Kensington Palace and Highclere

After a delicious breakfast that included cucumbered sausages, whatever that means, we headed West to see Kensington Cathedral. Along the way we saw the pointed Shard building with its apparently unfinished top, and another building affectionately called “The Gherkin” by the British, but called “The Suppository” by the French. We were passing through the route we driven before, which included a view of the London Eye. When it was being built, it lay on its side at an angle for a period. It is essentially owned by British Airlines and when it was laying on its side that way, Richard Branson of Virgin Air, sent a plane circling overhead with a banner “Can’t Get  it Up”.

On the drive to Winchester we got a wonderful history lesson from Geoff from prehistoric times to the present. The accuracy of my notes is absolutely not guaranteed. I will accept any corrections you wish to offer. Around 500 A.D. the Romans controlled southern England, but then withdrew to defend themselves from the Germans, and the Dark Ages began. In 1066 William the Conqueror invaded from France.

The way to remember the various houses is by using a mnemonic, “No Play to Show”. The consonants spell the first letters of the houses:
Windsor – that’s all there is to it!

There’s another one he quoted that I’ve known for years, the way Henry VIII dealt with his wives: “Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced Beheaded Survived.”

Here are a few associations and tidbits: William the Conqueror and Windsor Castle, and the Domesday Book.

There is King John, Sherwood Forest, and Robin Hood. He was a beloved King.

In 1665 there was the black plague, followed by the London Great Fire, which probably helped end the plague.

The Brits think we like George III because he lost the colonies.

In 1805 or so, Nelson defeated Napoleon. We’ve passed through Trafalgar Square a few times this week.

In 1837 Queen Victoria came to power.

Around 1900 England was at the height of its power, and then came World War I. The key to England’s victory were the tanks, which were secret during development and were called “water tanks” to disguise their identity. The name stuck.

England is a member of the EU, but not the Economic Community, and thus uses the British pound.


Winchester Cathedral

We finally arrived at Winchester Cathedral which was built in 1079. There was an earlier “Minster” on the same site, which was led by Saint Swiffen for about 10 years. One of the miracles that qualified him to be a saint was that was reported to have reassembled a broken egg.

The current Cathedral is large and magnificent, the pictures only give a suggestion of what it really looks like. One thing that was interesting was that as we walked toward the back we would think we were coming to the end of the church, and there would be yet another part of the church extending even farther back. We met s guide who explained to us the Women’s Chapel in the back of the Cathedral. On an impulse, I asked about women not covering their heads, and men wearing hats, since I was wearing on. She told me they don’t care about women’s head covering, but they would prefer that men don’t wear hats so I dutifully took mine off. Unfortunately, later on, I wanted to ask another question of a guide, and began my question, and she turned around and it was the same guide, and there I was with

Explaining the Women's Chapel

Explaining the Women’s Chapel

my hat on again. Oops.

It was then time to head back into town for lunch, and we were given our choice of many pubs. We picked the Old Royal, down a narrow alley, which was advertised as the oldest pub in all of England. There were no empty tables so we asked a couple of girls were having their lunch there if we could share their table. They were quite gracious and

Sharing s table

Sharing s table

said, “Of course.” It turned out they were both social service workers dealing with domestic violence issues out of a social services facility nearby. On the way out

The Royal Oak, built in 1002

The Royal Oak, built in 1002

we took a look at the original part of the pub, still in use, which was built in 1002. Where we ate was the “new” part built in 1428.

We were due at the bus at its original location at 2 PM, but Teresa and I had a little trouble getting there on time. We were about seven minutes late and the bus was not at the designated meeting location which I can see from blocks away. It looked like they had left. I began thinking about how much a taxi ride would cost from Winchester to Highclere, when I saw Geoff waving his hand, guiding us to the bus which was farther on down the road, on the other side of the street, hiding behind another bus!

As we got on, I announced to the bus that we had eaten in the oldest pub in England, with the slowest service in England

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

By the way, the weather cooperated marvelously. Except for a slight drizzle, it rained only when we were inside Winchester Cathedral, and later on when we were driving home.

We finally saw the towers of Highclere above the trees and eventually Highclere itself. There were two areas to explore, upstairs, were much of the interior filming of Downton Abbey was done, and downstairs, which was not the kitchen but a display of many Egyptian artifacts found before the tomb of Tutankhamen was discovered. The second part of the Egyptian exhibit were reproductions of the originals which are now in the Cairo Museum, as they should be. The kitchen is located at Ealing Studios, Tom said.

Upstairs was marvelous. Teresa was especially fascinated by the furniture. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in any part of the castle. We saw the portrait of Catherine that was featured on the cover of the book we recommended a few posts ago. That post contains a picture of the painting.

We then assembled in front of Highclere for a group picture, and then in the next few

Our Group

Our Group

The Garden

The Garden

the folks downstairs

the folks downstairs

minutes remaining we searched for the Castle Garden which most of us had looked for and not found. We did find the Secret Garden which appeared to be a circular hedge but there was no entrance, a real secret. Looking some more we did find the gardens and they were beautiful.

It was then to go on to our restaurant of choice for dinner. Teresa and I picked the Victoria Princess Pub, as did many others. We could have had the other choices in any city in the world, but we were in England, so it had to be the pub. We filled the second floor and had a great time, especially with the crowd of kids on the first floor who made it clear they were happy to see us.

Last stop, our hotel.

A few more pictures:


Winchester Cathedral


Highclere Castle


A Clock in Town


Winchester Cathedral

This entry was posted in Entertainment, History, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Kensington Palace and Highclere

  1. Barbara Eisele says:

    Enjoying your history lessons, John!

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