Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jane Austen, Winchester Cathedral, Stonehenge and arrival in Bath

England Day 3:  After another great full English, we packed up and left the Elmer.  It had been a really great way to start the trip!  On today’s agenda:  Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Alton, Hampshire; Winchester Cathedral, and Stonehenge (per nephew’s request). 

The GPS guided us through the South Downs National Park to Chawton.  It was a beautiful drive.  I love the English countryside—the gently rolling hills, green everywhere, flowers, cute cottages, and sweet villages.  A feast for the senses.  Nephew even said he’d look for an English girl because he would love to live in the area.

We arrived without problems at Jane Austen’s House Museum.  There was a light drizzle under overcast skies.  We paid our fee and started in the outbuilding that had the donkey carriage.  My first tears were shed.  The kitchen was next and I got to sample writing with a quill and ink.  As we entered the house, we were graciously greeted and invited to play the pianoforte.  Well, nephew took that offer and played a lovely tune while husband and I looked around the drawing room.  The piano lessons paid off!  He did tell the lady that the pianoforte was out of tune.  We toured the entire house and took our time about it.  We walked in the gardens and watched the videos about the house and Jane’s life.  

Jane Austen's House Museum

Jane and Cassandra's bedroom.  A reproduction of a dress in a painting by Cassandra

Jane's desk in the dining room

It is still hard for me to believe that I was in the house where Jane Austen, my favorite author, lived contentedly after years of being pillar to post and wrote or reworked her wonderful novels.   I am so grateful the Jane Austen Society saved this house and has made it available to tour.  This was a major highlight of the trip for me.

We bought a few things in the gift shop and then were off to Winchester Cathedral to pay homage at Jane Austen’s grave.  One of the JAHM attendants told us about the “flower festival” at the Cathedral which she was looking forward to seeing. 

The trusty GPS took us right to the Cathedral Close.  It was Sunday so we parked  for free on the street leading to the Close.  It’s a beautiful setting:  an archway into the Cathedral Close framed by very old looking half-timbered buildings.  We walked the short distance to the Cathedral but first decided to grab drinks and a snack in the café set up for the Flower Festival goers. 

Entrance to Winchester Cathedral Close

Winchester Cathedral

Suitably refreshed, we paid our entrance fee to tour the Cathedral.  It being Sunday, there were no free guided tours which would have helped us understand what we were seeing.  We did not get the audio guides (I think they were available). 

At any rate, we were all kind of annoyed by the flower displays which to us, having never been there before and not having previously seen its grandeur, took away from the Cathedral instead of enhancing it.  Maybe we’re just not huge-weird-flower-installations-in-Cathedrals kind of people…

This is the 12th century baptismal font

Flower "art" obstructing the beautiful altar

We walked around, admiring what we could, particularly the spectacular Medieval tiles, and made our way to Jane Austen’s grave.  Homage paid (and tears shed) we left.  Next stop would be Stonehenge.

At least this one was small
Husband and I visited Stonehenge in 2011 and I was underwhelmed.  We only went back because nephew wanted to see it.  It was another easy drive, thanks to the GPS.  The site is completely different than when we visited in 2011—we couldn’t even figure where the old visitor’s center used to be.
Fee (so pricy) paid, we went into the Visitor Center which was very well done.  I appreciated the backstory, photos and displays which did help me understand a little more about Stonehenge.  We all chuckled at the “Stonehenge as an Icon” displays.

We caught the bus and in no time were walking the circular path around Stonehenge, with a few hundred of our closest friends.  It was quite crowded.  The weather had turned cold, windy, still cloudy, but was no longer wet.  Perfectly atmospheric.   I was still underwhelmed.  No woowoo for me.  For nephew it was a “been there, done that” thing.

Back in the car I called Sue at Cornerways B&B in Bath to let her know we were on our way.  We plugged in the address and next thing were in Bath, another place I’d been longing to visit. 

Cornerways is on a busy road with free parking behind the B&B.  We took a couple of wrong turns trying to find the back alley to the parking but by 630pm were all parked, checked in, and drinking coffee while Sue gave us the lay of the land.  Reviewed on

Nephew thought his room was very charming and had to share it with his mom (via facetime) because he knew she’d like it too.  Our room was big, (too) bright, and noisy for being on the road, but very comfortable.  It was a bit warm, too.  Sue said they were having unexpected hot weather.  We used the fan.  
Our comfy bed at Cornerways

Small but functional bath

Sue recommended the Raven for pies.  It was a short walk away and we made it there just 30 minutes before they stopped serving.  The pies were delicious!  After dinner we went for a walk to see the floodlit Abbey, Roman Baths, Pulteney Bridge and more.   We were all already in love with this charming town.

Photogenic Abbey; beautiful sky

Gorgeous evening

The pretty side of Pulteney Bridge

The backside of Pulteney Bridge

Next:  Walking tour, stinky water, Baths, #1, and some drinking

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