Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Cotswolds

Our group took a nice tour of the Cotswolds today. For those of you who don't know, or those of you too lazy to run an Internet search, the Cotswolds refers to a range of mountains in the west of England. It's only about 9 km from Cheltenham (maybe less, but I'm not sure where they officially begin), and the villages are very similar to the town in Hot Fuzz.

There are lots of little houses like these made out of a honey-coloured limestone called - of all things - Cotswold stone. Very original, I know, but the uniformity of the buildings looks beautiful in a way completely tarnished by the creepy developments of Suburbia. Well... the 'burbs are ok with Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and the ice sculptures, of course. Seriously, though, I don't think I'd mind the close-living and similarity of the buildings if they all looked like this. These two have thatched roofs, but many were slate, and almost all of the residential houses had little, overflowing gardens pushing out of every free space.

A lot of the buildings date back to Jacobin England, and many were wood frames. I didn't snap any pictures of them, unfortunately, but I did get a few of the more elaborate stone structures:

This is a church of some sort, I think. Honestly, I didn't really take the time to figure it out. We had to get back on our bus, and I wanted a photo of the various towers and arches before leaving. Like all of these first few photos, it was taken in Broadway, a nice little tourist destination in the middle of sheep pastures and yellow rapeseed fields.

If you care to zoom in, this building has a really nice cover of ivy and shrubbery (quote Monty Python and die; I've heard quite enough of that today) formations. Also, the houses on the left show off that Cotswold stone I was telling you about.

Matt, Chad, Gager, Laura, and I stopped here - Tisane's Tearooms - for a snack. It's on the high street, across from the fruit seller, and between two postcard / novelty shops if you ever get a chance to visit. The prices were great (compared to every other tea house menu we inspected), and we had a lovely server who took pity on some poor Americans who were a little lax in their tea-time etiquette.

Three other girls from E-town joined us, and we got to know a few of our fellow study abroad students. Check out that spread - and I don't think anybody paid more than £2.

We drove through Chipping Campden, an old wool-trading town with a pillory set up in the middle. Again, no pictures because we were on the bus. Oh, and here's a fun trivia bit: chipping is (or comes from?) the Anglo-Saxon word for market.

Anyways, we drove down to Bourton-on-the-Water and finished our excursion there. The river Windrush runs right through the middle of town, and the whole thing is connected by a series of foot-bridges and alleys. Only about 1/3 of the town (that we explored) was car-accessible.

(That was a nice change of pace, let me tell you. The Monty Python quoting faction of our group seems bound and determined to either die crossing the street or simply keel over because they forgot to breathe. I am not a fan, ladies and gentlemen. Not at all.)

The five of us had a really nice (and affordable, but we're students, so I guess that goes without saying) lunch at a restaurant called Vernne's (I think). I should really start writing down names and dates, otherwise the whole point of this "travel blog" is going to fizzle out. The sandwiches were a great value, and we split a couple orders of chips between us. It's the closest thing to pub food I've had so far, so huzzah!

And, of course, no trip to the Hot Fuzz region is complete without a tour of a model village. In retrospect, I should have done more to ensure the scale of the buildings came out, but you can trust me that they're a 1/10 replica of the town centre. I'll see if I can't get a photo from Matt - he got a nice one featuring my foot and a model car.

Oh! I found a Vanessa atalanta perched on one of the rooftops. You don't think a dead relative is trying to speak to me, do you? Either way, it struck me as an excellent memento mori, so I took a photo. Personally, I'm not sure if I believe Brian Boyd's theories on the butterflies in Pale Fire, but that's a discussion for another day. Bring it up sometime, but only if you've read the book.

With any luck, the rain will hold off again tomorrow so I can take my camera on a walk around the town. I'd love to show you all the building where I'll have classes and some of the churches - they're really gorgeous.


Anonymous said...

hi there timmy tiger... Sarah Marie and I were looking at your pictures.. and when she saw the tea house and tea talks.. she wants to have a traditonal tea time with you and me....when you get home... she wants proper tea... her Dad had some English Blue blood in him..... I love ya.. as always,,, mom

Ray Yaegle said...

Sure mom, I'll throw you guys a really nice cream tea. It'll be great!