Sunday, 10 June 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On

We are biding our time while we wait to move in to our permanent home on June 15, less than a week away.

I went to see a play last Wednesday at the Everyman Theater. It was Tom Stoppard play, The Real Thing. which is an amazing play, he is a true wordsmith, so so clever. The play won a Tony for best Play of the Year in 1984. The acting was superb. I really enjoyed getting out. It was my second play having seen Murder on the Nile the week before with Andrew. The arts are alive in Cheltenham! There are several venues for theater and concerts.

We went to lunch at a country pub, the Craven Arms, on Tuesday when we were off work for the Queen's Birthday. The Craven Arms is in a little village named Brockhampton, all cotswold stone cottages and one massive estate house. We had a nice time with a coworker of Andrew's. She graciously offered to drive, since we are still without wheels.   The pub dates back to the 16th century and still holds many of the original features, including mullion windows that sit between the bar and restaurant, original open fires and traditional Cotswold stone throughout the bar. It has  has had some work done to it since we were there last. The character is still the same, rustic!! There was the pub cat taking a nap on the couch. We caught this photo of the owners dog trying to squeeze through the cat's door. Not quite!

Pub cat
New addition to the Craven Arms in Brockhampton

Saturday morning we took a walk around town to see the oldest church in Cheltenham, built in 800. It is very small but has some amazing windows.

Rose window in St. Mary's Parish Church
We visited on D-Day so there were flags hanging.

 We also found a lovely tea room, the Cheltenham Dandy,  and had a nice cup of tea.

We continued our short sightseeing tour by visiting the Holst Birthplace and Museum. Holst was a composer who was born in Cheltenham in 1874. He is best known for composing the Planets which he did on a piano that is on display in the museum. The house is also a study on what life was like in Victorian England. It is a regency style house with sitting rooms, music room, scullery, servants room etc. It even has a set of bells like the ones seen on Downton Abbey that ring for the servants.

 The rest of the week we have continued our culinary tour of Cheltenham, eating at restaurants, pubs, cafes, bistros, and anywhere we haven't been yet. So far we have not broken our one visit rule: no matter how good the venue we can't visit twice while there are still places we haven't been to yet. After we move into our house we will be eating peanut butter sandwiches for the next year.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Jubilee Festivities!

Jubliee build up had reached a fever pitch. Fetes, street parties, and tea parties are planned all over England. 

Love this store window with the Queen at the table with all our favorite British personalities.
Locally, in our part of the commonwealth, Montpellier had street fair on Saturday.  We enjoyed looking at the vintage automobiles there were probably 30 in all. That was pretty much it for this fair.

'68 GT 40 Ford
Costume complete

Austin Healy

Aston Martin

Sunday was our first rainy day. Unfortunately, it was also the Queen's Jubilee flotilla down the the Thames.  We decided to celebrate the Jubilee by going out for Sunday lunch. 

We are still walking, (no car yet) so we chose Monty's Brasserie and Bar in the George Hotel, just a short walk away.  They were doing a prix  fix 3 course meal.

Starter was a sampler, gorgeous presentation.

Smoked Salmon, scotch quail eggs, ham terrine, crayfish salad, cheeses and breads, a meal in it self.

The main dish, (Mains) was a duo of lamb, (chop and medallion) with potato mash, spring greens and celeriac puree. Just wonderful.

We knew we were in trouble when we saw the slate come out again, this time with the dessert sampler. We did our best.

Ice cream, strawberry meringue, brownie, rhubarb custard, Bakewell tart, white choco straws.

We both felt we had enjoyed the best meal yet. We spent the rest of the day in front of the telly watching the boats going down the Thames in the comfort of home. No dinner necessary!

Monday was dry but chilly and cloudy. We wanted to get out after spending Sunday indoors. There was a Jubilee Festival in the Suffolk area of Cheltenham, on the Bath Road. It sounded promising with 100 vendors and live music. The streets were closed to traffic, a good thing as they were packed with people. It was a great festival, music was fun, people in the party spirit with hats and costumes.  Food vendors selling paella, falafel's, jacket potatoes with all the toppings, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc cider, beer, Pimms. Lots of shops and crafters had tables selling everything from vintage royal memorabilia, plants, fresh veggies, jewelry.


The Jubilee concert was on the telly, and was great fun. The highlight was a terrific light show reflected on Buckingham Palace.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Monday was Memorial Day so Andrew was off. We had a nice breakfast at Cafe Rouge and then took a long walk to the Pittville Pump Room. There is large park with a pond, playground, birdcages, and lots of paths.  We used to take the kids there to play.

Cheltenham rose to fame as a spa town, after it was visited by King George III and Queen Charlotte when mineral waters were discovered at this site. After a few years, a local landowner Joseph Pitt constructed the Pittville Pump Room which served as the largest spa building of the town. Built on the lines of a Greek temple, this archaic edifice houses the original pump comprising marble and scagliola . The stunning Regency architecture of the building, along with its tastefully decorated interiors makes it a pride of the town. The Pittville Pump Room is buzzing with private and corporate events all year round. The Pittville Pump Room is also a venue for the Cheltenham Folk and Music festivals. 

Afternoon tea was something we had yet to do, so when we returned to town, we decided to find a spot of refreshment. 
Huffkins Tea Room is new in Cheltenham but has shops in Stow and Burford in Oxfordshire. We should definitely check it out. 


We had the tea, scones and teas sandwiches, which were delicious. There was ham and cucumber, salmon and avocado, and egg mayonnaise and arugula, enough for 4 people easily. Normally, you don't take home leftovers from restaurants, but they kindly offered to wrap up ours. "No pressure" our kind server told us. Thanks! No dinner for us that night. 

Later in the week, I got together with Jane. She babysat for Emily and Ian when we were here 20 years ago. She is a mum herself now, with 3 little ones. Aiden is 9yrs old, Nathan, is 7 and Emily is 2. Jane and Emily came to visit, we had a great time catching up. Emily is just adorable. Don't you agree?

Next post, Jubilee!!



We had one more day with the car so we decided to go south. We booked a table for Sunday Lunch at a pub called the Butcher's Arms in a TINY village called Sheepscombe and took a walk through Painswick below Cheltenham on the Cotswold Way. It has a beautiful church with 100 yew trees in the church yard. They are all different sizes and shapes, it is amazing!

Yew trees in Painswick Church yard.

As I mentioned,  this village is on the Cotswold way and we saw many walkers coming through town. It was quite warm, so many were looking for refreshments.
The Butcher's Arms is a rural 17th century pub reached by very narrow lanes, so says the Good Pub guide, our bible for picking pubs. The Sunday lunch was delicious!  We chose the pork belly, which came with fresh carrots, broccoli, sage stuffing, roasted potatoes, and crackling. Andrew had a real ale, Proper Job and I enjoyed a Pimms cup. This is the only meal we have on Sunday, it is so filling. They use a lot of local fresh ingredients. We weren't going to do dessert, but the server really talked up the ice cream from a local dairy. Three enormous scoops of ginger and honey icecream came in a little glass bowl. It was just outstanding. Long, longwalk tomorrow.

On the way home, stopped at Crickley Hill Country Park, an old iron age.  fort for a walk to start working off that delicious ice cream.

Crickley Hill Country Park lies just a few miles beyond Leckhampton on the Cotswold scarp. It offers wonderful views over the Gloucester Vale as well as 143 acres of grassland and beech woods with a number of trails.

With over 200 species of wild flower, 34 species of butterfly, and a wide range of other invertebrates, Crickley Hill is an excellent area for the study of wildlife and ecology. It is the home of a rare species of the Wall butterfly found mostly on the cliffs in the coastal areas of Britain.
View from Crickley Hill

It is also an important geological as well as archaelogical site with its own Iron Age hillfort. Visitor’s centre is open daily from April to end of Sept. The country park is jointly owned and managed by the National Trust and Gloucestershire County Council.


Saturday morning we had to make some decisions about where to go with our newly rented wheels. The rental car was a small A series Mercedes. A very uncomfortable ride, not their best work.
Stow-on-the-Wold was a great place to visit with a beautiful market square, churches, shopping tearooms, and of course, pubs. It is also a picturesque drive to get there. The names of the villages always crack us up.
Lower Slaughter, Slade, Temple Guiting, and Stow on the Wold.

We followed a Triumph car club into town to the carpark which Andrew enjoyed. He saw the same models he used to own many years ago, a TR4 and a TR6. 


(There are many car clubs and events and you often come across them when you are out and about. Recently, there was an impressive collection of new Porsches at a local hotel. Cheltenham is a very wealthy town, the cars you see on the road here are a constant distraction. We have seen them all, Masarati, Austin Martin, etc etc. That could be a blog in itself.)

Back to Stow! We meandered through antique shops, working up a hunger. For lunch we chose the pub that advertised  garden seating, but ended up inside because the garden wasn't worth the visit. The White Hart had a very pretty dining room, and nice bar area. The Ploughman's lunch there was delicious, with home made pickle. A Ploughmans has a selection of cheeses, ham, pickled onions, cornichons, scotch egg, and Branston pickle which is like chutney to have with the cheese. Yum!
Pims is a summer drink that all the pubs feature this time of the year. It has Pims and lemon-lime soda and lots of fruit ( berries, oranges, lemons, limes and cucumber). They call it a Pims cup and it is very refreshing. I have enjoyed quite a few!

It is always hard to decide whether to have a pub lunch or afternoon tea, you can't really do both. Decisions, decisions.  Took in more countryside on the way home, a very relaxing day.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Visits to Our Favorite Cotswold Villages

So, we enjoyed our trip to the base last week so much, we decided to rent a car and visit some of our favorite spots in the Cotswolds.

Friday we took a drive .past our old house in Station Road in Woodmancote (near Cleeve Hill), to Gretton,  and Greet, and through Winchcombe, and past Hales Abbey and Sudley Castle, Stanway, to a little village called Ford, and a pub called the Plough Inn, a favorite of ours from our last tour. It was a beautiful afternoon, clear and warm.  The rustic pub was just we remembered it, soo cozy. There is a large stone fireplace in one room and a great garden with a for eating outside. Our server came from Australia, just a few days ago, was just delightful.

We have had the most wonderful weather since we have been here. Hot, sunny during the day, cool and clear at night.

Map of the Cotswold Way

  Most of these villages are on the Cotswold Way. This is walking trail from Bath to Chipping Campden, a little over 100 miles in all. It is about 4-7 miles between villages perfect for an overnight. We are hoping to hike the Cotswold Way while we are here.

Our drive home took us through more villages. The lanes are very narrow, room for only one car at a time.  There are lay-bys where one can pull over if another car approaches, which you pray doesn't happen!
The lanes are beautiful with stone walls lining them and field of either grazing sheep or rapeseed (which is in bloom now). We ran into lots of pheasant, (not literally!) too.

Fields of Rapeseed