A Travellerspoint blog

Gloucester, Chipping Campden, Broadway, Stratford 15th, 16t

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.

sunny 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!!!

Posted by Rounds Women 16:17 Archived in England Comments (0)

Wells, Avebury, & Glastonbury

Apr 14th,15th

Day trip from Bath to Wells, Avebury, and Glastonbury

Today seemed to center around the spiritual realm in a number of ways. Any of you that have traveled to Europe and seen first-hand the Starbucks-esque profusion of cathedrals might assume it would be only natural to be thinking along those lines. Not so. Our minds were brought closer to the Heavens not by anything so lofty as stained glass and flying buttresses, but by the simple fact it was my first day driving the rental car.

Even dear old mum in her church-going ways has not heard the name of the Lord evoked so many times and in such fervor in such a short period of time. The first utterance was when the rental attendant picked us up in a late-model Jaguar, and I had a flash premonition of my house and firstborn being taken as payment for demolishing the Jag in a sheep related accident.

The attendant (aside from being one of those absolutely DARLING disheveled British boys with the kind of cheeks you have to keep your hands in fists to keep from pinching) was extremely helpful once we got back to the lot and he showed us the actual car we’d be driving. I’m still not sure if it’s an omen, but the car is equipped with suicide doors in the rear. It’s pretty darn cool, but when your nerves are already about to snap through your skin, the word ‘suicide’ doesn’t bode well. After waiting about ten minutes till we were sure they weren’t watching us out of the window, I crossed myself, peed a little, and put the car in first gear.

Suddenly driving on the opposite side of the road, steering from the opposite side of the car, shifting left handed, AND having to pull out onto a busy road make for an extremely nerve wracking morning. Mom took things like a champ and tried not to squeal too much as I bounced us off the curbs and pedestrians on the left (passenger) side of the roads. Though she did the Queen proud with her “keep calm and carry on” composure, she could certainly have used a much stronger Valium prescription. (I would know, since I replaced hers all with tic tacs, and I was still edgy as all hell after popping half a dozen.)

The ancient stones of Avebury mixed the ethereal with the earthy. The oddly shaped stones are scattered about the lovely hills, and cover an area almost 20x that of Stonehenge. You’re also not kept back from the rocks like at SH and can commune with whatever ancient energy ran through them. The sheep grazing amongst the stones certainly added to the scenery, but I must admit trekking through sheep muck detracted a bit from the mystical woo-woo factor the stones might otherwise impart.

Aside from the driving-by-feel adventures bringing to mind our mortality and thoughts of the afterlife, there were other ways that the spiritual realm was evoked. The Cathedral in Wells, of course, is jaw dropping in the architecture and detail put into every square inch of the lofty building. It’s mind boggling to think of the time and energies put into these churches, which is compounded by the sheer number of them. Teeny little towns have at least one church that would be the absolute centerpiece of practically any city in America, yet they seem to be peeking out from every town that has more than four people living in it. This one is exceptional, though, with a clock that tells time, date, and even has a little “show” that it puts on every fifteen minutes, with little horseriders running around the top of the clock bopping each other on the head. The double scissor support beams in the center of the church were just overwhelmingly spectacular, and seemed to leave us in a bit of an awestruck trance. Riding that high, we pressed on to Glastonbury, where we discovered a slightly different kind of high.

Glastonbury is the site of King Aurthur’s grave, a spectacular set of Abbey ruins, a handful of proper Englishmen, and about 9,000 hippies. The waft of hemp and patchouli brought us out of our transfixion, and we delved into our Mother Earth side of spirituality. It’s a beautiful town with a (perhaps herbally assisted) very mellow vibe, where every other shop window is lined with fairy wings, crystals and magic wands, and the good karma flows like wine.

It also hosts a rural life museum, which was oddly fun, mostly because it’s geared towards smaller kids, and there were few to be found, so mom and I got to play dress up and fiddle with all the displays without interruption.

King Arthur’s grave was remarkably nondescript, but apparently it’s a bit hit for the dead-heads, with whom it’s en vogue to lie on top of the grave. Mom and I both declined this ritual, as we’d both been close enough to our OWN automobile-induced graves not to need to push the envelope with Lady Luck.

Posted by Rounds Women 14:01 Archived in England Comments (0)

First day: Bath

semi-overcast

Remarkably, the flight over was pretty uneventful!! Save for a close shave with missing our Dallas to London flight on account of good margaritas, we did damn well. There were TVs and remotes in the back of the seats, and mom was even clever enough to figure out how to play solitaire and tetris!! I tried solitaire, but the person ahead of me was terribly upset over me asking him to fold in half so I could lay out cards properly.

Once we landed and got over the initial shock of jet lag and the tendency to giggle at all the fabulous English pronunciations of words, we boarded our bus to Bath around 1pm London time. It was a lovely and relaxing ride, watching the last bit of London go by through the windows and seeing it merge into the vivacious greens of the countryside outside of the city. The rapeseed is in bloom here, so there are just AMAZING bright yellow fields that pop up from time to time. Mom's gentle snoring was a delightful harmony to the drone of the bus, and I lost myself in a local tabloid paper that she was kind enough to pick up for me at the coach station. HRH Wills is just a CAD!

One in Bath, we delved right into the local scene. Mom launched herself into conquering the pay-as-you-go loo (slightly less than successful, but she put up a valiant effort, not to mention some awe-inspiring fortitude in patience), and I tried to get directions to "that circley-thingy at the top of the town" (jet lag DOES do a number on your brain... it's "the Circus"). We took a bus to wherever the bus driver deemed to be "that circley-thingy", and from there, naturally, got promptly lost. Having two rolling bags apiece (and not nearly enough sleep or booze in our systems), our frustration with the neanderthal-type Rick Steves drawings we were using was compounded by the cobblestone walkways.

The only good that came out of looping about the city (besides some excellent toning of the bum and improvement on my "french") was that we got our bearings for the downtown portion of town quite well. Not to brag, but we DID recognize the Jane Austen Museum each of the sixteen times we passed it.

We did find our B&B eventually, and the hostess was kind enough to help us with the two twisted, mangled bags. Then she helped with the luggage as well.

Posted by Rounds Women 13:09 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

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