Sunday Morning 9/22/2019: Week 3 in the UK

Across from our cottage are what were formerly shops in Blockley village square – they’re now vacation cottages but have been “converted” back at times when Father Brown is filming.

This past week has been yet another one for the books, complete with lovely weather, two great hikes, another wonderful pub meal (over at Bourton-on-the-Hill), and ending with a fun evening at the movies in the village hall. Last night we enjoyed wine and snacks, and watched the movie Fisherman’s Friends (a feel-good film about a band from Port Isaac, where Doc Martin is filmed), with about 40+ people from the village and had a great time. We met a few residents this past week who were born and raised here and learned quite a bit about the village’s history. Our little cottage was formerly one of two doctors’ surgeries, and there were other businesses located in the little square where we are: a paper shop was directly across from us, and there was also a pharmacy, a bank, a hairdresser, and a butcher. Back down the high street a bit we discovered where the old bakery was located – it’s also been converted into a residence. We took a long hike on Thursday through the countryside, paid a visit to a gorgeous local garden, got to see a famous manor house, and were treated to an unexpected kindness by a local resident.

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Last week’s maddening situation with IcelandAir turned out to have a silver lining. They refunded 50% of what we paid for the round-trip flight (which included what we’d pair for our seat upgrades) and I was able to book a nonstop flight back to San Francisco from Gatwick and from there a flight up to Portland for $182 less than our refund! The new flight schedule also allowed us to cancel a hotel reservation at Gatwick for the night before our departure, an additional $115 refund (the new flight doesn’t leave until the early evening, giving us plenty of time to get from Moreton-in-Marsh to Gatwick by train). We will be leaving England three days earlier than planned though and will have another l-o-n-g travel day going back, but I have a feeling that once again we will be feeling restless and ready to move on at that point. All that’s left for us to do now is find an affordable Airbnb or hotel stay until we can move into our rental in Portland.

Our son (on the right) with last week’s big win, on the day before his birthday!

This past week we offered WenYu the same graduation gift we gave Meiling last year, a week with us in Japan, and she jumped on it – yay! We will pay for half of her airfare over to Japan, and then all food, transportation, admissions, etc. while she’s with us. We had been stumped about what to give her, especially because she has said over and over that she doesn’t need anything, but she is thrilled (and so are we) about the opportunity to be in Japan again. Anyway, the hunt is now on for an affordable air ticket from Boston over to Japan and I am up for the challenge. Our son won two round-trip tickets at a gala he attended this past week: round-trip tickets to anywhere in Canada from Tokyo on Air Canada! He’s always been lucky, but this may be his biggest win so far. Meiling had a successful second interview this week and has been moved on to the next round. She has been frustrated so far in finding a job but is hanging in there. Her boyfriend continues to be supportive and is taking care of her expenses, but she’s very eager to get to work. YaYu has settled into college life but is excited about her upcoming trip over here – less than a month to go!

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m reading Middle England now and enjoying it, especially learning about how happenings here mirror in some ways what’s going on in the U.S. and do middle class attitudes (generally speaking). Granted, this book only skims the surface, but it’s interesting nonetheless (and a good read too). I just put The Salt Path by Raynor Winn on hold at the library; hopefully, I won’t have to wait too long for it to become available. It’s the true story of an older couple who walked the 600+ mile path along the southwest English coastline. The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough just came off of hold as well and I plan to start on that this evening.
  • Listening to: I woke up to the sound of the church bells pealing away – there was a lot more ringing this week than last for some reason. It’s quiet now though, and the only sound is birds singing outside. We had a terrific rainstorm come through last night – it woke both of us up because it was coming down so hard. We’ve had absolutely beautiful weather this past week, but that’s coming to an end with more rain expected most of this week.
  • Watching: I’m keeping up with The Great British Baking Show, and tonight we’ll watch the third episode of Joanna Lumley’s (of Absolutely Fabulous fame) visit to Japan. We caught the second episode last week, and I watched the first one online.
    We enjoyed a Caprese salad with our eggplant parmesan last week. Aldi has beautiful little basil plants for sale as well as fresh mozzarella.
  • Cooking: I fixed everything on last week’s menu, although we upgraded our cheese plate and had pâté instead of sausages. Tonight for dinner we’re having quiche Lorraine and broccoli. Other meals this week will be open-faced barbecued pork sandwiches and coleslaw, lamb kebabs with roasted Mediterranean vegetables, meatloaf, a Margherita pizza, and roast chicken.
    Sometimes the path we walked on Thursday could be hard to find and follow – if not for a few recent footprints or vehicle treads we’d have no idea where to walk.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I took advantage of the week’s good weather and did another couple of long walks, a two-mile walk in a different direction through the village, and a four-mile walk around the next village over, Bourton-on-the-Hill, and from there over to Longborough on the Heart of England Way. We also visited the village cemetery, which was very interesting – graves dated from the 19th century until this decade, and there was a large section where Polish refugees were buried – they came during WWII to a resettlement camp here which wasn’t closed until the 1960s. I so happy to have gotten our tickets back to the U.S. booked, and I also rebooked our rental car for our earlier arrival and I was able to reserve a larger car for the same price!
  • Looking forward to next week: I have two big things coming up this week that I’m very excited about! First, I will be meeting someone I have admired and followed for a long time, actually from the time I started blogging nearly 10 years ago. One of the very first frugal lifestyle blogs I discovered and was inspired by was Move to Portugal, and I’ve been a fan of Laura and her minimalist lifestyle ever since. She’ll be coming to Blockley on Wednesday and we’re going to have lunch at The Great Western Arms and catch up on everything. Second, I was invited to attend the bell-ringing class at the church on Thursday evening! I just hope I don’t do anything stupid but I think it will be fun. Brett and I may be going to Stow-on-the-Wold on Tuesday not only to check out the town a bit but more importantly to visit the Tesco superstore because we have just about run out of coffee filters and it may be our last chance in finding them. None of the other stores we’ve visited, including Aldi, carry filters but we were told the hardware store in Moreton-in-Marsh may have them, so we’re going to check there first before we go to Aldi. Fingers are crossed! If we get a day of good weather next week we’re want to walk over to Broad Campden, a lovely village filled with traditional thatched cottages, but our backup plan is to take the bus to the town of Broadway. Rain is expected for most of the week but you never know.
    Some of the pretty pheasant feathers we picked up along the way. It’s very sad to think so many of these beautiful birds will be slaughtered beginning next month purely for sport. Most of the kills will end up in a ditch to be turned into fertilizer.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our walks this week were just about near perfect, and we met some lovely people, saw lots of beautiful things, and picked up some pretty pheasant feathers along the way too (and learned the shooting won’t start until next month – yay, I guess). It was exciting to learn about our cottage’s former role in the village. We found lilikoi (passionfruit) curd at the cheese shop in Moreton-in-Marsh, and it’s as good or better than what we used to get on Kaua’i, and much less expensive too. We’ve seen passionfruit growing around in places so this was an exciting find. We also discovered gingernut cookies at Aldi, and just 25p per package – delicious! I fell in love with a beautiful vase in the window of an antique shop when we were in Moreton-in-Marsh on Monday but I was sure it was very expensive so we kept going. Brett liked it too though and encouraged me to go in and at least ask about it. The price was a very surprising £15 ($18.70) . . . so I bought it! It’s a wonderful piece of sturdy English pottery, but with a Japanese feel to it.
    I am so pleased to have gotten this beautiful old pottery vase. Now I just have to figure out how to carry it back to the U.S.
  • Thinking of frugal things that happened: All of my dental billing has come through and after all the insurance payments were made it turns out we will be getting a refund of $200+. We once again purchased round-trip bus fares at every chance, but on Thursday the fare machine was broken so the driver let us ride for free. We stuck to our shopping list at Aldi but still put about six things back, and spent just £45.10 ($56.20) this past week. It was a bit more than last week because we bought a big bag of name-brand dishwasher detergent pods to get us through our stay. We had four no-spend days this week and are on just under our daily spending average. We of course ate all the leftovers and didn’t throw away any food.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are feeling very thankful these days to have that big Aldi store nearby. The prices are amazing, we’re eating well, and shopping there is helping us to stay within our daily spending limit, freeing up funds for other outings and treats. We were told that just a few years ago middle-class shoppers here wouldn’t let their cars be seen in the Aldi parking lot, but these days they can’t get enough of the store!
    Although there are still lots of bright flowers around . . .
    . . . fall is starting to make an appearance.
  • Bonus question: Are you ready for fall? I think I am. Although I’ve enjoyed all the sunshine and warm temperatures I am looking forward to cooler weather and the chance to pull out some of my sweaters. I’m also looking forward to seeing the leaves change color. I’m not especially looking forward to the coming rain though as we love to walk (and have to walk to get to the bus stop, get our groceries, etc.) and wet weather will definitely hamper our ability to get out and see things and experience the area as much as we have been able to this month.

Finally, we received some help this week, one of those occurrences that restores your faith in humanity and reminds you that at heart people are basically good and kind. At the end of our walk to Longborough on Thursday, Brett and discovered we were stranded – there were no buses nor time to walk to the next village to catch one, and taxis were all booked for the next couple of hours. The retired man tending the Longborough village shop told us he was just finishing his shift and would drive us to Moreton-in-Marsh, three miles away, so we could catch the bus in time from there! We offered to pay him but he wouldn’t accept anything from us except a cold drink from the cooler. Thanks to his kindness we made it home, and we are thinking of how we can pay Andrew’s kindness forward.

Andrew is retired and has lived in Longborough his entire life. He did not want to see us stranded in Longborough and kindly drove us over to the bus stop in Moreton-in-Marsh! It was our good fortune to meet him, and not just for the ride.

That’s it for this week! I hope all of you had a lovely week too, that you have good books to read, had lots of good things happen for you, and that you’ve been able to complete your gratitude scavenger hunt every day.

22 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 9/22/2019: Week 3 in the UK

  1. LOVE your photos. The walks sound and look amazing. The English countryside exudes calm beauty.

    Just an FYI – you have gone back in time by a month with the date in the post title! I’m sure the sunny English weather does feel like August ; )

    Fall is definitely showing in New England. There is still a lot of green but some trees are in full orange and red. A dogwood along the property line is flaming with beauty.

    I won Best in Show for baking at our local fall agricultural fair this weekend!! First time for that honor!

    I followed Laura from Moving to Portugal for years – found through your blog I’m losing it here. How exciting to meet up with her! Tell her she has another fan in the US.

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    1. First, thanks for catching the mistake with the date. I really am lousy at proofreading my own work, and that was one of those things that Grammarly wasn’t going to catch either!

      Second, BIG congratulations on your baking award!!! What did you bake?

      No trees really changing color yet, but we’re seeing leaves on the ground, things like that. Locals have been saying over and over that we have been very lucky for the good weather we’ve experienced – usually by this time cool weather and rain have arrived.

      I’m so excited about meeting Laura after all these years – she’s a hero and inspiration to me. I’ll get a picture, somehow!

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      1. Thanks! She says with a huge grin on her face :).

        I made savory “cinnamon” rolls and filled with cream cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic, chives, and fresh tomato slices. They freeze well and are super yummy with soup in the winter. I got the idea from a recipe on The Assortment Blog for tomato roulades but changed around the fillings.

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  2. One more thing…I just started reading Tracy Chevalier’s new novel “A Single Thread” about women embroidering cushions for the Winchester Cathedral. I realize it isn’t your normal reading genre but it is set in England in 1932 and is a historical novel. I checked out photos of the cathedral and it looks like an amazing place to visit. Sadly their official website doesn’t mention anything about the kneelers and cushions but the other artwork in the church is intriguing: green men, monkeys, etc.

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    1. This sounds like a book I would enjoy, and I just put it on hold at the library, although it will be a while until it’s available, maybe not until after the first of the year.

      I’m not sure we’re going to make it to Winchester Cathedral but we are planning to visit Salisbury Cathedral on our way back from Cornwall & Devon in November.

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  3. We’ve had some cooler days and especially nights this week in San Diego. You know me, kicking and screaming to hang on to summer, but it has felt nice. Of course, it’s going to heat back up, at least for today. We will be playing cat and mouse with the weather until Thanksgiving! I’m really enjoying your adventures, and hoorah for Andrew!!

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    1. This past week it was very warm here, actually hot on some days, and I did not bring any warm weather clothes along so it’s been unpleasant at times (although it cracks me up that there I am I’m dying in the heat and loads of British women are wearing sweaters and jackets). I am quite ready at the point for some cooler weather.

      Andrew was a lifesaver the other day – really a lovely man. We spent the whole ride over to M-i-M laughing/crying about the political situations in our respective countries.

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  4. When and how many days are you needing before the apartment is open to you? You could sleep above all your stuff in the basement:). And, don’t let the ‘liquid sunshine’ stop you’re exploring outside. Being in the rain can be a beautiful thing. Off to meet my new grandson and help his tired parents for a couple of weeks!

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    1. We would of course love to stay with you, but were thinking a hotel might be the way to go for those first three days in Portland because our sleep is going to be very messed us and we will be up at odd hours, etc. I will shoot you a message though!

      We will definitely be out in the rain this week but will be sticking to village walks as we’re not sure we want to walk on muddy paths if we don’t have to. Pasture land would be OK though.

      Enjoy your time with P & M (they will greatly appreciate you being there), and I know you and J will be tight within a matter of moments!

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  5. *tried to edit that ‘your’ but didn’t work:) Also meant to say I love the vase. A perfect combo of styles.

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    1. We so rarely buy anything these days, so this was a nice find at a nice price. It will fit in nicely with the few other things we kept. The vase caught my eye immediately when we walked past so that was a “tell” as well.

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  6. How funny that the passionfruit curd is cheaper in England, although it’s true Hawaii is a pretty expensive place. So nice that Andrew gave you a ride when you were stranded. I hope that people in the U.S. would do that if a person from another country had the same problem. You’ll have to visit the Broadway tower if you end up going Broadway. Stow on the Wold had a nice place that we went for dinner–great olde English ambiance, perhaps it was the Old Stocks Inn? Lots of little shops in the center plaza area. If you can get to it, (I think there’s a bus from Broadway) Stanton is fun to visit with people riding horses through the village, a fantastic pub on the hill called the Mount Inn and an interesting church, although that’s pretty standard in those villages. Stanton is known as the “perfect Cotswold village.” It’s not overrun with cars like Broadway. If you want a hike from Stow on the Wold, it’s 3 miles to the Slaughters, which are, IMO, quite picturesque.

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    1. If the rain holds up this week we’ll most likely go to Broadway, just to walk around and see what’s there and maybe have tea and scones (no more full teas for me, thank you!). We saw the Broadway Tower when our bus went through Broadway last week, but it will be quite a climb to get up there. Thanks for the tip about Stanton too! There are people riding horses through town here from time to time – we’ve seen them once, but have heard them go by a few times. The hike to the Slaughters is on our list!

      We were surprised by the price for the jar of passionfruit curd – around $6, and it’s more than triple the size of the jars we got in Hawaii for the same price. It’s much thicker too which we like better.

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  7. I hope you are enjoying the experience of being immersed into the village life, that is an experience that will stay with you. These tight knit communities are at the core of both creating and preserving the culture and the movie night is just an occasion to get together and catch up while having a good time. Wishing you clear skies and plenty coffee filters:))

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    1. We have been warmly welcomed to the village apparently because we are staying so long, The movie night was great fun (we plan to go the next two) and I am beyond thrilled to get to try out bell-ringing this week!

      This week is supposed to be quite a wet one as the remains of Hurricane Humberto pass by. We have our books and other things to keep us busy if we have to stay indoors, but will be out otherwise like everyone else with our umbrellas.

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  8. I’ve just returned from “up north” visiting family and there are definite colors already in northern Michigan near L. Superior. However, it was in the high 70’s and low 80’s, so not my preferred temps! Pleasant but a little warm…I was looking for crisp and cool. My mom (87 yo) and I planted some perennials at the cemeteries where family members are, so she doesn’t have to worry about getting out to plant in the spring depending on her situation. It was a nice trip and I’m also happy to be in my own bed tonight. :0)

    Your pictures and adventures are a joy. Such a beautiful area. And that vase is a great find!

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    1. Thanks Laurel! Sounds like you had a lovely time up north, and glad the weather was still nice enough to get out and do things with your mom. I imagine it’s not a whole lot of fun to be up there in the winter though.

      We continue to have the best time here, although rain arrived this afternoon.

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  9. Your blog is triggering great memories of the last trip to England to visit my penpal of 50+yrs. She lives near Northampton very close to Althorp, the family home and burial site of Princess Diana. The countryside around Chatsworth, Derbyshire, in the Peak District, was one of the most spectacular areas I’d seen. There is nothing prettier than the English countryside. The right to roam was supported by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to give the general public the conditional right to walk in certain areas of the English and Welsh countryside thus the footpaths and stiles. Did you know that a city is not given that status unless there is a cathedral, regardless of population? Good luck on the roundabouts.

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    1. Our appetite has be whetted now to see more of this beautiful country! Both Brett and I are looking forward to our ride through the countryside up to Edinburgh next week – we have been told the scenery is spectacular. We’ve got rain right now but are hoping to get out a few more times for some long walks on the footpaths as the walks through the countryside have been the best part of the visit so far.

      We have driven roundabouts before so hopefully any we encounter on our trip down to Devon and Cornwall won’t give us too much trouble. No cathedrals yet for us, but on that trip we’re planning to stop at the Exeter and the Salisbury Cathedrals. Interesting fact too about what it takes to be a “city!”

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    1. He really was. It was so incredibly kind of him to get us over to our bus stop because we were truly stuck otherwise. Now we need to pay it forward.

      The Cotswolds are living up to their hype.

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