Our last port stop was Southampton, the gateway to London. But since Mom and I have both been to London several times, I was looking for something different to do for the day, hopefully that didn’t involve the several hour bus trip that the London excursion offered!
Once again, I chose an excursion offered through the cruise line. This one was called: “WINCHESTER & WOLVESEY CASTLE.” And the description read:
“If one place lies at the centre of English history and embodies the romantic vision of an English heartland, it is Winchester. Leaving the port by coach we drive to this beautiful city, where, among other monuments, you will visit the famous Cathedral. Dating back to the VII century, when a Christian church was first built on the site, it has since played a fundamental part in the life of this ancient city and a key role in English history. Our tour will give you a unique appreciation of its sacred architecture and art as well as introducing you to this important symbol of England, as we admire the elaborately carved flowers and plants, owls and monkeys, dragons and knights of the choir stalls with their magnificent gabled canopies. Next up, it’s time to visit medieval Wolvesey Castle, which despite its name was in fact a luxurious palace. The ruins stand in the south-east corner of the walled area of the city, close to the cathedral and the remaining wing of a baroque house dating from the 1680s, that is still the private home of the bishop of Winchester. Finally, you will have the opportunity to explore the fairy-tale centre of this royal city that is so full of the echoes of its fabled past, before returning to port and your next adventure.”
So as before, we gathered at the appropriate time, in the appropriate place to pick up our tickets and make our way to the bus. Strangely enough, I can’t remember if we had a combined language or not. The 12 mile bus ride was uneventful, although we did take just a moment to appreciate that we were not in the unbelievable traffic heading to London!
Our first stop was Winchester. It was a drizzly, dreary day, and Winchester is full of old stone buildings so everything looked so gray. We paused at a public restroom before heading to the Cathedral.
This is, of course, a fully functioning church so we had received a note reminding us to dress appropriately. But since the weather was so dreary, pretty much everyone was modestly covered with no concerns. Winchester Cathedral boast the longest medieval nave in all of Europe.
It has been a place of worship for over 900 years, seen many royal weddings, coronations, and funerals. The massive stained glass window on the west wall was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in the 1600’s and once the monarchy was restored the pieces were gathered and assembled randomly, like a mosaic, and placed back in the west wall.
In my travels through France, Spain, and Italy I have seen my fair share of beautiful churches. And while we may not think of the British when we think of the great architects and designers of the medieval age, Winchester Cathedral shows they they were up there with the greats.
And then I saw it. An actual sculpture of my guardian angel.
Yeah, she looks like that a lot!
After the Cathedral, we moved outside on our way to the remains of Wolvsey Castle. On the way, we were able to see where author Jane Austin lived and died, although by now it was actually raining so we were not keen to do more than take a picture of her building.
As our next stop on the tour was a ruin of a castle, meaning it has no actual roof overhead, the fact that it stopped raining was excellent news to us all. The original castle dates back to roughly 1126 when they were used as the residence of the Bishop Henry of Blois. Today, the Bishop of Winchester still lives and works in the restored west wing.
We walked back to the town center through a lovely garden/park area.
We then had free time to spend in the town so we decided to grab a tea and pastry from a cute little shop we saw. Apparently so did everyone else because most of our tour was there! But, the tea was hot and the food was good.
Then we wandered around the town for a bit, but it started to drizzle again so we were all ready to go when the bus arrived to pick us up.
We had an uneventful ride back to the port then headed up to the buffet to hit the “Bring Me A Drink” button!
Tonight our dinner was a special event. Chef’s Table. Anyone who knows me, knows how I feel about Chef’s Table dinners. This was my first time trying it on MSC Cruise Lines. I will be writing about it in a future post but I will tell you now that it was the Single Greatest Meal I have EVER had in my life. Until then, stay safe and let’s get back to travelling soon!