Wednesday, November 03, 2004

England Trip Notes - 10/13/2004

With some nervousness, we ventured back out in the car today, once again pointing it southwest toward Stratford-upon-Avon. However, our fears were groundless, for we had a long day of driving with very few incidents. One of those incidents will probably cost me when I turn the car in to the rental company, but why worry about that now? It would only sour my vacation. So I won't think about it.

We were on the road at 7:00 AM, giving us a good start ahead of the rush hour. Beth's navigational skills, while always good, were superb today, and she directed me to Stratford without a hitch, where we arrived at 9:40. We bought the ticket to see all five Shakespeare houses, but after we had seen three, we were Shakespeared out, and decided against the other two. We toured Anne Hathaway's house (Shakespeare's wife), the Mary Arden house and farm (Shakespeare's mother), and Shakespeare's birthplace. All were fascinating examples of 17th century architecture. Standing in those homes, viewing the timbers and furnishings that were 400 years old, was a reminder of just how much history is in this place. While America has a history, too, it is small compared to these European nations which measure time in thousands of years, rather than the few hundred we claim in the states.

While in Stratford, we enjoyed high tea at the Hathaway Tea Rooms. Beth enjoyed this more than me, I suppose, but it was interesting. The sandwiches were good, and the scones were delicious. I found the need to use the loo while there, and was amused to learn that the "Gents" room was through the back door, down an alley, and in a little building out back of the main facility.

Leaving Stratford-upon-Avon, we drove to the Cotswolds, visiting Broadway, Chipping Camden, and Stow on Wold in that order. These little towns were beautiful and different than anything we might find in the states. Supposedly, they are ideal places to go and walk and shop. We found them quaint, but because it was raining for most of our visit, did not enjoy much walking or shopping. The shops we did enter, however, were outrageously expensive, and specialized in items that did not
interest either of us. So, we mostly drove through and looked at things on the way through.

The aforementioned incident with the car occurred in Chipping Camden, where the roads are so narrow that one car will barely pass through without hitting on either side, and there is two way traffic on these streets! It involved lots of diving for little holes between cars to let oncoming drivers by. During one such dive, I clipped a parked car with the back corner of my poor, abused rental car. No mark was made on the parked car, but a tiny mark exists on the rental. It is no doubt large enough for them to notice, however, and charge me an exorbitant repair bill for. Sigh. That was a new car when I picked it up about 800 miles ago.

Leaving Stow-on-Wold, we headed back to Oakham, and once again turned a 2 1/2 hour drive into 3 1/2 hours when I took the wrong leg off a roundabout, putting us onto the motorway, and about 1 hour out of our way. Other than that, the drive back was calm.

The scenery we've been seeing as we drive is sometimes breathtaking. In the Cotswolds, we stopped several times just to photograph the view. Beautiful rolling hills, filled with hedges,and farm fields laid out as if by an artist were everywhere. While much of the day was gray and rainy, the sun would come out for periods, and light up the hills until they glowed.

And, there are other things we notice. There are pheasants everywhere. As we pass fields, we see literally hundreds of ringnecks just standing around looking bored. They fly across the road in front of the car.

We made it back to our little cottage about 8:00 PM, and ended our long day with a homemade dinner of spaghetti and canned corn, prepared by the most renowned chef in all of England - Beth Johnson.

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