Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Herb and Dolly Cross the Pond

Andrews parents and sister, Claire, came for a visit earlier this month. We were thrilled to have them and wanted to show them the best of the Cotswolds.

They arrived on a cloudy Thursday afternoon. Claire and I went to an early concert at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.  Up and coming jazz artist, Jo Harman was fabulous, a little bit R & B, a little bit gospel, a little bit country! We also tried a new drink, the English Mule. Gin, ginger beer, mint, cucumber. A refreshing little drink that is!

Friday we picked up a rental car and took a drive through the Cotswolds, hitting Bourton on the Water, Stow on the Wold, and Broadway.  It was cool (some might say downright cold!) and cloudy but these Cotswold villages still impressed.

Saturday we drove to Oxford and took a double decker bus tour. Oxford is always a sight to see. It was graduation day for some of the colleges, so many students were in caps and gowns. What I love about Oxford is that when a door opens from the street what you see is not the inside of a building, but an enormous green space.  It is always such a surprise!  Lunch was a pie from the Pieminster in the market.

Herb and Dolly at Christchurch College, Oxford

Sunday, we took off for Kingswear, in Devon for a few days. Luckily we had beautiful weather. Kingswear is directly across the river from Dartmouth and was our base for exploring Devon. Kingswear is served by a passenger ferry that makes a short 5 minute trip across the river Dart to Dartmouth.  In Devon we enjoyed lots of fresh seafood starting with traditional fish and chips at great little restaurant in Dartmouth called Rockfish, whose chef, Mitch Tonk really has a good thing going. The freshest seafood, prepared with care, in a casual, friendly atmosphere. Excellent!  We walked the streets of Dartmouth looking in shop windows happy to be outside in the sunshine.

Claire and Andrew on Dartmouth quay

Brown crabs fresh off the boat
View of Kingswear from Dartmouth

Kingswear harbor
Waiting for the ferry in Dittisham

Our cottage in Kingswear ( across the River from Dartmouth) was beautifully decorated in crisp white and blue, very nautical.  Our local pub was the Ship  Inn and was just a few doors down and was a friendly place to watch the sunset. We also stopped by later in the evening to use wi-fi and enjoy a pint or glass of wine.

Paighnton, Devon

 Kingswear is very convenient  for taking a trip on a 1930s steam train that travels from Kingswear to Paignton. Not much was happening in Paighnton, so we took the train back and had lunch in Dartmouth. We did plenty of walking while there. This town is beautifully situated on the River Dart,  and its harbor is filled with sail boats.

Dartmouth Castle at the mouth of the River Dart

We visited a historic house and gardens called Coleton Fishacre which was the summer home of D'olye  Carte.  He was a talent agent, composer and hotelier during the early 20th century.  He is probably most famous for putting Gilbert and Sullivan together. He built the Savoy Theater in London as a venue for their operas.  Coleton Fishacre was built in the 1920s  during the jazz era and  is an excellent representation of the arts and craft movement.  It was immaculately preserved, and delightful to see. The well tended gardens extended all the way down to the coast. While we were there we noticed an army of volunteers working in the gardens and as guides in the house.

We also went to a fishing village called Brixham  had lunch in the Brixham Deli, and bought some mussels for dinner which were so delicious we pronounced them the best we'd ever had!


The day trip ended at the Elizabethan town of Totnes.


On Wednesday our luck with the weather ran out. But in the spirit of the British we carried on!
Off to Agatha Christie's summer home, Greenway.  There is limited parking at the house, so most arrive by boat.


 We took a 30 minute boat ride to a little town called Dittisham. There we enjoyed a deliscious lunch in the Anchorstone Cafe. Fish and crab just caught that morning!  After lunch there was a short, smaller boat ride across the river to Greenway.  Some of us walked up the hill to the house, others took a shuttle.  Agatha and her husband were great collectors, it was very interesting to see where she spent her days.  Her husband was an archeologist and traveled around the world so the collection was very diverse. I  think there are laws against this type of "collecting" these days!

Agatha fell in love with the house when she saw it from the river © Nick Guttridge
Greenway House

A copy of the first edition of all Agatha Christie's titles took up several shelves in her library. The gardens looked impressive but the rain kept us from exploring them.

Thursday the ride home we took a short detour to Wells Cathedral, magnificent! Very well preserved and the displays were very informative. A real gem.

 Exterior of Wells Cathedral

Scissor Arches in this cathedral are unique.

Friday was a rest day with a short trip into Cheltenham to the fish market.

On Saturday, Andrew took Claire, Dolly, and Herb  to Ironbridge, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. It was Another rainy day, but the Victorian age really came to life in Britson Village.  Herb especially enjoyed see the Iron Bridge.

Antique Steam Engine

Iron Bridge

School house for miner's children

Elleborough Spa Hotel

Sunday was Mother's Day. The mothers were treated to an elegant Sunday Lunch at the Elleborough Hotel, just outside Cheltenham.

On Monday we visited the Roman town of Cirencester. Church in the town is from the 12 century. We walk through the Abby grounds to a Norman arch and saw ruins of the Abby destroyed during the reformation. Lunch at an Italian Deli called Made by Bob, found  in the Good Food Guide.

 On Tuesday we visited the Morgan Car factory for a tour of the workshop where these cars are made by hand. Yes, that's what I said, hand made, no assembly line here, oh no. Each car is made by a single craftsman and is designed to the customer's specifications. They produce a very limited number of cars.  Cruella DeVille drove a Morgan in the Disney classic, One Hundred and One Dalmatians.


On Wednesday, packed up and ready to make their way home, we went to London.  Claire's niece Becky lives here with her husband. Unfortunately for Claire, she couldn't see her.  Becky is expecting her first baby any day!

Instead, we went to Afternoon Tea at Fortnum and Masons and shopped in the Queens grocer!


Later, Claire and I walked through Hyde park and saw the Italianate Gardens, a stunning array of flowers, fountains and statues.

We also saw the Peter Pan statue and the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.


  After a glass of wine at a cafe, back to the hotel, and we called it a day.

Thursday before they left for home, we went to the British Museum. Luckily, we were able to get tickets for the Ice Age Exhibit.

 This amazing display was beautifully curated and charts the course of art and creativity from the ice age 40,000 yrs ago. Yes folks, I said 40 thousand!! I was impressed by a little toy over 20,000 years old that represented the first attempt at animation. It was a disc with a hole in the middle. Image on one side was of a young calf and the other a grown cow. When you spin it, the calf appeared to grow into a full grown cow.

 A cab ride back to the hotel and then it was sad goodbyes!! It was a great visit, we miss them already and can't wait for our next visitors.

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