A good reason to leave London: Winchester

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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.

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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.

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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.

What is Your Travel Stake?

stakeI am about to embark on a wonderful holiday in Denmark and England. Even though the logistics of the trip are mostly planned out–I have all of my hotel rooms, but not all of my train trips and ferries sorted–I am getting clear on my travel stake before I pack my bag.

In my leadership training with CTI I learned to be very clear about my stake, that is what my goal is for myself or for the organization or group I’m leading. I have found this concept helpful in planning a travel adventure–especially with others, and even when solo. When I haven’t thought about my stake I tend to get overwhelmed by all of the competing agendas of other travelers and my trip experience is diminished.

For example, for this upcoming trip, my stake is about reconnecting with old friends and keeping space open for meeting new people. My intention for this adventure is mostly about relationships. If I look back on my time in Denmark and England from Heathrow airport lounge, I will be very happy if I had plenty of time for long talks with Susie and then UK Sarah, and if I had a few memories of conversations with new friends I made along the way. Sure, there are things I want to do (bike rides) and places I want to see (Winchester Cathedral), but they can make way for people if that is what is needed in the moment.

Being clear about your stake is even more important when traveling with others. I often ask the question of my travel companions: What is your highest priority for this trip? Or what would you regret not doing on this adventure? I share mine, and then we are clear and we each do our utmost to make sure that everyone is able to experience at least this one thing. It may be eating at a fantastic restaurant, or having time to hike a certain trail, or time every morning to sit in a cafe with a flat white and read a book. Or maybe it really is spending time with the person you love and the rest is just background.

I have a tough time traveling with medium size groups. There are so many competing stakes and I get swamped by the friction. You would think that the trip itinerary is everyone’s stake, but each arrives with another sometimes secret agenda: gelato from the famous place in Siena, cycling around Lucca, or tasting as much wine as possible in 7 days. A good tour guide or group leader discovers what those things are for their guests and works to make it happen. I now accept that my travel style is either solo, with one other friend, or in a small family group, or maybe in such a large group that I can still carve out my own stake. Medium size groups are not for me.

Of course a wise travel planner also leaves room in the schedule for the unexpected invitation to join a birthday party for an 80 year old woman who does an awesome Tina Turner impersonation. But that is an Irish tale for another day.

Celebrating Jane Austen in 2017

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Any year is a good year to celebrate Jane Austen. If you agree with this statement then you don’t need the 200th anniversary of her death to do a little Jane Austen inspired travel. The good news is that many places in southern England are using it as an excuse to offer plays, special exhibits and special events. If you have complete flexibility in your travel check out Hampshire county’s website.

janes-tombstoneI have a specific time in June when I will be in Hampshire county and Winchester, so I will be able to see three exhibits at the Winchester Cathedral where the novelist is buried:

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

My favorite is an ephemeral event called #RainJane.  “Explore the city of Winchester and be delighted as 12 of the writer’s quotes from her novels or correspondence magically appear various locations across Winchester city centre when it rains. Rediscover Austen’s words in Winchester, her final resting place, and re-experience their enduring relevance. Copies of the trail can be downloaded here or hard copies can be collected from Winchester Tourist Information Centre. Explore the city to find the quotes and share your images on social media with #RainJane. A carved wooden and wrought iron bench is placed in College Street in the Winchester College garden as a place to reflect upon a living wall of ivy showcasing one of Austen’s memorable quotes “Know your own happiness. Call it hope.”

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If you have flexibility, the week of March 13th there are a number of plays and other events scheduled in surrounding towns. It looks like fun. Events are scheduled at Steventon, Chawton, and Southampton.

England to far away for you? North America has two celebration for Janeites.

The largest Jane Austen event in North America will be in Louisville, Kentucky from July 14 to 16, 2017.  The theme this year is “Celebrating Jane Austen’s Legacy: 1775-1817.”

The Jane Austen Society of North America hosts the 2017 Annual General Meeting:  “Jane Austen in Paradise: Intimations of Immortality,” at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa October 6-8. Registration fills quickly in early summer, so become a member in good standing so you can take part.