You'll notice that many of the counties in England end in -shire which is the traditional word for county or division of land. Gloucestershire is in southwest England on the River Severn and includes the Forest of Dean. This was the same trip that included a visit to Puzzlewood which you definitely need to visit.
It was an easy weekend. We spent some time exploring the old city center with its cobbled streets, half-timbered houses and Tudor period architecture. There are plenty of tea houses and pubs to visit.
We really enjoyed the more vibrant Gloucester Quays (pronounced keys). This area was once a busy industrial port. In the 1980's, the docks and warehouses were converted to residential living, shops and restaurants.
You can have lunch on a long-boat or try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding. We opted to sit in the sun along the water and enjoy lunch al fresco.
Here's a pillar box (free-standing mailbox) just outside the cathedral. Whenever you see one of these, take note of the royal cypher embossed on the door. This will tell you who the reigning monarch was when it was installed. This one has VR for Victoria Regina meaning it was installed before 1901. If you find one with Edward VIII consider yourself lucky as he was king for less than a year before he abdicated for love.
Gloucester is probably most famous for it's cathedral. Did you know that traditionally, you couldn't call any place in England a "city" unless they had a cathedral? This one is built on the foundations of an abbey that dates back to 681.
The cathedral was constructed in 1089 and is notable for many reasons. It's become a popular pilgrimage for Harry Potter fans. JK Rowling was born in Gloucestershire and lived there as a young girl. The fan-vaulted cloisters of the cathedral were transformed into Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two films.
The cathedral is also home to some of the most important stained glass in the UK dating from the 14th century to modern day. The West Window behind the alter is one of the largest stained glass windows you'll ever see.
The cathedral also includes an amazing collection of funerary monuments each more interesting than the last. It's fascinating to walk through and read the epitaphs and dedications dating so far back. So many stories.
Notice the US flag in the photo below? It's there because of a very interesting connection. John Stafford Smith was a composer and organist born in Gloucester in 1750. He was christened in the cathedral and attended the cathedral school. In 1780 he composed "To Anachreon in Heaven" about the pleasures of wine and love. The tune became popular in both England and America. In 1812, an American gentleman by the name of Francis Scott Key found himself on-board a British warship as it attacked Fort McHenry in Baltimore. The next morning he penned "The Star-Spangled Banner" to the tune composed by Smith thirty-two years earlier. Our national anthem was composed by a man from Gloucester. Who knew?
Long before the cathedral became a pilgrimage for Harry Potter fans it was an important pilgrimage to visit the burial place of King Edward II, one of the few monarchs buried outside of London. He reigned from 1307 to 1327 and had a dramatic life as well as death, allegedly impaled on a red-hot poker.
All of the stained glass in the cathedral is awe inspiring, but my favorite panels are from a new installation dedicated in 2014. Created by Tom Denny, the windows are in memory of a Gloucestershire poet, Ivor Gurney. Gurney was a student and chorister at the cathedral as a boy. He later served in World War I and came back a changed man dying at the age of 50 in a mental asylum.
The window reflects the countryside and nature of the Cotswolds that Ivor loved so much. The panels each depict something from his life and writings, pain, joy, faith, suffering and love. The design and colors are glorious, especially showcased in the small prayer chapel.
It's an amazing place full of wonderful things to see and study. We were there just after the Pokemon Go craze took off (yes, I'm that behind in my blogging, I know.) I sat in a pew for a quiet moment. Close by was a young mom with a bunch of kids all gazing at her phone. It was obvious that they were searching for the creatures and having a blast. Unfortunately, her un-engaged toddler was pouring his sippie cup contents out onto an 800 year old marble floor tomb.
I gently let her know and then cleaned up the spill after they walked off without bothering. (I could just picture someone slipping on that stone floor.) I'm not sure what I think about the whole Pokemon in historical places thing. On the one hand, they were having fun, engaged and playing together. Maybe they've visited the cathedral a dozen times. Can you imagine having someplace like this on your doorstep?
Maybe it was a way to entice the kids to happily visit someplace they might otherwise see as boring (although that couldn't be further from the truth). Maybe it was a tool to get them exploring. But I worry that they are missing out on so much. I also wondered if it might be a bit disrespectful in a place of worship.
On the other hand, I was tempted to load the app and search for my own Pickachu among the tombs and stained-glass. They've actually addressed Pokemon GO on their official website with links to further guidance. What do you think?