Saturday, January 03, 2009

Dreaming of a White Christmas...

The weekend before Christmas, Brendan and I met up with our lovely friend Lina from Bath, and went iceskating at Winchester Cathedral. It's a lot of fun. Even if I was the only one who fell over (and cracked and bruised both knees loudly).

Even Sheepie got involved. I think he got scared though.

It's a super-cute Lina!

The sessions here are around 10 pounds each for a one-hour session, which is really quite expensive given we went iceskating in SF last year for US$7 for a two-hour session. The ice rink was less crowded, though, which was more enjoyable. We both feel a bit more confident, too. Although I don't think I'm ready to skate backwards yet.

But first, we needed something to give us energy... so we looked around the Christmas market.

Until we found this.....

Belgian Waffles! With chocolate sauce!

Winchester is a really picturesque old market town which used to be the capital of England. There were people dancing in the high street to raise money for some charity or other.

We toured Winchester Cathedral, which was amazing. This cathedral was built in the 1100's, but the original church to the left of it was built in the 600's AD!

The front of the church.

The inside of the cathedral is absolutely gorgeous, with a high vaulted ceiling, and the carved quoir (wooden area at the front of the photo) where the choir sits. The organ can be seen on the right of the photo below.

The high altar features a carved 15thC screen. (Click to see bigger images.)

On the left and right of the altar, on ledges, sit little boxes with crowns on top. These are apparently the bones of the first bishops here, dating back from the 600's. The cathedral also includes St. Swithin's shrine, who was an early bishop (800's). There's a saying here that if it rains on St. Swithin's day, it will rain for the next 40 days. He apparently wanted to be buried out in the grounds, and was not pleased that he ended up inside instead in 971 (the ceremony was delayed by 40 days of torrential rain) and split between several different churches.

These paintings date from the 12th and 13th C, and are unique. The 13thC ceiling panel shows Christ in majesty.

Look for the 1578 graffiti!

The cathedral contains the graves of many famous people, such as the writer Jane Austen. She's buried in the floor near the entrance. There are also two enormous folio-sized books containing the names of those killed in battle, from the Winchester area. A surprising number (4-5 per page of maybe 100 names) were killed accidentally!

Next, we drove to Salisbury via what had obviously been an old Roman road. You can tell, because the road will go straight for miles and miles, disregarding all hills. Then it will suddenly turn a corner, on a hill, and go straight again. Apparently that was how the Roman surveyors were able to get their sight-lines. Anglo-Saxon roads wriggle all over the place!

Salisbury is another picturesque market town, similar to Winchester. We parked at the point which was once one of the gates into the town.

Everything was decorated for Christmas.

We stopped in at Salisbury Cathedral, and listened to the choir practice, but unfortunately couldn't stay long since Lina needed to catch her train back. Hopefully we can come here again soon.

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