Friday, May 17
Today was a travel day. We packed up and tidied the apartment then headed for the Kensington Underground station to pick up our rental car from Hertz. Neither of us minded leaving London, I think, and we were looking forward to a change from the crowds and urban environment.
After a very long afternoon of driving – most of which was spent just trying to get out of London – turns out they have rush hour, too, duh – we finally reached Guildford to the southwest of London. We stopped in the town to get some food and a map. They have a nice high street that is a pedestrian zone. We couldn’t find a bookstore and stopped to ask a police officer – who turned out to be from New Jersey! We chatted for a few moments while he and Jim compared career and retirement notes and then he directed us to a Waterstone’s around the corner.
We bought a map for Oxford and a road atlas and then headed to the Asperion Guesthouse. We got checked in and had a little supper and an early night.
Saturday, May 18
We checked out of the Asperion (with friendly and solicitous staff but a truly awful bed) and started our tour of The Cotswolds, the picture postcard area of rural southern England – stone cottages, thatched roofs, lovely gardens and fields bounded by dry stone walls.
We stopped for an early lunch at The Castle at Doddington, a traditional British pub. In the parking lot was a 1939 Austin Cambridge.
What fun that would be to drive through some of the Cotswolds towns but we were comfortable in our our functional Skoda Octavia.
Jim volunteered to do the driving and I did my best to navigate. Between left-hand driving and unfamiliar traffic markings, both jobs required some patience and concentration.
We explored the area for the rest of the afternoon. We saw beautiful but funky-smelling fields of rapeseed.
We stopped in Fairford and enjoyed a break from driving. The Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin is a wool church built in 1497. Wool churches were built using the wealth of the medieval wool trade.
It has some great gargoyles.
Technically they are grotesques, I suppose, since they are decorative and not rain spouts. Interesting factoid from Cornell University: “The word, gargoyle, derives from the French gargouille, or throat, from which the verb, to gargle, also originates.”
The church also has the only complete set of late medieval glass in a parish church in the country.
I wish we could have stuck around. I love the idea of enjoying some British ale in a beautiful old stone hotel in rural England while listening to twangy country music.
We went on our way, driving some tiny roads with pretty scenery. We saw a herd of cattle with this Charolais calf and his Hereford pal,
We found our way to our lodging for the next two nights, The Angel at Burford, a sixteenth-century coaching inn. It was a great old building with a pub and breakfast room on the ground floor and three rooms upstairs. It was interesting to see modern upgrades like the bathroom incorporated with the older stone and timber and sloping floors. You can find more photos here. (We stayed in the room with the red bedspread.)
There was a cute little Mini parked nearby. That might have been fun for me to drive around the tiny rural roads but not so much for tall people like Jim.
Burford was interesting to explore. We found the great Mad Hatter Books,
Hats and books. What more do we need?
We wandered around the St John the Baptist Church and found a plaque commemorating the the Banbury Muntiny, a mutiny in 1649 by soldiers under Oliver Cromwell over unpaid salaries and politics.
We happened to be in town on Levellers Day and saw these bouquets left at the site.
We stopped for supper at The Cotswolds Arms. Jim had a steak and ale pie and a Guinness. I tried the spinach and mushroom risotto which was just okay but the accompanying Green Goblin Cider was quite good and had a great label.
Next time on SLWS, Winchcombe, Broadway, Chipping Campden and Stow-On-The-Wold.