Minay’s Trip Diary, Monday May 10, 2010

Well, here it was, Day Six of our trip – the day I’ve been dreading. We have to get back in the car and drive again. Oh no!

We got up, packed up the last of our things and had a final breakfast at Annabelle’s. While eating we had a very nice chat with an American couple. She has family in Wells, our next destination. All in all, Annabelle’s was a very nice place to stay – but now it was time to leave. So, dragging our suitcases behind us, we walked the several blocks to the train station to retrieve Flio Widdix and be on our way, heading toward Wells Cathedral.

Actually, the drive wasn’t as bad as I feared. I suppose not being dead tired and jet lagged, along with having done this once already helped. Of course, we did get lost. While the roads are clearly marked with the route number, none are labeled North, South, East or West, and we inevitably chose to turn the wrong direction when arriving at a crossroads. Live and learn. We will get the hang of it eventually, I suppose.

Anyway, we arrived at Wells about lunch time. I was ready to get out of the car and start sight-seeing, but we decided it would be best to get lunch first. I wanted to just grab something takeaway and go, Michael wanted to do the whole sit down thing. We ate at a pub, a grilled chicken sandwich for me, gazing out the window people watching. While waiting for our food (quite a long time it seemed) we saw the couple from breakfast pass by. Odd to see someone you “know” so far from home.

Finally we got to the Cathedral. It was magnificent. Wells Cathedral isn’t so large or grand as some, but it is a perfect jewel of architecture as far as I am concerned. It is known for its “scissor arches” which solved the problem of how to support the too-great weight from the spire. They are graceful and swooping, providing strength while leaving the space open and soaring. All over the ceiling the little spaces and nooks are painted in beautiful arabesque paisley-like designs in bright colors of gold, blues and reds. The tops of the pillars have wonderful faces of people, animals and strange creatures. There is something beautiful and inspiring to see no matter where you look.

Illustrated Pillar, Wells Cathedral

Illustrated Pillar, Wells Cathedral

Oddly, though, one of my favorite visual images was of the stone steps leading to the chapter house. They go up and sweep off to one side in a gentle half spiral, arches above, doorways off to one side and the other – and they are so old, so well used that they have been worn down into scoops from the passing of so many feet. You can see a picture of these steps in Flio’s photo album for the day.

Another amazing sight is the famous Wells clock. It is believed to be the second oldest working clock in the world, and the oldest with its original dial. It was made in 1390 and has three rings on its dial. The outermost tells the hour, the next tells the minute and the centermost ring shows the lunar month. That in itself would be amazing to people who had no watches and no clocks of their own, but simply lived by the cycles of the day.

Medieval Clock, Wells Cathedral

Medieval Clock, Wells Cathedral

But to further enthrall viewers are the moving figures that come out on the hour. Above the dial is a small doorway, out from which come figures of knights jousting. They circle around several times each hour. You can just make this out in the picture. Off to one side is another figure, a man sitting in a small alcove. He is holding a hammer. On the quarter hour he kicks a bell with his heels, and on the hour he strikes the bell above him with his hammer. Imagine, the most complicated mechanisms you see on a daily basis are your wagon, plow, and perhaps a pulley. Then you go to the cathedral and this wondrous show happens each and every hour. In a smart move, fearing the priests would be upstaged, the figures don’t come out during services.

Quarter-hour Chime, Wells Cathedral

Quarter-hour Chime, Wells Cathedral

Of course, no outing would be complete without me taking a picture of a marvelous window or door. Check out the amazing hinges on this one.

Medieval Door Wells Cathedral

Medieval Door Wells Cathedral

I could go on and on about the wonders of this place. Everywhere, just everywhere, were gorgeous, awe inspiring visuals. And photo ops. Finally, however, it was time to leave as the day was growing late and we still had more to see. But, we cannot leave without one more close up of the outside of the Cathedral. No opportunity was wasted to embellish and amaze.

Close-up of the Spire, Wells Cathedral

Close-up of the Spire, Wells Cathedral

Back in the car and off to Glastonbury Abbey – or rather, the remains of the Abbey. Henry VIII, in order to marry Anne Boleyn and have a chance at getting an heir, broke with the Catholic Church, as you know. He ordered many of the Abbeys destroyed and claimed their lands as his own once they were deconsecrated. Oddly, most of the destruction to the buildings didn’t occur due to being pulled down. Instead, their roofs, made of precious lead, were taken off and reused and then the weather did the rest. This picture shows something of how the walls were constructed. Clearly, they were meant to last through time – and even without a roof they have done so amazingly well.

Ruins at Glastonbury Abbey

Ruins at Glastonbury Abbey

At Glastonbury we watched a program about life at the Abbey just before it was “decommissioned,” as it were. It was given by a monk [an actor] from the abbey kitchens, and was very interesting, full of details of daily life, routines and a bit of gossip. A quick look at Arthur and Guinevere’s “grave.” Michael has told you more about this. Then we had to set off to our destination for the night, Ilfracombe, on the Devon coast.

It always takes longer than we think to drive the relatively few miles to each destination, due to the small roads and the unfamiliar routes. Traffic wasn’t bad, but I imagine in the summer, with all the tourists crowding the little roads, it must be something of a nightmare. But we finally arrived. However tiny it is, we got lost in Ilfracombe, beginning with overshooting it and having to double back – twice – before we finally found our bed and breakfast. By now we were both terribly tired, and I had had my “fatigue hiccups” numerous times, so we went straight to our room and settled in for the night. Dinner consisted of a Bath bun I had insisted we buy, leftover fruit and tarts from our takeaway breakfast from Annabelle’s the morning before, and tea and biscuits provided in the room by our hosts. Love those electric kettles and tea set-ups. And so to bed.

Of the day, the sheer beauty of Wells Cathedral will be something that will stay with me the rest of my life.

What moments have stayed with you long after a trip was over? Tell us below.

Minay

This entry was posted in 2010, May 10, Minay's Trip Diary, Trip Diary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Go ahead, say something. You know you want to.