So we arrived Wednesday morning to a drizzle and at an airport that requires you to walk across the tarmac. It seemed so very … English. My cousin Angela met us at the airport and escorted us on a whirlwind tour of unclassified roads between the Bristol airport and her home. I feared several times we’d end up in the hedgerow lining the road, but I should have had more faith in Rudi’s driving abilities.
From Bristol, we headed to Bath, where we wandered the city, doing some window shopping before we checked into our guest house for the night where I promptly fell asleep for three hours. Oops. We ate dinner at a cute French bistro, which had delicious, but semi-pricey food. It was the first night — and we just couldn’t contemplate thinking more in depth about dinner. We then went to a local pub and sat in the beer garden under the stars for an hour or so before wandering home to sleep.
The next day we shopped at Marks and Spencer for a little bit and then lunched at Sally Lunn’s (I had the Jane Austen cream tea — tea plus a Sally Lunn bun with raspberry jam and clotted cream. Yum!)
Then off to Wales! We arrived in Abergavenny at 4:30 to find the city center bustling with people shopping. We thought it charming until 5:30 when everything closed. Everything. We did manage to find a chip shop open and ate cod and chips in the car before driving through Brecon Beacons National Park to Brecon where we immediately fell asleep after checking into a hotel attached to the ruins of the city’s old castle.
This morning we got a bit of a late start (self-tanning takes a bit of time, I was surprised to realize), but left Brecon before 11 after hitting a couple of town bakeries. (Back in the room we have Welsh cakes and custard tarts awaiting us.) We arrived in Hay-on-Wye (“Town of Books”) just before noon and spent two blissful hours wandering from one shop to another. Just as we’d given up on finding an affordable lunch spot (I had to give up on having Welsh rarebit in Wales), we turned down a sunlit alley to find a tiny sandwich spot. Two sandwiches, two mugs of tea, and a dessert bar (I think it might have been called tilley?) cost me under £7. Quite reasonable!
This evening finds us in Oxford. Unfortunately, we have discovered that major English towns are not like major American towns — things close between 5:30 and 7 just like they do in small towns. This all seems very civilized in theory, but is remarkably frustrating in practice when you’re looking for something to do and someplace to check your email.
Tomorrow we turn southwards for some family time — Caroline’s wedding tomorrow afternoon and then on Sunday and Monday some time in the town my grandmother grew up. I’m hoping she’ll show me some of the places where her stories take place. The old flour mill where her father worked, the private school she got into on a scholarship, the church where she and my American G.I. grandfather wed over the objections of most of her family…
As predicted, I am not getting enough rest, but thanks to Marks and Spencer, I do have more of a tan than I did when I began the trip. And I’m having a fantastic time. I’m so glad I came.
More updates when I have time and internet access…