If like me, you are both blessed and cursed with having family and friends in more than one country, you will understand how easy it is to leave a bucket list destination undiscovered, because time after time you are returning to the same places.
On a recent trip back to the UK, my eighth in 43 years, I came to the realisation that it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been to a country, there is always something new to discover, sometimes by pure coincidence.
Winchester was one such place that I discovered while staying with friends in the nearby village of Tichfield, on the south coast of Hampshire. Tichfield was a quaint and tight-knit hamlet, that unless you have friends living there, might go unnoticed.
I was invited to tag along to have a look around the City of Winchester while my friend attended her hair appointment, and that was the day I discovered this most beautiful city, steeped in British history.
Winchester is famous for many things; It was where best-loved female author Jane Austin spent her last days and where she now rests for eternity within the tombs of the majestic Winchester Cathedral.
This Church of England Cathedral is one of the largest in England, with the longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. There is a charge of around $14 to enter, but it is well worth a look.
Along a leafy path you will pass Winchester College, an independent school for boys. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years and claims the longest unbroken history of any school in England meaning that it never closed even during the world wars.
Wandering further around this manicured city, I found a public footpath alongside the historical and beautifully kept, Bishops House, and found to my surprise the historic ruins of Wolvesey Castle.
Wolvesey Castle has been an important residence of the wealthy and powerful Bishops of Winchester since Anglo-Saxon times. Standing next to Winchester Cathedral, the extensive surviving ruins of the palace date largely from the 12th-century work of Bishop Henry of Blois. The last great occasion was enjoyed there on 25 July 1554, when Queen Mary and Philip of Spain held their wedding breakfast in the East Hall. It’s a fascinating sight and a must see for history of ancient architecture lovers.
When you’ve worked up a thirst after the sightseeing and history lesson overload, I highly recommend a pit stop at the politically incorrect named Black Boy pub.
What lies behind the doors of this typical English pub is a collection of collections. From smoking pipes to keys and fire buckets to moose heads, this pub offers a quirky discovery, quite literally, at every turn. Make sure you look up if you happen to spend a proverbial penny in the ladies. It is quite a sight.
Winchester is one of many discoveries I have made on my travels that I didn’t expect. This is why I never mind getting lost or taking unscheduled detours on my holidays, as nine times out of 10, they turn out to be wondrous and serendipitous moments.
Next time… I’ll take you to Thailand and report on my recent trip to the beautiful island of Koh Samui.