Sunday, April 15, 2018

England 2018, Day 8

Enid Blyton lives as we begin our adventure
In which we travel to the original Worcester:

It was time for my niece to be swept from her studies at IES by two of the family historians (and we could have used my brother Peter on many occasions). We met at Paddington (where we expected but did not see many stuffed bears for sale) and zipped off by train to Worcester, a city of 100,000 in the West Midlands. Why, Worcester, you ask? Not because Simon de Montford, one of my favorite historical characters was killed there in 1245 (I don't recall which Sharon Kay Penman recounted this sad event but I remember needed lots of Kleenex!)  It was more because I had heard that the Cathedral was beautiful and that there had been two significant battles in the English Civil War in Worcester, including the final battle.

Our luggage had gotten heavier (at least mine had! I wonder why) since arriving in London, and it was great to have additional hands. However, we were pleased to find our hotel was directly opposite the train station, the Worcester Whitehouse Hotel. Sometimes the hotels near the stations are seedy but this was very nice - by far the most spacious of the places we had stayed (you could have got about 4 or 5 of our London room into the twin room my niece and I shared) and my mother was pleased to have a luggage rack.

Composer Edward Elgar, native son 
We set off for the Cathedral which was a ten-minute walk from the hotel, and was impressive even on a gray (yet again) day. The two most interesting (non-architecture) aspects of the Cathedral were the tombs of Bad King John (died 1216; you may recall we saw his effigy on Day 1 in London at the Temple Church), younger brother of Richard the Lionheart and, more unexpected, the tomb of Prince Arthur, older brother of Henry VIII. Arthur was just 15 when he died in 1502, having been married to Catherine of Aragon six months earlier. The story goes that his father, Henry VII, did not want to return Catherine's dowry so insisted she marry his second son (later Henry VIII) after a suitable mourning period. Had Catherine's parents, Ferdinand and Isabella of Columbus fame, known what sorrow and humiliation were in store for their daughter, I hope they would have sent an escort to bring her home, no matter how beneficial an alliance between England and Spain would be!
With King John I (more or less)
Next we stopped at the Cathedral CafĂ© for a fabulous lunch! I had a Coronation Chicken panini, my niece had a cranberry and brie panini, my mother had mushrooms on toast (this was not a punishment - she requested it), and we shared a slice of Victoria Sponge cake between us (the first of many amazing desserts on this trip) as I had been yearning for one since my last trip. An army marches on its stomach!   Everyone was in a very good mood as we left the Cathedral, and headed for the Commandery, a historic building / war museum that served as Charles II's headquarters during the last battle of the Civil War. It had some good exhibits but is desperately in need of funding and some high-tech embellishments. I did think my nephews would have enjoyed all the weapons!  Some of us may have told the locals we were from the Worcester in the United States, which is only a slight exaggeration as it is barely an hour away and I visit my friend Judith there regularly.
A stool made from the famous Royal Oak that saved Charles II

My niece tries out the 5-meter training pike!
After the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles II fled and is reputed to have avoided capture by hiding in an oak tree. I had always imagined a hollow oak with a convenient hole but one exhibit describes him hiding in the branches as Parliamentary soldiers passed below and later a stool was made from the root of this famous Royal Oak.  We were surprised to learn that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had visited Worcester and the Commandery in 1786 (Adams seems to have cheered on Cromwell's victory - I guess not too surprising but regicide is not very nice, John). We stopped at one charity shop on the way back to the hotel (I found a Katie Fforde I didn't have and an Elizabeth Elgin, an author I had not read for years).

No time to visit Edward Elgar's birthplace but I thoughtfully hummed Pomp and Circumstance from time to time so my niece would know what she was missing.

Dessert at Slug and Lettuce

My mother was not interested in dinner after a surfeit of mushrooms (literary allusion) but after my niece and I recuperated for a bit, we set out to explore the Worcester night life. Although most of the city shut down promptly at 5, we found a branch of a chain called Slug and Lettuce (British humor?) that had great food and a lively bar scene. There was one moment when the waitress took my niece's empty water glass away and never refilled it, but we liked the vibe and the dessert was delicious!

Book count: two
Cathedral count: one
Miles walked: 5.0

No comments: