servant, a college mascot, and the school’s motto “Manners Makyth Man.” (No sarcastic references as to whether that took on our resident wykehamist!) Our guide had tremendous verve -- she completed each stop by directing us on, then charging before us, her blue cape flowing behind. I was reminded of Maggie Smith’s performance in “Lettice and Lovage” which we saw in London long ago. Should you ever visit Winchester, do not miss a tour of the college. We returned to our hotel past the pale yellow house where Jane Austen died.
After a warm goat cheese and beet salad and a roasted guinea fowl, washed down with a nice Fleurie, I paid a farewell visit to the pub, investigated the rest of the Fuller line, and ended favoring HSB.

Next, to London

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