Day 53 Sun 10th June
Yay the sun is shining still! I have never slept so poorly on our trip as although the B&B was nice, the bed and pillow were like what the Flintstones would have been used to. I kept having dreams that I was shut out and trying to sleep on the doorstep. This is what it felt like in the bed of course. The shower was very pedantic but we enjoyed our breakfast though, in a dining room with others, reminiscent of "The Hotel Inspector" TV series. Never met the wife this time,just the friendly Spanish Husband. She was busy making the breakfasts for the full B&B with 6 rooms I think. We then enjoyed the morning in Stratford Upon Avon in the sunshine. Firstly, at Shakespeare's Birth Place. A great museum with 2 DVDs about him first which then leads on to his house and garden. This is in the middle of the town and of similar age to Botterum (my Grandfather's home in Sweden) but not as palacial or as large I noted. In the lovely garden, actors performed in costume, extracts from Shakespeare's plays. We then headed down to the Avon river for a boat ride where, for the first time, we saw how locks worked. That was really interesting. We had 2 to go through in the 1/2 hour ride. It was a very serene trip basking in the warm sun. It is afterall, meant to be summer in the northern hemisphere at this time. There were plenty of swans, ducks and ducklings swimming around beside us. We then visited the sunday market near the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the banks of the Avon where I of course, succumbed to buying something else for little Jenna. Its been really hard reining myself in from buying lots of presents for her. Des once again, reminded me "We have to carry all this home you know!" We then went to the beautiful Church where Shakespeare and his family are buried. This is situated right beside the Avon also and just up the road from the Theatre. Again, in the grounds, more actors were acting out parts of his plays. Having got a new memory card that morning, I was able to take heaps more photos and especially of the wonderful Shakespearian architecture with its wobbly walls and caved in thatched rooves.
Finally, at 1.45pm, we decided we should leave this lovely town at the top of the Cotswolds, as we needed to head right down to bottom of the Cotswolds, to our final night booked into the olde world Castle Inn Hotel at Castle Combe. We had plans to visit Bambury and see Banbury Cross (where the children's rhyme is said to have come from) but on reaching Banbury, we decided it didn't look as interesting as we expected and we had a lot of miles to cover, so we kept going. The next place I wanted to see was Woodstock and Blenheim Palace. As we drove into the town, it was seething with people and then as we headed up the driveway to Blenheim Palace we saw why. There was a triathalon in the palace grounds where it was going to cost a fortune to park and we would have to fight our way through the thousands in the grounds for the event, to get into the Castle. Nah, not for us. Next time maybe??? We could only just see the castle in the distance and with time short already, best to get out of the queue and head on our way. Luckily we were able to do that with a kind parking attendant agreeing with our decision and showing us a way out without having to pay. We were still only 1/2 way to Castle Combe. This trip was reminiscent of France today as we spent so much time in the car just driving.
Bath is only another 12 miles on from Castle Combe so we continued on to there to do a dummy run of finding our way to the Hertz Rental Car place. Des was very concerned we would get lost in Bath again and as we were to be on a tight schedule for the train back to London after dropping the car off in the morning, he wanted to have the route instilled in his brain. He had worried about that a lot while we were in the Cotswolds so it seemed a good thing to do. It was. We actually found it easily this time.He knew how to get there the next morning and he was content.
By the time we got to Castle Combe it was 5.45pm and you guessed it, raining again. The 13th century medieval village and pub with its Market Cross, are the quaintest we had experienced and I am so glad I booked here for our last night. It was exactly as described. It is exactly as it was 500 years before and is deliberately being kept that way. There is nothing modern to be see here. Stephen Spielberg had, last year, filmed "War Horse" in this village and there have been other films done here as it is still as it was centuries ago. There is a little brook that meanders through the cobblestoned town. There is 2 pubs, a church, St Andrews, a post office and a tea room in this village only. It is in a little leafy valley and even though the weather was horrendous again, we enjoyed our walk through this really beautiful place. The church was spectacular and also had an ancient clock in it similar to the one in Salisbury Cathedral. We didn't go into the church until it was almost dark but it was still open and once again, it was so peacefully beautiful and the presence of God was definitely there in amongst all the history. This church has inside, the tomb of Walter de Dunstaville who was a Crusading Knight and Baron of Castle Combe. He died in 1270. These little villages really do make you feel you have just stepped back in time hundreds of years ago. I will miss the beauty and history of all those we have entered through Europe. Our churches in NZ are all so young compared to them and very plainly adorned in comparison as well. I know our own church in Thames was only built in the 1950's but it has nothing in it, that records its history like European churches and I actually feel quite sad about that now, on reflection.
We had had such a full on day sightseeing in Stratford then driving all that way, we realized we had actually not had anything to eat or drink since breakfast so our dinner in this delightful pub was superb. It was actually very posh compared to many pub meals we had had so that made it even more delightful. Wonderfully welcoming staff and Receptionist we happily met as we arrived and went upstairs to our gorgeous and very comfortable room overlooking the village lane. Once more, being so old, the walls were a bit wobbly but it had been refurbished recently. Our large room with ensuite was very well thought out, having to incorporate the huge old beams in the walls and remain in keeping with the actually time period of the dwelling. We absolutely loved this place. We wished we could have stayed another night but it was not to be unfortunately. Yes, WE MUST COME BACK HERE.