Winchester, London and Wales

Old May 4th, 2009, 06:48 AM
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Winchester, London and Wales

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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Old May 4th, 2009, 07:09 AM
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Winchester sounds like a very interesting and historic destination. Wondering how far is it from proper London.
And if we are in London, how easy is it to travel there on public transportation.
Looking forward to reading the rest of the story.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 07:22 AM
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Hi ileen --

Winchester is about a hour by train from Waterloo Station -- and very much worth a day trip or overnight.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 08:00 AM
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London

We took a late morning train up to Waterloo, then a taxi to our hotel, the Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury, the corner of Bloomsbury St and Great Russell. We’d selected this hotel because of its location, which is convenient to the British Museum, and where our son attended classes. I’d noticed a mention in an advertising supplement that they were offering promotional prices this season, and so took a look. It is a business hotel, short on individuality but long on conveniences. A four star establishment done up in a lot of black in the lobbies and landings, with some Asian inspired seating and decorations. You might say a poor man’s Mandarin.

We liked it. Only real problem was at reception, where the clerks insisted on offering “room upgrades” at £30 a night. (No thanks. Upgrades should be complimentary, or at least a real bargain.) They also tried to push the £17.50 per person “Full English Breakfast,” a fool’s errand -- you could get one for £6 across the street. At any rate, I wanted only a continental breakfast while in town. We bought that across the street, too.

Oh yeah -- and those stylish sinks set above the countertop? They have no overflow protection. Trust me.

That first afternoon we stopped and had a panini for lunch, then walked down to St James’ Park to walk along the water and see the waterfowl. Then up to Jermyn Street -- this is one of my favorite spots in London. If there were any justice in the universe I would have been born to shop Jermyn Street, buy my suits at Gieves and Hawkes and my shoes at Lobbs. But some celestial error was made. Instead, I made my usual threats to buy shirts from Turnbull & Asser, an umbrella from Brigg’s (actually on Piccadilly) and a razor, shaving brush and sandalwood soap from Trumper’s. My wife has long since learned that I eventually quiet down and do none of these things and did not allow my consumerist frenzy to destroy her serenity.

We had no plans for dinner, but felt in the mood for something Asian and, after I downed a pint or two (two) of Abbots Ale at the Museum Tavern wandered down to Chinatown. There we liked the look of a place called Leong’s Legends -- and this was a revelation. I later learned that it is famous for its dim sum. As it happens, they keep a few on the dinner menu, too. We had the vegetarian and the crab meat dumplings (astounding), a plate of the green beans with minced pork (vibrant) a fiery dish of chicken and chilies and lamb in an aromatic broth (delicious, but the lamb itself was an odd cut and a little gummy). Drank a bottle of NZ sauvignon blanc. We walked up to the Lord John Russell (recommended by C_W) for a nightcap or two (two). I think I had the Bombardier. (I feel I should mention that my wife sips demurely from a half pint of cider while I express my support for the British beer industry.)

London,Monday.

Good heavens, what am I doing? No more of this moment by moment recounting!
Here are highlights, dining and otherwise:

Beer -- I was taken with Doom Bar, from Cornwall, and ordered it whenever I found it. Museum Tavern had a reliable supply. Lord John Russel was out. Marqis Cornwallis, where I felt rather unpatriotic, had some.

1) British Museum -- first of several visits. Went to the America’s rooms, which I don’t believe we ever saw when we lived in London. Interests change. The collection of Aztec and Mayan artifacts is fairly small but of very high quality. A number of relief carvings from Yaxchilan. A magnificent double-headed serpent done in turquoise mosaic. A long visit with the Elgin marbles.

2) London Walks -- we did the Inns of Court with Sean. Very funny guy with a good ear for plummy legal tones. Took us into a few corners I’d never seen.

3) Dinner, North Sea Fish Restaurant. Very good fish and chips, though to be honest, indistinguishable from other good fish and chips. Our waitress screwed up, left us waiting. Kind of ruined the evening.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 08:20 AM
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You saw an otter?!!!!
You are so lucky.
They are very shy and elusive.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 09:32 AM
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Yes an otter -- first time I'd ever seen one.

London -- Tuesday

1) Dicken’s Museum. An early home of the master. Obligatory for fans.

2) Sir John Soane’s Museum. Fascinating, as always.

3) Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. Recommended by Sean. Biological specimens, skeletons, etc. Kind of ghastly, but my wife, who has a taste for the macabre, loved it.

Lunch from Pret a Manger, taken to Lincoln’s Inn Field, with the rest of London. Beautiful weather.

4) National Gallery. Mistake, Too much museum going, back killing me. Did a brief tour of old favorites.

Dinner -- TAS across from our hotel. This is one of a small chain of Turkish restaurants. Had mixed meze and grill and thought it very good.

London, Wednesday:

Day trip out to St Albans. Cathedral the same sort of interesting mish-mash I recalled. Museum and site of Verulamium much improved. Town center hold interesting medieval buildings, including a clock tower. Lunch at the Six Bells pub. Bangers and Mash in a bowl of yorkshire pudding. Yikes. I left half the starch (Dr’s orders)

British Library -- walked over from St Pancras on our return for a look at the highlights.

Dinner -- New Tayyab

Incredible Pakistani food in Whitechapel. Order the lamb chops. It’s BYOB but beware -- the neighborhood has only some pretty barebones Off Licenses. I couldn’t find a bottle I liked, so we had the mango lassi, which was delicious. Make a reservation, as the place is very popular and very crowded.

London, Thursday

British Museum -- attended a gallery talk on the gods of Roman Britain -- well done. Viewed some old favorites such as the Portland Vase, and new finds such as the Lycurgus Cup (Roman) and The Royal Gold Cup -- medieval, with beautiful enamel work depicting the life of St Agnes.

Afternoon -- picked up car at Marble Arch. We’d reserved a Ford Mondeo, but Hertz upgraded us to an Audi A3. This is a diesel which is quite zippy and gets over 40 mpg. Coming to the US later this year or early next. Drove to Wales.

Crickhowell, Wales.

We arrived at our hotel, The Bear, in the late afternoon. Loved this place, though, in truth, our bed could have used replacement, and they might want to lose the carpet in the bathroom (a strange custom which I think is dying out). Whatever, the people were friendly and helpful and the pub/restaurant welcoming and good.

Crickhowell is a pretty town perched between Table Mountain and the River Usk. We’d picked it for its proximity to Tintern Abby, Chepstow Castle and Caerphilly Castle and some good walking in the area. I also like the name, which reminded me of Tolkien’s Crickhollow. That evening, trout were rising to a hatch on the river, and I would have sold my soul for a fly rod.

Thursday Night --

I make the acquaintance of the Reverend. Not the local clergy, but a bitter from Cardiff, the Reverend James. It’s wonderfully malty. The Reverend and I had frequent conversations over the next few days.

Dinner at the pub -- venison pie. A nice light crust and rich sauce.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 09:41 AM
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Loving the report! Am considering a few night in Wales w/ my husband before a family wedding in London, in late August. Haven't been to southern Wales since I was a child-- your descriptions bring back a lot of memories. Please do continue!
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Old May 4th, 2009, 10:13 AM
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What as wonderful trip report!

It reminded me of the summer of 1972 when as a poverty stricken graduate student I was researching a doctoral dissertation and was taken by a kindly art historian on a side trip to Winchester. We went to see the "round table" in the courthouse, only to find a trial going on. The guard recommended that we go on in, and we looked at the table behind the judge who was adjudicating a trial over a bar fight with one patron breaking a bottle over the head of the other.

Also stayed in the Bloomsbury area and visited the same three pubs. Especially memorable was the kindly welcome at the Marquis of Cornwallis on the fourth of July where all drank to the revolution.

And thanks for the beer and food recommendations.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 01:21 PM
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Thanks for the kind comments. I read that they'd only recently moved the courts from the Great Hall! That would have been something to see.

Friday:

Drive to Tintern Abbey. Park in the lot, locate the Wye Valley Way and set off for Chepstow, five miles away. The trail climbs hard for about 45 minutes, then levels off into some nice meadow and forest. Fiddlehead ferns and bluebells in bloom. Unfortunately, after about three miles we came upon a diversion -- they’re repairing the path -- and had to finish the last two miles on the road. Still, it is always satisfying to have arrived in a new place on foot. Quick lunch at a cafe in Chepstow, then on to the castle.

I had wanted to visit Chepstow ever since reading about it in the book “Life in a Medieval Castle,” which I highly recommend. It’s an interesting place because it was built in stages over the years, and you can trace the development of the new defenses and living quarters.

Taxi back to Tintern. Toured the ruins, found them as evocative as I had twenty years earlier. Shot a lot of pictures, and you will too.

Dinner -- Salmon cakes at the pub. Excellent.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 01:59 PM
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>>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!)<<

Boy, you sure know how to take all the fun out of posting!

Thanks for the great trip report.

Lee Ann
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Old May 5th, 2009, 03:54 AM
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Thanks for reading. Here's the final installment:

Saturday:

A lot of driving.

Started to Caerphilly Castle. This is an interesting castle, historically, as it was the first to incorporate concentric walls from the beginning. It;s very well preserved. There were arrangements being made for a wedding in the Great Hall -- Chairs draped in white material with ivy fronds attached to the backs with ribbon.

Decided to return to Worm’s Head at the tip of the Gower peninsula, past Swansea. Lunch at the King Arthur Hotel. Very good fish and chips served by a stunning waitress who did not forget us. A little too overcast for the best photos, and there was a tremendous wind blowing, but it is still a dramatic scene. The worm in question is of course a dragon, and not a common earthworm, as the author of certain guidebook which shall remain nameless seemed to think.

Off the Gower and north to Carreg Cennan in the Brecon Beacons -- near a town called Trap. Built in the 13th century by Edward I on a site which had been fortified by iron age people as well as the Romans. The castle stands ruined on the hilltop, the views are superb. Saw a smartly colored magpie in a field on the return.

Back to the hotel. Roundtrip of 200 miles in the trusty A3.

Dinner -- slow braised Welsh lamb shanks on a carrot and parsnip mash. Wow.

Sunday --

Back to London. Dropped off the car after some confusing encounters with one-way and no-left (or right) -turn streets. Checked into the same hotel but got a lesser room with no view (the first had a view of the British Museum). Same upgrade spiel.

Went to St Bartholomew the Great Church. This is the only Norman church in London, except the chapel at the Tower. What you see today is the crossing and the choir -- the nave was pulled down during the Dissolution. The original entrance is now topped with a half-timber building to the west. Still it is a fine interior and the church is noted for its concerts -- well worth a visit. It's near Barbican and Smithfield Market. The market stands on the site where William Wallace was hanged, drawn and quartered, much to Mel Gibson's profit.

We walked down to St Paul’s and listened to evensong for a bit, then back to our hotel.

Dinner -- Porter’s for Steak and Mushroom Pie. Don’t tell my doctor. I loved every bite.

We left for home Monday afternoon, after spending the morning in the Egyptian Galleries at the British Museum. Much taken with the beautiful painting of Nebamun hunting birds from a small boat, with sea creatures beneath.

We hadn’t been to London in ten years, but this trip has us thinking we’ll be back in the very near future and may make the UK one of our regular destinations (having lived there, we’d sort of neglected it for a while). Next time, though, I’m bringing my fly rod.
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Old May 5th, 2009, 04:28 AM
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I am really enjoying the trip report - but I am really jealous about the otter - I walk along those walkways many times a year, and have never seen one.
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Old May 5th, 2009, 05:21 AM
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"Next time, though, I’m bringing my fly rod"

you sound like my husband! If he won the lottery he'd buy a stretch on the Test!

Wonderful report, haven't been to Porter's in awhile. may have to put it on the list for fall trip. Glad you reminded me
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Old May 5th, 2009, 08:30 AM
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Well you manageed to stay literally next door from my first house (at the Wykeham), saw my old school and drank in my old local....

Am I being stalked?

>>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!)<<

Well, given that the Rrusty Servant is a dressed up pig I hope not!
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Old May 5th, 2009, 08:32 AM
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That's Trusty Servant...(although rusty is probably more apt)
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Old May 5th, 2009, 10:42 AM
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"Am I being stalked?"

Well, let's say I've learned to trust your taste in pubs.
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Old May 5th, 2009, 12:41 PM
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>>rusty is probably more apt<<

Your next screen name, perhaps?

http://www.vectisdirect.co.uk/corgi_...ure_1970s.html
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Old May 5th, 2009, 12:51 PM
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We saw the perfect servant, a college mascot, and the school’s motto “Manners Makyth Man.”>

What about C W?
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Old May 6th, 2009, 02:23 AM
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The motto is "Manners makyth man" not "put up with idiots".

Subtle difference....
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Old May 6th, 2009, 02:44 AM
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Rusty = Brad Pitt's name in the Ocean's 11 - 52 films.
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