May 11, 2011 Wednesday
After a refreshing lunch at the inn, Maiko and I ventured back outside and headed toward the Salisbury Cathedral. We took Silver Street, and stopped to take pictures of the pagoda that marked Salisbury’s City Centre.
An ambulance passed by with its sirens blaring, and I snapped a picture of the yellow emergency car.
Maiko stopped to check the map, and I followed her down High Street. We passed by the chocolate shop again, and this time Maiko took a picture with the gigantic ice cream cone.
I had to take a picture of the cute red van passed by as we were walking down the street.
Then we saw the gate marking the entrance into the Salisbury Cathedral Close.
A group of school children passed by on a tour. They were wearing cute little bonnets and gray coats. I don’t remember my elementary school uniform being that cute.
There were many things to see within the Cathedral Close, but it was almost 2pm and most of the attractions close around 4 or 5pm.
Naturally, we decided to see the biggest attraction of all—Salisbury Cathedral.
Salisbury Cathedral was breathtaking. It towered before us majestically, and I felt the exact same awe I had felt when I first saw Canterbury Cathedral.
Even the gloomy skies couldn’t detract from the beauty of its gothic architecture. I could have spent a whole day admiring the sturdy buttresses, the lifelike statues within alcoves, the many arches and the intricate details placed on every carved area of the cathedral.
Maiko and I spent some time taking pictures of the Cathedral from various angles.
When we had taken as many photos of the cathedral’s exterior as we liked, we headed toward the entrance into the cathedral.
The entrance into the Cathedral was located on the West side. We were greeted by a beautiful arched passage way.
There were chairs and tables arranged on the left side, as the corridor was an extension of the Cathedral’s restaurant (located at the end of the passageway).
At the very entrance into the corridor was a model representing what the castle and cathedral of Salisbury had looked like centuries ago.
To the right side of the arched corridor was the cathedral’s cloisters.
Maiko and I entered the main cathedral building through an arched door within the corridor. We were greeted by a front desk clerk who asked us if we would like to go on the tower tour.
I was deathly afraid of heights, and if you remember, I chickened out halfway up into the tower at Warwick Castle. My heart had started pounding like crazy once I had looked over the side of the turrets, and even though the sign at the tower’s entrance had warned us to commit because it was a one-way passage, I had found a way to go back down the way I had come.
I wasn’t interested in taking a tour that involved heights.
Maiko, however, was very interested in taking the tower tour and asked the clerk to tell her more about it.
The Salisbury Cathedral Tower Tour involved climbing 332 steps up narrow winding staircases to reach the foot of the spire. From there, one could see spectacular views of the city and its surrounding Cathedral.
Maiko wasn’t afraid of heights and immediately shelled out £8.50 to take the tour. She asked the clerk how long the tour would take. The clerk responded that the tour took about 2 hours.
“What?” I squawked. “What would I do down here for two hours?”
Maiko gave me a sad face. I knew she really wanted to go on the tower tour, but she felt bad about leaving me wandering the cathedral for two hours. I didn’t want her to miss out.
Although Maiko had told me how smart I was for not climbing the 530 steps to the Warwick Castle tower, I had felt like I had missed out on a great experience. Besides, Warwick Castle had been 530 steps – Salisbury Cathedral was only 332 steps. That’s 198 less steps for me to walk. And the clerk assured us that the entire tour would be conducted indoors with several opportunities to stop and rest.
I decided it was time to conquer my fears.
With trembling fingers, I handed her a £10 note. Maiko beamed. The clerk smiled and told me I won’t be sorry. I smiled back weakly, already sweating.
The tower tour would start at 3PM so Maiko and I had 10 minutes to walk around the Cathedral. I walked around taking pictures of random things to take my mind off the impending doom–I mean–tour.
Our tour guide appeared a little before 3PM and gathered us to him. He introduced himself as the senior guide ( I think his name was Tom though I’m not sure). The guide told us a little bit about the cathedral’s construction and even showed us the many materials that made its foundation.
Our tour guide (whom I shall be calling Tom, though I’m not sure if that was really his name), told us of the cathedral’s history.
The cathedral’s formal name is the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, though its commonly called the Salisbury Cathedral. The cathedral’s main body was built from 1220 to 1258–a total of 38 years. Salisbury Cathedral had started out as a Roman Catholic church. But like many of the Cathedrals all over England, it was transformed into an Anglican Cathedral during the Reformation.
After telling us a little bit of the cathedral’s history, Tom told us what to expect from the tour. He said that though the cathedral had the tallest spire in the UK measuring 404 ft, we would only be able to climb up 225 feet.
I gulped. 225 feet shouldn’t be too bad, I thought to myself. I mean Warwick Castle was probably double that height.
Tom retrieved a small key and opened a narrow door in the corner of the cathedral. Immediately inside to our left was a row of lockers. Tom advised us to pick a locker and leave our bags inside so we could have our hands free while climbing up the steps.
I steeled myself, picked a locker and then stuffed the key into my pocket. I handed Maiko my big camera. I told her to handle the picture-taking from now onwards because I wanted my hands free throughout the trip. She gave me the small camera which she normally carried and I tucked it into my jacket pocket.
Maiko squeezed my shoulder and gave me an encouraging smile. I took a deep breath and followed Tom up the narrow spiral stone stairs.
Our first stop was the nave–a small passage way overlooking the main cathedral hall. Behind us were beautiful stained glass windows depicting royal crests.
I tried to stick as close to the windows as possible. From our perch, we could look down and see the main cathedral floor.
Maiko zoomed in an took a picture of the baptismal font at the center of the ground floor.
Tom told us more about the cathedral’s construction and pointed out various architectural details which we could see clearly from where we stood.
After that, we continued on the narrow balcony passage and entered the 2nd level of our tour.
We were now inside the roof space directly above the cathedral’s nave. To the left was an aged statue that had fallen from the cathedral’s west front, which the cathedral had decided to preserve.
Tom told us about the beams supporting the cathedral’s roof. The structure is built entirely without nails through medieval building techniques of beveled joints and timber pegs. The wooden planks were all cut from one big Oak tree, and the Oak’s long midsection was split in two, and each half was placed as the diagonal support for the rest of the beams.
I was feeling a bit more confident as we moved on across the roof to the 3rd level of the tour. We in a small maintenance room within the cathedral roof. This was by far my favorite stop of the tour, as it felt safe and enclosed.
Within this room was a medieval clock.
The medieval clock inside the Salisbury Cathedral was built around 1368 and was originally located in a separate bell tower (The ruins of which could be see outside the cathedral. ) It is the oldest working clock in existence, and though it has no clock face, the clock struck every hour to tell the time. What we were looking at was the bell which was connected to the medieval clock in the ground floor of the cathedral.
Within the 3rd level was also an intimidating and very narrow spiral staircase.–which would lead to the next stop of the tour.
Holding my breath (or at least trying to), I followed Tom and the others up the spiral stairs. At the very top we found ourselves at a narrow passage overlooking the room we had just been in.
Tall windows surrounded us, and on the windows’ glass were scrawls left behind by various tourists.
After pausing for a break, we moved into the 4th level of the tour.
We were now at the very base of the 404 ft. spire. I rested on one of the benches provided and listen to Tom talk about the purpose of the various pulleys, ropes and beams within the room.
Maiko was so proud of me for surviving so far in the tour. A kindly tour member took our picture.
Another menacing spiral staircase would lead us to the 5th and final stage of the tower tour.
It was taller and narrower than the last one we climbed and I felt myself gulp in anticipation. One of our tour members decided to stay behind. His wife went on without him, following Tom up the stairs. Maiko asked me if I wanted to stay behind, too, but I said I’d already come this far why should I miss out on the last level?
Feeling a little proud that I, an acrophobic, was moving on to the final stage of the tour, I followed the rest upstairs.
The knees were wobbling by the time we reached the final room.
Directly above us were the beams supporting the spire.
Tom talked about how the spire was constructed.
I wandered around the room and found this certificate from the Guinness World Book of Records. According to it, the Salisbury Cathedral has the highest spire in all of Great Britain. And we had climbed to its very base!
When Tom had finished talking about the spire, he pointed to small door in the corner of the room. Apparently, those doors led to the Parapet –which meant they led outside where we could see the whole of Salisbury from the height of 225 feet.
My knees wobbled.
Maiko told me to stay behind in the room. But I thought of Warwick Castle and the man who had stayed below and I thought about missing out again. I took a deep breath and said, “well, i’ve come this far. Why should I miss out?”
I took a picture of the small door we would be going through. My hands were shaking so the picture came out fuzzy.
Outside, we saw the most beautiful view of Salisbury.
Tom pointed out various buildings below us and told us a little about their history. I made sure that I stood behind Maiko, closest to the cathedral walls. The view was spectacular and I tried to focus on its beauty instead of on my fear of heights.
After giving us some time to enjoy the view and take pictures, Tom led us back inside the spire room. I let out a deep breath, happy that I had survived outside.
Then Tom walked to another small door at the east side of the room. I groaned. The tour wasn’t over yet and I wasn’t sure if I could survive 3 more spectacular views from outside.
But I steeled myself and followed. I wasn’t going to miss out again. I had come this far, after all.
Tom pointed out various buildings again, giving us time to enjoy each view and take pictures. I was trying hard to focus on the view and not the height from where we stood.
Maiko was clearly enjoying the parapet.
The third door we entered led to a parapet that was so narrow it only had space for one person. I couldn’t hide behind anyone this time and so I gripped the rails for dear life.
I was happy when we reached the final door, and even happier when we stepped back inside the spire room.
Maiko and I signed a guest book in the spire room and followed Tom and the others down the steps, passing all the levels again until we reached the ground floor. We took our bags from the locker and Tom led back onto the cathedral’s main hall. He congratulated us for surviving the tour and gave us all a button of the Salisbury Cathedral, as souvenirs of our tower tour.
I took the button and thanked him. I pinned the button on my bag and proudly wore it the rest of the day. I was so happy that I didn’t faint at all, and I was thrilled to have survived the tower tour!
It was already 4:30PM, and Maiko and I continued touring the rest of the Cathedral. We headed for the Chapter House which contained the best preserved copy of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta. After enjoying the various displays in the chapter house, and admiring the magna carta, we headed for the cathedral’s cafeteria/giftshop.
We shopped for some souvenirs there. I bought myself an Excalibur letter opener. (Yes I know I’m a geek)
After buying souvenirs, we headed back down High Street. We passed by The New Inn, which looked quite old.
We passed by the Cross Keys Bookshop to buy some of the books I had wanted to buy yesterday.
Our plan for tomorrow (which was supposed to be for today) was to bike from Salisbury to Amesbury, another town featured in my book. It was already 5PM, so we headed for Hayball Cyclesports on Winchester street, to rent some bicycles. We rented the bikes for £15 each. The bikes were on a 24 hour rental cycle so we had to return them around the same time tomorrow.
The shop owner said that the bike ride to Amesbury was about 20 miles. He gave us a map and showed us the route to follow. The bikes didn’t come with helmets, unfortunately, but they did give us some bike chains.
I was a bit nervous since I’ve only ever ridden a bike maybe five times in my whole life. I was afraid of biking on the roads with cars rushing past, and also very afraid of losing my balance and falling headlong into the traffic. More than that, I wasn’t as athletic or as fit as Maiko so I didn’t know if I would last 10 miles one way on the bike.
ButI had just conquered my fear of heights. I felt pretty tough that day, so I agreed to do tomorrow’s 20 mile bike ride.
Maiko and I biked for awhile in the nearby streets so I could get a feel for the bike. I was still afraid to go on the road with the cars, so we found a small park and I biked all over the grass, trying to figure out how to do proper turns and brakes.
After an hour or so, we headed back towards our hotel. We passed by St. Edmunds Church on Bedwin St. and Bourne Hill and stopped to take pictures.
At the hotel, we secured our bikes with the chain in the parking garage and headed inside. We decided to try out our hotel’s downstairs restaurant for dinner.
We ordered some good food and chowed down.
We talked about how brave I was for conquering my fear of heights today. I was pretty proud of the feat I had just accomplished so I paid for dinner.
Tomorrow I was going to conquer another fear–a 20 mile bike ride on narrow country roads.
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