Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Goodbye Britannia ~

We left Banbury in the rain. A dreary start to a dreary traveling day. Waiting in cold, damp train stations for rides through bleak terrain was not an auspicious start to our last day in England. We soldiered on and made it to our hotel just a mile outside of Heathrow. We settled in, had a pint, and then went back to the room to relax until dinner time.

Supper was delicious fish and chips, served by a cheeky Romanian, who reminded me of a character in one of my favorite novels. We split a bottle of Australian Shiraz, and I splurged on some sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

My stomach is now proclaiming, in no uncertain terms, that I made bad choices for my last day here. So I write this as I sip some stomach-soothing herbal tea, preparatory to getting a shower and shampoo.

Tomorrow will be a new adventure with the shuttle bus to the airport. For those of you planning to fly to London via Delta Airlines be aware that you will be going in and out of Terminal 4. Terminal 4 is the red-headed stepchild of Heathrow. Nothing goes directly to, or from, Terminal 4. Just thought you should know.

I find myself strangely conflicted about leaving. Part of my heart is still back in Cornwall - a place I will definitely revisit one day. Part of me longs for my family, my home, and my bed! I can't wait to give lots of squishy-cheek kisses to my sweet Elizabeth, and hugs to Janine and Jason. Mostly, it will be nice to be back to a familiar routine, and the comforting rhythm of my life.

Tomorrow is the final leg of this adventure.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rain, Rain, and Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn

The day began in an ambivalent fashion. We awoke to sunny skies, only to have them turn gray and gloomy after breakfast. We wanted to spend our last day exploring the charming Cotswold village of Charlbury.  It rained as we boarded the train to Oxford, but as we traveled from Oxford to Charlbury, I looked out the window and spotted a rainbow.

Normally, I look at rainbows as harbingers of good things to come. I was a bit skeptical, however, due to the gloomy forecast, and the weather we had yesterday at Blenheim. We arrived at Charlbury railway station in a steady rain, walked with umbrellas unfurled into the village, and spotted the Rose and Crown. The idea of a dry room and a hot cup of tea beckoned us, so we popped in and shed our wet jackets and brollies and settled in for a bit.

Our host's name was Tommy, a lover of music, and frequent traveler to Austin, Texas' music scene.
He fixed us some tea, and we had a lovely time chatting with him, as we warmed up and dried out. Tommy helped us out with directions to a lovely walk about the village. Following his directions, we did enjoy a nice walk, a respite from the rain, and ended up back at the Rose and Crown for a pint. Anne and I both agreed, that we would rather have stayed in Charlbury than in Banbury, as the village is absolutely lovely, and Cotswold to the core.

By the time we made it back to Banbury, it had started raining again, but nothing very heavy. Within 5 minutes of leaving the railway station, we found ourselves caught in a deluge. We slogged on for another 10 minutes until we found Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn, which was built in 1570. Anne actually discovered its existence while perusing a Good Beer Guide in the Rose and Crown.  It sounded so good, we decided to give it a try, and it did not disappoint.

We arrived absolutely soaking wet from hip to toes, water sloshing about inside our shoes, and water cascading off our umbrellas and jackets.  It was so good to be out of the rain and somewhere cozy, warm, and dry. Our lovely bartender fixed us up with two cold pints of Guinness, and we repaired to a lovely little nook to peruse our menus.  A wonderful dinner followed, and we were able to walk back to the B&B without getting rained on again.

Now, clean and dry, we settle down for the evening, hoping that the wet things will be dry by morning. Tomorrow we travel to London, and then Thursday it's time to fly home.

Stay tuned...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Blenheim in the Rain

The long walk up the drive to Blenheim was a wet one. Rain had ushered in the day, and persisted through most of it. After the now familiar trek to train station and bus stop, we alighted at the Hensington Gate and started up the drive in a light rain. We purchased our tickets, after receiving a 30% discount for using public transport to get there. (America, take notes!)

We found the cafe onsite, and settled down to a cup of tea and called Anne's good friend Pauline. She lives nearby and met us as we were having a look around the Great Court. The house and grounds are truly massive, as befits the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough. They were no less impressive for being shrouded in gray and mist.

The rain was hit and miss throughout the day, and we were still able to enjoy our walk to the Column of Victory, the Queen Pool, a short walk along the Main Lake, viewing the Cascades and the South Lawns. We heard plenty of birdsong, saw pheasants meandering across the fields, and some sheep grazing on the side of a hill.

Visiting as we did, on a rainy weekday, off-season, offered a chance to enjoy the grounds without encountering a great deal of people. It is a peaceful place, inviting one to walk slowly in quiet meditation. The highlight for me were the trees. So many ancient trees, with gnarled roots, and craggy bark - measuring time in centuries, not years. Oh the stories they could tell.

After a lovely tea break (Thank-you Pauline!) we took a bit of a walk through the secret garden. It was absolutely lovely, and every turn in the path was a delight. We elected to stop our tour there, as we had to be mindful of catching the bus back to Oxford train station. I would love to make a trip back to Blenheim one day, when it's sunny, and I have time to tour the house as well as the grounds. 

Now, home, fed, and showered, we can relax. Hopefully, we'll make it to a lovely Cotswold village tomorrow.  Stay tuned...