Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Winchester: Third Time's a Charm

Sunday Josh and I took the train to Winchester to visit the Christmas market at the Winchester Cathedral, which is said to be one of the nicest in the UK (both the cathedral and the market, actually).  We also wanted to visit the cathedral itself, since we have failed to do so on two previous visits to the city.  The first time we went was when my sister was visiting over the summer, and we were mislead by our guidebook as to how late the cathedral is open on Sundays (it closes at 3).  Our second visit was at the tail end of our epic, two-day walk from Salisbury to Winchester.  Since we didn't get into town until after 6 pm on a Sunday, and we were dead tired, we headed straight to the train station.

This time, we arrived around mid-day and gradually made our way to the cathedral.  We stopped briefly at the Great Hall, part of Winchester Castle, which hasn't changed much since it was built in the 13th century.  Hanging on the wall is the top of what was once believed to be King Arthur's round table, but is now known to be a more "modern" construct from the 13th century that was painted as it is seen today for King Henry VIII.
"Round Table" in the Great Hall
window detail
An extensive family tree!
We also paid a quick visit to the medieval Queen's Garden behind the Great Hall, where a little bird kept a close eye on us.
In the queen's garden
Garden guardian?
Even thought it's almost December, and quite chilly, we enjoyed the sunshine and some fall color.
Not sure what kind of tree this is, but it's pretty!
After a nice lunch at the Forte Tea Rooms, we headed straight to the cathedral to make sure we had time to tour the inside before it closed at 3:00. 
Winchester Cathedral
A church has stood on this site since 636 (and no, I did not forget to type a '1' in front of that).  The current cathedral was consecrated in 1093, and after centuries of renovations and additions, settled into its present form about 500 years ago.  Henry VIII's daughter, Mary Tudor, was married here; and, centuries later, author Jane Austen was buried here.  On a previous visit to Winchester, we saw the house where she died -- which is still a private home today.
Jane Austen's grave
Jane Austen memorial plaque
This stone font depicting the works of St. Nicholas dates back to the 12th century!
12th century font
The interior of the cathedral is beautiful.  I took A LOT of photos!

stained-glass window
The crypt
The quire
The Great Screen

The Lady Chapel
Memorial to two brothers
The window at the "front" of the cathedral -- the one seen in the exterior shot -- was pieced together in 1660 from fragments of the cathedral's stained-glass windows that were shattered during the English Civil War.
Reconstructed window
Overheard inside the cathedral:

Impressed Little Boy: "Gran, was this church built before Jesus was born?"
Distracted Lady: "Yes, dear."

Then it was time to hit the Christmas market, which was set up right next to the cathedral.  One of the big attractions was a living nativity scene, with a donkey, cow, sheep, and goat sharing a pen with a man and a woman holding a plastic baby.
Sadly, I only got butts in the shot...
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, so the market was bustling, as was the ice rink in the middle.
We stopped to get a snack.  Josh opted for roasted chestnuts and mulled cider, while I patiently waited in line for a Belgian waffle with chocolate and whipped cream.  YUM!
Well worth the wait!
After completing a circuit around the market, we went for a short walk around Winchester while the sun was setting, and then came back to experience the market after dark, when it was all lit up.
By the light of the slivery moon...
The lights were lovely, and it was much less crowded, so we could get a better look at what the vendors were selling.
Christmas market at night
As we walked back to the train station, we enjoyed the festive lights and big Christmas tree on the high street.
Lights on the high street
Christmas tree
Mission accomplished!  If a day like that doesn't put you into the Christmas spirit, I don't know what will!

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