Wellp, here we go! This is Part 1 of my Trip Report for my Knights & Lights ABD trip. But this wasn't just any K&L trip. This was a DISboards/Podcast exclusive departure that had a very special add-on. Normally, if you want to add Disneyland Paris onto your K&L ABD, what ABD offers is a room, your tickets, and special Fastpasses. But you are on your own once you're there. Dreams Unlimited (DU) had arranged that our ABD would actually *extend* to Disneyland Paris (DLP). We would keep our Adventure Guides with us, and have VIP access and experiences while we were there. This was *precisely* what I wished for as I was considering signing up for K&L for this year, so when DU announced they were doing this trip, I couldn't sign up fast enough! Pre-Days A, B & C. Flight to London, and 2 pre-days in Winchester. Many, MANY years ago, I'd been an exchange student in Winchester, England. (OK, 30 years ago!) Somehow, I had never gone back to England since. (I still don't understand how that happened!) So one thing I really wanted to do as a part of this trip was go back to Winchester and check out the town and King Alfred's College, where I'd gone to school. I also wanted to do a few things in London that weren't on the itinerary. So I flew in 5 days early for the trip. 2 days in Winchester, and 3 days in London. It also gave me plenty of time to get over the jetlag before the tour started. Most flights to London from Central Ohio are Red-eyes (same as when I flew to Spain last year). The itinerary that worked best actually was a United codeshare with Air Canada, and was routed through Toronto. I was a little leery of the flight, because the leg from Ohio to Toronto was on a prop plane. It wasn't a teeny plane, but I was still leery. I really had nothing to worry about; the flight was just fine. BUT, it had the advantage that the Saturday I left, tons of airports on the East Coast were being closed as hurricane Irene closed in on that portion of the country. My flight was never in jeopardy, as this little plane pretty much just flew back & forth from the US to Toronto. That was a really big plus, as a lot of people whose fights that day got canceled were being told they'd be given new flights the following Friday! After all the angst I had getting to Spain last year, with the ash cloud from that Volcano closing airports all over Europe, I was really glad not to have to deal with that again. The flight to Toronto, and then the flight to London were pretty uneventful. The only complaint I had was that half the underseat legroom in front of us was taken up with the box for the so-so entertainment system in the seatback in front of me. Personally, I would MUCH rather have had the leg room than the entertainment system. It was not one of those you could control (except to change the channel) so you got into movies that were already started, you couldn't pause it to go to the bathroom, etc. I'd brought stuff with me, so it was really just, literally, a waste of space. I arrived in London mid-morning on Sunday. I'd made a reservation for a quaint little Bed & Breakfast in Winchester. It got RAVE reviews on Trip Advisor, and was in walking distance of Winchester Cathedral. So I had to get me & my luggage from London Heathrow airport to Winchester. I ended up buying a ticket for an Express bus from Heathrow to Winchester. While it wasn't bad, I still was saying to myself "Oh, yes. THIS is one of the reasons why I love ABD so much. If I was starting the tour, they'd be taking care of my luggage, and my transportation, and all I'd need to do is show up." Spoiled, I am! This was my first sight of England as I waited in the bus station: It's a red double-decker bus!!! A very modern-looking red double-decker bus, but still! It was just *so* "London"! Taking the bus was pretty easy, but (and this was to become a common thread on this trip) there wasn't adequate air conditioning on this bus, and it was uncomfortably warm. But it was a nice ride, and as we pulled into "downtown" Winchester, I was struck by memories of my time there. Some parts were different, but some buildings have been there for centuries. I was really here! The bus dropped me off on High Street, right by the statue of King Alfred, which I remembered quite vividly. It was about a 3-block walk to the B&B (not too bad except for lugging the luggage over cobblestone!) The street the B&B was on: The place was adorable (although a bit smaller than it looked in the photos I'd seen). But it was EXTREMELY private, in a separate cottage tucked into a corner of the back garden of the main house. The only way to get back there was through the main house. I settled in, cleaned up, and then decided to head out & re-explore Winchester. The High Street area had way more shops than it had when I was last there, but mostly looked the same. This area (the top of the old Market, marked by the Buttercross) was so familiar it made me smile. I decided to get some lunch (I'd bought a ham & cheese sandwich in the bus station, but I decided that really didn't count as my first meal in England! ;-) ) I settled on a traditional Cornish pasty, sold in a shop right next to the Buttercross. It was fresh & hot & delicious! I didn't realize it when I made my plans, but the next day (Monday) was a Bank Holiday in England, which meant the whole weekend was a holiday weekend. It was both a good & a bad thing. It was bad because King Alfred's College (which is now the University of Winchester) was closed for the weekend. It was good, because there was a festive atmosphere going on in downtown Winchester. Impromptu musicians, people walking around, enjoying the High Street, but it was *not* crowded! I walked around, took tons of photos, and just absorbed the fact that I was back after so very, very long. This is the West Gate, which is one of the few remaining pieces of the Medieval wall that used to surround Winchester. One of the things I really wanted to check out again was the Great Hall. Winchester used to be the Capitol of England. Winchester Castle (built in the late 1000's) is mostly gone nowadays, except for the Great Hall, which had been rebuilt in the early 1200's, and renovated by Henry III during the latter parts of that century. I almost didn't recognize it, as it used to be a free-standing building by the side of the High Street. It now is part of a courtyard with several buildings built in a similar style, that *almost* looked as if they'd always been there. They contained various city offices. It was a little disorienting, but I *knew* those buildings hadn't been there 30 years ago... The Great Hall is in the middle, in the back of this picture. One of the features of the Great Hall is the Round Table of King Arthur hanging on one of its walls. Its authenticity as the actual Round Table is open for debate, but what is indisputable is that Henry VIII had it painted in its current form, showing Arthur and spots around the table for all of his Knights. So it's a nice piece of history, no matter what its origins really are. After checking out the Great Hall, I decided to head up the road to the area near King Alfred's College. I found this lovely road I remembered (St. James' Road) that ran along the northern side of the railroad tracks that cut through Winchester (my dorm was on the southern side of the railroad tracks). It was a beautiful road, with *lovely* townhomes. I can't imagine how much these homes would cost. I then walked down to the area where the off-campus dorm I lived in was. I still remembered the address, and I'd Googled it to verify it was still there, and that I accurately remembered where it was. (I did!) Heaven knows how old the building is, so I was not surprised it was still there, although it had been re-painted from grey to a pretty yellow. It kind of looked like it had been re-purposed back to a private residence, but it was hard to tell for sure. I have some fun memories of taking pictures of my dorm-mates on that little balcony area above the bay window. On the walk there, I went past the Gate to the cemetery that contained the short-cut from our dorm to King Alfred's College. For a while, when I was living there, I refused to cut through the cemetery. But the first time I was late for class, I gave up on that, and cut through. (It was a *really* steep hill, and a long way, to go around the cemetery). Now, it wasn't like I was walking between the graves; it turned out there was a wide, well-lit path from the gate up to the college. During that semester, I developed a real appreciation for historic cemeteries, and they've become something I love to check out when I visit a new place. I walked up to the (now) University to check it out. I knew it was going to be closed up (the students had not showed up yet, except for a few who had stayed for the Summer). But I figured I'd wander the grounds, see what looked familiar, and what didn't. Unsurprisingly, there was a new entrance to the University. As I wandered around, there was some vague familiarity, but most of it was foreign. I was beginning to worry, but then I turned a corner, and there was the old Main Building of the campus. It looked pretty much just as it had my first day in England 30 years ago. It houses the administrative offices, some Student areas, etc. It was, of course, locked up tight. But it was cool to finally feel I was somewhere I remembered. I walked around some more. A lot of the buildings were unfamiliar, but I *did* remember the on-campus dorm buildings, where the upper-classmen stayed. I was, however, having difficulties finding a bathroom. The buildings really were all locked up tight. Finally, I came across this building, the John Stripe Theater. When I was attending King Alfred's, one of my friends asked me to give a talk to her Comparative Religion class (as a Jew, I was pretty much a minority at King Alfred's in those days). I of course agreed. Imagine my surprise when I saw *posters* up all over campus, announcing my talk on Jewish customs! The funny part about it was, at the bottom they said "8:00pm JST". I was quite surprised that they knew about "Jewish Standard Time"! Well, of course, it turned out it actually meant "John Stripe Theater". D'oh! So seeing this familiar place was nice. Not only that, but people were going in and out, which meant I could use the bathrooms there! This was when I learned the easiest thing to say was not "Where is the restroom?" (I got blank stares. "The restaurant?") They *did* understand "the Ladies' room". So I started calling it "The Ladies'" and had no issue with people understanding that. For some reason I just couldn't get into calling it "The Toilet" as is common there. Well, imagine my surprise when I walked in, and the BATHROOM felt totally, completely familiar! I'm sure it had been repainted (the same color!) and upgraded in the last 30 years, but the odd architecture & detailing on the walls in the stalls was so familiar to me! Totally took me by surprise! There you go... After I was done on campus, I eventually made my way back down towards High Street. I ended up at the Cathedral, but it was too late to go inside. I walked around it and took several pictures, as the weather was still gorgeous. As was the Cathedral. The flying buttresses of the Cathedral. I then headed on to High Street, and took pictures of the King Alfred Statue and the Guildhall across the street. I stopped at a fancy pizza place and bought a delicious salad to take back to my room. I got a plate and silverware from the main house, and settled in for the evening to use the free WiFi to catch up with the rest of the folks coming for the ABD, who hadn't left yet. I was updating with my iPad, so it was slow going. But I *do* love my iPad. What an amazingly useful thing! Not only internet access, but backups for my photos, map apps, etc. The next day (weather was still GORGEOUS!) I decided to check out the Cathedral. Winchester Cathedral always makes me think of that old novelty song by The New Vaudeville Band. "Winchester Cathedral, you're bringing me dow-own. You stood and you watched as my baby left town. You could have done something, but you didn't try. You didn't do nothin'. You let her walk by." http://youtu.be/y-Ijo_ZthDI As I got ready that morning, I had the windows open, and could hear the bells of the Cathedral pealing and playing for a very long time (well over an hour). I'm assuming this was probably because of the Bank Holiday. As I walked up the road from the B&B to the Cathedral, the bells were still playing. That sound was *really* familiar to me! Click here for a video of the bells & the Cathedral. Winchester Cathedral is truly beautiful. I remember that well from my previous time there. It's amazingly light and airy for such an old, large place. Unlike a lot of the other Cathedrals I visited later in this trip, Winchester Cathedral had no restrictions on taking pictures, as long as you didn't use a flash. I'm SO glad, as it was just an inspiring place, and I loved photographing it. And it was bright enough that most of my pictures turned out! Continued in next post.