We have begun the next part of our journey - to travel around the South of England to see which cities we like the vibe of in order to look for jobs there.
After leaving Chester, we travelled to Worcester and spent a night there, staying in a three-roomed bed and breakfast on the main road in to the Town. Driving on the motorway was an experience, especially when leaving Chester and we had to drive on lots of narrow country roads – all main roads (!) – until we got to the big motorways, with their three lanes each side.
Adam took responsibility for the drive, and thanks to our new Sat Nav, we got to Worcester without a single argument (over directions, at least). We had tea out in Worcester (nothing too culinarily adventurous, sorry Mum Moffat) and were amazed to walk along the narrow, cobbled streets and see REAL tudor buildings, wobbly wood and all.
Worcester was the first place we have really felt the cold, probably as we hadn’t been out much in the evenings before then, and we realised why all English people have wool coats. Due to the chill, we sat and ate our fish and chips (see?) in the car by the river Severn, which was beautiful. The next day, we walked a little way along the river, and it was just as beautiful in the daylight. The Worcester Cathedral sits alongside the river and, after crossing a medieval wall (similar to that in Chester), we reached the Cathedral.
It was an amazing building, as Adam will mention later, with ornate marble carvings, ostentatious memorial stones, huge pipes for the organ, and beautiful windows (albeit replaced after being destroyed during the war. Civil, of course). The three highlights for me – Michelle – were the crypt underneath the Cathedral, the tomb of King John, and Prince Arthur’s Chantry.
Walking through the crypt, I felt a shiver down my spine knowing it was built in 1084. It was totally intact, perhaps why it felt more real than the roman ruins, built a thousand years earlier, as one could see it almost exactly as it was for the first Norman Bishops. Thrillingly, in archaeological excavations there recently, two bodies were discovered. I found it exciting (hear, hear, Matt Hennessey) to read about how Archaeologists can tell all sorts of facts about the deceased such as the body was that of a pilgrim, as evidenced by the remnants of his boots and clothing (One interesting piece of trivia was that he was probably retired from his profession but had been buried in the outfit of his younger days – as evidenced by the boots having been cut to fit his large calves, though they had obviously fit him in younger, slimmer days!) and could tell what sort of diet he ate and how wealthy he was by the state of his teeth. Love that stuff!
My second highlight was that King John was actually buried in the Cathedral – yes, THAT King John, the one who badly treated his brother, Richard the Lionheart, and features in Robin Hood stories. Apparently, he asked to be buried as a Monk, so that he would be able to get into Heaven! Perhaps in an act of contempt, the stone Lion that was carved at the dead King’s feet curves around and bites the King’s leg!
Finally, the chantry of Arthur Tudor was amazing. He was the Prince of Wales, briefly husband to Catherine of Aragon, the Spanish Infanta (crown princess) – later she and Henry VIII, Arthur’s successor, married. (An aside for anyone interested in history, the question of whether or not Arthur and Catherine had "consummated the marriage" was to cause huge issues, as when Henry got sick of Catherine - and she had only produced him a daughter - he found a way to annul the marriage, deciding that he had gone against biblical law by taking his brother's widow as his own wife - even though she claimed that she and Arthur hadn't slept together, which didn't technically make her his wife (!). Henry chose not to believe this and so he was able to end the marriage. This was the catalyst for the creation of the Anglican church, and - in my words - the way that Henry VIII could still reign as "God-appointed" King, as he essentially created his own version of God. Sneaky.)
The Chantry is an oblong stone room, used as an altar for Arthur’s soul, as well as housing his tomb. Stepping through the small entranceway, a hush fell over us. Beneath our feet, the stone steps and floor of the tomb were deeply concave, worn by many feet before us, including those of Queen Elizabeth I. At each end of the chantry, many figurines had been intricately carved out of the stone walls. Sadly, these were defaced by Commissioners during the Civil War and religious reformation in the 1600s, when such things were seen as idolatory. This stuck out to me, as it was the first time we’d really seen such politically-ordained graffiti and vandalism, and it seemed especially poignant on the beautiful statues, with faces and body parts destroyed.
It’s all so strange, seeing these buildings that were created hundreds of years ago, the hands of ancient stonemasons carving out each block. There is almost a haunting feeling that accompanies these relics, the knowledge of life and death that has preceded, the traces of each footstep before, the echoes of the voices of warriors, Kings, priests throughout the ages. A certain reverence descends, the weightiness of history.
And then reality pushes its way in – the cost of the richesse and grandeur of such places, the slavery that might have been used to build them (in the case of the Roman ruins), the opulence, and almost self-worship, of the extravagant churches and cathedrals. Aghast and amazed at once, one feels captivated and drawn to these places all the same.
Deep thoughts aside, while we liked the history of Worcester, it did feel quite small to us and, most importantly, we did not see any squirrels there. I feel we shall not make our home in Worcester.
We were unable to take our own pictures in the Cathedral, as we were too cheap to pay £4 ($8) for a permit to do so. However here are a couple of pictures from around the internet:
Prince Arthur's Chantry
(http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/486836 taken by Bob Embleton)
The Cathedral, viewed across the Severn river