We have had quite a time since I last wrote a Sunday post! Our visit with YaYu was great but went far too quickly. London was a (wet) whirlwind followed a relaxing couple of days back in Blockley, and then we ended her visit with a terrific day and a half in Oxford. Poor YaYu though – she not only suffered from jet lag most of the time she was here but caught the worst of English weather as well. She said she had a good time though and especially enjoyed her visit because she got to “feel like a kid again,” meaning Mom and Dad took care of everything and she got all of our attention. We really felt the generational difference between us when following our tour of Notting Hill she let us know she knew none of the celebrities our guide had mentioned on the tour (Julia Roberts, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Sellers, and Daniel Craig to name a few) other than George Orwell, and even more shocking, after we stopped at a hidden recording studio where the Beatles and other artists had recorded in the past (and artists like Beyoncé still do today) she said, “The Beatles were British?” Yikes! Anyway, we’ll be seeing her again soon as she’ll be back in Portland in just another couple of months when we all get together for Christmas.
Speaking of getting together in December, I got a real scare on our last night in London when right before I went to bed I happened to check on where we’d be staying in Portland and discovered the host had been canceling reservations right and left for the past three months! I sent her a message and she wrote back that she was going to cancel our reservation too . . . on November 1! However, since I had contacted her she would go ahead and cancel it now. Thank you very much! Finding a new, affordable place to stay for the five of us with only a month left would have been difficult if not impossible (unless we were willing to spend thousands of extra dollars), but even with a six-week window, I knew choices were going to be very, very limited. I was up well into the night going through Airbnb, VRBO, and other hosting sites and eventually found a place that would work for us at a somewhat affordable price. I wrote the host of the new place and she quickly answered and accepted our reservation. On the plus side, it’s a much nicer place in a better location, with more space for us as well but we are paying more and I could have really done without the headache of having to find a new rental at nearly the last minute. I learned a valuable lesson though – NEVER, EVER book an Airbnb rental with anyone other than a Superhost!
This morning I am:
- Reading: I had very little time to open a book during the past week, so I’m still reading Resurrection Men, but have a reader-recommended book, The Salt Path, ready for when I finish. When we were in Oxford, I met a woman who leads Inspector Morse tours, and she recommended I read through the entire Colin Dexter series, so think I’ll start that after I finish The Salt Path.
- Listening to: It’s a lovely, quiet Sunday morning, and not even the wind is blowing outside (for a change). The sky is overcast, but rain is not predicted today so we may get out of a walk later. It is cold though – we’ve got the fireplace going this morning. The church bells ran a few minutes ago, but otherwise, there hasn’t been a sound as we’re both reading and working on our computers. It’s perfect.
- Watching: We’re still watching the Great British Baking Show (this coming week is the semi-finals), and a few other mysteries although nothing has really caught our attention. I watched an episode of Endeavour last night and recognized a couple of places that we’d just visited in Oxford! YaYu figured out how to access Netflix on the TV in the cottage, so we’ll be ready for the new season of The Crown when that arrives next month.
- Cooking: We’ll be going over to Moreton tomorrow to do our weekly food shopping, which I don’t think is going to be very big because we still have things on hand from before YaYu arrived. Tonight we’re having Cornish pasties – we found them in the marked-down section at the village store and tucked them into the freezer for after YaYu departed. Other dinners this week will be chicken and vegetable soup; barbecued pork sandwiches with coleslaw; a cheese and pâté platter; roast chicken with roasted vegetables; and quiche lorraine with some sort of salad or vegetables. Aldi didn’t have the lamb burgers the last time we visited, so if those are back in stock we’ll pick up those as well.
- Happy I accomplished last week: Besides getting through a busy and somewhat tiring travel week with YaYu, my big accomplishment was finding a new place in Portland and getting it booked. I was quite worried I wouldn’t be able to find something appropriate that would fit all of us but I’m happy with the new place although not happy about having to pay more. Meiling and Brett and I had already purchased our airline tickets so we couldn’t look for someplace other than Portland. WenYu gave me her vacation dates and I found a good flight for her to and from Boston so that’s reserved. Now I just have to get YaYu’s flight booked and our holiday reunion will be set! I also found and reserved an Airbnb in Bath for two nights next month so that trip is set other than purchasing our train tickets. I’m especially proud of Brett, YaYu and me for getting through this past week in spite of some particularly lousy weather and a crazy schedule and having a good time in spite of it all.
- Looking forward to next week: For the most part both we’re looking forward to not having to go anywhere or do anything this coming week other than a food shopping trip tomorrow. We want to rest and catch up on our reading and take walks around the village, weather permitting.
- Thinking of good things that happened: Besides having a great time with YaYu, the other really great thing that happened was Meiling was hired for her dream job! She won’t start until the first week of November but she will be doing work she loves (technical writing) while earning a very good salary, and she will also receive a nice signing bonus as well. The job comes with great benefits too: health, vision, and dental insurance, education reimbursement, transportation costs, and so forth. We are all thrilled for her, and so proud of her too! In other Good Thing news, I was able to get my favorite cereal (muesli) at Marks & Spencer and also discovered the most delicious black pepper cashews there – perfect with a gin & tonic – so I’m a happy girl. We had great weather on our one full day in Blockley and went out with YaYu for a long walk (3.2 miles) around the entire village and out into the countryside. The paths were a bit muddy but the views were gorgeous and YaYu was happy to get a “real” look at the English countryside.
- Thinking of frugal things we did: This past week didn’t feel particularly frugal, although we did only eat one meal out each day in London and Oxford, combining lunch and dinner (our London Airbnb came stocked with breakfast things). We bought Oyster cards in London to get around on public transportation, including the boat ride on the Thames, and left with only a little over 1£ remaining on our cards. Outside of our one meal per day, the Oyster cards, some cereal and a few snacks from Marks & Spencer, and indulging in some decadent doughnuts one evening we did not spend any money in London. We bought souvenirs in Oxford though – Brett got a Cheshire Cat coffee mug that says “We’re all mad here!” on the back, and I got a lovely mug from the pottery shop we visited instead of the £100 bowl I really wanted. Our village store has a markdown shelf and this past week I found packages of Swedish meatballs for 50p (we bought two) and Scotch eggs, also at 50p each (we had those for breakfast this morning – yummy!).
- Grateful for: Both Brett and I are extremely grateful to Meiling’s boyfriend, K, who has supported her for the past four months in New York City while she looked for work. He’s kept her fed and sheltered and she wouldn’t have made it without him.
- Bonus question: What was your and Brett’s first travel experience together? When I finished my Memphis “A” School in September 1977, Brett took a week’s leave (vacation) and we drove together to my new duty station in Pensacola, Florida, camping along the way in my car. We first drove to Maryland to meet his mother, who considered me a “gold digger” out to take all his money. She softened a bit after that trip but we never really warmed to each other. Our first night after Maryland we camped in Virginia, where I was nearly bitten to death by mosquitos – they were so bad that they bit the soles of my feet and in between my toes through my socks! It was agony. From there we went to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and visited Nags Head and Kitty Hawk, then drove over to a state park in Alabama, arriving at dusk. What I remember about that stop was that on our initial walk over to the bathrooms we saw a sign warning of alligators so we did not get out of our car again until daylight the next day and then hit the road for Pensacola. Brett stayed there with me for two days while I got checked in and moved into my barracks, then he drove back up to Memphis with my car so that he could drive back down each weekend (six hours each way). What I remember most about that first trip was how much we enjoyed each other’s company and what a good time we had, mosquito bites excluded.
In spite of my current desire to do nothing and go nowhere for a week, I have my doubts that we’ll be able to stay put in the village for that long without getting restless. I imagine that if the weather is as nice as predicted for the coming week that we’ll probably be off to visit another location in the area. There are two we still very much want to see: Bourton-on-the-Water and Stratford-upon-Avon, and both are only a short bus ride away. We’d also like to visit the nearby Batsford Arboretum and Falconry Center. We’ll just have to see what happens, but for now, all I feel like doing is resting. Both our trips to Edinburgh and London/Oxford were too hurried and not the way we prefer to travel. London is at the top of our list for a revisit, but we said next time we’d pick a location closer to the center of the city and stay for a minimum of three weeks versus three days. We’d love to do a longer stay in Oxford as well. (P.S. I’m thankful we were not in London this weekend – we wouldn’t have seen anything as the whole city appears to have been shut down by massive demonstrations).
That’s it for now – I hope everyone had a great couple of weeks with lots of good things happening for you, and that you’re looking forward to another great week ahead!