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Thursday, August 9th:
We have decided to skip Cardiff Castle and go to Hay-on-Wye instead. This is a little village known as “the town of books” and my husband said I couldn’t have held up my head as the publisher of a book-related web site had we not visited. Although it is raining yet again and the roads to Hay-on-Wye look even smaller on the map than yesterday’s road, we do it.
Hay is considered a “marcher town,” being right on the border between Wales and England. The building of the first castle in the area – a motte and bailey castle – took place in about 1100 with the coming of the Normans. The building of the present castle in the center of the town took place between 1200 and 1211. The Jacobian manor house on the western side of the castle was built between 1600 and 1650.
The entire castle is a bookstore now, and all the stores in town – well, most of them – cater to various genres of books, from children’s books to SF/Fantasy. You name it, they probably have it. We went shopping, we wandered around in the rain, we bought some old books, could not find any Georgette Heyer here – she’s just in too much demand.
We are in the car driving to Winchester now. The original plan was to spend most of the day in Wales, drive to Southampton, turn in the car, and take a train to Winchester, where we’d stay overnight before leaving in the morning via train to Gatwick from Southampton. But I decided we should spend some time in Winchester itself, so we’re going to drive directly to Winchester, check into the hotel, check out Winchester Cathedral, then take the car to Southampton and return to Winchester by train and walk back to the hotel.
Much of our last day on the road can be done on those nice big “M” highways, although we did hit a couple of the same road we’d been on between Bath and Salisbury. We settled on a BBC station and heard some really odd things, including bad lawyer jokes, a dramatic reading of an excerpt from Colridge’s Xanadu, and a discussion of how American culture is destroying England. England’s version of talk radio is different than what we’re used to in the US – the hosts and guests don’t actually talk to people calling in. A screener takes the information and then the host and guest talk about it.
As we are driving through the mountains we are seeing some small waterfalls and some hillsides filled with heather. Amazingly enough I have navigated not only to Winchester, but also directly to our hotel.
Winchester was for four centuries England’s capital and it was in 827 where Edward was crowned the first King of England and his successor, Alfred the Great, held court until his death in 899. In 1066, William the Conqueror had himself crowned in London, but repeated the ceremony here at Winchester Cathedral, which was begun in 1079 and was consecrated in 1093.
Little of the original stained glass has survived because of Cromwell’s Puritan troops ransacked the cathedral during the English Civil War.
Jane Austen is buried here.
While we were in the cathedral, we heard a service and a magnificent choir singing. Then I found Jane Austen’s grave, which reads:
In memory of Jane Austen, youngest daughter of Rev. 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 patience and the hopes of a Christian.
The benevolence of her beauty, 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 to their affection – they know their loss to be irreparable, but in their deepest affliction 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.
After seeing her grave, we walked towards the altar of the cathedral. We saw a small chapel with 12th century wall paintings that are religiously themed. The arches, ceilings, and walls are all covered in murals. The carvings at the altar are magnificent, and the bones of many of the earliest English kings (going back to the Dark Ages) are in nearby tombs. Many of the tiles we walked on are from the 1200’s. And, for anybody interested in knowing what St. Swithin’s Day is, it’s named after St. Swithin, who was Bishop of Winchester in 852 through 863.
Below are some of those 800-year-old tiles
The carvings at the altar are magnificent;
they were done in the late 1400s
Some additional photos we took can be found here.
As we were getting ready to leave the cathedral, I passed a cleric. It’s hard to imagine anything better than serving in such a house of god if this is your given religion.
We left Winchester Cathedral and walked back to our hotel in the pouring rain. We drove our car to the airport and turned it in. We bought tickets for the train-ride back to Winchester and, in a lot of rain, walked back from the train station to our hotel, getting lost a couple of times, but who cares after what we’ve seen, what we’ve done?
Our hotel in Winchester is called the Du Vin and Bistro and every room in the hotel is named after a winery or type of wine. We are in the Barringer room and are looking forward to a final, delightful dinner here. Our return of the car/train-ride/trip back to the hotel was not precisely smooth, but we did fine, which is where I’m going to end our trip’s journal – exhausted but thoroughly happy about each and every stop on our trip.
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