Friend Time in Tollesbury

My friend UK Sarah lives in Tollesbury and descriptions of life in her Essex village were too lovely to visit England without experiencing the essence of Essex. We stayed at her home in Tollesbury and made day trips. Our days were ordered though by drinks or dinner with friends, walks in the village and to the sea, and time for reading. No point in being in Tollesbury if you don’t actually spend time in Tollesbury.

I understand why she and Roy were glad to move back. While their boat Ocean Dancer is home for the next few months. This is where they will weigh anchor at the end of their adventure.



Exploring Winchester’s Great Hall


The Great Hall, built in 1235 by Henry III, is the last remaining building from the great Winchester Castle. After his coronation at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066, William the Conqueror began building the castle. Henry III had a love of architecture and commissioned Elias of Dereham to oversee building of the Hall. Dereham also oversaw the construction of Salisbury Cathedral and is the only commoner to be honored in the stained glass windows.

The Great Hall has been used for many functions: court trials, weddings, and a “round table.” Tournament is Edward I time were called “round tables” where courtiers dressed up from Arthurian legend and participated in jousting and feasting.

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On our way to the Great Hall we stopped at Eat, Drink and Be for coffee and breakfast. Yum.

“Edward I believed strongly in the myth of King Arthur. He attended many round table feasts. Edward had the table build within the Great Hall, which may have been for a round table tournament in 1290 to celebrate the arranged marriages of his children.” (The Great Hall Where History and Legend Meet, Hampshire County Council)

Henry VIII first visited Winchester as King in 1516, whereupon he ordered the repair of the Great Hall at Winchester and the Round Table. This is when it was first painted in the design you see on display today.

Winchester Castle was largely destroyed by that spoilsport Oliver Cromwell after 1645. Only the Great Hall remains and it is now the responsibility of the County of Hampshire.

The Great Hall makes the most of its sketchy connection to King Arthur. I’ve seen Excalibur and read a bit about it, but I admit my knowledge has some big blanks, so I was excited to read Rosie Schaap’s New York Times travel article, “King Arthur Slept Here (Maybe).” She asserts that the places to visit if you are interested in an Arthurian pilgrimage are Glastonbury, Tintagel, Totnes and Padstow. Her article then goes on to describe the kind of new age and coven-catering shops you can find almost anywhere in California. None of her experiences relate to King Arthur. Perhaps Avalon is best left to the imagination.


A good reason to leave London: Winchester


As a cycling fan, I knew I made the right choice to include Winchester in my vacation plans when I walked to a late lunch and had to detour around an amateur bike race! I found the The Old Vine pub restaurant and was able to get a seat with a view of the race. The food was delicious–pub food has certainly been given a serious uplift since the 1980s and 90s.

I wasn’t more than a 5 minute walk to the doorstep of the Winchester Cathedral. Just in time for Evensong. Naturally I did not have to pay an entrance fee to attend worship, but I gladly paid 8 pounds the next day when I returned for a proper tour of the Cathedral with UK Sarah and her friend from Winchester, Adrienne.

The Winchester Cathedral is truly impressive. I enjoyed it more for seeing it with a long time parishioner Adrienne.


The Cathedral Crypt

We spent over an hour going around the Cathedral and enjoyed a great conversation.

We were ready for a coffee and I had read about Chococo chocolate and coffee cafe. Adrienne agreed that it was a terrific idea and we ended our time together drinking coffee and eating desserts. Delicious.


SWATCH: Crafts and Wool in Winchester

I was looking for a pub for lunch when I discovered Creative Crafts kitty corner from the Winchester City Museum and the Cathedral grounds. I wasn’t looking for wool since my suitcase was already bulging. My imagination was caught by the crocheted shark toy and the book of crazy sea creatures that featured the pattern. I purchased two pattern books and added them to the box I’d ship home from the post office.

IMG_1446The women who offered assistance in the shop were friendly and interested in what I was working on. I showed them the pineapple baby hat I was knitting for my grandson Calvin.

If you need any type of needle craft supplies while you are traveling or want to purchase a project, stop by Creative Crafts at 11 The Square in Winchester.

Jane Austen Anniversary Today

IMG_1436The author of five sublime novels,  Jane Austen moved to Winchester seeking medical treatment at the end of her life. Her beloved sister Cassandra joined her at No. 8 College Street. Although Winchester was a renowned medical center, her doctor Giles King Lyford did not hold out hope. Indeed, Jane crossed over on July 18, 1817, 200 years ago today.

After reading about the many special anniversary activities planned this Anniversary year, I added Winchester to my itinerary. I lodged at the centrally located Royal Winchester Hotel and took an easy train ride from Southampton.

IMG_1430 Her temporary home makes a good first stop. Further down the road on College Street is the elite boys prep school Winchester College. Across the street from No 8 is a small park with several Jane tributes. Stop in the awesome independent bookstore P&G Wells and buy a new copy of Persuasion, the international Austen book for 2017. Then go round the corner to the Wykeham Arms for a fantastic cup of coffee or better than pub lunch or dinner.

The Winchester Cathedral offers a “Jane Austen Events Programme 2017” and includes a funeral procession reenactment on Monday 24 July at 8:30 a.m. (5 pounds for ticket). This is the same time, 200 years earlier, that her brothers and nephews escorted her body to the Cathedral. “Her sister Cassandra wrote that she watched from the window as her dear sister left her forever as the procession turned the corner to enter the Close.” (Winchester Cathedral programme)

The Winchester Cathedral is the final resting place for Jane Austen. Her grave and a special memorial are in the north nave aisle. The Cathedral published a booklet by Michael Wheeler, “Jane Austen and the Winchester Cathedral,” where he explains how Jane Austen came to be buried inside the Cathedral,

“The fact that Jane Austen died in the paris of St Swithun entitled her to burial in the Cathedral precinct, and there were no compelling reasons for her to be buried in Chawton, Steventon or Bath. But to be buried inside the Cathedral, she and her family must have had strong connection in the Close. If the Revd Henry Austen made the request to the Dean and Chapter, he may well have been supported by Mrs. Elizabeth Heathcote, nee Bigg, his sisters’ lifelong friend and the widow of the Revd William Heathcote, sometime Prebendary of Winchester.”

IMG_1421My last stop on my Jane Austen adventure was to the special exhibits at the Discovery Centre and library. If you are not already familiar with Jane’s life story, then this is the place to start. I also picked up a helpful brochure at the City Museum “Jane Austen’s Winchester” that provided a helpful overview of her time in Winchester 24 May – 18 July 1817.

These exhibits will be open through 24 July (and the last one until 20 August):

  • The Mysterious Miss Austen
  • Jane’s Winchester: Malady and Medicine
  • Jane and her Alton Apothecary

If you have the extra time, Chawton is about 30 minutes by car and 1 hour by bus. Jane’s home and a special study center await you there.

Birthday Celebration at Royal Yacht Squadron

IMG_1321I made the trek to the Isle of Wight to celebrate UK Sarah’s birthday. She and her husband Roy sailed to the Royal Yacht Squadron, where they are members, and docked at “the haven” marina.

The birthday party was in the pavilion with the Squadron’s super catering and service. A local band provided music for a boisterous ceili. It was a fabulous evening.

I had the privilege of staying at the “castle” for two nights. It was the MOST comfortable stay I’ve enjoyed away from home. The Royal Yacht Squadron is elegant and comfortable but nonmembers cannot stay except as guests of a member.


The Royal Yacht Squadron is in a castle circle Henry VIII.

This 200 year old gentleman’s sailing club allows women members now, and it is still very exclusive. I’m respecting the privacy of members and only sharing outside photos.

My special skill at getting seasick in a bathtub will keep me from becoming a sailing enthusiast; however, I am grateful to Peter Bibby for knowing so much history, America’s Cup and other racing history and sharing it with me.

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Peter Bibby holding the flag from the America’s Cup J-class boat Shamrock IV.

Delights of the Isle of Wight

IMG_1345The people-only ferry from Southampton to Cowes on the Isle of Wight is just 25 minutes. Long enough for the woman next to me to fall asleep and snore softly and for me to start feeling queasy and then we arrived. You can catch a ferry from Portsmouth, Southampton, and Yarmouth.

Cowes is a quaint village. There are other villages on the island and room for a music festival, but I stayed on the few blocks that hug the coastline and had a delightful time.

IMG_1333I can see why Britons outside London might be feeling some discontent. In Cowes the post office was closed and the only place to ship packages was from a grocery store up the hill. There are no bank storefronts–only mobile vans–and one ATM (or “hole in the wall”), so there is always a line. And the floating bridge connecting East Cowes and Cowes was not working while I was there on the weekend of the music festival.

Still Cowes is flat out charming and worth the effort, especially if you love sailing.

IMG_1375Getting to Cowes takes some effort. In my case, starting from Copenhagen involved a train, a plane, a bus, a train and a ferry. The Britain Rail website was completely misleading but fortunately the Heathrow Express agents were super helpful. Bottom line, the only train leaving Heathrow is the Heathrow Express. Everything else is connectable by bus. I rode the bus from Heathrow to Woking, then the train to Southampton. There is bus that will take you to the ferry terminal for 2 pounds or free if you have a Red Funnel Ferry ticket. The craziest part of my journey was learning my 5 pound note saved from May 2016 was no longer accepted. They changed the bills last year and the old ones are no longer accepted. This year they are changing the pound coins. Spend them now!