Goodness gracious- this trip has been a positively glorious whirlwind, and I am absolutely loving every minute of it. Let me think about where I’ve been since the last update…
Lud’s Church, first.
The setting of the tale Sir Gawain and the Green Night, Lud’s Church is a deep cut in the earth, barely visible from the surface. Nestled on the brink of Wales, it’s appropriately green and rocky, just as the story describes. We descended a steep slope to enter, and the rocky, moss-covered walls towered above us. It was incredible to just stand and marvel at a setting such as this. We spent nine hours on a bus round trip, but the experience made the journey thoroughly worth it.
After finishing our several mile trek, we stopped at a lovely pub called The Three Horseshoes for tea. I think afternoon tea is more or less the greatest thing ever. A pot of tea and some cake or scones or a bun, perhaps- it’s delightful. That day, I had a scone and raspberry jam. Oh, and English scones are different from American scones. They are delicious and soft- not crunchy and crumbly. They are similar to biscuits, I suppose, but far tastier. Upon our return to the city, we ate at a local Indian restaurant. I do love delicious Indian food.
Scratch that, I love all food. I’m not exactly a picky eater (although, yes, various pig organs in Chinatown was just a bit too much for me. I passed on that opportunity), which has enabled me to enjoy all sorts of food. Last night, we at lunch at a covered market in Oxford and dined at an authentic Italian restaurant (and by authentic, I mean that everyone spoke more Italian than English) in Bath. But that’s skipping ahead a bit.
First, Winchester. It’s a beautiful little cathedral town, about an hour from London by train. Riding the train was rather exciting to me. I’ve always enjoyed trains, and riding a nice one like this was even more fun. As I later described it: “It rocks like a boat and looks like an airplane but it’s a train and it’s fantastic!” And really, that about sums it up. Traveling through the countryside is really fantastic. The landscapes are absolutely stunning. Grapeseed plants paint the fields a brilliant shade of yellow, and the way the stacked stone walls and hedges criss-cross the country side almost gives the impression that they are stitches on an enormous patchwork quilt. When we finally arrived, we took taxis to St. Crosse Hospital, which is a retirement home for elderly men today, though it has had a lengthy and variant history over time. The gardens here were spectacular. Then we strolled along a path- one which Keats himself walked down, gathering inspiration for his poetry. We saw various gates, a chapel, the ruins of Wolvsey Castle, Winchester University, Jane Austen’s house, the Round Table (not actually Arthur’s, but still an extremely old and beautiful table), and finally, Winchester Cathedral. It was stunning. Construction began in 1079, and is still going on today, which I found particularly amusing. Architecturally, the cathedral was awe-inspiring both inside and out. Some of the remaining paints were beautiful, and seeing the burial chests of the Saxon kings- incredible. Upon completing that tour, we had a bit of free time. We enjoyed lunch at a lovely French café, and then explored Winchester, stumbling through shops, markets and bookstores. You could purchase two mangos, each larger than both of my fists, for just a pound! I had to refrain so I wasn’t toting mangos all day, but they looked delicious. I did, however, purchase a scarf, which I positively adore. Ah, if only Joules was more readily available in the States. Eventually, we ended up at a pub for tea, and then made our way back to the train station. Once back in London, we headed to another local establishment for dinner- the kind of local establishment that is so local, you get stares when you walk in. But the food was good (a unique combination of English and Thai food), and the atmosphere was entertaining, what with the professional darts on television and the drunks singing at the bar. It was, all in all, a very pleasant last evening in London.
Then off to Bath- but first, a stop in Oxford.
Words simply cannot describe how wonderful Oxford was. It was a shame we only had two hours there, because it was absolutely wonderful in every way. The amount of organic food there was jaw-dropping- as was everything else. But all good things must come to an end, and we were shortly back on the road to Bath.
Once in Bath, we took a tour of the Roman bathhouse, which was astounding. Simply thinking about standing where Romans once stood was incredible- a feeling which I seem to experience over and over. After the tour was over, we had a free afternoon to explore the town, which we did quite joyfully. We waltzed through Bath, drinking tea and visiting parks. Afterwards, we ate at this Italian restaurant that was about as Italian as they come. It was wonderful. We then wandered down the canal, got lost, and then got found (after nearly ending up in Bristol… But thanks to the Cheeseburger Boys, we ended up right where we wanted to be- and no Reid, it was not your Mullet Man who got us found. Those were terrible directions). Regardless, it was a terrific adventure.
Today, we went to Wales, and it was spectacular. I was very excited to be going to Wales, as well I should have been. We toured Roman ruins at Caerleon, which was jaw-dropping. The Roman amphitheater was astounding, and the barracks were just as phenomenal. To wander through, to sit on the banks where soldiers watched, to stand in the arena where they found, to sit on the benches where they waited before entering, to be in the gated area where martyrs waited, to lay in the barracks where soldiers slept, to dip my toes where they washed their hands… the sensation is simply indescribable. We then proceeded to Tintern Abbey, which is literally the most incredible church I have ever stood inside. The roof was thatched only with the sky, and the Welsh mountains sufficed as the only stained glass. Instead of ornate tilework, there was simply grass and daisies below our feet. This ruin was astounding.
Lunch at the Abbey, then tea in Bath, a free organ concert, more exploring of parks, dinner at a very fun pub, continued adventures along the canal, discovery of yet another glorious park (yes, we pretended to be pirates and it was joyous), getting (almost) lost- I knew precisely where we were- and then hanging out back at the hotel with everyone. It’s late, so I better run, but the trip has been great so far. Hope nobody's getting sick of me jabbering on about how spectacular everything is. I simply can't help it though- it's true! Stonehenge tomorrow- talk soon!
The Roman Bath
Part of the group at one of Bath's many parts (the Royal Crescent)