Next: time for some retail therapy, so just around the corner and into the North Laine. Well it was busy and very trendy compared to my last visit; in fact it even crossed my mind that I may well be able to live there, it all has a very bohemian atmosphere. We wandered around in and out of a myriad of different shops and trendy boutiques selling typical smutty holiday cards, health foods, beads, books etc.; time for a cup of coffee. It was still drizzling and where had the time gone.
On a grey wet day just after Christmas we set sail for Brighton for the day. Motorway all the way down makes the journey even more grey than the weather but it does save a lot of time, and before we know it a sign comes up saying ‘Brighton & Hove’. I haven't been down this way in years so it will be interesting to see what has changed. First up parking, found the station car park easily enough but how do you pay; no machines in sight. We found a sign that said pay by mobile phone, except the system stated that our phone number is withheld and it’s therefore not possible to continue. Of course, we don’t have a UK mobile number. What to do? We walked a quarter of a mile to the car park’s booth but yes you've guessed it: no one there; next step try in station. Just as we were about to go a woman appeared saying she just had to do her rounds and that we can pay her. All’s well that ends well, even if it had taken us twenty odd minutes to get this far.
Next stop the Dorset Bar & Kitchen in the North Laine to meet friends for lunch. After a quick phone call for directions we are off. No time to waste as we were informed that they were already on the white wine. Can't be left out of that one… We were sat on the biggest table in the middle of the pub even though our friends had explained we may be a bit noisy, no problem they said. Seeing friends again after a certain amount of years always incurs a certain amount of screams and shouts but we soon calmed down. Brighton still seemed very busy even though the weather was still inclement. We had a great lunch of steak and chips, burgers and chips all washed down by a couple of glasses of white wine.
We needed to leave at about 4 o'clock and that left us just 45 minutes so we downed the coffee and headed back out into the throng, we did catch a glimpse of the sea at a distance but a walk along the sea front would have to wait till next time and I hope that won't be too long.
There's nowhere else that has a Christmas filled with centuries of tradition as an English Christmas, and I've had a few around the world. I do, though, feel that commercialism has taken its toll and not in a good way; but a turkey roast with all the trimmings and a proper Christmas tree hasn't changed a bit. It is one of the most colourful times of the year where houses are lit all sparkle and glitter. As I'm writing this we’ve had enough food and drinks to sink a battle ship and I wouldn't mind not seeing another slice of turkey between now and next Christmas.
Yesterday we went for yet another after Christmas dinner, this time to The Tally Ho Freehouse in Eversley, Berkshire. Unfortunately, it was a mistake from the moment we entered the place. Having to wait for drinks far too long, as soon we were seated we got told our orders couldn’t be taken for another 20 minutes. We almost got out unscathed until a waiter threw a tray of drinks all over us (a nice mix of white wine and beer); we will never darken that places door again, dreadful service.
Coming home the other night in almost balmy warm weather, especially for the UK in December. The moon was full; you could almost see a face in it and a few wispy clouds: it played its part in the Christmas season. The radio and TV playing Silent Night hearing "trim the halls with bails of holly tra la la la la la la”. As soon as Christmas is over, British TV is full of over-priced package holidays to the likes of Spain and Greece, holidays that will be much cheaper if people just wait for a few more weeks at least. But now the major rush of merry making is over with, just a few more days to go before it revs up again for new year.
We set off from the west of London on a very wet and dark August Sunday. Destination: the Cotswolds. Originally, we intended to spend a couple of days taking in all the Cotswolds has to offer. So TomTom on, guiding us to our goal and, to be honest, the journey didn't take long at all but we hadn't left the bad weather behind us, it was following us.
We first realised that we had arrived when we entered a village packed with cars and not a chance of parking anywhere. People, that is, those that had managed to park, were going from one tea house or pub looking for empty seats, but obviously in this weather there were none. We were in a traffic jam and this was only our first taste of the Cotswolds. Some fifteen minutes later we got out of there but surely this isn't how it's going to be, packed even on a miserable day and no car parks.
We decided to put Bourton-on-the-Water in TomTom, our faithful guidance machine, and off we went. We arrived still in pouring rain and a pattern was definitely appearing again: not a parking space to be found, in fact we were one of many cars backwards and forwards just hoping for someone to leave, which didn't happen. What could we do, well we hadn't come all this way to say we didn't see a thing, so I just parked the car on double yellow lines and we took our chances. Bourton is a lovely village with a stream running through it or as the guide books put it ‘the river wind rush’. But trying to get a couple of photos without a Japanese tourist in it was almost impossible but we did our best. We didn't dare stay on the yellow lines for more than a few minutes so again back to the car. We passed a few hotels and guest houses all with signs up saying ‘no vacancies’; oh well, perhaps the next village.
Our next port of call was Broadway, in the vale of Evesham and wow, we turned left and the street in front of us took us back hundreds of years. It looked amazing and for the first time on this trip we had the street to ourselves, not another car in sight. We drove along in awe of all the wonderful houses, the next being more magnificent than the last. At the top of the road we turned around for a second look and it was really worth it; by now a few more people had arrived but we had seen it in peace for long enough. By now it was time to look for somewhere for lunch but we didn't manage to find anywhere with parking spaces, so, unfortunately, we headed off again this time to Stow-on-the-Wold. We arrived, went around the market square and low and behold a parking space; we were over the moon (and it was just a parking space). It was still raining but nothing could dampen our enthusiasm to have a good look around and lunch.
We walked around the market square, which dates back to the 1330’s. We then walked over to the church and were surprised to see a plaque in the doorway written in Dutch. We were starting to get a bit too wet and chilly, so time for some warmth in a hostelry (The King’s Arms) around the market square. In we dived and landed on a nice table for two, looking out on a soaking square; one pasta dish and one beef roast ordered, time to dry out a bit. Lunch was very nice if not a bit pricey but I guess being in such a tourist trap there isn't much choice.
Back into the grey and rain we went, deciding to google a few guest houses and hotels in the area and go take a look. The first three on our list were full, the sign says it all; in fact, that was my gut feeling at that moment: the Cotswolds are full.
We tried two more guest houses but no luck, and I must admit at that point I realised I'd seen enough, but the idea was to stay a couple of days. I said to my partner, what shall we do. Silence, so I said, I think I've seen enough. Total agreement, so before we knew it, home was put in TomTom and goodbye the Cotswolds. Would I write this place off? No, but what I would say is: avoid the children's holidays, try to go mid-week and probably even better, go out of season.
Born in Chiswick West London, grew up in Royal Berkshire, currently living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands