Early Wednesday morning we took the train to Swindon (which I can never say without hearing Eric Idle's voice in my head), then changed trains to arrive in Stroud. And a word about buying tickets on Britain's trains--the pricing, it's wonky as Hell. You go on the official site for whichever train system you're riding , and the prices are all over the place, depending not only on what time of day you're traveling, but when you're buying the ticket. It feels like buying airline tickets, trying to judge when the prices will fall or rise. And you can also go through independent sites like Seat61 or Thetrainonline, which sometimes offer cheaper rates, and sometimes bounce you back to the Virgin site. Crazymaking.
Anyway, we headed out to spend the day with old friends Pauline and Steve, and see Jonathan and Phillipa for lunch. Pauline picked us up from the station, and mercifully the mists of the morning were starting to clear. We first visited the adorable cottage they're renting, in an old renovated mill besides a stream outside the village of Painswick. The village is tiny and beautiful, with mellow stone buildings, a "New" street from 1426, the oldest building in England to have a post office, an evocative old church and graveyard, and even 17th century stocks. http://painswick.co.uk/
We took a lovely walk through the 18th century Rococo Gardens, which is famous for its snowdrops, which were conveniently in bloom. Pretty views over the hills, long sweeps of snowdrops, cute old fanciful mini buildings, a hedgemaze where we got lost. http://www.rococogarden.org.uk/Home/tabid/103/Default.aspx
I'd noticed when we were being driven around Liverpool earlier in the week that I found the motion of cars on the left side of the road a bit unsettling. Even when walking in London the "wrongness" of traffic coming from the opposite side was hard to get used to--Larry had to constantly caution me to "Look Right" when crossing streets.And in the back of a car, hurtling on the left side of narrow country lanes, when it seemed as if we'd smash into an oncoming car that had to edge over..ugh. Definitely something for me to adjust to.
Anyway, we drove over to the pub where we met Jonathan and Phillippa, and all had a wonderful lunch together. The Woolpack is a cozy, informal place with good cooking. http://www.thewoolpackinn-slad.com/ I kept meaning to hand my camera to the waitress so she could take our photo together, but forgot.
After saying goodbye to J&P, we drove through some of the towns in the area, and across the Commons, traditional large grassy areas where cattle are still let out to roam during the Summer. The area is also marked by the remains of iron age forts and embankments. Pauline and Steven enjoy the many walking paths, which crisscross the area and go through private land as well as public. We walked through a tiny village, exchanging pleasantries with a woman out tending her gorgeous garden.
We stopped at Selsley All Saints Church, with an interior and windows designed by William Morris. http://allsaintsselsley.org.uk/
Then a cream tea in the adorable old wool village of Minchinhampton, at the Kitchen. http://www.cotswolds.info/places/minchinhampton.shtml
Train back to London, and to bed. We enjoyed our brief visit, and would love to further explore the area another time.