October 25th was my birthday. As it was also half-term (for those who didn't know, I work in a secondary school) I took the opportunity to stay in Reading with my good friend Julie for the week. And on my birthday, I was left totally free to choose what we would be doing on that day. How fun it is to have power..! Arguably, I didn't go for anything too crazy: my only wish was to spend a day out in Winchester, my favourite city in the whole of England. I've been there quite a few times already, and although the Cathedral and Great Hall are definitely familiar to me now, I never get bored of them.
In this post, let me take you along and show you why I love Winchester so much! The Cathedral, pictured above, is obviously one of the (numerous) reasons. Although the outside doesn't look like much and England has some more impressive cathedrals, the interior is absolutely fascinating, with a harmonious blend of architecture as early as Norman and Gothic. But what makes the Cathedral extra special for me is that it is the burial place of my favourite author, Jane Austen. Winchester was her last home, and to this day it is a really important place to all self-professed Janeites.
After having lunch in front of the Cathedral, we had a little walk around the grounds, where you can find beautiful, old cottages and homes left untouched by time. Take the narrow pathway at the right side of the Cathedral, and you'll stumble these small streets full of Tudor homes and colourful bricks. If you keep going right, you'll cross one of the gates of the city and find yourself in College Street.
I really love this photo of me in front of Jane Austen's last home. It is hard to explain how and why someone who's been dead long ago and who is almost a dematerialised figure, can hold such a place in my heart. But Jane Austen is an inspiration, as a writer and - from what is known of her - as a person, and I do look up to her. Taking this photo was important because I have walked in her steps, and it shows that her heritage lives on today. Next year will be the 200th anniversary of her death, and I can't wait to see the events Winchester will organise for the occasion.
My respects to Miss Jane Austen paid, we walked down College Street and visited Wolvesley Castle, the ruins of the imposing house of the Bishop of Winchester in the 12th century. The ruins are mysteriously hidden on a side pathway that you would probably miss if you didn't pay attention. They are totally free to visit, and totally worth it. The signs displayed around the ruins are really helpful to understand what rooms stood there back in the day, and what they were used for. It's important to make time for learning new things every day!
The next stop on our way was St Giles' Hill. Located on the other side of the River Itchen, there's only one tip to find it: spot the spiral stairs and go up and up to the top. At that time of year, you'll be welcomed by a bright mixture of reds and oranges, as the leaves cover the ground like some sort of autumnal snow. That's when you can get the perfect Instagram picture, right?!
Once you get to the top of the hill, go towards to the line of the horizon and there, you'll find a stunning view over the whole city. You'll recognise the Cathedral in the distance, and frantically take pictures of this special panorama.
This last photo could be titled: 'autumn in Narnia' :P
There is so much more I would love to add about Winchester, but that'll have to be for another time. Those of you who have already visited Winchester will know, there is History at every corner and every single building is worth a close look. I'm hoping to go back there in a few weeks for the Christmas market, it is the best one I've ever visited in the UK. Now that we've all transitioned into autumn, let the festive season begin!
What are your thoughts about Winchester? Is it a city you would enjoy visiting for the day?