Sunday, December 02, 2007

On to England

Before we get into the last part of our trip, I just wanted to let you know that we did get our snow. Overnight there was an accumulation of about 8 inches. This gives us over a foot on the ground. It is just glorious outside. Dave Tuttle, who helps pack our ski trails, will be out packing and grooming after this snowfall.

Now let’s get on to the last of our trip. By the time Bruce and I arrived in London we were ready to be on our own. Four and a half weeks on tour is tiring. Our plan was to spend the next week exploring the Cotswolds, a place we last visited 35 years ago.

To get to the Cotswolds we had to drive. This is not as easy as you might think. Remember they drive on the wrong side of the road over there. They also have lots of roundabouts (traffic circles) that work totally backwards to us. Finally the driver sits in the right seat and many controls like blinkers are on the opposite side to us. With both of us watching carefully we made it to our destination, Stow on the Wold.

The first night was spent in an inn on the square at Stow. The next day we found what we really wanted – a cottage. Here is a picture of Box Cottage where we spent the next five nights.

It is a small rental cottage in Broadwell, a tiny village about 5 miles from Stow. The cottage has one bedroom and bathroom, a living room with wood stove and a kitchen/dining area. Within walking distance was a pub which served good food. We ate there every night and eliminated the need to drive after dark.

The plan had been to spend time hiking but it didn’t work out. Several days were rainy or too cold and damp to make walking fun. Also the area had had flooding in the spring. Everything was wet and all the trails were very muddy. We tried one day and came home with an inch of muddy clay sticking to our shoes. On to Plan Two.

We spent several days exploring the small towns all around us. Here is a picture of the village green at Broadway.

We often saw riders out with their horses and leading a second horse for exercise. It was nice to be among English speaking people and restaurant menus that were familiar to us. One day we even met a clerk who had been to Northfield, Minnesota, and had heard of the Boundary Waters! With Christmas coming we did some shopping. Buying anything brought us face-to-face with the declining dollar and it makes travel expensive.

Two days were spent visiting castles. The first visit was to Blenheim Castle where Winston Churchill was born. Set on 2100 acres of land, it has been in the same family since the early 1700’s. It is huge and filled with all the touches of a great castle. It was also “dressed” (as the English say) for Christmas. Our second visit was to Windsor Castle. Here is a picture of the changing of the guard at Windsor Castle.

We were lucky to be the only two people on the tour of the outside grounds. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the castle. In this royal residence, everything was impressive from the rooms to the paintings to the floors. After the extensive damage from fire in 1992, everything was repaired. One parquet floor was somewhat blackened from the fire. The solution was to pry up each piece, turn the bottom side into the top side, and refinish the new top side. Both castles were a fun glimpses into life styles we will never experience.

By the time we got to our last hotel near Gatwick Airport, we were ready to go home. It had been a wonderful trip but home sounded really good. We spent the night in Minneapolis and were awake at 5:30 and driving home by 6:00. Even filling up with groceries, we were home by 1:00 for a late lunch. That night our own bed felt great.

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