We’ve had another week of weather extremes, from bright sunny days to rain and wind. The only constant has been the cold. Because of the nicer days, we were able to check another couple of things off our list, including fish and chips from a neighborhood chippie in Moreton-in-Marsh on Monday to a wonderful visit to Stratford-upon-Avon on Wednesday to a long walk in Blockley yesterday. The rest of the week we spent indoors bundled up and with the fire going, trying to stay warm!
Monday was Armistice or Remembrance Day in the UK, although unlike our Veterans and Memorial Day, it was not a holiday, or at least as far as we could tell. Buses ran on a regular schedule, kids went to school, and so forth. The war memorial in Moreton-in-Marsh was covered with poppy wreaths, and we sat there while we ate our fish and chips, and talked about how many more names there were for WWI versus WWII and later conflicts. Over 700,000 British men were killed in WWI (2% of the population) and another 1.675 million were wounded, many grievously. A whole generation of young men was lost, and the British have never forgotten them.
We woke up to glorious weather on Wednesday so bundled up and caught the bus over to Stratford -upon-Avon, about an hour away from Blockley by bus. We bought Full Story Tickets (yeah for senior discounts!) so that we could visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, the New House (where he lived at the end of his life), and Hall Croft, home of his daughter, Susanna, and her husband, Dr. Hall. Both the birthplace house and Hall Croft buildings are original from the 16th century and have been preserved, but the New House deteriorated to the point it was demolished in the late 19th century, and only the gardens remain now. Actors presented soliloquies from Shakespeare’s plays or recited sonnets so we requested a sonnet and heard the 18th (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”), and another visitor requested Marc Anthony’s eulogy of Caesar from Julius Caesar (“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar not to praise him.”). Both performances brought high school English roaring back for me – I was surprised by how much I could remember from both the sonnet and the speech. The New House gardens (Shakespeare and his wife had gardens here back in the day) were lovely and filled with stunning modern sculptures representing many of Shakespeare’s plays. Hall Croft was an amazing opportunity to experience the layout of a Tudor-era home from the kitchen to halls to bedrooms. The whole place was fascinating and beautifully preserved. Afterward, we shared a sandwich in a nearby pub while enjoying fancy gin and tonics. We had planned to visit the Guild Hall after lunch, but it had become colder and was getting darker at that point so we instead headed for the bus stop and the long ride home, a good thing as it began raining shortly after we started. We had a great day and are glad we made the effort to get over there – below are a few pictures from our visit:
Finally, don’t forget to enter the giveaway! It will be open through November 29, and you can enter once a day to increase your chances of winning. Thanks much for all the great travel tips that have been submitted so far (if you’ve already posted a tip you don’t need to leave another for future entries). I will announce the winner on Sunday, December 1 so I can get it mailed out quickly to the winner in case they want to use it for a holiday gift.
This morning I am:
- Reading: I finished both Code Girls and A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier, this past week. Code Girls started off sort of slow, but by the time they were in the thick of the war I couldn’t put it down. How they broke so many codes was (and is) pretty amazing all on its own, but these women’s success rate was nothing short of impressive. I also read A Single Thread straight through this week. It was a real page-turner and I’m so glad it was recommended to me. Today I’m going to begin the next book in the Inspector Morse series, Service of All the Dead. By the way, when I finished A Single Thread I achieved my goal reading of 52 books for the year!
- Listening to: We woke up to the sound of rain hitting the skylight windows, so it looks like another day indoors for us (but that’s OK; we have laundry to do). The church bells have rung but otherwise, all is quiet. We haven’t turned the fire on yet though – that’s a near miracle these days. It’s cool inside but not chilly yet while outside it’s just plain gloomy.
- Watching: We finished up the new season of Doc Martin this past week – there was a surprise ending – and are still watching Endeavour with one more episode to go. Tonight we’ll begin the new season of The Crown – I’m excited about that!
- Cooking: We’re having breaded cod and roasted root vegetables for dinner tonight, two of our favorite Aldi products. We’ll head over to Moreton-in-Marsh one last time this week to shop at Aldi for the last time. It’s been a great resource for us while we’ve been here and saved us a bundle too. I usually have a shopping list made at this point but have been unmotivated so far this week to make one.
- Happy I accomplished this past week: Getting to eat authentic fish and chips from a chippie and getting to Stratford were two big accomplishments, as was our walk yesterday. Having to walk almost the whole way on pavement though aggravated my bursitis once again – walking through fields and pastures has been much easier. Another accomplishment was getting my carry-on bag packed with things to go back to the U.S. on our flight and am so happy that’s finished and ready to go. We found out that paying to check the bag to San Francisco cost less than paying $$$ for postage. We will also have to pay to check it from San Francisco to Portland, but even with that, it’s still less than postage would have been.
- Looking forward to next week: We have nothing planned for next week except for a special dinner on Friday evening at the village cafe. They do a three-course dinner every Friday evening, and we have been saving that experience for our last week here. If we get some breaks in the weather this coming week we want to take more walks through the village – I don’t think we could ever grow tired of this place.
- Thinking of good things that happened: The two beautiful days we enjoyed this past week allowed us to do a couple of things on our list as well as grocery shop, and they also cheered us up. We were also glad for the somewhat warmer temperatures yesterday that let us get out for a long walk. Brett is almost completely over his cold, thank goodness. It could have been worse, but between medication, lots of liquid, and staying warm he’s been able to get over it fairly quickly. I have thankfully stayed well.
- Thinking of frugal things we did: We saved nearly £10 on our visit to Stratford by purchasing the Full Story tickets for the Shakespeare locations and using the senior discount. Other than having a simple lunch while we were there we didn’t spend anything else. We spent a bit more than usual when we went grocery shopping this past week but bought extra to get us into the coming week in case the weather is bad enough that we can’t go shopping tomorrow. I used up all the odd bits of vegetables in the refrigerator to make a big pot of chicken and vegetable soup, and we’ve eaten all other leftovers and not thrown away any food. Our daily spending average is and has stayed below our limit of $35/day.
- Grateful for: We may be confused or unsure right now about what we’ll be doing after the middle of next year, but we are very, very thankful that we have choices. So many in the world, including the U.S., do not and we know we are fortunate to have several paths we can potentially take. I’m also exceedingly grateful for all the feedback we received from readers this week – it has helped us to refine our thoughts on what we should be looking at and thinking about as we go forward.
- Bonus question: What are the top three places you still want to visit? For me, number one remains a visit to Botswana, in southern Africa, to visit the national parks and the Okavango Delta to see as many animals as possible. I’m still trying to figure out how we can do this but it may take a while. Numbers two and three on my list are Amsterdam and the Benelux countries, and Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland – I want to visit all of them!). Germany tops Brett’s list, but otherwise, he agrees with me about the second and third.
Yesterday we took what may have been our last “big” walk during our time here – a trip out to where the old Blockley Station used to stand. The skies were overcast, but the temperature was a bit warmer than it has been so the three miles was doable although we had to walk most of the way in the road as the paths on the side were too muddy or even underwater. Once again we discovered parts of Blockley we hadn’t seen before, from the village garden allotments to the cricket field to more beautiful stone houses. We imagined what it must have been like back in the day walking to and from the station to go shopping, or to school, or even to work at the mills. Back to the village from the station was uphill the whole way.
It’s almost hard to believe but this coming week will be our last full one in England, and ten days from today we’ll be up early and off to Moreton-in-Marsh station one last time to catch the train to Gatwick Airport for our (long) flight back to the U.S.
I hope everyone reading had a great week. I’ve seen several pictures of snow falling back in the U.S., and hopefully that’s a good (or at least an OK) thing for most people, although it seems rather early. Wishing for good things happening for everyone in the week ahead as well as good books, good food, and good friends!