May 24 - May 29:  Cheers from The Cotswolds

Hello,

We just spent three nights in Bath and three nights in Chipping Campden. The Cotswolds are a very beautiful region of England, with very green, rolling hills, sheep pastures, stone wall fences, rapeseed fields of yellow, golden limestone houses, thatched roofs, Tudor homes, and large estates. There are public footpaths crisscrossing all of England, but especially here. It is one picturesque pub after another, with their painted signs like The Three Legged Mare.

Our first night in Bath, we went to an evening walk through town given by a comedian/magician/character who calls his “tour” Bizarre Bath. It was quite entertaining and the boys had a great time, too. They didn’t get all the jokes, thank goodness.

The next day we took a nice walk along the river and canal to a pub in the next town for lunch. Canals also crisscross England, and we enjoyed seeing the long, skinny wooden yachts go through the series of locks. The boats are quite roomy, just very narrow. Two boats can fit side by side in the canal, but just barely. I chatted with one man who lives on his boat and had traveled down from York. His had 3 bedrooms. After the walk, we visited the beautiful Abbey in town. It is Gothic, and the inside is very light, with lots of stained glass and white walls. Edgar, the first King of England was crowned in the Abbey in 973. The Norman cathedral is gone, but this Gothic one was built at the same site in 1499. We also toured the Roman baths in the center of town. They are very well preserved. They were built in Bath because of the natural hot springs at the site. It has been fun following the Roman empire throughout Italy, France, and England.

The next day we drove into the countryside to see Stonehenge, Avebury, and two White Horses. We also joined the National Trust to see these sights and Laycock Abbey. There are N.T. sites all over Great Britain, and with a membership, you can see them all for free (Thanks Sid and Fran, for cluing us in.) N.T. sites are mostly estates and gardens that you might easily overlook if you only went to the top tourist attractions. Stonehenge had a good audioguide and was fun to see. Avebury is a larger version of Stonehenge and has a cute town, museum, and an interesting man-made hill called Silbury Hill. The White Horses are carved into the chalk hillsides in the area and are a bit of a mystery. One of them may go back 3000 years. Others were definitely carved later. We saw one from 1780, the Cherhill White Horse. Laycock Abbey and cloisters dates back to 1232. It is quite beautiful, and the boys enjoyed seeing rooms where scenes from Harry Potter were filmed. The Abbey was turned into a residence in 1540, and held the copy of the Magna Carta that is now in the British Museum in London.

On our drive to Chipping Campden we stopped at two more N.T. sites. Dyrham Park is a beautiful mansion and deer park. Chedworth Roman Villa has neat mosaics in situ from 300 AD.

Chipping Campden is idyllic. We took a nice walk on the public footpath called Cotswold Way out to Broadway Tower. It was 6 miles round trip through fields and sheep pastures. The tower is a 4 story folly with 3 turrets, 6 sides, and lots of viewing windows. It was later a house. The views were great.

We went to Warwick Castle, a well organized tourist trap, but quite fun. The castle had rooms with armor, wax figures of previous residents, including a visiting Winston Churchill, and nice rooms. The Medieval fun was based on happenings in the 1400’s. There is even jousting on horseback! The same riders have been in many movies, like Braveheart. There was also a nice peacock garden. After Warwick, we went to Stratford-on-Avon to see Shakespeare’s grave and take in a performance. His grave has a funny epitaph,

Good friend for Jesus sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here
Blessed be the man who spares these stones
And cursed be he who moves my bones.

Of course, the words and spelling are a bit different.

The Avon River is pretty, with lots of swans. We went to the White Swan Theatre and saw the Royal Shakespeare Company perform “Dog In The Manger,” a Spanish comedy set in Naples. I enjoyed it very much. Robert didn’t. David thought it was OK.

Hope all is well, Pat