This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Cotswolds Adventure

Today we headed into The Cotswolds, a region of England roughly bordered by Bristol in the southwest, Oxford on the southeast and Stratford-Upon-Avon in the north. Getting around is really best by car which worked very well for us since we are visiting in the off season. In the summer the traffic can make the experience quite obnoxious.

The attraction of visiting quaint English, country villages with names like Stow-in-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh, Upper and Lower Slaughter and Bourton-on-the-Water, draws visitors by the droves in summer.

Our one day journey took us through many of the above mentioned villages. We made stops in Bourton-on-the-Water for tea and scones served with delicious clotted cream and raspberry jam. We walked through the village which calls itself the Venice of England. I am not so sure about that but it is quaint and cute. Lots of upscale shops without any of the big name stores you often find in resorty types of places. Still I had the feeling that this village was a bit of a victim of its own success with too many touristy shops and it was obvious that most shops catered to the tourist trade.

We drove through many other villages without stopping. We made our final stop in Stow-in-the-Wold, which is an absolutely stunning village with enough of a local population to need the specialized butcher shops, chocolatiers and bakeries that dotted the main street. Stow is also home to the Royalist Hotel, the oldest inn in all of England, going back to 947 AD. Also worth a stop for a pub lunch are The Queen's Head or The White Stag. We lunched at The Queen's Head. I had locally famous spotted sausages with mash and carrots and brussel's sprouts all covered in a rich gravy and accompanied with a locally made pint of cider. Surrounded by locals enjoying a pint and arguing over the news of the day, the Queen's Head was a warm and colorful stop on our journey.
The Royalist Hotel

Driving through the Cotswalds is an adventure in itself and not for the timid. Driving down narrow lanes lined with hedgerows and on the opposite side of the road than we Americans are used to takes a lot of concentration and can be a bit nerve-racking at times. But the craziness of attempting it is rewarded by a lovely drive through rolling hills criss-crossed by hedge rows dividing the land and ever present emerald green grass dotted with roving sheep. And, of course, the occasional village right out of a storybook.
We drove through the countryside back to Bristol and stopped to do a little shopping before heading home. Picked up a few things we wanted to take home as gifts--cheeses, sauces, cider, jams, etc.
Tomorrow we leave early for our 4 day trip to Barcelona, Spain. I won't be blogging while there but I will be sure to blog about my first ever experience in Spain as soon as I get back. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Avon River Valley

I start a new travel series with this blog entry. I am visiting with family in the west country of England and will also spend 4 days in Barcelona, Spain. Follow my adventure in upcoming blogs.

We arrived safely in Bristol yesterday after two long flights starting in Seattle. We arrived in time to exchange Christmas gifts on Boxing Day, visit and enjoy a tradional English "roast" cooked up by our own Nick and Kate. Had roasted lamb, roasted potatoes and roasted carrots and turnips. A tradional English pudding for dessert as well as lots of fun conversation. Nick's sister Kate along with her partner Andy and their beautiful daughter Grace were over. Nick and Kate along with his parents gave us the gift of a trip to Barcelona, Spain. We will go for 4 days while we are here. Never been to Spain so this will be a new country for us. Don't know how we ever missed Spain with all our trips to Europe over the years but there you are.

We ate in this dining room at The Lock Inn

Today, we ventured by train into the Avon River Valley. Our main stop was at The Lock Inn Cafe along the Kennet and Avon Canal and just a stone's throw from a hand operated lock on that canal. We stopped in to the Dick and Jane for a Boatman's breakfast which was an enormous platter of food including sausage, rashers of bacon, bubble and squeek, chips, mushrooms, tomato, beans, fried bread and a fried egg on top. A pot of great tea washed it all down, all in a storyboook setting along a canal teaming with long narrow canal boats tied up or slowly cruising up and down the canal.

This canal crosses and recrosses the Avon River and roads along its meandering path. It is able to to do this with the help of an old aquaduct system, some of them dating back to the Roman occupation. Canal boats cruise across these aquaducts a hundred feet in the air above the hilly English countryside.

We hiked 2 miles along the canal towpath until we arrived at Avoncliff, a quaint village which has become a bit famous lately as the home of Kevin Spacey. The Cross Guns Pub was a picture perfect place to stop for a draught of hot Cheddar Valley Cider, a scrumpy style cider with a neon orange color and a kick to match!

We hopped the train and returned to Bristol at Temple Mead station and drove back to Kate and Nick's flat. A perfect day!