Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Cotswolds and Cambridge

After our horse ride in Wales we hopped in the car and drove out of Wales, via an ice cream stop in Cardiff, to a little village in the Cotswolds called Lyneham. We stayed on a property called Old School Cottages that housed 4 cottages, and split up amongst the cottages. The main building was the town's old school house. It was a really lovely place, each cottage furnished comfortably and each with its own kitchen. There was an outdoor eating area for group dinners at dusk.

Lyneham is next to the area's golf course, which has a walking path to the back of it. There were a few nights that we took some nice walks down this path and others nearby.

Our first full day in the Cotswolds was the day of our family reunion, hosted by my talented aunt Lynda, whose family was also taking holiday in a neighboring Cotswolds village called Bruern. All of our English relatives travelled from around Britain to join us at the lovely holiday manor. The place was picture perfect, and a dream come true for little kids.

Finn tried out every little riding car/tractor/bike available (of which there were about 10) in the kid's play area. He was in heaven!

The highlight for me was my aunt's homemade scones with clotted cream and jam. Wow.
The next day Michael, Amanda, Jeremy and I made our way over to Cambridge. Michael and I were anxious to show our spouses a place that was part of our history. And we were excited to feel the nostalgia and remember the stories from when we lived and went to school there. Here we are standing in Histon's village green, the entrance to our little town. Seeing this green is my first memory of driving into our new town for the first time. Of course this green also houses other memories....walking around in the evening with my first boyfriend, sitting down to eat the excellence that were the chips from the local chippy, etc etc.

As we walked straight to our house from the green, Michael and I had memories rushing back from walking that same path to school together every day. Lovely memories like seeing vomit on the sidewalk outside the pub every Monday morning. The red head boy from the class younger than I stalking me. The time my parents urged me to be nice to that poor red head boy who brought me flowers and notes of ardor, agreeing to spend an evening with him only to have the sketchiest experience of my adolescent life. Adolescent lesson learned: sometimes you have to watch out for the goofy-looking ones too. We also had fond memories, like the farm fresh milk that got delivered to us each morning, being stoked if we were lucky enough to be the first at the milk, thereby getting the cream top on our Weetabix.

Here are Michael and I standing outside the cottage where we lived. You can only see the roof of our house behind the garage--we didn't dare go closer or inside the gate because we could tell the occupants were home. It was an even lovelier little spot of the world than I remembered....off of the street, having to cross over a little bridge over a stream, property lined with neatly trimmed hedges. I remember seeing my first real live hedgehog wander out of that hedge.

Afterwards we walked around some more, up to the butcher's and place where they sold farm fresh eggs. We laughed as we remembered when my mom asked Michael to hurry and go buy some eggs for us, as fast as he could. Michael ran the whole way there. And the whole way back.....presenting my mom with a bag of broken eggs from the jostle. "I hurried as fast as I could!"

We were deeply saddened to find the delicious village chippy closed for lunch, but settled for a nostalgic cheese sandwich at the pub closest to our school. I used to buy those cheese sandwiches on lunch break from school. They were basically the same as 16 years ago, except for a modernized switch to whole grain bread. What has become of you, Britain?? After driving past Impington Village collage, where we went to school, we headed into the breathtaking city of Cambridge. Jeremy was amazed by it.

We decided to go punting on the river Cambs. Michael was still sore from the time he went punting with our relatives from the US and our uncle wouldn't let him try steering the boat with the stick. This was his time to shine.

But shine he did not. For the first 20 minutes of our ride, we zig zagged back and forth down the river as Michael tried to get it right. I make fun, however I absolutely know that I would not have done any better. At least we got to laugh our way down the river Cambs.

For Amanda and I, the ride was relaxing and beautiful.

Jeremy's biggest challenge as master of the stick was that he kept losing it. He would stick it between some rocks or a crack and our boat would go, while the stick would stay. Getting our boat back to retrieve the stick was quite the feat.

He also steered us under a tree, sliming Amanda with some lovely green goop. Again, at least we had good laughs.

After our punting adventure, we walked around some more. We hit up the awesome outdoor market in the center of Cambridge. We bought Finn a little wooden police car/ puzzle/ stacking toy. We knew he would love figuring out how to stack it together to create the police car, and would love even more the real siren! This gift was courtesy his great grandparents, who sent for him a card with the poundage for a little British gift.

Of course I had to check out the enormous sweet shop in town. Gorgeous, isn't it?!?

As it was tea time, we headed to a place Michael and I held dear in our memories--the Orchard at Grantchester Meadows. I'll never think of Grantchester Meadows without hearing my dad serenade us with Pink Floyd as we made plans to come to this place and throughout our walks here. Coming here brought back memories of weekend walks from Cambridge, through the frost-bitten meadows, seeing even spider webs lined in frost and arriving at this little teahouse to be greeted and warmed with ginger, black currant or licorice tea and a fresh scone. This historical place hosted writers like Virginia Woolf and Rupert Brooke, economist Keynes and other well-known philosophers.

We kind of cheated and took our tea before our walk through Grantchester Meadows.

For some reason, this walk also become our chance to experiment with cubist photography. We're gorgeous people, no?

I've been wanting to share Cambridge with Jeremy for years. I'm so grateful I finally got the chance. I love how much he enjoyed seeing this setting to part of my life. I'm especially grateful that Michael, who was my lone sibling at the time, was there for this journey back. It wouldn't have been the same.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Last Days in Wales

The morning after Alex and Amy arrived with their crew, we all enjoyed a hike up behind the bed and breakfast. We felt so lucky to have such beautiful walks and views right out our door. Emily and I also enjoyed running down the small country roads in the morning to see the rolling green hills and ocean.

In the afternoon we went on a wild goose chase for some clothes for my niece Juniper who in her enthusiasm, had jumped into the ocean in her clothes. As fate would have it, by the time we made it to our castle destination, it was closing. Finn had a little run around before we piled in the car again for our next stop.

Our next stop was one of my favorites. We made the short walk to see Pentre Ifan, a stone structure dating 3500 BC! It marked a burial site. Leave it to my family to see it as a rock climbing opportunity. And right off the bat. Even Finn insisted on being able to get up to the top.

Of course, we also saw this potentially illegal activity as a family portrait opportunity.

Finn had a blast running around the grounds with his cousins. They even taught him how to roll down a hill!

That night we ate our best pub meal of the trip at The Golden Lion, in the town of Newport. Oddly the burger that Jeremy ate was a lifetime best, and my steak and ale pie was superb. Finn ate his whole plate of chicken tenders and fries.
The next day was another favorite activity: crabbing in the Fishguard harbor. We bought bait traps, nets, and a bucket at a local convenience store. What's the best crab bait? Bacon!

We caught tons of crabs. Tons. When our bucket would get full we would dump it out and watch all the crabs scuttle into the water. We kept the big ones, my catch being the biggest, and who I named Hercules.
This video tells it best.

Finn enjoyed sitting in a boat to eat his lunch.

When his attention span for crabbing had been exhausted, he enjoyed rock climbing. Perhaps inspired by the previous day's shennanigans?

The afternoon brought a successful trip to Pembroke Castle! This place really was fun to explore. An excellent choice for kids.

This castle was built over a natural cavern, thought to be used in the stone age. Crazy.

This castle had the perfect grounds for running around, and even supplied big bouncy balls that kids could use to bounce all over the place. Or kick. Finn also enjoyed his first "ice lolly" here. He and grandad have something going with sharing their treats.

Our last stop at the castle was to climb up the largest tower. So pretty (and kind of sketchy to have a toddler up there).

For dinner, we found a pub in Pembroke called the Ferry Inn with great outdoor seating (essential for kids), right next to the water. This was great for play time while we waited for our food.

Jeremy would probably want me to point out how many skips he got on that rock.

Our last morning in Wales we went on a horseback ride through the country side--Jeremy's first. I'll be first to say that the getup doesn't really suit him. English style saddle, helmet and boots. We had fun though. Jeremy wanted to go faster, of course.

Next stop....the Cotswolds!