Monday, November 19, 2012

English Charm

On the Sunday of my parent's first weekend here, the plan was to spend the evening in the Cotwolds. Before heading up to the Cotwolds my parents wanted to go to Bath to see... well, obviously, the Roman Baths! I wasn't especially excited about this because I'd already been to see the Roman Baths--maybe I'll post about that another time--and I wasn't especially thrilled by it. I thought that the idea behind the Roman Baths was fascinating--water that heats itself and comes from deep deep in the ground--but after seeing it for a moment I was pretty much done. And that sort of museum just doesn't interest me. But obviously if my parents wanted to go I wanted them to go, they did come all the way to England after all. I just figured I'd go to Bath with them and just find a coffeeshop to go and sit in an blog or read, especially since I didn't want them to have to pay for me to go into a museum in which I had no interest. And that was all well and good until I looked at a map.

If you look at a Google Maps of Oxford, Bath and Winchcombe (our final destination for the night) you'll see what I mean. Bath is southwest of Oxford and Winchcombe is northeast. "Bath isn't even on the way to our final destination!" I thought. "Why would we drive down and then back up again?" Well, I knew why: because they wanted to go to Bath. But I didn't. For a split second I though about how easy it would be for them to go to Bath without me and then pick me up in Oxford on the way to Winchcombe. But of course I wouldn't actually ask them to do that. They were here to spend time with me, after all.

And boy was I glad I went. A few miles from Bath is a small town called Castle Combe. It is unofficially called "The Prettiest Village in England." And I would say this is a completely true description. Castle Combe was a quintessential English town--cobbled streets, beautiful houses and a small stream running through it. This was the type of town I'd been wanted to see since I've been in England. And here I was, dreading the drive down to Bath. I took so many pictures while in Castle Combe because it was the most adorable, quaint and picturesque little town. I've only posted one for you all to see now because soon I'll be created a photo essay using the pictures I took while there so you'll have to wait for that.

And not only is the architecture and gardening quaint  so are the actions of this town and the way they operate. Inside the town church is a handmade display of pictures from when War Horse was filmed in this town. The village is so proud in their involvement in this film and want to share it with others. Also inside the church, they sell Castle Combe postcards and prints by way of honor. There's a box to put your money in ,and they're trusting that we will hold up our end of the deal. This system of trust isn't just limited to the church. In the town square there is a little table selling baked good and sweets. There is a small sign that says "slip the money through the mail slot". There isn't a person around watching the table; it is entirely based upon the trust. This is something you only really see in small towns.

After that we headed on to Bath, where my parents visited the Roman Baths museum and I found a coffeeshop to sit and write in. Interestingly, while in Bath I saw a street performer duo that we listened to last time I was in Bath. They had a better location this time, so they must be moving up in the world.

About two hours later we were back on the road to Winchcombe, our destination the "White Hart Inn," an inn recommended by a family friend. And they did not lead us astray. Our evening at the White Hart was one of my favorite parts of my time with my parents. We drove into Winchcombe and their High Street was nothing like Oxford's as this is a much smaller town. As we drove in I was thinking about what a cute town it was and marveling at how small it was. I later learned. however, that Winchcombe is actually larger than my hometown in Maryland. Oh.  We brought our bags to our room on the top floor and headed down to the bar to wait for our table to become ready at the restaurant connected with the inn.

My meal at the Wine and Sausage restaurant was one of the best I've had in England but it was a bit of a rocky road. I ordered break and they were out of rolls so all I got were some random pieces of toast. Although they did discount it to 50p, so that was good I guess. Looking at the I decided a wanted the chicken wrapped in bacon. Doesn't that sound super unhealthy yet super delicious? I ordered and was getting excited when our waitress came out to inform me that they were out of chick. Wait, what? Of all of the things to be out of, chicken? Disappointed, I ordered something else, but suddenly wasn't very hungry at all. It turned out I was lucky they were out of chicken. My salmon dish was amazing. The salmon flaked perfectly with my fork and melted in my mouth. The cream sauce complimented the salmon ad asparagus perfectly and the mashed potatoes... well I just love mashed potatoes. We stayed at our table for a long time, enjoying the atmosphere and the fire in the room. It was an all-around enjoyable experience.

John, my dad's best friend who, with his wife, joined by parents on this tip, is a very outgoing person. A more introverted person, this worked to my advantage. After dinner, we went back to the bar for after-dinner drinks (I had a Bailey's Irish Cream) and John, as usually was engaged in a conversation. We stayed downstairs for a while talking to the manager Darren and our waitress Lizzie. Lizzie was interested in studying abroad in America so we talked about that and when her sister and her friends arrived to walk home with her, we had a long conversation about the difference between American and English universities. It was really interesting and a lot of fun and I would have never found myself in that conversation if it wasn't for John's outgoing nature.

The next morning we were up early so that my parents could drive to the coast to take a train to France. Breakfast was included and we're not talking a dinky continental breakfast. This was a real hearty breakfast and I had an omelette. As we ate, we watched the owner of the hardware store across the street bring what appeared to be his entire store outside for his sidewalk display. Throughout the course of our breakfast, he managed to get the entire thing set up in the rain. It was quite impressive.

All in all my trip to Castle Combe, Bath and Winchcombe was a lot of fun and definitely not what I was expected. It certainly exceeded my expectations.

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