Our Hiking Adventure Along the South Downs Way

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July 3, 2010: Day 3
We travel to Winchester, where we will begin our 100 mile walk along the South Downs Way, a national walking path that crisscrosses endless other walking paths. We have given ourselves two days here in order to recoup from any jet lag.  By chance, we arrive on the weekend of the “Hat Festival”, when buskers from all over Europe and even  Australia, come to entertain  swarms of tourists with the hope of us voluntarily supporting them in their death-defying feats by dropping a few alms into their hats–preferably paper money! 

Venues are all over the town, and the crowds are so dense we can barely catch a glimpse.  We escape the crowds by going to Wolvsey Castle, which is in ruins outside of  town.  It is a clear, beautiful day and we enjoy the quiet beauty and imagining the castle as it must have once been.

Wolvsey Castle
Michele enjoying the relative calm of Wolvsey Castle.

The Westgate Inn, where we are staying reminds me of the old English Inn I’ve read about in novels–the bar area noisy until the wee hours and smelling slightly musty, but friendly and clean.  We watched some of the World Cup in the bar and was befriended by an English woman with a fast paced northern accent.  Soon I am dizzy trying to understand her to the background of those darn horns at the World Cup.  It felt good to make some connection.

Westgate Inn
Glenn on the balcony of our room at the Westgate Inn in Winchester.

July 4, 2010: Day 4
In the morning we share the breakfast room with an actor who is playing the part of King Henry the VIII at The Great Hall, where a round table hangs, with the King’s picture in it honoring the legendary King Arthur.  We agree to meet him later and he teaches Glenn the correct way to bow to His Highness.

Henry VIII
Glenn being taught how to properly bow before King Henry VIII

Later in the day, Glenn reports that much of the hat festival is now being performed in a nearby park.  It is almost like a medieval carnival grounds with so many vendors and performers.  We settle in to watch a complete show by a young man from Australia.  He begins by tantalizing us with the promise of his final act on a 3 meter high "suicycle," juggling an axe, a cleaver and a machete–blindfolded!!  Because of Isaac’s busking experience, we are familiar with the buildup of this narrative and I am in tears thinking about what goes into the life of a busker.  His warm up trick is to swallow a 2-foot-long double-edged sword.  He lubricates it with olive oil, so I am sure that must make it all so very easy!!  There are bumps on his naked chest to suggest that there is some learning curve involved.  The crowd hesitates in its applause for this trick because it is somehow outside the range of something we want to see, or at least that is how I feel and interpret others’ reactions.  But when he completes his final juggling of the sharp edged tools, I clap and holler like mad, with tears in my eyes and a trembling heart for all these practitioners of a very alternative lifestyle.  Yes, I will support with paper money!!

Juggling a machete, an axe and a butcher knife on a 3 meter high "suicycle."
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Last Updated July 19, 2011
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