Our big holiday in Winchester

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Our big holiday in Winchester

Aug1620108/16
An big long writeup at last, I may be back to insert video and pictures...

We just took a long weekend in Winchester, very nice it was. We had to take a few days off now as our child care are unavailable for a few days (are unavailable? is unavailable?) and originally planned to spend it in an offered apartment in Chichester. The plan was to head to Mum and Dad's, spend the night, drop Harry off, head down the road to the borrowed flat for a weekend of pubs and restaurants, then spend another night in Portchester on our way back. We found out the flat was double booked after we'd confirmed all the other plans, could not find an available hotel in Chichester so went for Winchester instead. It sounds similar enough and is about the same distance from Portchester so we'd not be too far from Harry in case we were needed. Hell yeah, in case you are wondering, we only ever visit or plan to visit places that end in -Chester. Look out Manchester, hit the North!

Nice leisurely run down, stopping for lunch at the Devil's Punchbowl. Don't think the journey was any different for doing it on a Thursday instead of the usual Saturday. Delighted to see that Harry had not only not forgotten his grandparents, he was not at all shy and lunged at Mum and Dad for kisses. Very cute, everyone was pleased. So, Friday lunchtime we put Harry down for his nap, then when Dad came in from work, we ran for a train. Winchester, ho!

We stayed at The Winchester Hotel, close to the station and to town, big and nice. Hotel like. There were wedding photo's going on in the lobby of the hotel as we arrived, that we had to excuse-me our way through. We could have picked up some free drinks and things by hanging around the wedding party, but headed to our room to unpack. We were not the only non wedding guests booking in, popular hotel, it appeared to be full. Quick drop off of the bags and then in to town...

Drinking and dancing and all sorts of shenanigans ahead, possibly. First stop... Wetherspoons! What am I like? Well it was just about the first pub we passed, and I did have a pocket full of CAMRA vouchers giving me 50p off a pint, so we stopped for one here. You know how in some nicer places, the Wetherspoons is alright and full of a lively interesting crowd? Not this one, it was the normal day time drinkers. Nice enough though, as we were daytime drinking.

The Old Vine was a pub I remember peering through the window of on a previous visit, though I don't think I'd been inside. It's a fine looking pub, gentrified, maybe more restaurant-with-bar but a good selection of real ales and games to play. We had a pint and played some Trivial Pursuit. It's a lot like The Dolphin in Canterbury, though (on this visit) less students and more middle aged shoppers.

The Eclipse was a pub, small, quiet, there was just about no-one in there. Originally here I wrote "a nice old pub", but that's probably not doing justice to some of the other pubs in the area. I liked it. When I asked the landlord / guy behind the bar for the name of the place (were were ticking off where we'd been on a map) he claimed it was the Wykeham Arms, about which more later. I liked the pub, it was just the lack of punters making it unatmospheric, though most people I know would probably call it a bit of a dive. There was a brolly on our table, I asked around everyone in there (did not take long) if it belonged to them before we took it. We said we would return, we did not.

Next stop the Bakers Arms which was fairly lively. They offered karaoke, and were setting up for a live band when we got there. But, the live band had cancelled, something to do with the drummer, so the entertainment was off. This pub looked busy every time we passed by over the weekend, which not all pubs managed.

Dinner at Dim T. We were looking for Thai and thought this was it, it was not quite, but it was very good. Edamame to start, very very good, like a super unhealthy version of what Wagamama do. Not sure what they had done to the edamame but they were delicious, some kind of dark sticky sauce over them must have been loaded with sugar. Spring rolls, and then I had tofu and sweet coconut with rice noodles, Clare had something that she loved too. We got fortune cookies that gave us lottery numbers, which I still have not checked this. I may never post this little write up, maybe I'll get our butler to do it if it turns out we won.

Last stop of the night The Royal Oak. I have been in this pub before, again last pub of the night and I'm sure the friends I was with did not rate it at all. Seemed nice to me this time, not quite so spit and sawdust as I remember. It says "the oldest bar in the country", the modern pub contains the remains of an earlier pub in a semi basement room that you can go and see. We made a video in this pub...

I had a plan to video more of our weekend, do little reviews and things though this did not go entirely to plan. As I write this first draft I am at work (lunch break) and all the pictures and video are at home so I can only write the bits that I remember and will then add details later as I look at the full multi media experience... I may well embed it at this point right here, so you can enjoy and not have to read on:

[video will go here]

these blog posts are mostly for me remember, if anyone else reads them that's a bonus... It's nice to have something to look back on when I am older and more decrepit.

Lunch at Ask, it's in a very nice old building called God Begot House. A proper treat to be out for lunch knowing that we don't have to drive anywhere or be responsible for a little someone in the afternoon so we could have a glass of wine. I had spaghetti pomodoro with added chilli, which is my standard dish if we go in Ask. Clare had something that she was not sure about I think, it did not look good and she thought she'd ordered badly but actually turned out to be nice. Clear plates all round!

Went for a look at Winchester Cathedral, did not go inside, but enjoyed looking round the historic buildings around it. Saw Jane Austen's house, where she died. Spent quite a while in a really nice bookshop there looking for children's presents, can't remember the name of it though. Then got distracted by another pub. The Wykeham arms is a great pub, in the shadow of the cathedral and quite possibly a bit of a tourist trap. Decor inside is proper old pub characterful, and the tables are all old school desks. They are planning to close for two weeks renovation, in the height of summer, so they must be doing alright. Food looked good, though we did not stop long enough to eat. Only had a half, then headed back to the hotel, we were quite determined to use the facilities we were paying for...

Nice spa in The Winchester Hotel, it's a real gym / health centre that looks to be open to members, but free to guests of the hotel. There's a small pool with "swim against" pressure jets, sauna, jacuzzi, steam room (out of order when we go there) and gym with lots of kit, which of course I did not touch... we tried the wet activities though on Saturday late afternoon to restore ourselves before the night out. A brief splash in the pool, a j'accuse and a sweat in the sauna, then I really made the most of the facilities sitting on a lounger reading a magazine and drinking an illicit wine while Clare got ready for a night out. What do you mean am I getting ready, I am ready! All I have to do is dry off and I'm ready to go, no straightening of hair or applying of war paint for me.

One beer in The Albion, which looks to be recently renovated. Reminded me of a pub in Folkestone Harbour that is now closed, not that nice I didn't think, quiet but had a slightly menacing air. I think when I last came to Winchester this pub was closed but still had a sign in the window advertising an MJ Hibbett gig. Not that it's his fault the pub closed, or now had a slightly menacing air. I suppose it was nice enough, but we moved on. I worried Clare with my vague ideas of a pub worth going to that was not the way we would normally have walked into the town, she was not convinced, particularly when I told her there was a big pig statue along the way. There was, and the pub was as I said too, The Westgate Inn. This had also been renovated since my last visit, was quiet again but a nice pub with good beer. Next to The Exchange, though I'm not absolutely convinced it is called this now as I can only find vague mentions of it online. Did not look amazing, but it had table football and I needed a toilet stop really. The pub was very familiar, it reminds me a lot of one we went in in Edinburgh, but I can find no mention of it being a chain. We played table football, I made use of the loo, and we went. Spotted Hotel Du Vin so we called in there too. Very nice, bit posh for us maybe but we stopped for a glass each of the finest wines they could do by the glass. I had a Reisling, they said look out it's not a sweet one, but I would say it was, sweeter than the fancy Reisling I had recently for my birthday. Clare had a Shiraz which was much better than mine, bah. We sat in their garden, under a gazebo, which made us want to build exactly the same thing in our new garden. But it would have to be smaller. They gave us complementary nuts and olives, though they could afford to at those prices. Hotel du Vin is a chain of hotels, they do wine tasting stays by the looks, this would be a great idea for a wine lover's birthday present...

Back to the Westgate Inn for what turned out to be our last pub of the night. Quiet in there, still nice. I seem to have come away from their with one of their books, I will post it back to them, honest. It's Mark Radcliffe's book, his style is grating on me already, I may not finish it.

UPDATE: I did finish it, it was OK, and I did post it back to them already. Over a pound for the postage, I will not drunkenly steal books in future I'll get them from the boot fair or charity shop...

We tried to go in more pubs including the White Swan, but everywhere was shut by eleven.

Sunday morning we finally met up with Richy (who lives in Winchester) at the farmers market. Big farmers market, nice, lots of choice, I bought some hot lime and mango pickle, hot like lime, but sweeter, who'd have thought it from those ingredients? Very nice anyway better than the Sharwood's lime pickle I have.

Next stop The Great Hall, home to the ACTUAL Round Table, actually sat around by the actual King Arthur! OK, it is actually round, and it was actually a table, and it is really old. It was probably built for a real English king, who was keen to recycle the myths and legends of King Arthur for his own glory, and then it seems to have been decorated with the name of the knights for Henry VIII. An impressive old lump of wood, and worth a look at. This one is really it:

[flickr]http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4075/4897142519_6da6e26e20.jpg[/flickr]

this one is not it, we took this in The Albion:

[flickr]http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4096/4897407585_b0b75dc8ea.jpg[/flickr]

it's a very impressive likeness though I'm sure you will agree.

We were heading back to see Harry (oh yeah, and everyone else) in the morning but there were engineering works and then Mum was taking him out for more showing off so we had a picnic lunch and headed back a bit later.

Nice trip, nice to be back, Harry had not missed us at all but was not sulking with us like when we went away before. We extended our holiday by one more night, and went out to watch The A-Team. It was OK.

Back home, to packing ready for the move. A quick trip to the solicitors to drop off a HIGH FIVE FIGURE cheque, lawks, for the balance between mortgage and price of house. A curry treat for tea, and then Monday good TV night. New Simon Amstell show Grandma's House was a worthy successor to Rev I thought.

Back at work now, weather is a bit dark and gloomy, really feels like the end of summer. BUT, we have more days off, taking my holiday in dribs and drabs this year, and then we are moving house within two weeks...

(was two weeks when I started writing this, is four days away now!)
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Paul Clarke's blog - I live and work in Hythe near Folkestone, Kent. wed to Clare and father to Harry and Tommy, I am a software engineer, and I do javascript, nodejs, php, and ruby. I like Folkestone Gerald, pubbing, restaurants, home automation and other diy jiggery-pokery, history, genealogy, TV, popbitch, squirrels, pirates ☠, and time travel...

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