Sunday Morning 11/17/2019: Week 11 in the UK

The fall color is glorious now (if there are any leaves left on a tree, that is).

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!

The War Memorial in Moreton-in-Marsh. The squares filled with names are those from WWI.

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.

Brett and I shared an order of fish & chips because it was MASSIVE. The crisp, delicious piece of cod was over 14 inches in length, and the chips (fries) would have fed our whole family. All this cost just slightly over $9.00. We tried our best to finish but couldn’t eat all of it.

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!
    We could have had local pheasant for dinner one night – just $9.00 for two (no thanks though – not a fan of game bird).
  • 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.
    Chobe National Park in Botswana
  • 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.
Trains no longer stop in Blockley, and there’s no longer a station building either. Where the station would have once sat was a good 1.5 miles out of town.

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.

Empty and quiet now, the Blockley village garden allotments sit right outside the edge of town. We could see many vegetable plots and fruit trees, and there was a (now empty) stand outside the gate where produce is sold during the summer.

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!

28 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 11/17/2019: Week 11 in the UK

  1. So much history in those villages. Can’t remember if you’ve seen all the Morse TV shows? We liked John Thaw so much that we watched Kavanaugh, which he made around the same time as Morse, I believe. I’ve always wanted to see the Alsace area of France, which we’re planning on doing next spring. Some friends invited us to go on a trip up the east coast from NYC into Canada in the fall. Leaf peeping has been on my list for a long time. And I want to finish that last 30 miles, from Painswick to Winchcombe, of the Cotswold Way that we haven’t walked. Maybe I’ll come up with more after reading other responses. Enjoy your last week of village life!

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    1. I think I’ve seen each of the Morse episodes at least three times, maybe more! One summer our middle daughter and I watched the series from start to finish, and cried at the end when Morse died (“The Remorseful Day”). I wish we had had the time (and funds) when we visited Oxford for me to take one of the Morse tours. Did you know that John Thaw’s daughter appears in Endeavour? She plays the newspaper reporter.

      Strasbourg and the Alsace region is near the top of the list of favorite places we visited. I envy your trip, and having the chance to eat tarte flambé and choucroute and bretzels among other wonderful things. We hope to go back to Strasbourg again some day.

      I think we’ve aged out of walking the entire Cotswolds Way, but I would love to do a part of it, stopping for the night at pubs or B&Bs along the way.

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  2. What lovely outings! Lucky the weather cleared, giving you such a beautiful day to view the buildings and gardens.

    Shame that trains have declined in the UK. I much prefer trains to buses. More room. No traffic. Fewer stops.

    Do you use Goodreads to track books?

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    1. Last week was great! It was so good for us to see the sun shine and get outside again. Fingers are crossed for a few nice days this week.

      And yes about trains! The Blockley station location was a long way out of town though. All we kept thinking as we were walking back to the village was about having to walk that day in and day out, in bad weather and/or carrying packages. Or having young children with you. It was a pretty walk but longer than I expected.

      I’ve tried Goodreads but have never been able to get into it. I know I probably should though.

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  3. I just read A Single Thread last week as well, and enjoyed it so much I returned to the library for more of Ms. Chevalier’s writtings, including The Girl With The Pearl Earring. The only problem is that it’s GORGEOUS here in S. California currently, so the call to get outside and read later is real!

    We much enjoyed our visit to Stratford Upon Avon back in 2004. Tour post today brought back lovely memories!

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    1. I have to say all this lousy weather has been great for getting a lot of reading done. Combined with some good books, there’s just about nothing I’d rather be doing again, although it did feel great to get out last week.

      I did not realize until I’d finished A Single Thread that Tracy Chevalier had also written The Girl With the Pearl Earring, another book I absolutely loved.

      I liked Stratford-upon-Avon more than I thought I would. I had no idea what to expect, but everything was very well done and it was easy to get around. I’m so glad we got to go. Bourton-on-the-Water is going to have to wait until the next time we visit though.

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  4. Great pictures, as always! Those Tudor houses remind of one we owned back in the day – we should have just let the wood strips weather. Ha! What great history over there.

    I am ready to dive back into The Crown as soon as I finish a few things. The show I’ve been binging will just have to wait now. And Doc Martin! Now that I know it’s finished, I can pay for a month of Acorn TV and catch up. All good things since it’s cold here and I’m indoors more.

    My DD did most of her PhD research in Africa (including Botswana) and loved it. The only downside was the flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, which I think was 17 hours. But she spent four summers in Africa and had great things to say about it.

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    1. I just finished binge-watching five episodes of The Crown – SO GOOD. Same for Doc Martin – the ending of the season was a surprise so not sure what’s going to happen next. I’m glad I got to see both of them here.

      Botswana has called to me for a long time, but it’s an expensive dream. Maybe we need to make it a serious goal, although I’m not sure it’s one we can accomplish until YaYu’s out of school. But I’m still going to hope and not let the length of the flight scare me either.

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      1. Yes, hope for sure! My brother is a nursing professor and goes to Tanzania annually with students. Again, challenging travel, but he loves it, too. And he’s in his 60’s. 🙂

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  5. I’m so glad you liked A Single Thread! My other favorite Chevalier book is The Lady and the Unicorn set in Belgium during the middle ages about weaving the Unicorn tapestries.

    The weather in New England is running about 10 degrees colder than normal for the time of year. Very frosty, very early. My understanding is about three days later you are getting the weather we’ve had. So glad you were able to get to Stratford-on-Avon.

    When you do your last shop, if it isn’t too intrusive, would you take photos of the items in the shops and their prices? I always find it fascinating (and LOVED your Hawaii “guess how much we paid” posts).

    Enjoy your final 1.5 weeks in the UK!

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    1. The only shop we go into in Moreton-in-Marsh is Aldi and I’m not sure it’s very exciting, but I’ll try to get some pictures this week if I see some exciting prices – we’re planning to go tomorrow, weather permitting. Things seem very low cost there, to me anyway – I’m so surprised how little we pay for so much, and wish we had an Aldi in Portland (although I do love Winco and their bulk food section).

      I watched a weather rreport the other day and it showed how the jet stream is affected by the warmer temperatures at the North Pole which is what is causing all the low temperatures and crazy weather in the U.S. and the U.K. However, I spoke with Meiling day before yesterday and she was wearing a sleeveless blouse and said it wasn’t very cold at all in NYC. But WenYu said she was very cold in Boston so ???

      We’re still sort of in shock that we have so little time left here. We’ve started to get a few things packed and other things ready for packing but mostly we just want to relax and enjoy our time here.

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      1. It’s been really crazy weather here….61 last Monday and then snowing on Tuesday. All week it has bounced around. Maybe that’s the gap between Meiling and WenYu’s responses!

        There is an Aldi about 30 minutes from me, but I’m getting the impression that the UK prices are even lower than the CT prices!

        Hugs!

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      2. We ended up not going to Aldi again – with so few days left we decided we didn’t need to do a regular shopping trip and can pick up what we need for the rest of our stay at the village store. Their prices are not as low as They are at Aldi, but still low. My overall impression here has been that food prices are lower here in the UK than they are in the U.S. The overall quality seems higher as well, at least for the things we buy.

        We’re due for another round of cold weather, with temperatures dipping below freezing at night, but no rain until the end of the week. Today (Monday) is beautiful again so we’re heading out in a while for a walk through the village.

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  6. Hello! I’ve been reading your blog for quite awhile now, but never commented before. Just wanted to tell you that I enjoy the blog immensely and I think the accounts of your weeks in the UK have been my favorites. I think that has been added to my bucket list of places to visit!

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    1. Our stay in England has become our favorite and we’re already talking about coming back. Both Brett and I would like to spend a longer period of time in London, and I’d like to spend time in another part of the country, maybe further north. We’ll see. We’ve had a grand time here though, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be back to Blockley again as well.

      I’m so glad you took the time to comment – I love hearing from my readers. I know I you’re all out there but it’s always special when you write and touch base, whether it’s the first or the 50th time.

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  7. It’s great to hear you like England as much as I do. My love affair with England goes back to my being in a junior college Shakespeare play while still a high school student. Then work for three years, then college earning a degree in theatre with a minor in media. Fast forward to the 1980’s and I had the good fortune to be part of the Friendship Force visiting Devon to help celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition to what would become NC. I have been to the UK multiple times and still do not feel I have seen enough. That’s why your blog is delightful as we all get to travel with you and Brett. It’s terrific how honest you are about the weather, travel hassles, getting sick, having accidents —-in other words real life happens while traveling! But hey real life also happens wherever you are! Although keeping it real your travels and your perspectives really are enjoyable. Thank you! Kudos to you two for pursuing your dream while you still can—nice to know when you look back there will be fewer regrets. Sonja

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    1. I’ve wanted to visit England for as long as I can remember (and my earliest childhood goal was to marry Prince Charles and become the Queen of England 😜) and now I can’t wait to see more!

      I try to keep it real here because although we’re having a great time for the most part, stuff happens and it sometimes takes a bit of extra effort to sort things out or get them fixed. Brett and already reminisce about things we’ve done and places we’ve seen so I know the memories we’ve made and are making will last a good, long time.

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  8. Your question on our top three places has me thinking. We still haven’t done Spain(Barcelona); want to do the Scandinavian countries; and go back to parts of France, Italy and England we missed. My husband went to Japan many years ago, but I would love to go. So many places…we went to Amsterdam in September, only for four days, but enjoyed it immensely, except for the amazing crowds. They have the most remarkable public transportation systems I’ve ever seen. You would love that!
    Have a good trip back to Portland! We won’t be there this winter, but hope our paths cross again.

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    1. We haven’t visited Spain yet either other than to fly in and out of Madrid (our least favorite airport) and we do want to go. Brett has been to Barcelona and other places in Spain courtesy of the navy.

      I hope you can come to Japan when we’re there – we’d love to show you around!

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  9. I loved your pictures of Stratford. It was a wonderful reminder of my trips there in the 80s and 90s. I’ve been to England a number of times, but not since 2000. I miss every part!

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    1. I am so grateful we finally got to come here – I’ve been wanting to come for so long – and also thankful that we have been able to stay long enough to see and do so much. I can’t wait to come back! We’re going to miss it very, very much.

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  10. Send some of that glorious over here if you can spare a little. It has been rain, rain, and rain (I think there has only been 3 sunny days this month) and more rain at least until the end of the month.

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    1. I don’t think I could part with even a minute of the sunshine we get here because there’s been so little of it. And, it’s been so cold, too. Does it get dark early for you too? Four p.m. and we have to turn on the lights. I love it here but don’t think I could handle the winters.

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      1. It gets dark here between 4:00 and 4:30! If this rain were snow we’d be in trouble as well as our village is very hilly, but at least it would be a change from all this rain!

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  11. I can’t believe your time in England is almost up! It seems like just yesterday you arrived. Thank you for taking time to write your posts and take us on your adventures.
    We are currently in Australia! We spent three days in Sydney and got to go the the aquarium which was really neat and much bigger than I expected. We also took a ferry under the Sydney Harbor bridge and over to the Opera House. It was more amazing in person than I expected. We are currently in Newcastle and about to go to the beach for the first time!!

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