Forgive me for having taken so long to update this. I can only access the Internet at school, and life has been so busy lately, trying to mark GCSE coursework and Year 7 exams!
In February I had my first Half-term break. One glorious week to potter about the English countryside! I decided that the focus of this first opportunity to travel should be my Jane Austen pilgrimage. So I planned an itinerary that included Winchester, Lyme Regis and Bath. From there I travelled to Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh border, because I had heard of all the secondhand bookstores there. After a day there, I drove to Chester, mainly so I could get to Liverpool to see a performance of Dr Faustus.
I left early on Saturday morning, ready to tackle the M25 for the first time. I had heard many horror stories about traffic jams (apparantly it has the reputation for being the biggest car park in the northern hemisphere) however today was my lucky day and the trip was very quick.
I arrived in Winchester at about midday and immediately found the tourist information centre and a handy map to negotiate my way around the town. This became my habit in every new place, and I can recommend it – although the towns in England are so well signposted it is generally very easy to find train stations, car parks and tourist attractions.
As my purpose was to begin my Jane Austen pilgrimage, I began at the end, as it were, by visiting her tomb in Winchester Cathedral. The cathedral is quite lovely, and I was able to take photos of her tombstone and the plaque on the wall that mentions her skills as an author (the inscription on her tombstone mentions nothing of her writing).
From the cathedral, it was a short walk around the corner to the house where Jane spent the final few weeks of her life. It is a private home and was painted an unfortunate apricot colour…
There were many other things to see in this elegant city. I wondered along the water meadows where Keats was supposedly inspired to write ‘Ode to Autumn’. Couldn’t see it myself, but then it was a bleak, cold winter’s day – I will have to return in October! I enjoyed walking along the river back into town and past Wolvesey Castle – they have landscaped this area beautifully. Unfortunately castle was not yet open. Many attractions do not open until April – one of the perils of travelling through the UK in the winter. After lunch I wandered up to the Westgate, the remainder of the wall that once surrounded the city, and then to the Great Hall, the last remaining part of Winchester Castle. This contains King Arthur’s Round Table, but don’t get too excited – its a 14th Century forgery! Nevertheless it is beautiful and fascinating!
By this stage it was getting dark, so I decided to find my B&B accomodation for the night. This was to be my first B&B experience in the UK, and I have to say I love it! For a start it is one of the cheapest forms of accomodation – only youth hostels are cheaper. In addition you are usually staying with really interesting people in lovely homes. In Winchester I stayed at the home of Stephanie Boden, the recently widowed wife of an artist whose paintings covered the walls of the home. She lived just around the corner from the local cinema, so I popped around to see The Magic Roundabout, which was as surreal as I remembered it as a child! After the film, I had my first experience of eating alone in a restaurant – not my favourite part of travelling alone! Thank goodness for a good book. In the morning, over chunky slices of homemade bread and tea, Stephanie told me that Colin Firth (aka Mr Darcy) lived near Winchester, and that his parents lived ‘just up the road’. Hmmm… Could have been tempted to do some stalking, but I rose above the impulse and headed off for the next leg of my journey – the drive to Lyme Regis.