Our friend Bennett,an american who lives in sri lanka, who we met on our trip to Iran last year and with whom we travelled in Burma recently came to visit . An anglophile historian with an interest in the 19th century and in particular the novels of Jane Austen we have plenty arranged for his visit which must also combine with us having to go and vote in west wales where our official home residence is.
We met him off the train and drove home in the evening rush hour through the usual rat runs so there was time for a beer in the bar across the river from our flat before dinner.
Today we went into the city of Southampton to show him the sights. The city still has much of its medieval walls still extant as well as a myriad of interesting buildings to look at. Sadly the house where Jane Austen lived is no more but her local church still stands.
Winchester,ancient capital of England ,is a tourist magnet and being saturday has a good market in the high street so was very busy. In addition there was a multi fath event in the cathedral grounds. However Sebastian having worked here for a few years we found a quiet pub for a lunchtime drink after the pilgrimage to Jane Austen's grave in the cathedral,King Arthur's "real" Round Table,a couple of little museums and an enchanting little church above a medieval gate. In the afternoon we visited Chawton , Jane Austen's house and museum full of her artefacts. Mr Bennett was thrilled.
This morning we drove into the New Forest which is only a 1000 years old to Bucklers Hard, a ship building village in the days of the Napoleonic wars which has been preserved. It lies on the banks of the Beaulieu river which is privately owned by the local lord. very feudal! It played an important part in the second world war so was doubly fascinating to Mr Bennett.
In the afternoon we went to Exbury gardens,the home of one of the Rothschilds,who planted many rhododendrons and azaleas. They were past their best but it was still a lovely garden to wander about in.
No self respecting visitor to this part of the world can not go and visit Stonehenge,one of the true wonders of the world. It was a very wet and windy day but for a brief moment when we were there the Gods were favourable and we enjoyed a reasonable comfortable walk around the stones. However a big mug of hot chocolate was required afterwards!
We had arranged to travel to Brighton by train to meet up with Alice who we had all met in Iran last year. We visited the Pavillion,one of the most bonkers of buildings in the UK. Then there was time for a stroll down to the pier and an amble through the Lanes,a rabbit warren of little antique and jewellery shops before it was time for tearful farewells and home.
The general election is tomorrow and we are eligible to vote in west wales so we drove there via Bath where Mr Bennett could once again walk in Ms Austen's footsteps. Nowadays every where here is expensive real estate so it is hard to understand the downsides of any address in the Georgian part of the city. The Roman baths are a major tourist attraction and a world heritage site. They do not disappoint although the waters were not available due to routine maintenance.not a hardship to forego their alleged recuperative powers
First thing we did today was go and vote in the local memorial hall and then it was off to the national wool museum of wales. Nestled in one of the many little valleys it is housed in one of the many mills that abounded until about 40 years ago. The machinery on display is all original and in working order so they can stilll produce wonderful woollen cloth in the traditional welsh designs. we still have some in our house bought when they were still in full time production. Some looms are still in operation on site and fascinating to watch.
We drove down the valley to Cenarth Falls,the centre for coracles but the river was in full spate so no chance to see them. We visited the church which was being used as a local polling station bout they were ok for us to have a look. Afterwards we took Mr Bennett to one of our favourite spots around here,Mwnt church, a 1000 years old it sits alone in a field sheltered by a hill from the Irish sea.
Due to the exit poll on TV we stayed up later than we thought so this morning it was a visit to Aberaeron,a georgian town designed by Nash which was in keeping with Mr Bennett's trip. A quiet beer by the harbour in one of the best places for a drink in Britain before our drive back to Heathrow for our guest to return home. It was a real pleasure to entertain him and for us to see things on our own doorstep through a different lens.