Sunday Morning 9/8/2019: Week 1 in the UK

Blockley sits down in a small valley and provides views of the countryside in every direction.

It was just slightly over a year ago when Brett and I arrived in Buenos Aires, the first stop on our around-the-world Big Adventure. At the time we had an itinerary that would get us through the middle of May of this year, summer in Portland, and a visit to England in the fall of this year. We didn’t know when we set out how we’d feel about traveling when we got to this point, but we’ve been having a wonderful time, learned some tricks along the way and have decided we are going to keep going for a while longer. We have a visit to Kaua’i planned for next January, followed by another three months’ stay in Japan, and have made an Airbnb reservation for after Japan, but where that is will remain a mystery for now (hint: It’s not California. We still plan on going there, but are will be taking a detour first).

Currenty though we are pinching ourselves that we are finally in England. Our reservation for our cottage in Blockley were made over a year ago, when we were still living on Kaua’i. We’re settling into our little cottage, learning how to operate most of the appliances in the house (we are still having trouble getting the gas stove in the living room to work), and are getting to know the little village of Blockley. This coming week we will be heading over to the nearby towns of Moreton-in-Marsh on Tuesday to check out their big market day and do some grocery shopping, and then will visit nearby Chipping Campden on Friday.

The living room sofa cushions are covered in sturdy British tweed! The cushions are down-filled though, which has taken some getting used to.
Original oil paintings in the cottage add to its charm.

Glebe Cottage is just about perfect for us. Glebe means “a piece of land serving as part of a clergyman’s benefice and providing income,” and the cottage is in a building that was at one time part of the old vicarage attached to the village church. The space has been remodeled enough that it’s impossible to tell now what original function it served in the past. Back on Kaua’i, YaYu had asked if she could find us a place to stay in England and after giving her our parameters she came up with a few choices, with Glebe Cottage at the top of the list. We can’t wait for her to see it when she comes to visit in October! If we have to complain about anything it’s that there is very little storage space in the house, especially for clothes, but we figured out a system that works for us and got everything put away. We have beautiful views of rolling hills and pastures from the cottage patio and upstairs, and the view from our front door of the high street and the Blockley church is one I know we’ll never grow tired of. The little house has every convenience, the kitchen is very well equipped, and the whole place is very cozy and comfortable overall, just the right size for the two of us.

We are almost over our jet lag but not quite. I’m still waking up at 4:30 or so in the morning, and then struggling to get through the day without falling asleep so that I can go to bed at a somewhat decent hour. Brett is doing better although he has had a couple of days where he’s taken some very l-o-n-g naps which have made it difficult for him to fall asleep later. It will all get sorted out but we wish it would hurry up and happen sooner rather than later.

The vines covering the side of Glebe Cottage will eventually turn bright orange as fall progresses but are already starting to change color.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: It was difficult for me to get any reading done while we were traveling, but I finally finished Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (I loved this book!) this past week. I was ready to start Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann (her mysteries are set in old Japan), but reader Sheila recommended Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford, whose family is connected to Chipping Campden, so I downloaded that from the library and am reading it first.
  • Listening to: It’s soooooooo quiet here, not a sound to be heard from outside except for a few songbirds doing their thing. Brett is reading so it’s quiet inside as well. I absolutely love it! It’s a beautiful day as well so we’re planning to go out for a walk in a while. We’ve walked through the town a few times but want today want to follow one of the paths out of town and into the hills for a change.
  • Watching: We have cable TV here in the cottage but haven’t found anything yet that’s caught our attention other than the current season of the Great British Baking Show (I think there may be more American shows available than British). We watched a lot of BBC news this past week because of the Brexit vote, etc. They did a fairly good job of explaining what’s been going on although I still have very little understanding of British politics.
  • Cooking: We’re going to have some of the leftover sausage quiche I made yesterday along with roasted cabbage for dinner tonight. We’re looking forward to going to Moreton-in-Marsh next week and seeing what the Aldi there has and what prices are like as well as shopping at the weekly market – there are said to be over 200 stalls! Aldi is the closest and largest major grocery store to us, although the small store here in Blockley is very nice with affordable prices. This past week all we felt up to were easy convenience meals, but I’m ready to start cooking again and will come up with a menu once I get some stuff at Aldi and the market. We forgot and left our spiralizer behind in Portland (the second time we’ve done this – we left our first one at the condo before we left Kaua’i), so zoodles are not going to be a thing here unless we can find another inexpensive one somewhere.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I feel like our journey from Portland to Blockley was accomplishment enough, but so was getting unpacked and fitting everything into the cottage with its limited storage space. I also researched and booked our round-trip transportation up to Edinburgh at the end of the month. My goodness, that was a chore – there is no easy or inexpensive way to get up there from here whether by train or plane, but I finally ended up getting us booked all the way through by train (a nearly nine-hour journey) at a price we can live with. Air tickets would have been a bit less but we would still have had the train journey over to Gatwick along with spending a few hours sitting around in airports again. No thank you – we’d rather enjoy some beautiful scenery out the train window. Finally, I am trying to cut back to one cup of coffee a day and I did OK this past week, but I sure missed my second cup. I tried drinking a cup of tea instead but still craved the coffee. If I can get used to one cup per day though I will be very happy.
  • Looking forward to next week: Besides the trip to Moreton-in-Marsh, we’re greatly looking forward to having afternoon tea when we’re in Chipping Campden next week, and plan to splurge on an “afternoon tea tower” with sandwiches, scones, and cakes, hopefully at the Badger Inn. We’ll be figuring out how to use the local bus system that will take us there and to Moreton-in-Marsh (and eventually up to Stratford-on-Avon and over to Stow-in-the-Wold). Getting to places will be the easy part but getting back to Blockley may be more of a challenge as the buses are somewhat spread out.

    The Great Western Arms pub, one of two in Blockley – it’s very cozy inside and the food is affordable and delicious.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We’ve enjoyed some lovely exploratory walks through the village this past week, people have been very friendly and welcoming, and we had a wonderful, reasonably-priced lunch last Wednesday at one of two pubs in town, the Great Western Arms, and look forward to going back again soon. I had a bowl of amazingly delicious tomato and roasted pepper soup with some fresh whole-grain bread, the best tomato soup I’ve ever had, and Brett had a roast pork with applesauce sandwich along with coleslaw and a salad, and a pint of ale. All the food was housemade from local products. We were advised that the other pub in town, The Crown, isn’t nearly as good or as nice and it would be OK for us to skip it while we’re here, and branch out instead to others in nearby villages.

    Included in the treats left for us by our host were two bottles of wine – we’ve enjoyed drinking it while sitting out on the patio in the afternoons.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We’ve been watching our spending closely since we arrived, and have been heartened by the seemingly affordable prices for food (better than they were in Portland, anyway). I canceled our reservation at a B&B near Heathrow for the night before YaYu arrives and booked a hotel nearer the airport for less than half the price with breakfast included. We need to be there the night before as YaYu’s flight arrives quite early in the morning. The savings will cover our transportation costs from here to Heathrow, and our fares out to our London Airbnb after YaYu arrives. We’ve been enjoying all the treats our host provided for us, and we’ve had three no-spend days this past week. We’ve eaten all our leftovers and haven’t thrown away any food.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are currently feeling especially thankful for the generous Airbnb gift certificate which made our visit to the UK possible.

    Our kitchen is very well-equipped but some of the appliances are small and have taken some getting used to.
  • Bonus question: Has anything in England been a surprise yet? So far no, although the appliances have taken some getting used to. The oven temperatures are of course in centigrade so I have to do conversions to get things right. The washing machine is very small and seems to run for ages, and I’m still working on getting the dryer figured out. The refrigerator is an under-the-counter model and quite small, but it will be good training for not buying so much when we go food shopping. The small dishwasher is easy to use though, thank goodness. The weather has been slightly warmer than we expected, although by late afternoon temperatures seem to cool down to let us know autumn is coming – yesterday morning the heat was even on for a bit.

Three things we’ve discovered here have already sent me to the moon with happiness: chutneys, gin, and local whole-grain bread. I LOVE chutney (although Brett doesn’t) and I’ve already had the pleasure of trying three different and very yummy types, and can’t wait to try more (there’s a chili peach one at the village store that’s up next). The market also carries a nice selection of gins, and we picked up a bottle of the local Cotswold variety yesterday along with some tonic and limes for G&Ts. More yum! We’re looking forward to trying some local pink and sloe gins as well, along with a tonic flavored with strawberries and roses. And, the locally baked whole-grain bread – oh my! I could eat nothing else and be satisfied (but it’s especially wonderful toasted and topped with some chutney and with a G&T on the side, or with a slice of some local cheddar). I’m still watching my carbs and am trying to be a good girl, but it’s going to be difficult. Don’t even get me started on the yummy chocolates here as well – my willpower is being put to the test.

That’s all for this week – I hope this past week was filled with lots of good things happening for you. Here’s to a great week coming up for all of us!

17 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 9/8/2019: Week 1 in the UK

  1. Loved this update. Your nine hour train ride sounds fun, really! To get to see all the countryside would be really neat. I don’t blame you for choosing the train option. The cottage looks lovely. Does the church still have services? I would love to visit if they do.

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    1. Yes, the church still has services and is a central member of the community. It’s open to the public – I was surprised to find it less austere than I imagined. We can hear the bells every day and got an hour-long “concert” last Wednesday evening.

      I’m happy that we ended up going by train because that’s what we had originally planned. However, at first all I could find were tickets with astronomical prices (like $700+ for the two of us – no way). But I pieced together two different trips (from here to Gatwick, and then from Gatwick to Edinburgh) and was able to bring the price down by several hundreds of dollars. We were told the scenery on the train trip from London (King’s Cross Station) to Edinburgh was spectacular.

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  2. Love the update! I hear your frustration about not bouncing back so quickly from the long trip over, but Blockley looks like an ideal place to slow down and lean into the English countryside.

    Does this update mean that you and Bret did not get approved for the year long visa for Japan? How sad 😦

    January in Kauai sounds heavenly and another great time to relax before the challenge of Tokyo.

    Thanks again for including all of us on your journey!

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    1. I forgot to mention that we decided not to try for a full year in Japan. After really drilling down to what it would take to get there, the cost of living there along with helping YaYu with her college expenses and paying for Brett’s classes and language classes, plus having to fly to (and back from) the east coast for WenYu’s graduation next year, we decided that we just didn’t want to financially live so close to the bone or have to dip into our savings. So, we are going to do another three-month stay beginning in January, and then go back in the fall for another long stay if possible. We’re sort of sad about it as living there full time has always been our dream, but now is not the best time for us to try it.

      Blockley is a very peaceful place – we are already enjoying ourselves immensely and getting the rest we need. The jet lag has almost been vanquished – this morning I slept until 5:00 a.m. (but did eventually go back to sleep for another couple of hours, so I feel pretty good today for a change).

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      1. Peace of mind is worth a lot…but what a trade off.

        Does this mean….you might be spending April and May in the Northeast with all three girls in this area? Would love to connect with you if you are!

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      2. It was a very tough decision for us to make, but knowing we can visit Japan twice a year now made it a little easier.

        We will be up in the NE toward the end of May/early June and plan to stay for around 10 days (with WenYu’s graduation at the end of May sort of in the middle). I’d love to get together if possible!

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    1. It is extremely peaceful here, more than I ever imagined. We saw a few more cars than usual this weekend, but I imagine they were from people coming down to stay at second/vacation homes on a lovely weekend. The drive out here from London would be like heading out to the coast from Portland.

      The jet lag is loosening its grip, but ever so slowly. Brett really got hit this time – he usually rebounds in a day or so, but not this time.

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  3. Sounds like a wonderful start to your trip. Definitely a lot of travel time to get there but glad it was a smooth trip overall. I love seeing the pictures of the countryside and buildings. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It was an easy trip, logistics-wise, but so, so long. We’ll be better prepared mentally for the trip back.

      The village of Blockley is so lovely, more so than I imagined. We’ve had a great time walking around and seeing the different types of houses, the walls, and other aspects of village life as well as getting out into the countryside.

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  4. Thank you so much for your wonderful posts! My wife and I travel as much as we can but we are not as adventurous as the two of you. I love the format that you use for your post. Keep the posts coming. Enjoy your time exploring and safe travels!

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    1. Thank you, Mike! We’ve been having a great time, and so far we’re holding up but I imagine we’ll get to a point where we’ll say “enough,” at least for non-stop travel. The longer stays help make it easy though, and give us time to rest.

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  5. So enjoying looking at the photos and reading about how it’s going and your plans. Have you tried the train splitting websites like trainsplit.com to get cheaper rates? My husband can’t remember which one he used, but it saved quite a bit of money. You get a handful of tickets that are kind of like a deck of cards.

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    1. I have never heard of “train splitting,” but that’s basically what I did to find an affordable way to get to Edinburgh. I first booked our trip over to Gatwick, thinking we’d fly up to Edinburgh from there, but then could not find any plane schedules that fit our train schedules, at least not without long waits at the airports on either end. So, I looked at train schedules/fares from Gatwick – very affordable and they fit perfectly with the other train schedule. By booking the two trips separately we saved $250 over what it would have cost to book from here to Edinburgh on one ticket. We had been told the scenery on the ride up to Scotland from London is especially spectacular, so we’re excited we’ll get to experience that both coming and going!

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      1. If you plan to do a long train ride again, check out the websites. Would probably save you time doing it yourself. Looking forward to reading about your Moreton and Chipping Camden trips.

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  6. Loving the pictures of the English countryside. What a cute village! Many of your comments echo what my DD discovered when she moved there, especially the tiny appliances. But I think you’re fortunate to have a dryer – she says hardly anyone has one by her.

    I am looking forward to your visit to Edinburgh. My ex is Scottish and we spent a fair amount of time there when we visited his family. It will be interesting to see what it looks like now. And of course, your write ups are always interesting. Glad the jet lag is passing!

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    1. The “tumble dryer” is new, and is full-sized. We usually do two or three loads in the machine before starting up the dryer. It is greatly appreciated.

      We’ll be in Edinburgh for three full days. Our rental is located just under the castle, so we’re in a great location. We plan to do a couple of walking tours (one at night!), have a drink at the New Caledonia Hotel bar, and otherwise explore the area on our own. Our son wants us to check out a book that is covered with human skin! Edinburgh has been on my bucket list for years so I am super excited about this visit, and I’m looking forward to the train ride through the English countryside as well.

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