This past week was a lovely one, filled with walks, hikes, and other outings as well as a couple of days of rest. The weather was mostly warm and sunny, but there was one day of rain and another quite windy one, both a foretaste of what is most likely coming as the fall progresses. We visited the old Blockley mills, the market town of Chipping Campden, and accomplished our first weekly shopping over in Moreton-in-Marsh. We now have a better idea of when and how to get that task done as well as manage our time there better.
We had our first major travel mess occur this past week, an extremely maddening and frustrating turn of events because it’s not due to anything we did but because of a “modification” made by Icelandair. We were scheduled to fly from Reykjavik directly to Portland, arriving in the early evening but Icelandair sent us a message this past week that they had canceled the flight to Portland and instead switched us to a flight to Seattle . . . with no connecting flight to Portland! I called the booking agent (Expedia) to ask how we were supposed to get to Portland since that is our destination and were told that all Icelandair was offering was either gas for our car to drive to Portland (we don’t have a car!) or “public transportation,” whatever that means. Brett and I looked at getting a flight from Seattle to Portland, but the affordable ones were either too early or much later in the evening so we would have had another long wait in the airport, and possibly gotten into Portland too late to pick up a rental car. We talked about renting a car in Seattle and driving down to Portland, but 1) we knew we would be extremely exhausted at the end of our travel day and not up for the 3+ hour drive down to Portland (especially through Seattle traffic); 2) a one-way car rental from Seattle to Portland is not cheap ($200+); and 3) If Icelandair could not arrange a connecting flight to our booked destination we did not feel our chances were good of actually getting any sort of reimbursement from them, even just for the gas. Every option was going to cost us in some way so we ended up canceling the return portion of our ticket for a refund from Expedia for that portion of our ticket (because Icelandair changed our flight route we were eligible for a refund even though our ticket was non-refundable). We have found another affordable alternative route home but we’re still going to end up paying more than we did for the original tickets, even with the refund applied. We had also paid Icelandair for upgraded seats on the flight to Portland, and the Expedia agent claimed they would refund that to us as well but I’ll believe it when I see it as I’ve read horror stories about Icelandair and refunds. Needless to say, we won’t be using that airline again.
We’ve also decided that Brett won’t apply for a one-year visa in Japan, at least not now. This was an extremely difficult decision for us as the chance to live there has been a long-held dream. However, we took a very, very thorough look at our costs of living there (rent, class fees, food, transportation . . . everything) and decided we did not want to live so close to the bone for a year. I could go back to work to make it more affordable, but that’s something I really don’t want to do because it would interfere with being able to help with our grandchildren. We think that until we get YaYu through school we’d do better to make two 90-day trips to Japan each year and then reassess after that. So, following our visit to Kaua’i we’ll be in Tokyo for just 90 days again and then will head to our mystery destination. Following that, we’ll go to Massachusetts for WenYu’s graduation followed by a visit to Maine in June. After that . . . well, we’re still talking about it although Northern California is still our #1 choice.
This morning I am:
- Reading: I’m still reading Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford. The characters are all somewhat eccentric members of the British aristocracy in what is maybe the late 1920s to early 1930s (people still dressed for dinner, had house parties in their stately homes, etc.) and there’s lots of snappy dialogue – what’s not to love? Up next I have Middle England by Jonathan Coe, a novel set in more recent times and covering all that’s been going on here in England the past few years, including Brexit.
- Listening to: It’s been another quiet, peaceful Sunday morning here but the church bells just started ringing to call the faithful to morning services. The bellringers were quite busy yesterday – there was a funeral in the morning and the bells were rung for that (a bit too joyously it seemed to us) and then yesterday evening was bell-ringing practice so we got quite the concert for a while.
- Watching: Brett has discovered British racing, and he tunes into that now and again, but all I’ve been watching is the Great British Baking Show. We still watch the BBC news and have seen some teasers for shows that look interesting but we always seem to be busy with something else so the TV doesn’t get turned on much.
- Cooking: Tonight we’re having the bacon quiche we picked up at Aldi along with some coleslaw. Our meals this past week included breakfast for dinner with scrambled eggs, sausages, and sauteed apples; a sweet & sour Asian stir-fry with chicken, and lamb burgers with roasted Mediterranean vegetables. The tentative menu for this week, which will somewhat depend on what we can find at Aldi, includes chicken tikka masala; sausages, cheese and apples; eggplant parmesan; and chicken vegetable soup.
- Happy I accomplished last week: I got started on planning a trip to Bath, Devon, and Cornwall in early November. It was a bit difficult because there is so much we want to see, but we finally nailed down an itinerary we’re both happy with. I’ll book our rental car and hotel stays sometime next week (after I get over the shock of purchasing new airline tickets back to the U.S.).
- Looking forward to next week: Other than our trip over to M-in-M tomorrow for groceries, we’re planning to visit Bourton-on-the-Hill at the end of the week. It’s the next village over from us, and there are several lovely buildings and gardens to check out and we want to have lunch at the local pub which was recommended by our host. If we get nice weather and cooler temperatures one day next week we may also walk the Heart of England path over to Moreton-in-Marsh and then take the bus back to Blockley.
- Thinking of good things that happened: We had beautiful weather most of the week and enjoyed some rambles around the village and out into the countryside. We also had a nice visit to Chipping Camden on Friday and had afternoon tea there. I found a pretty (and affordable) artisan-made necklace at the Barn Court Museum in Chipping Campden, and also got a jar of the delicious carrot chutney I enjoyed with my afternoon tea sandwich. We finally met our lovely host on Wednesday, and Brett and I had a “coffee date” yesterday at the Blockley Cafe.
- Thinking of frugal things we did: We saved £3 ($3.70) on each of our two bus trips (to Moreton-in-Marsh and to Chipping Campden) by purchasing round-trip fares versus one-way. We shopped with a list at Aldi and the only thing we bought that was not on our list was some sticky toffee pudding (because we want to try it). We had four no-spend days, ate all of our leftovers, and didn’t throw away any food.
- Grateful for: The other day a friend posted the above daily “Gratitude Scavenger Hunt” on Facebook – I’ve been going through it each day and it’s been an easy, helpful way to think of all the good things I experience each day.
- Bonus questions: What’s been your favorite thing in England so far? Well, number one is definitely getting to see all the wonderful old buildings in such a beautiful setting, but we have also been finding all sorts of interesting and/or different trees and plants around the village. Every time we go out it seems like we come across something unexpected – it’s been like a treasure hunt. There are hazelnut trees all over, and plenty of giant, old elms, chestnut, hickory, beech, and oaks, but the other day I spotted a plum tree loaded with fruit coming up through the brush and a large fig tree in front of a shop – those two surprised me. This past week we also spotted a monkey puzzle tree in someone’s yard and two massive sequoias along the road we were walking on, and another huge one in the Blockley churchyard. Apparently, sequoias were imported to England during the Victorian era as a novelty for gardens, and these ones held on and kept growing (although they’re nothing as big as the ones in California). I have read about monkey puzzle trees for years but had never actually seen one; however, the minute I saw it I knew exactly what it was. There are lots of very big trees around here with masses of branches and whenever I see them I wish I could find out how old they are.
After a couple of weeks here we’re starting to settle into a routine: food shopping and a trip to the ATM on Monday, visits to other places in the area on Thursday or Friday, depending on the weather, and otherwise we’ll continue to walk around and explore Blockley and the neighboring countryside, or just relax at home, depending on the weather. We’re finally sleeping through the night and not having to take naps, we get up when we feel like it and leisurely enjoy our coffee or tea and breakfast before getting ready for the day. It’s a nice life in a wonderful location – I could get very used to this!
I have added fresh raisin scones, clotted cream and fresh strawberry preserves, sticky toffee pudding, lemon drizzle cake, and hot peach and chili chutney to the list of foods I adore.
That’s a wrap for week two – it was a good one. We’re looking forward to what’s coming up next week and hope you are too!