UK Trip 2006

October 12-18, 2006, Wells, Bath, and London

I attended the Inmarsat Conference in London this year in order to meet with a business client and to make some new contacts.  As with most of my long trips, I combined some pleasure with business.  I arived in London about 3 days before the conference started and immediately hopped a train to Bath, England.  From here I jumped on a bus and went to my final destination: Wells, Somerset, one of the best preserved medievel towns in England.

Here is Wells' main claim to fame, the fabulous Cathedral Church of St. Andrew (c.1230). The western face of the cathedral is full of statues and architectural detail. It feels unbelievably grand and arresting, like a scene out of a movie. Very magical to look up at the towers towards the evening, especially when the organ is playing inside.

I first stepped onto the Cathedral green on Friday after I arrived. It was filled with children in uniform, students of the Wells Cathedral school. They were playing around the green, boys chasing girls, while an old man or two sat on the benches watching. It felt like a very timeless scene to me.

       

The magnifinent Western front was completed around 1230, it is filled with sculptures telling various biblical stories.  The sheer volume of detail is overwhelming, it feels more like something out of Tolkien rather than an actual 800 year old cathedral.

    

My hotel (The Crown c. 1450) was directly on the market square, and when I awoke on Saturday morning the market was in full swing. This was wonderful–it felt very much like a genuine market that serves the local people.

On the South side of the Cathedral is a street of almshouses completed by 1363. This is the Vicar’s Close, believed to be the best preserved medieval street in Europe. There are 22 addresses, according to the local history books one facade was updated in Georgian times, and one facade was restored to original in modern times. Otherwise, the view is a nearly perfect, unrestored picture that has stood for almost 7 centuries. BTW, I have since learned that one of these homes can be rented for short stays.  Contact the Wells Cathedral for more information.

The sign in front of Wells Cathedral school almost invites credulity, it says that the school was founded in 909!  For what it's worth, click here to view a list of the oldest schools in England (Wells is listed as #4).

Here is a handsome Almshouse adjacent to St. Cuthbert in Wells.  More than the architecture, I felt that Wells has actually preserved some of the past in it’s people and culture. The countryside just outside the walls is still just that, countryside given over to pasture and small scale agriculture. There are small shops and restaurants in the town that serve local people as well as travelers. Children and adults mix in a very traditional way. I hope this town can hold on to this.

A typical street in Wells.  Unlike most tourist towns, there was not much to see beyond the two main attaractions (Cathedrel and Bishop's Palace).  But that was just fine with me, I really appreciated this quiet town with the friendly people.

On my last night I discovered a footpath leading out of the town to nearby Dulcote, a village of perhaps 20 small homes and farmhouses. The path crossed open pasture and there were several gates to open and close. The cows took no notice of me. Dulcote is every bit as ancient as Wells. I took a path through the woods back into Wells as it got dark, it was a really nice walk.

Here is my cost sheet, I think I have included everything:

 
Item Date Place Pounds Dollars Comment
Bishop's Palace Admission 10/13/2006 Wells 7.00 $13.13 Includes 2 bp guidebook
Train to Bath 10/13/2006
45.00 $84.42 Would have been 110 bp if I had not waited for off-peak price (30 mins)
Roman Baths Admission 10/13/2006 Bath 10.00 $18.76 Missed the first bus to Wells, had to wait 60 mins!
Bus to Wells 10/13/2006
10.00 $18.76 5 bp each way
Air Fare 10/13/2006
314.50 $590.00 Purchased online from BP
Parking 10/12/2006 Racine 15.99 $30.00 Parking at I-94 bus stop
Food 10/16/2006 London 1.29 $2.42 Beats me
Cutty Sark Admission 10/16/2006 Greenwich 5.00 $9.38 World's last remaining tea clipper, built in 1859 (I think)
Pizza Hut 10/15/2006 London 8.74 $16.40 It was a weak moment, I know
Orangina 10/15/2006 St. Martins-in-the-Fields 1.75 $3.28 I missed the Bach Cello suites due to a business dinner--too bad
Business Breakfast 10/17/2006 London 48.00 $90.05 Buffet for two at the Landmark Hotel--crimenee!
Bagel 10/13/2006 Paddington Station 2.05 $3.85 Bagel & water
Hotel in Wells 10/13/2006 Market Place, Wells 120.00 $225.12 2 nights in a 500 year old hotel--well worth it!
Phone Card 10/13/2006 Wells 5.00 $9.38 5bp gets you over 2 hours to USA, the best way to go.
Food 10/13/2006 Wells 2.00 $3.75 Some kind of snack
London Undergound 10/16/2006 London 16.00 $30.02 This is an approximate total. A one-way token is 3bp.
Hart House Hotel 10/16/2006 London 210.00 $393.96 3 nights
Food 10/13/2006 Evedrywhere 60.00 $112.56 This is an approximate total of all meals not listed above.
Wells Museum 10/14/2006 Wells 3.00 $5.63
Church Admission 10/13/2006 Everywhere 15.00 $28.14 You have to pay something or else you feel guilty!






Exchange Rate $1.88






900.32 $1,689.00

A quick note about London:  The Wallace Collection was a surprise that I found on my last day in London. It’s a London town house about 10 minute’s walk from my hotel, filled to the rafters with paintings, sculpture, and antique armaments. I was really blown away by it. The collection was put together in the 19th Century and has an amazing number of Old Master paintings (I counted 4 Rembrandts, but I could easily have missed some) plus very nice 18th Century French painting. In between was plenty of medieval art work (my favorite) and 4 galleries of swords, daggers, and suits of armor (guy stuff). The stuff is packed onto the walls with little space between. And it’s free admission! Works for me...

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