Gloucester to Oxford via the Cotswolds
Part of: UK and Western Europe
Saturday morning we visited Gloucester Cathedral, which we have visited once before. It's a great cathedral and it's wonderfully friendly to photographers, even in the crypt. It also doesn't have an admission fee or photo permit fee, and the staff are friendly and enthusiastic, all of which made me happily give a whole lot more to the donation boxes than would have been asked for in fees (listen up, stingy cathedrals!). Hopefully they also get a good fee by being one of the major filming locations of Harry Potter!
It was very cloudy and there was scaffolding on the exterior, so we didn't get any great outside photos, but we had a wonderful time inside. The cathedral was hosting a temporary sculpture exhibition called "Crucible," which meant large pieces of modern art appearing throughout the cathedral. I was a bit bummed about this for interfering with our photos at first, but most of the art was actually pretty interesting and it made kind of a nice contrast to the medieval building.
The ancient crypt can only be visited on a (free) guided tour, so we joined one at 11am. It was led by an old man with a great personality and was quite enjoyable. In addition to talking about the architecture, he spent a lot of time talking about the history of how the cathedral was used when it was part of a monastery in the Middle Ages. He explained that monasteries were primarily "prayer factories" where monks said prayers for people's souls around the clock to help them get out of purgatory earlier, in exchange for donations to the monastery. The crypt is quite large and we had the freedom to wander around and take pictures during the tour, which took about 20 minutes.
Next we headed up to the galleries, which were great fun as well. The galleries overlooking the choir were the largest I've ever seen, and they provided a closer view of the huge stained glass window at the east end of the church.
We wandered around Gloucester a bit before leaving town, including a stop at Marks & Spencer for sandwiches. David tried a new one: Wensleydale cheese with carrot chutney. He was quite happy with it.
From Gloucester we headed east to our friendly old stomping grounds in the Cotswolds near Oxford, stopping in the lovely village of Burford. We used to occasionally visit Burford when we lived in Great Milton, mainly for the heavenly brownies available from a bakery on the main street. We were delighted to find that the brownies were still available and as delicious as ever!
When we first arrived, in order to earn our brownie, I took some pictures in the nice parish church while David valiantly located a parking spot - not an easy task in a popular Cotswold village on a Saturday! He then joined me at the church, and we had a fun time searching for an ancient sculpture mentioned in the church booklet. It was not easy to find!
I don't know much about the sculpture, as I haven't had a chance to look it up yet, but the booklet said it's known as "The Three Disgraces" and dates from 160 CE. It wasn't easy to photograph either, because of the bright spotlight shining on it - it tested my skills in manual settings to the limit and David had to step in to get 'er done.
The churchyard is exceptionally peaceful and beautiful, with lots of old tombs, green trees, and a gentle river with ducks that bends right around the church. I think if I ever live in England again, Burford just might be the place. (I had already narrowed it down to the Cotswolds.) I could see myself on that riverside bench with a book pretty easily.
Our stop for the night was a B&B on a farm just outside Abingdon, a historic town south of Oxford. It was a really great place to stay. It's run by the farmer's wife, who is my age or younger - she's a woman of few words but has great taste in decorating and keeps an immaculately clean house. David chatted with her husband out in the fields the next morning - he was also a man of few words, but very nice.
Immediately after checking in, we drove into Oxford for an early dinner at Wagamama (our fave noodle place), which was just about to open when we left in 2007. It was great fun to walk around our familiar old city a bit after dinner.
Back at the B&B, my laptop gave up the ghost and we (especially David) spent the rest of the evening worrying and working on that.
Sunday morning, we had a good breakfast at the farm then checked out early - but were delayed significantly by the realization that the B&B only accepts cash (the first time we've encountered that). We didn't have quite enough to cover it, so had to drive into Abingdon and do a few circles looking for an elusive ATM, then back out to the farm again.
But eventually we were on our way, and headed for PC World in Oxford to get a new hard drive and a few other things for my computer. David used to shop there quite a lot, and it's a pretty good computer store by UK standards, so I'm glad that at least my computer broke at a convenient time! We found everything we needed quickly, then got to park and start seeing the sights.
And that's where I'll have to end tonight; my eyelids no longer seem willing to stay open. Good night!