07.08.2010 - 07.16.2010
After a tearful farewell to G'mama at 5am in the Milan airport, we boarded a flight to Heathrow and arrived at 8am. During the flight we flew over the Alps and the real Matterhorn Mountain of Disneyland fame. England is the first English language country we have been to for over four months and we all commented how nice it was to be able to read the signs in the airport and speak to everyone. We made our way to Oxford for a day and night in the university town. We all decided we were tired of Italian food and opted for yummy Lebanese for lunch. We spent over an hour beforehand in a bookstore enjoying the huge selection of titles in English. We ended up buying a couple of books each and started reading them immediately when we sat down for lunch. I have to say that books have been a challenge this trip. Gracie and I both have lots of titles on MY Kindle and we are trying our best to share. Beyond that, in any town that we found a bookstore with an English section we have spent a lot of time browsing (and enjoying our new purchases).
The afternoon was spent sightseeing in the lovely town. There are about 30 individual colleges that make up Oxford University and each has it's own self-contained campus and individual personality. It was amazing on our tour to hear all of the famous names that have studied at the university and we were thrilled to discover that the real Alice from Alice in Wonderland was raised at Christ Church College in Oxford. Her father was the dean of the college and Louis Carroll was a math teacher there who enjoyed entertaining Alice and her sisters with stories of adventure. We went to the shop where she would go to buy sweets and then had a nice Mad Hatter Tea Party at the tea shop next door. It was also cool to discover that the beautiful, old, wood-paneled dining hall at Christ Church was the one used in the Harry Potter films. Oxford is a great town for eating, shopping and sightseeing and we had a nice time soaking in the sights!
July 9th - July 16th
We enjoyed our black cab ride to the Europcar office and after a few minutes just sitting behind the steering wheel I found my courage to drive on the "wrong" side of the road and we set off for our cottage in the Cotswolds. Upper Oddington where Rose Cottage is located is about one hour from Oxford and two miles from Stow-In-The-Wold. It is a charming country cottage in a tiny town with only one pub and no stores. The first afternoon we walked to the pub for lunch and then happily made black bean tostadas for dinner (yes, they do have a Mexican section in the Tesco superstore).
On Saturday morning, July 10th, we were joined at our cottage by Lyn, Lucy and Laura Shaw, our friends we met on our Morocco tour. They live about an hour away in a suburb of Birmingham called Solihull. It was great to see them all and we enjoyed a 5-mile afternoon walk from Burton-on-the-Water through Upper and Lower Slaughter. It was like no time had passed since we'd seen each other and we had a fun time walking and talking. That evening we headed back to the Horse and Groom pub in town and the following day was spent at the Lido (swimming pool) in Cheltenham. We arrived in England during a heat wave and enjoyed the sunshine and warm weather while it lasted.
Laura spent the night with us on Sunday and after awaking to rain on Monday we drove to Solihull for the afternoon and evening. "Big" Lucy was very nice and agreed to watch the three younger girls so Lyn and I could spend the afternoon shopping at the mall. We had so much fun shopping together and it felt so "normal" to be at a mall with a girlfriend. That evening we got to visit with Danny and Alex and after a delicious dinner of chicken curry we played a competitive game of Pictionary (with the adult ladies being victorious!), and took a nice walk around their beautiful neighborhood.
The following morning we said thanks and goodbye to the Shaws and headed to Warwick Castle for a soggy afternoon of medieval history. The castle was fun and had intersesting exhibits. The girls and I especially enjoyed the fireball catapult, doing archery, and learning about parties held in the castle in the 1800's and battles fought outside the walls during the 15th century.
Wednesday we had a traditional English country day and it was spent shopping in Stow-in-the-Wold for wellies (rain boots), having cream tea (scones with cottled cream and tea) in the afternoon, and watching the hilarious Mr. Bean in the evening. It was a great day and it also included a tour through a charming toy museum in Stow.
Thursday we decided to brave the rainy weather in our new wellies and drove to the Cotswold Farm Park. It is a farm dedicated to conservation and preserving rare British breeds of cows, pigs, sheep and chickens. The girls were able to feed the baby lambs from bottles and hold some adorable bunnies. We also saw a chick hatching from an egg and got to feed many sheep and goats. The facility is well designed and we spent hours there enjoying the fresh air and their adorable animals.
Today was our last day in the country and I convinced the girls that we needed to do a walk. So we grabbed our wellies and rain jackets and headed for the lovely town of Winchcombe. Our walk was a four mile loop over rolling hills, through sheep pastures and past Sudeley Castle where the Henry VIII's 6th (and final) wife was buried. We had to duck under big trees to avoid the occassional downpour and it was an adventure avoiding all of the poop in the pastures and listening to the animals call out as we walked past. Of course we rewarded ourselves with a cream tea after the hike and had dinner at a great pub called The Fox in Lower Oddington.
We are off tomorrow morning to St. Ives which is on the coast in Cornwall. I am looking forward to seeing another part of England but will miss this charming, beautiful district. Only four more weeks of our journey and we intend to make the most of it. Cheers!