Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Sunday we took the train to Winchester, a city in the southern county of Hampshire that is steeped in history.  It dates back to pre-Roman times, and was known as Venta Belgarum after the Roman conquest of Britain.  It even served as the capital of England for a time -- over a thousand years ago. 

The Buttercross (neither a cross nor made of butter)
We started at the Winchester City Museum, which gave us a good overview of the history of the city -- at least until it was invaded by swarms of French and Italian teenagers.  They had archaeological finds dating back to the 3rd century, including coins, ceramics, bits of houses, and even human bones.  More modern installations included recreations of local institutions, like the tobacco shop that closed when the owner died in 1978.
The Winchester Museum

Roman mosaic tile floor

Ancient underfloor heating!

Tobacco shop

Chemist's shop
Then we took a walking tour around town, planning to reach Winchester Cathedral in time for a 3:30 tour.

Guildhall (and visitor center)
King Alfred (871-899)
Winchester Cathedral was completed in 1093, and has the distinction of being the longest cathedral in Europe.  It is also where Jane Austen is buried.  Sadly, when we arrived at 3:15, we discovered it had closed at 3:00.  No 3:30 tour.  Apparently someone had misread the guide book - which wasn't entirely accurate to begin with.  After some tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth, we drowned our sorrows in a cup of tea and continued on with our tour.
Winchester Cathedral
We found our way to the Church of St. Swithun upon Kingsgate, which is over 750 years old, but quite a bit smaller than the cathedral.  In fact, it sits upon one of the Medieval gates to the city.
Medieval gate and church
inside the church
We took a little break in a cute park across from another historic site.

This house is still a private residence...
But Jane Austen once lived - and died - here
We also walked past the ruins of Wolvesey Castle and the Bishop's Palace and along the River Itchen.
Bishop's Palace
Josh itchin' on the River Itchen
Winchester College
Swans on the Itchen
Flying a kite off the High Street
View of Winchester Cathedral from a nearby garden
Another Medieval gate
The Great Hall, which houses King Arthur's Round Table
Since it was Sunday, everything closed at 5, including many of the restaurants, so we didn't get to see everything we wanted to.  I guess we'll have to go back again someday.  We took the 6:42 train back and stopped at Nando's for dinner on the way home.  Another full day!

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