Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tuesday, 19th September – Cotswolds

Today we were treated to a personalized guided tour of some of the best of the Cotswold villages by Barry, (our host at the B&B we are staying at) in his Land Rover Discovery. He was born and bred here, and knows every stone and tree, so it was a very informative tour (though he told us so much we have been struggling to remember it all), and we saw villages not on the usual tourist trail. Its such a pretty area, with lovely rolling hills and little higgledy-piggledy villages with thatched cottages made of the local Cotswold stone – picturesque is the only word for it!

After our tour we took off on our own, driving through villages with names like Upper Slaughter, Lower Swell, Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-the-Marsh. Some of them were quiet sleepy little towns which looked quite idyllic, but some were so overrun with tourists that we drove right on by. We ended up stopping at Bourton-on-the-Water, also known as the Venice of the Cotswolds – well, it does have one canal. It’s a pretty little town, with ducks swimming in the little canal lined with lovely trees and crossed by little stone bridges. We found a nice pub with a beer garden overlooking the water and had a very pleasant meal (it was around 4pm, so we combined lunch and dinner. With our cooked breakfast every day, we find we only need one other meal – which is a good thing, because even a cheap meal sets us back about $50 if you translate it - ₤20 doesn’t seem as bad). It must have been pension day – the village was full of people of mature years, hobbling along the main street on their walking frames eating icecreams.

Driving around this area is very pleasant, but also somewhat hair-raising. There are either motorways (which we have, for the most part avoided) where people seem to drive well over the speed limit, despite numerous signs indicating speed cameras, or quiet country lanes – very pretty (often the huge trees on either side arch right across the road – lovely) but very narrow. We are getting the hang of negotiating them, but still get alarmed at signs which warn “Oncoming Traffic In The Middle Of The Road”.

We had a quiet night in, chatting to the other people staying at this B&B. We are encouraged to mingle, and we all sit around one big table for breakfast (between 6 & 10 people), and we have enjoyed comparing travel stories, picking up tips on where to visit, and the best pubs, meeting people from England, Sweden, Germany.