Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tour Part 1: Salisbury Cathedral

So, I haven't posted at all this week.  Mostly because my week days were relatively uneventful and even Friday evening I chose to stay in and sleep instead of traipsing through the rain to a museum.  However, yesterday I went on AMAZING tour to Salisbury Cathedral, Stonehenge and Bath.  Each place is enough for it's own post, so I'm dividing the trip into three posts (which also will prevent me from having an entire week without posting)

I began my day bright and early at Victoria Coach Station... ok, well maybe not that early, my tour wasn't scheduled to depart until 8:45am. I got there early so that I could figure out what gate I would be leaving from, which was a good thing; although my gate was very close to the entrance, that station chaos!  Every half hour 20-40 coach buses load and depart from the area. 

If you ever go to visit any of the places I visited, I definitely recommend going on a tour bus. From the moment we departed, till the moment we ended, our tour guide narrated with hundreds of stories related to England, the countryside and the attractions we were visiting.

My tour guide for the day was an old British man who was easily old enough to be my grandfather. He was a hilarious chap. Everything to him was 'jolly'. Though he made a point of telling us that jolly could mean 'very' or 'happy', so as he said: Things are either jolly good or jolly bad, either way they're jolly! 

So after about two hours of glorious tales of King Arthur, thatched roofs and sky burials, we arrived in the town of Salisbury. By the end of the day, I had definitely decided that towns out in the English countryside are infinitely more beautiful than London itself:

We stayed in Salisbury only and hour and a half, (that's the one downside to taking a tour bus, you are on a strict schedule) and the only place we visited was the Cathedral, but even though when I signed up for the tour I wasn't completely sure how much I would like Salisbury, I was VERY happy I went. 

The Cathedral is well known and visited for several reasons besides its beauty. The first of which being that it has the tallest spire of any Gothic Cathedral in London at a height of 404 feet tall. While inside the Cathedral, our tour guide used the smallest kid in our group (an adorable Asian six year old) and used him to demonstrate where the top of the spire is located. He had him stand in one location telling him 'You are exactly beneath where the top of the spire is... oh wait was...", then moved him about 2 feet forward and over a step and informed us, that the child was now standing directly beneath where the top of the spire actually is now.

Also within the Cathedral, is one of the four remaining original copies of the Magna Carta. If you don't know what the Magna Carta is, shame on you. In brief it is a charter that King John was forced to sign that prevented him from being able to punish people at will, he wasn't exactly a nice guy. (It has a bunch of other little rules too, but that was the most significant one). It's also written in Latin, which just makes it infinitely more awesome.

You aren't allowed to take pictures in the room that the Magna Carta is in, so unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the document, or the room it was in. The room that holds the Magna Carta is an octagonal room with stained glass on all the sides. The stained glass depicts Biblical stories from the story of Adam and Eve to the story of Moses being given the ten commandments. 
Above is a picture of the courtyard in the center of the Cathedral. Along the edges of the courtyard is the largest monastery in England that still stands from before the time of  King Henry VIII. When King Henry VIII had a little bout with the Pope, he showed his anger by destroying all the large monasteries in England, and then making himself the head of the Supreme Head of the Church in England. The monastery was saved by the fact that Henry VIII left Cathedrals untouched.

While walking through the inside of the cathedral, almost everywhere you step you are stepping on a grave. Our tour guide stopped randomly at one very tiny grave, pulled out a flashlight and shined it on the worn down inscription to read that the child had been born in April and died in February of the same year. He let us ponder that for a moment as we all looked at him in crazy disbelief, before pointing out that it was before Great Britain adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1752, because before then, the new year began in March.

Another grave that we stopped at was that of William Longespée, who was an illegitimate child of Henry the II. His grave is not just a hole in the ground, but I didn't get a good picture because people were in front of it, then we had to keep moving. The reason we stopped to look at his grave in particular, was that in 1971 his grave was reopened, and a dead mouse was found in his skull that contained traces of arsenic, which is how it was discovered that he probably died from being poisoned.

The stained glass throughout the church was also beautiful, but the picture above (though the window is hard to see) shows the only window which contains some of the original glass, the rest were smashed during civil wars and then replaced. Don't worry though the newer glass windows are also gorgeous.

You can see now why I feel the need to split my tour into multiple posts, tune in tomorrow to hear about Stonehenge! Cheers!

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