I had a pretty special present for my birthday, a few weeks ago: a trip to Hampshire, less than two hours from London, a lovely County in the British countryside.
We set off quite early, rented a car and drove South-West till we reached Winchester. During the entire trip Viola wanted to listen to the radio, sing the songs she knew and the songs she didn’t know. She picks (or makes up) the lyrics so quickly it’s hilarious. Once she listen to a song the next time she hears it she’s like ‘I KNOW THIS ONE!’ and just starts singing on the top of her lungs. She’s SO my daugther.
We drove till we reached Winchester. Not many people know about this town but it’s beautiful and so full of history. The big Cathedral was formerly used for the Royal coronations and it’s whispered that King Arthur bones lie down somewhere around it. It is a pretty, charming town, and it was all dolled up for Christmas.
We wandered around in the town centre, then we stopped for a quick lunch at The Old Vine, a typical restaurant-pub (it has also a few rooms). The food was great and the atmosphere was amazing too: cozy, warm, effortlessly elegant. All the places where we stopped had that kind of retro contry-chic feel, I loved Hampshire.
We then explored the Cathedral, known for having the longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. Here lies the writer Jane Austen. She was born and lived in Hampshire. Here in Winchester she spent the last months of her life, and the house where she died can still be visited.
Considering the year of her death, it is amazing how soon she was tributed for her talent. If you read on the floor she’s just described as the ‘daugther of’ George Austen but, engraved in a golden sign, there’s a tribute to her as a talented writer. It’s almost unbelievable that this is the place where some of the greatest love novels – Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion etc. – have been written. It’s no surprise that you really feel like you’re in ‘a Jane Austen book’ while wandering around these towns.
To make our visit even more special, the choir was reharsing for the evening Christmas concert and the guides were amazingly nice and helpful. Viola was really interested in listening to their stories, and one of them helped her to spot all the animals engraved in the wooden seats behind the choir.
Once out of the Cathedral we just turned the corner to discover the lovely Winchester Christmas Market, that takes place in the backyard of the Cathedral. It was sweet, coloruful and messy, just like a Christmas Market should be.
Yes, I also had time for some quick shopping. This shop, The Hambledon, was so full of ‘nice to have therefore must have’ things I couldn’t help!
Then, as the sky got dark, we made our way to the superbe Tynley Hall. It is a Grade II listed building, a stunning historical countryside villa, where we spent the night and most part of the following day. I really, really felt in a Jane Austen book as soon as I got there. Doesn’t it look magical?
Time for a quick change of clothes and we were relaxing in the pool. Too bad the water wasn’t that hot, but we still enjoyed the Jacuzzi while Viola happily swam around (she’s so into swimming lately).
And then a glass of champagne in the living room of the villa. Isn’t it the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen? Cozy sofas, Christmas lights, chandeliers, champagne, fireplace. It was just perfect.
We ended our day with a yummy roast in a nearby countryside pub, ready to dive into bed and wait for another beautiful day ahead.