Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Europe Adventure: Day Four- Part Two- Winchester

After leaving Stonehenge we drove east to Winchester to visit the grave of Jane Austen.
I was still getting used to driving and a bit nervous. 
For some reason I pictured Winchester as a small town and so I was surprised when we drove into it and I was suddenly bombarded with lots of cars and lots of people and no where to park, or so it seemed. 
I went off the road we were on trying to find a car park and got us kind of lost. As we drove around I was more and more freaked out that I was going to run into someone or something as the roads were quite narrow with cars parked everywhere. Finally I turned down a small road and saw a car park. 
I pulled in and found a spot. 
We had no idea how close we were to the Winchester Cathedral or Great Hall (our two destinations in Winchester) but I couldn't keep driving around at that point. 
I paid for the parking and saw a man walking to his car. 
We went over to him and asked him if he was familiar with the area. He told us that he was so we asked if he could tell us how to get to the cathedral. 
He gave us very good directions (luckily only about a mile) but of course along the way we somehow got lost again and asked a woman out in front of a beautiful manor gardening and she showed us the way to get back on track again. 
On the way from the car park (before we got lost again) we passed under the WestGate. Westgate is one of Winchester's two remaining fortified Medieval gateways. It was built as early as the 12th century.
I was glad we passed this on our way to the Cathedral because it was very close to the Great Hall and we knew we were going there next.

Soon we were finally on the right track and the Winchester cathedral loomed up in front of us. 

Much of the cathedral that we can visit today was built in the 16th century. The old minster stood very close by and you can still see the outline on the ground. That one was built in 635.
Pilgrims have been coming to Winchester for over a thousand years. 

The Cathedral was beautiful. 
We had to pay a fee to enter and then we wandered around freely.

We climbed the itty bitty circular staircase up to the tower. 
My mom didn't love these staircases but this would not be the last!

Soon we found our way over the the memorial and the gravestone for Jane Austen. 
Her gravestone on the ground of the cathedral (from 1817) didn't mention anything about her writing. Her nephew Edward wrote the memorial that was placed on a plaque on the wall  (1872) that would mention her writing.
Jane did not live in Winchester. As she grew more and more ill, her sister Cassandra accompanied her to Winchester and they took up boarding in a home near the cathedral hoping that a celebrated doctor in Winchester's hospital could help her. 
She died there. 
So she was buried in the Winchester cathedral. Her funeral was held in the morning before services with only four people in attendance. 

 "Jane Austen, Known to many by her writings, endeared to her family by the varied charms of her character and ennobled by her Christian faith and piety was born at Steventon in the County of Hants, December 16,1775 and buried in the Cathedral July 18, 1817. 
'She openeth her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness.' "

Her gravestone:

"In memory of Jane Austen, youngest daughter of the late Revd' George Austen, formerly Rector of Steventon in this County. She departed this life on the 18th of July, 1817, aged 41, after a long illness supported with the faith and the hopes of a Christian.
The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections.
Their grief is in proportion the their affection, they know their loss to be irreparable but in their deepest afflictions they are consoled by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith, and purity, have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her REDEEMER."

Above the plaque on the wall there is also a window commissioned in her honor. It was erected in 1900 by public subscription.

Unfortunately I didn't get the best picture of the window. 
In the head of the window is a figure of Saint Augustine, whose name in its abbreviated form is Saint Austin.
In the center of the upper row of lights is David with his harp. In the bottom row is St. John holding a book, displaying on the open page the first sentence of his gospel. 
After exploring the Cathedral, we walked back up the steep hill to the Great Hall.
There were some entrances to old tunnels across from it that I had to get a picture of.

To see a cool video of the cathedral, follow the link here.

Then there it was: The Great Hall

Winchester used to be the capitol of England. 
The Great Hall is "one of the finest surviving aisled halls of the 13th century". 
It is all that now remains of Winchester Castle. Winchester Castle was built in 1067. King Henry 3rd extended the castle building the Great Hall.
It was one of the largest great halls in England.
It is also the home to King Arthur's Round Table.

There was a statue of Queen Victoria in there as well. 

The Round Table!

The round table was originally a standing table built from oak. 
It is huge and very heavy. The legend is that is the famed round table of King Arthur. 
It was hung on the wall in the great hall at approximately 1540.
It wasn't originally painted like this. 
King Henry the 8th had it painted with the tudor rose and the king (that just happened to look like him) and the places for the knights of the round table. 

After seeing the round table we walked the rest of the way up the hill back to our car park and then left for our next Jane Austen destination!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Europe Adventure: Day Four- Part One- Stonehenge

 When I was doing my trip research I read on trip advisor about a couple that was able to go on a semi private tour of Stonehenge before opening hours. It was called a Special Access tour. 
I went to the Stonehenge website and looked it up. I couldn't find anything about these special access tours except through private touring companies that charged a ton and always had it added on to a tour from London visiting a bunch of other places as well. We didn't need that and we didn't want to pay that much. 
So I emailed them. I asked if Special Access tours were still available. 
I received a response saying that yes, they did do them. They were limited to a small amount of people and certain days but I could fill out an application for the day and time we wanted and see if it was available. I did that and they said yes to one of the days I listed. 
We had to pay about twice as much as a Stonehenge ticket normally is (around $50 each as opposed to around $25 each) but it was worth it to us for many reasons. 
First, we had a lot of things to do this day and it was really nice to be able to get into Stonehenge so early that we could be to the next place at opening. 
Second, when you go to Stonehenge you normally don't get very close to the stones. You are kept back past a little fence on a path. In the pictures below you can see the path and that is as close as you can get. We got to walk right in and around the stones.
And Third, the crowds. We had hardly anyone there with us. It was so peaceful.

We did have to leave our hotel really early in the morning. We checked out the night before and then dropped our key in a drop box at the desk. I got ready and then took the luggage down while my mom got ready. It was really quiet and dark still and quite cold. 
Then we drove for about an hour to Stonehenge. 
When we got there we had to show our tickets to some security men who then let us into the parking lot. 
From there we had to walk over to the shuttle bus and it drove us down the road to a spot close to Stonehenge. 
Then we got out and walked the rest of the way. 
The sun was just rising and it was absolutely beautiful.
(Warning: LOTS of pictures. It was too hard to decide between them!)

There was a security guard there to watch over us and he opened the gate to let us in. 
It was unbelievably cool to be walking amongst these large stones. 

They were all big, but some were massive.

Stone close up.

Looking up while I am standing under a stone archway....

There were a few stones scattered about, some laying down, that were not part of the big group. 

It was freezing cold. We had about an hour to walk around the stones but my mom's toes were completely frozen by about the 45 minute mark so we walked back over to the shuttle bus at that point. The others soon followed and then the bus took us back over to the visitor's center. 
This was an incredible experience and I wouldn't hesitate to pay the extra money for it. 
It is so worth it. 

Next up: Jane Austen

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