Sunday, April 29, 2018

England 2018, Day 11

When we arrived on Sunday night it was too late to fully appreciate the charm of the Edward Hotel in Gloucester. The hotel is located a few blocks from the historic part of town near the cathedral and was built in 18th and 19th century. Our room was accessed by climbing a flight of stairs then walking a narrow hallway across the length of the building to another flight or two of stairs. The room had slanted ceilings but was quite spacious and had its own bathroom. There were biscuits thoughtfully tucked next to the tea making supplies.
Gloucester Cathedral from the west
Downstairs there was a large breakfast room and nice-looking bar. There were hundreds of pictures of historical items in the passageways and public rooms of the hotel, including a puzzle in the dining room about the connection between several of the pictures. We were intrigued but got sidetracked by breakfast: croissants.
The Cathedral's secluded garth
The male owner of the Edward Hotel in Gloucester provided tea and croissants, which made us happy (a cooked English breakfast was available but not our preference). His wife had suggested we ask him for sightseeing advice to supplement our visit to Gloucester Cathedral, and first he asked my niece if she was a Harry Potter fan.
The Great Cloister with magnificent fan vaulting (but no Harry, Ron, or Hermione)
Overlooking the Garth (courtyard)
Intrigued, she said yes, and he told her that Gloucester Cathedral had been used for filming some of the HP movies.  It has also been used for The Choir (dramatization of Joanna Trollope's book), Wolf Hall, and the Hollow Crown.  Then he very kindly offered to meet us there at 10:30 to provide some historical background: he even knew some fascinating connections with Boston history which had us intrigued, involving the organist's (practically a hereditary position) family.  
Robert of Normandy (c. 1054-1134)
We left our luggage in the front office, then headed on our way, spending a little over an hour in the Cathedral ourselves.  We saw the great Cloister with its beautiful fan vaulting where the original Abbey's monks lived and prayed, which were featured in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, HP and the Chamber of Secrets, and HP and the Half-Blood Prince.   Edward II, not one of my favorite English kings, is buried in this cathedral, as well as, more intriguingly, Robert of Normandy, eldest son of William the Conqueror, who did not get along with his family so never became king.
The lectern's majestic eagle crushes a dragon-like monster to symbolize the triumph of good over evil
Mine host was waiting for us on the steps of the Cathedral and led us on an amazing tour.  I had to ask his name, which was embarrassing not to know, and it turned out to be St. John (pronounced Sinjin as in Elswyth Thane; of course, a delightful bonus) and I introduced the three of us. He took us around the exterior of the Cathedral, pointing out many historical and architectural facts. My favorite story was his description of a visit paid to the Cathedral by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, showing us which gate they would have approached, that they had stayed in the Bishop's rooms, and had probably come because Henry wanted to hunt nearby. He told us that when Henry stayed out late hunting two lackeys waited at the gate with torches to light his way back to the Bishop’s House and that Anne Boleyn supposedly gave them a gold coin each, enormous largesse, which caused a stir. “The next day,” St. John said deadpan, “there were 20 men with torches!”
He took us throughout the town, which was extremely kind, and continued to be fascinating, pointing out, for example, the “New” Inn (1450) which is the most complete surviving example of a medieval courtyard inn with galleries in Britain, and it is possible Shakespeare performed there with his company. From the exterior, St. John showed us how the eaves jut out of the walls and how there was no privacy at such a busy place – people could stand beneath to listen and that is the etymology of the word “eavesdrop.” I would recommend that anyone visiting Gloucester see if he would be willing to provide a tour.
The nave is Norman but the Cathedral's many additions are Gothic
My mother and I were enjoying every word but eventually he had to get back to work at the hotel and left us on our own.  We continued through the town and visited the Victoria dock and warehouses, then headed back; Lily’s Tea Room where, in addition to sandwiches, we shared our last Victoria Sponge Cake of the trip. This was a fancy version with frosting flowers that were very tasty.
The Victoria Warehouses (1849) were used for corn storage
my mother went back to look at the Cathedral while my niece and I (churched out) scouted a place for lunch and did a little shopping. She found some pretty sterling silver earrings at Debenham’s and I charitably donated the two paperbacks I had brought to read on the plane to Oxfam. Somehow, I found myself buying three more but they definitely weighed less than the two I discarded, so definitely a net gain. I was proud of myself for being restrained and didn’t do any serious book hunting elsewhere. At the appointed time, we retrieved my mother and had lunch at

Then we took the train to London, where we hugged my niece goodbye (she was eager to get back to her dashing student life and architecture paper) and a difficult Tube ride to Gloucester Road with far too many stairs. Our new residence was extremely elegant and well appointed: Hotel Xenia, a boutique hotel affiliated with Marriott, with very courteous staff. Under other circumstances and wearing snappier clothes, I would have enjoyed hanging out in its trendy bar, but we were so tired they couldn’t tell us our room number fast enough! My mother was thrilled because although the room was small there was a luggage rack (which she feels strongly should always be provided), a wardrobe for our coats, Kleenex in the bathroom, and – mirabile dictu – a washcloth! I took a walk to figure out the best Tube station for the following day and to buy us a snack at a large Sainsbury next door as she was not interested in dinner.
Gloucester Cathedral
Cathedral count: one
Book count: donated two, purchased three
Miles walked: 7.8

1 comment:

Lory said...

Looks like a lovely visit. Thanks for sharing!