June 19, 2019
Yesterday we were at sea and we had a cooking demonstration by 2 guest chefs – a Paul Bocuse chef, Francesco Santini (on the right in the picture) and the corporate executive chef at Oceania, Franck Garanger. They made a truffle and beef soup and a floating island dessert, both of which are served in the world famous Paul Bocuse restaurants in Lyon France. Apparently the soup costs 80 euros in the restaurant, and the dessert costs 40 euros. We had the dessert in the dining room last evening. It was delicious, but not sure I would pay 40 Euros for it!!
And by the way, I always mean to take a picture of the Versace china that is used in the Grand Dining Room, so finally I remembered. I love the pattern.
Our excursion today was to Salisbury and Stonehenge. It is embarkation day for people on the eighth and last segment of this world cruise. I have said it before, but it is so hard to believe the time went this quickly. When people ask how it is to be on the ship for 6 months, I say it is a lifestyle and we don’t treat it as a “vacation” but more an exploration of the world and its unique people and places. We will be back to “real life” in just over 2 weeks.
The day was cool and cloudy. We were hoping for no rain.
Our guide today was Richard Madden. He was really terrific. It turns out that he wrote a book in cooperation with the UK National Trust. It is a series of essays about travel including locations and experiences called the Great British Bucket List.
He gave us a lot of information about Southampton, which is a big container port and also a cruise embarkation port. There is a 16 hour double tide here which means that there is 7 – 8 hours of high tide and only 4 hours of low tide in each cycle. It happens because water comes in from both east and west. This makes it wonderful for the shipping industry.
We went to Salisbury first, traveling through the scenic countryside of southern England. Salisbury is a medieval town which is most known for its cathedral whose spire can be seen from many miles around.
The cathedral took only 38 years to build which was almost unheard of back in the 13th century.
We had a short walk to the cathedral – here were some of the sights along the way, including the medieval wall and the gate into the area of the cathedral.
The author of the Lord of the Flies, William Golding, taught in the brick building.
The cathedral is surrounded by a close, which is the term for a lawn next to a cathedral or a convent. It is the largest cathedral close and cloisters in Britain. It is unusual to have a cloisters in a cathedral that doesn’t have a monastery associated with it. The open green space is wonderful, and today they were mowing the lawn, but I managed to get pictures without the huge lawn mower in them.
The building is huge and just beautiful – built in the Gothic style. It is considered one of the finest medieval churches in Britain.
The building is made of 60,000 tons of stone, 2800 tons of oak and 420 tons of lead and is on a 4 foot foundation in a gravel bed. The bed must contain water for the cathedral to be supported. More on that later!
Here are some pictures of the outside of this magnificent building.
The spire is the tallest in Britain at 404 feet and it weighs 6500 tons. We heard that it is the tallest because most of the others have collapsed!
The picture of the statues shows an old one on the right and then some of the newer replacements to the left of it. They are always doing renovation and one end of the cathedral is covered with scaffolding as you can see in the first picture above. There are 140 spaces for statues but only 81 have statues on them – it is unknown whether many were destroyed or the space never had a statue on it in the first place.
The first point of interest is the Chapter House which contains one of the 4 original copies of the Magna Carta and is the best preserved of the 4. The Magna Carta was written in Latin in 1215 with a quill pen on treated animal skin (parchment) and it is assumed that is why it is in such great shape. This exhibit was great and really inspiring. The Magna Carta stressed that everyone, even the king, had to treat people fairly and that no one was above the law. Its clauses on social justice are as pertinent today as they were in 1215. It has inspired the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the American Bill of Rights and the constitutions of many Democratic countries. The 4 original Magna Carta were entered onto the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2009.
You could not take pictures of the Magna Carta, it was in a special secluded section of the exhibit, but you could write a message, which I did, and it was posted on the board with others. The Chapter House is beautiful – it dates to 1266 and is probably modeled on that of Westminster Abbey.
We moved on to the main cathedral which is amazing. They are currently renovating the building and they have crafts men and women working all the time. They demonstrate their work in an area of the cathedral.
This is the world’s oldest working mechanical clock. It has ticked more than 4.4 billion times since it was built in 1386!
There are many monuments and tombs in the cathedral.
They have taken apart the Father Willis Organ to repair it and hopefully return it to its original sound. There is a whole display with videos that share the story of the organ. Very impressive pipes!
Here are more pictures of the interior.
The weight of the tower and spire above has distorted the supporting columns and Christopher Wren visited in the year 1668 and designed some supporting internal columns which you can see in the picture below. You can also see the distortion at the top of the second picture.
We had the good luck to have a volunteer guide explain the water to us. He demonstrated how the daily water check is done and gave us the description of why the water level is so important to the survival of the cathedral. He explained that it is like wet sand vs dry sand. The wet is hard and able to sustain weight, it is the same with the gravel base that the cathedral is built on.
The quire stalls are the earliest complete set in the country and the Salisbury Cathedral was the first Cathedral to found a girls’ choir in 1991.
They have volunteers who make these cushions for the chairs. Beautiful work.
We could have spent even more time here. I did take the time to request prayers for Nora’s recovery (my sister’s mother-in-law)
We had time to stroll around the lovely town of Salisbury.
Poundland is like our dollar store!
After a quick lunch in Salisbury, we went on to Stonehenge. I will try my best to describe it. It is one of the most famous landmarks in the UK. It consists of a ring of standing stones, 13 feet high, 7 feet wide and each weighing around 25 tons. They were erected around 5000 years ago! Tourists used to be allowed to go up to and even climb the stones, but in 1977 access was restricted due to erosion and damage by visitors.
A shuttle bus takes you from the parking area/visitor’s center to the site. The area is fenced off and you can walk all around the site – you get an audio guide to explain it all as you walk. The picture below is what it looks like from above.
Here is the real thing.
It probably was a place of burial in early times as there are burial mounds all around it. But no one really knows and it is a compelling mystery!
The summer and winter solstices are celebrated here, in fact the summer one is just days away.
The big rock is called the Heel Stone. At summer solstice, an observer standing within the stone circle, looking northeast through the entrance, would see the sun rise in the approximate direction of the heel stone, and the sun has often been photographed over it.
There is an exhibit of the reconstructed Neolithic houses that show how the people might have lived and also one of the stones that you can try to pull. It is amazing how this was constructed so many years ago.
We saw one of the volunteers feeding these birds.
We had time in the exhibition space and the gift shop before our trip back to the ship.
Our driver, Ian, took us through the New Forest National Park, one of the largest areas of open heathland and forest in the southeast of England. There are 4000 wild ponies living here. It is said to be the former hunting grounds of William the Conqueror.
There are beautiful homes here, lots of them with thatched roofs. Richard said that thatched roofed houses used to be for peasants years ago, but now they are highly desired and very expensive. If something happens to the thatched roof, by law, you must replace it with the same. And the people who do it are getting scarce. One of his friends waited 2 years after a fire damaged his roof.
Here are a couple of pictures of the homes in the area and the ponies.
And here are some of the buildings in Southampton. These are taken from the bus, and as you can see, it had started to rain. We were lucky that we encountered just a few sprinkles on our whole tour and the rain waited till we were on the bus.
Next stop – Liverpool where we will take a trip to Wales.
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