At only an hour or so by train from Waterloo Station, Winchester is a perfect day out from London. It has good food, little windy cobbled lanes, good shopping, a great selection of restaurants, fascinating history and good brunch.
The reason it took me several years to pop down there? Sheer laziness.
It was one of those long-term expat things – once the initial gloss of living in an exciting new country wears off, you start to return to bad habits, putting visiting places off until, ummm later. So, laying luxuriously in bed one sunny Saturday I thought “no, I’m going to do this tomorrow”. It took about 15 minutes to book the train, round up a touch of company and arrange for a Hampshire-based friend to meet us for brunch.
This is the problem (said with full ironic air quotes) with living in England, it’s just too easy.
Unfortunately, Sunday dawned drizzly and grey, the kind of day I’d usually flag said activity (a condition commonly known as #rainitis) but we were determined to get our lazy behinds out of bed and explore a little Winchester History.
In some romantic, rose-tinted way, the rain made for a soft hazy day of wandering which suited us down to the ground. Perfect for a few hours of pavement pounding, the center is compact with a slightly crooked layout which makes for an interesting amble.
1 ¦ Marvel at the serene, curious beauty of Anthony Gormley’s
Sound II reflected in the flooded crypt of Winchester Cathedral, spot the bronze diving costume of William Walker, the man who singlehandedly dove and emptied the flooded ramparts of Winchester Cathedral and pay a moment of respect at the memorial to Jane Austin.
2 ¦ Bouncy. Cathedral. (Alas, it’s not always there)
3 ¦ Darn good brunch, with pancakes stacks as big as your head.
4 ¦ Old stuff EVERYWHERE
5 ¦ Wander around Castle ruins and nestle into beautiful bookshops
6 ¦ Stumble upon Jane Austin’s last home. Don’t go in.
7 ¦ Tsk at King Arthurs round table (commissioned by King Henry) as y’know it’s only 13th Century, rather than 6th as they originally thought. Honestly people.
8 ¦ Nip into a variety of restaurants, then wander through the foodie markets (it’s worth it even in the rain) after brunching in the town of unashamed gourmets.
9 ¦ Play at being Knights of the Round Table. I bags Guinevere!
10 ¦ Have a pint at the Wykham Arms – on a schooldesk for bonus rebel points, hang out in front of the fire and pat a variety of button-nosed small dogs. Hunter wellies totally optional, though encouraged. Cosy up (thank you Anna for the recommendation); there are fireplaces that burn real logs, signs banning cellphones, school desks that serve as tables, and stare into the small pleading eyes of family dogs for winter afternoon perfection.
11 ¦ Puddles. Always.