Forgive me if this is a little scattered, I've been doing bits and pieces as we go along here, and with all the events going on, it's hard to keep track of what day is what.
15.04.2011 - 18.04.2011 65 °F
Gloucester, Chipping Campden, Broadway, Stratford 15th, 16th, 17th
The Cotsolds were just delightful!!! We drove about quite a long while, and the rolling hills, and fields full of pheasants and sheep were just magical. The weather has been amazing for all but one day, so we were blessed with sunshine and cool breezes the entire drive.
We popped by Gloucester for the afternoon, mostly to visit the setting for Beatrix Potter’s story “The Tailor of Gloucester”. There’s a little shop there with all sorts of fabulous memorabilia and darling things to purchase. Was a total treat to stroll down memory lane and look at all the books mom used to read us as children.
Chipping Campden was positively charming, with thatched roofs, cobbled drives, and a cathedral that had a spectacular bell serenade for our evening. As odd as it sounds, however, the shower was the highlight of the evening. I’ve posted a picture so you can get a better idea of what the devil I’m talking about, but it was basically an upright Jacuzzi. There was a manual the size of “War and Peace”, which mom and I shared as a giant wine coaster while she popped in to give it a try. Above the raucous sound of water jets came a weird combination of giggling, screaming, and desperate smacking of buttons. She emerged some time later looking bright pink and refreshed, and was practically breathless from laughing so hysterically from the spouts erupting at random places with both hot and very cold water. While the thatched roofs and quaint little shops won us over as well, the shower remains one of the more memorable (read: traumatic) experiences. I didn’t fare much better, even after having some wine.
Actually, for my part, the shower paled in comparison to after we were both giggled-out and snuggled up in bed, and mom pulled out the copy of “The Tailor of Gloucester” that she’d bought at the Beatrix Potter center earlier. She read it aloud to me, and it was just beyond touching that she still did all the little voices that she used when we were small. Probably going to be amongst my favorite memories I take away from this trip.
The morning of the 16th, we went to the farmer’s market in Chipping Campden and checked out local crafts and art and treats. Got to meet the photographer that had taken so many of the delightful pictures we’d seen selling around town, and get some great souvenirs.
After the market, we took to the road. Snowshill is a teeny little town that has expansive lavender fields (I believe it’s about 70 miles of rows that seem to go on forever). If you’re curious, try googling it, they have some awesome pictures. Unfortunately the plants aren’t blooming at the moment, but seeing photographs of them fully in bloom certainly started me itching to come back in a few months again just to see it. It’s just miles upon miles of perfect rows of lavender, often with scores of bright red poppies in between them. The gift shop smelled like heaven, and mom and I put on enough samples of things that we had to have the windows open for awhile after getting back in the car!
The driving around was fabulous—less getting lost, less tears, and less bouncing off the curbs as well! We saw a good number of pheasants (both smeared on the road and pecking about in fields) and beautiful rapeseed fields in bloom, not to mention about six thousand million brazillion of the cutest darn sheeps you could ever imagine… The lambs get into these little gangs and go bouncing all over the place in packs, it’s just hilarious.
Broadway Tower was interesting… there’s a picnic area with AMAZING views over the valley… sheep grazing (of course) and a funny little nature preserve area near the tower that houses some dozens of red deer. We got a photo of a couple of the deer. QUITE a bit larger than the ones I’m used to seeing about in the Northwest, anyway. Makes more sense with the humongous antler sets above the fireplaces you see in castles here. The tower also has a nuclear bunker beneath it, and a small memorial for an English bomber plane that went down right near the tower during WWII.
Stratford was a delight to settle into on the evening of the 16th. Went off without a hitch. which was amazing, considering the parking spot designated for us at the B&B had precisely three inches on either side between the other car and a wall. After the little French owner had watched me pull in and out of the space one thousand and twenty seven times, he came down and offered to let us use a different space (“Even though zee car IZ smaller than zee space….”)
He was such a charming, funny person, and we really, really enjoyed getting to stay at his place. The food was atrocious (the irony of the only bad food we’ve had being cooked by a Frenchman was the source of a good amount of giggling at brekkies the next morning). Mom was just happy I didn’t make her try Marmite again, but she refused to eat the beans that come with a full English breakfast. Too weird for her, or just afraid that any tooting might cause my already fragile nerves to overload while driving or startle me into jerking the car into oncoming traffic. She’s thoughtful like that.
As a side note, (with a hearty knocking on wood) the only mishaps we’ve had (aside from a great number curbs and some minimal damage to the left side tires) was in Wells. Mom has a brand spanking new Canon DSLR camera for this trip (her previous Nikon took a nasty drop and stopped working) and it’s been wonderful to shoot with. We were in the parking lot after visiting the cathedral, and as she was getting into the car, the Canon slipped out of her hands and hit the ground lens first. She picked it up, and there was a sickening sound of crunching and rattling glass… Thankfully it was only the lens filter she’d put on, and no damage to the body or lens. We both about threw up when we heard the glass though
The first evening there we meandered through the streets, grabbed some fish and chips, and went down by the River Avon to enjoy watching the swans and people go by. We were right next to the Royal Shakespeare Company (unfortunately there were full that night, and the next day was Sunday and they had no plays!), but the art and the flowers around that area were enough to enjoy ourselves quite thoroughly. After each consuming at least a quart and a half of oil from the fried food, we turned the rest of the gigantic piles of chips (french fries) leftover into snacks for ducks and swans. There were at least two dozen swans hanging about, and one cheeky little white duck that made instant friends with mom and was eating right out of her hand. We named him Harvey, and he actually followed us along in the riverboat cruise we took the next day for awhile! There’s a little nature preserve near that area, and there are tons of swans and geese and coots… Saw one mama duck and her HUGE brood (check out the pictures, they’re DARLING)… I’m going to be bringing home baby lambs and ducky chicks for Drew… just trying to figure out how to get them in my luggage.
The Shakespeare sights were a MUST the next day (after rubbish brekkies that were made better by Pasquale’s commentary) and the Royal Shakespeare Company has a new tower that looks out over the whole city. The park down by the river was CRAMMED with people (had the place to ourselves the night before in comparison). Mom and I managed to do a load of laundry at the Laundromat, so it was a pretty mellow morning spent listening to swooshing and reading gossip tabloids. Good day to get rested up and ready for Wales the next few days! With clean underpants, EVEN!!!