It was time for another day trip and lucky I, the weather was great. With three destinations ahead of us, Gloucester, England and Chepstow and Tintern in Wales, the day was going to be packed. But the trip was once again well organized and Mark, our tour guide had everything under control. If you enjoy day trips, hikes or theater, you should check out his London International Meetup page, many interesting options to pick from.
This blog entry will be about our first stop in Gloucester, a county town of Gloucestershire and yet another English city founded by the Romans in the first century. Once you know the rule, it is quite straightforward to identify almost all British cities of Roman origin, their name ends with “-c(h)ester.” There is always a reason why the Romans chose particular spot. Bath because of the hot springs, York because of a strategic location for a military fortress and Gloucester because it was the first narrow spot where they could cross the otherwise wide river Severn.
What’s impressive about Gloucester? That’s right, the Gloucester Cathedral of course. Originally built as St Peter’s Abbey church around 7th century but then rebuilt in 1089 by William the Conqueror. Gloucester Abbey was fortunate enough not to fall to its ruins following the Dissolution of Monasteries ordered by Henry VIII, for selfish reasons, and was converted to a cathedral in 1541 with John Wakeman as its first Bishop of Gloucester.
Other noticeable event associated with the abbey was the coronation of Henry III, the boy king who was crowned here in 1216 at the age of only 9 years. Later, in 1327, the abbey saw the burial of King Edward II who was allegedly murdered. Until this day, there are speculations about the cause of his death, whether it was of natural causes, suffocation, strangling, poisoning or the least believed version of assassination by having a red hot metal rod pierced up his anus. I really hope that latter version is just a fable.
Rather contemporary association with the cathedral and appealing more to the younger generation is its filming location for three of the Harry Potter films, in particular within the cloisters under its impressive fan vaults in Gothic Style, a design often associated with England. Another stunning example of this style is in the King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, which I saw just recently. More about that in a next blog entry about Cambridge, becoming one of my favorite cities.
Another attractive part of the city is its docks. Originally built to support the grain import but later also the import of other goods such as timber, fruits, wine and spirits. The construction of the associated canal Sharpness completed in early 19th century helped to build a significant trade with all continents. The impressive warehouses of Victorian origin were used to store and mill the imported grain before distributing further. As ships grew, however, it has proved more and more difficult to get them through the narrow canals also dealing with temperamentally tidal river Severn and considering the railway industry boom at that time, the Gloucester docks ceased to serve its purpose around the end of the 20th century. Today, they provide for luxury residencies, museum, shopping district and a host the annual Tall Ships Festival which was taking place on the day of our visit. Lucky us!
But my very favorite part about Gloucester is its relationship to Beatrix Potter. A children’s books author famous for using real locations in her book illustrations, The Tailor of Gloucester was no exception. Based on a real story of a poor tailor who became rich because of the devoted assistance of mice he saved from his cat Simpkin, Potter sketched the real tailor’s house and interiors on location to be used in her book. You can see the resemblance in the following photos.
When I saw the following photo of Beatrix in the shop, I immediately thought she looked like my mum (or my mum looks like her to retain the chronological order.) I have another photo in mind but the below one of me and my mum should show the resemblance, at least I see it. But maybe only because I know her expression better.
Having short time left prior to departure for the next destination, I strolled through the streets of Gloucester, by its charming shops, vintage and antique stores, cafes, pubs and restaurants.
Time is precious on a day trip with three destinations two hours away from London so there was not even minute left to sit down and have a cream tea next to Peter Rabbit in the lovely looking Lily’s Tearoom
Instead, we gather by the cathedral, our meeting point, to make a way to the coach and off to the next destination. I am in particular conscious of my punctiliousness as the last time I took a coach trip, I came to the meeting point 10 minutes late and was left unforgivingly behind. This is how I did NOT see Oxford.
Happy Holiday Weekend!