Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day Six – England/Paris Trip – More Cotswolds Charm

I'm sorry it's taken so long to post this one. If I keep taking so long to get this trip reported, I'll have to break for Christmas and New Years! Writing takes a long time with composing and sweating over each word, then picking out the pictures and getting them uploaded (a MAJOR bitch). I'm also trying to post my food reports over at eGullet in a timely manor. Today I was out most of the day visiting with old pals. So here we go - possibly my longest post ever (certainly the most pictures I've ever had to upload!). Mr. Kim's comments in italics.

Thursday, May 19th
We had a full day scheduled and didn’t want to waste a minute – so you would have thought that we’d have rushed out the door the second we were dressed. But there was something about the cottage and the quietness of the village that forbade rushing and bustling.

Before we left the States, I told myself that I needed to spend this entire vacation enjoying what we were doing when we were doing it – to stay ‘in the moment’ to use an execrable expression. No worrying about being late, or lost; no fretting about what comes next. No getting aggravated at little setbacks, or even big ones. This was going to be difficult for me, I thought. I am all about worry and fret and impatience. But, with the help of being in the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, I really did manage it. There were lots of plans that didn’t come to fruition, lots of things that we didn’t see, of course. But I honestly didn’t have one single serious regret the entire time. We ‘wasted’ a lot of time, in the sense that we did a lot of aimless wandering. But not one moment was truly wasted. The fact that every 5 minutes I said or thought, “I’m in ENGLAND” attests to that. The sense of quiet exultance permeated the whole trip for me.

We really tried to pack light (could have gone even lighter), so by this time we needed to do laundry. The cottage had a very new washer and dryer. I’d been warned by Craig that English washer and dryers take an interminable amount of time, so I started a load before we went to bed the night before and put them in the dryer as soon as we got up. There was an instruction booklet with very clear directions that seemed to indicate that you could dry things for up to 7 hours. That is not a typo. SEVEN HOURS. !!!!!!!! I figured that I must be reading it wrong and set it for an hour at the highest heat and went off to make breakfast and get ready for the day. Now in the States, dryers energetically spin the clothes around, getting them all fluffy while they dry. This dryer (and Craig’s too) lazily flopped the clothes for a couple of minutes and then let them sit for a few more before starting the whole dilatory process again. At the end of the hour, I couldn’t detect any progress. Not even to my silky underthings that are practically dry at the end of the spin cycle in the washer. I turned it on for another hour and the heavier things still needed more drying when we got home that evening. When we finally got them out – dry – before we went to bed they looked like someone had balled them up and left them out in the sun to dry. Wrinkled? Lord have mercy. I decided that English people must either spend all of their disposable income on dry cleaners or spend all of their free time ironing. And what a LOVELY way to do spend your free time it is, too!

So, anyway, breakfast was some more of that lovely bacon on toast. We then hit the road for Chipping Campden.

On the way to Chipping Campden:

I should say here that the place and pub names in England equally charmed and amused us. And, of course, being who we are (as well as being heavily influenced by Bill Bryson), we had to come up with our own names – Buggering Bishop, Bourbon-on-the-Rocks, etc., etc. Which brings me to Mr. Kim’s alternate names for Chipping Campden. Chipping Campden is absolutely gorgeous and charming, as you will see. But….there was an odd, unpleasant odor in the air when we were there. While I was waiting on the High street for Mr. Kim to park the car I noticed it. There was a young man painting at the next building and I assumed that it was his paint. But as we wandered around, it was pretty much everywhere. That will explain Mr. Kim’s sobriquets – Ass on Swine and Stink on Shite. I apologize to the citizens of Chipping Campden, the Cotswolds and the entire United Kingdom. We are silly and tend to bestow nicknames rather liberally. It was weird, but certainly didn’t interfere with our sightseeing. Truly, some of the prettiest flowers and most charming vistas were to be found here.

This is really a gorgeous village with a picture perfect High street. Beautiful Cotswold stone buildings, bakeries, shops, intriguing little alleys everywhere:

But, the Hokey COKEY???:

St. James’ Church is gorgeous and right on the edge of lovely fields:

In the churchyard, we fell into conversation with some folks who were visiting from Milwaukee. They were doing almost exactly the same tour as us, only the other direction. They had just been in Winchester and Salisbury and were on their way to Oxford and London.

Just next to the church, these ruins and lodges with a gate screen are all that remain of what must have been a magnificent manor house – Campden House, built early in the 17th century. It was apparently burned by Royalist troops to prevent it being taken by Parliamentarians during the Civil War in 1645:

Not sure what this is – it was over in the grounds of Campden House:

Chipping Campden Flowers:

Some of the flower pictures were taken in two lovely secluded little gardens that we happened upon. One was the Ernest Wilson Memorial Garden just around the corner from the church. Born in Chipping Campden, he was a famous ‘plant hunter’ who worked for Botanical Gardens in England (including Kew) and even in the US. This tiny walled garden is cool and shaded with benches for peaceful, quiet visits:

The other garden ran out the back of a restaurant on the High street. There was no sign directing us, we just wandered back and found this charming garden walk:

More Chipping Campden:

Here’s another of my ‘How very English’ pictures (taken in the car park) – I loved the horse blanket, the L&M’s (do they even sell those here still?) and the half-eaten crumpet on a REAL china plate:

Next up were the villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter. It’s best to talk about them together because Upper Slaughter is so incredibly tiny. It is saved from being a hamlet only by the presence of St. Peter’s church (did YOU know that a hamlet is smaller than a village and has no church??? Amazing what you can learn on the internet). It has a church, a gorgeous manor house/hotel and about a dozen houses. Oh, and a beautiful pastoral walk through sheep meadows and fields by the River Eye to Lower Slaughter. We drove into Upper Slaughter from Chipping Campden and before we could turn around, we were out of it. A of picture of Upper Slaughter that I particularly love:

We parked the car in Upper Slaughter (seemed to be plenty of places to park, too!) and walked a section of The Great Cotswold Ramble. Modest, as far as distance (1 mile each direction) and gentle (no big hills – yay) to Lower Slaughter. This is a public footpath – a topic worth its own post. There is a whole network of these paths all over the country – most of them hundreds of years old. They must, by law, be kept open and available to walkers and sometimes horse riders. And use them they do. Everywhere we went you could see little specks toiling up and down the far hills and valleys. In the Chipping Campden post office we listened to a young man and an elderly lady (late 70’s probably) comparing notes of what sounded like a pretty strenuous trek. Even the young man she was advising seemed impressed when she indicated she had completed a 100 mile walk through the area he was asking about, although it wasn’t clear when or over how many trips. It sounded like she’d done it fairly recently. Speaking of the elderly. This is an ACTUAL road sign in England:

The first time I saw it, my mouth hung open in shock. No WAY would that sign exist in the US. I mean SERIOUSLY??? Bent over with sticks? But don’t they look LOVELY?

Sorry to digress. The footpath to Lower Slaughter was truly one of the best parts of our trip. Beautiful, calming and quiet – it slips back and forth between fields and the river side.

Some friendly townsfolk:

Along the paths there are clever little swinging gates that allow passing, but prevent livestock from wandering into places they shouldn’t. Here’s one that I found touching:

We saw these humble little plaques commemorating that other royal wedding many places. Tiny villages wanting to do their part in the celebrating of that joyful and hopeful event.

This is the beginning of Lower Slaughter:

where we had lunch at The River Café. The place is a combination gift shop, ice cream parlour, restaurant and museum. Other than the two manor house hotels, it seems to be the only commercial place in the village. And therein lies a juicy-gossipy story! Apparently, that’s the way the locals want it. The owner, a jazz singer from London is not a popular fellow in Lower Slaughter, it seems. I did some Googling and found a news story that told about the villagers’ resistance to extra car and bus parking, public restrooms and a tourist information centre. One of those ‘louts from outside muscling in to the village to make a buck’ stories. This article was dated 1999 and they must have gotten their way, because I don’t think any of those things exist still. And you know what? Good for them. They have something precious – why turn their gorgeous village into Disney on the River Eye? More villages should be that vigilant. I note that this lack of desire for tourism doesn’t keep the locals from working in the few tourist friendly places that exist. Although even without knowing this story I had noted that the shopkeep in the Mill gift shop was the least welcoming soul I met in any shop in England. That said, we very much enjoyed our delicious lunch at the Old Mill:

Nice baguette sandwiches with Cheddar and Pickle (not dill or sweet, but a delicious chutney-like spread). And we liked the ice cream cone afterwards. AND I found a book to buy at the gift shop – a mystery set in Lower Slaughter! The perfect souvenir for me.

Lower Slaughter is much bigger than Upper Slaughter with a beautiful church, TWO manor house hotels and lovely riverside homes:

Lower Slaughter was where we started noticing what we began calling “The Haunting of the Doves”. I was paying attention (because I’m weird) and the very first English animal I saw was a pigeon. I was quite disappointed actually; I was hoping for a fox or a sheep or a pheasant (something very English) - all of which we did see, we just saw the pigeon first. We realized that virtually from the moment we set foot in England, we’d never NOT heard the cooing of pigeons/doves. From then on, it was the same. EVERYWHERE we went those doves cooed at us. Mr. Kim was a little spooked, but I thought it was lovely.

Sorry, sidetracked again. We ended up getting in late to our final destination that day – Bourton-on-the-Water (the inspiration for Mr. Kim’s “Bourbon-on-the-Rocks, of course). We wandered the street beside the River Windrush (how’s that for a name?), peeking into closed shops and down side streets.

We did manage to find a kitchen ware shop that was open (how lucky am I?). I am in love with English tea towels and they had a fantastic assortment. I managed to resist, because they also had a huge assortment of something that I intended to buy since before we left home: a tea tray. Have you ever tried to find a nice, big tea tray in the US? Almost impossible. My old wooden one was looking mighty raggedy. I had an embarrassment of riches to choose from – flowers, birds, insects, gingham, chintz, polka dots, hearts. In every style imaginable – vintage, ‘mod’, patriotic. I chose cupcakes – with a checked pink border (of COURSE I did).

We went ‘home’ via Cirencester (that to which all roads lead) and stopped at The Black Horse pub for dinner. Pork and Hereford cider hot pot for me and steak and chips for Mr. Kim. We were tired puppies and glad to get back to the cottage - me to start the dryer again and fold clothes and Mr. Kim to sample some more tea.


  1. Oh, my. I'm not even halfway, and have been so immersed I'm gasping like coming up for air.

    Did want to mention this:

    Says it's a WOOL church---perhaps all their tithes? Can't you see the rough shepherds and shearers, lugging in those great smelly shoulder-loads of fresh-sheared wool and clomping them down on the altar at Tithe Time?

    Gotta go back---lots more to see.

    love and

  2. {{Oh, my. I'm not even halfway, and have been so immersed I'm gasping like coming up for air}}

    Kim, I think this is the nicest way you have EVER been told that you are long-winded. ROFL

    Rachel - You are correct, of course - I do recall some of the plastic info cards in the sanctuary describing it as a wool church. This particular one was built or rebuilt in several stages over the centuries. Like all of them of any size at all, there were in-floor memorials and graves for the local nobility, and this one had a rather amazing tomb just off the altar that we could not quite approach but could get ample peeks of.

    The flowers outside were so very brilliant. It was here that we first lamented that semi-wild graveyard roses grew more easily and successfully in England than their coddled, stunted cousins in Virginia.

  3. I think this is the most charming and wonderful travelogue I’ve ever seen!! It has everything---churches and flowers (what ARE those white ones which look like the love-children of jonquils and hydrangeas?) and stops in small villages and winding walks and gates and stones and stories.

    What a lovely way to spend a whiling-away!! I so wish I’d had all those alone times the only time I was there---those paths and the wends and the tales SO call to me. I cannot imagine living there in the midst of so much something-pleasant-to-do-every-day. Just a Sunday drive would take you into the past, into a garden, into a meadowful of green solitude.

    You DO know how to tell a tale---I just love every word, every picture---the still, quiet places just being themselves, the stones with such stories to tell, those sheep who have retired to live handsomely after their appearance in all the “. . . I’m just fluffy” refrigerator magnets and keyrings.

    I just loved this, and if it’s long-winded, then that’s my favorite way to tell it. It’s also reminded me of a forgotten story of graveyard roses---a tale for another time.
    I had the oddest mind-glitch looking at the churchyard---just a fleeting wonderment that perhaps it was better to have lived in such a charming, quiet place and be GONE, than to be living in many other parts of the world now. What strange turns my brain takes.

    I cannot imagine that your trip could have been better had it been twenty years in the planning, with a king’s ransom of tartan to spend---which picture, by the way, perfectly captured the Modern Moments of such an ancient place---plaid, crumpet, plate, and sunglasses---left behind so as not to break the spell of stepping out into such history.

    Wonderful, My Dearies!!! Simply perfect.

  4. Just wondering if the smell was a local brewery? I remember in Hythe, while waiting for the bus home from school, a local brewery that, at a certain stage of the brewing cycle, smelled horrible.

  5. gorgeous photos and lovely descriptions.............

  6. hi its me -- momma

  7. Rachel – Thank you so much for your appreciative response! It’s so nice to know that my verbosity doesn’t chase everyone away! And the quiet, wandering to just where ever times were the best. You know how that is. I knew that you would ‘get’ the picture of the inside of the car – the perfect little vignette!

    Carol – you were absolutely right – I just checked and there is a brewery just one street over from the High street! Good thinking.

    Momma – welcome again! Just remember – keep hitting the post button until the white box is gone and your post looks like the ones above! Love you.

  8. A great read Kim. It's so nice to hear your enthusiasm for Britain! One week to go and I shall be there.

    Your photos are lovely, especially the flowers, I think flowers are one of the things I miss most living away. Yes, tons of flowers here in Asia but they seem very brash and too colourful somehow, compared to the delicacy of British flowers.


  9. Thank you, Liz! It's the best place, the most beautiful and the most 'me' that I've ever been. Enthusiasm is not hard!

    Have a wonderful trip - you must be so excited!

  10. Hi Kim,

    On the subject of Tesco

    Just reading the UK papers on line and found this: Check the link:

    I've put it on Mimi's for you too but I know you've been busy and don't drop in that often.

    Anyway, don't those cauliflowers look wonderful. I think we'll be heading to Tesco on Saturday morning!