Saturday, September 17, 2011

England - Days Nine, Ten and Eleven

Continuing the account of our trip, on Days Nine, Ten and Eleven.

Day Nine  -  Thursday, September 8.

We woke up in Cheltenham and ate our English breakfast.  I was now just having two poached eggs, bacon and croissants with orange marmalade, with English tea of course.  We were now in the Cotswolds and wanted to experience much of the history of the area.  We left Cheltenham about 10 am.

Our first destination was a place named Lower Slaughter, specifically to see the St. Mary's' Church and the Old Mill.  Again, to be driving in England was quite an experience and was rather enjoyable.  It was both a challenge and a fun time of traveling.

After a few hours in Lower Slaughter, we drove over to Chipping Campden to see the Old Market and St. James' Church.  We walked through town seeing the shops and vendors.  We went up the steep hill to the church and it was another magnificent example of architecture and beauty.  The view from the hill was grand as well.

Ken and Beifei wanted to stay longer in Chipping Campden, while I was anxious to go a little further to see the town of Stratford-upon-Avon.  Stratford is the town where William Shakespeare was born.  It was getting a little late, but Sondra and I pressed on (without map) to Shakespeare's hometown.  We made it safely but arrived just at 5 pm.  The town shuts down at 5 pm - the shops close, the restaurants are through for the day, and the Shakespeare museum and house are not open past that hour either.  It was somewhat disappointing, but we made the best of it.  We found a pastry shop selling their last goods on the sidewalk at a reduced price, we caught a sandwich shop willing to make us a sandwich as their last sale of the day, and we took many pictures of the Shakespeare house and museum.  We drove further down the street and took some wonderful pictures of the River Avon.

We drove back to Chipping Campden and found Ken and Beifei easily as they were strolling the main street as we passed through town.  Arriving back in Cheltenham, we were hungry.  Sondra and I found out about a place called the Golden Mountain Chinese Restaurant a few blocks away, walked there and had some dinner.  The owner was a Christian man from Malaysia whose father was a pastor, and this owner played English Chrisian hymns through the restaurant speaker system.  It was a great way to end the day, talking with him about his family and his faith!

                                                     St. Mary's Church in Lower Slaughter

                                                     The Old Mill

                                                    Sondra with the stone Gargoyle at a local shop 

                                                    A common sight to see the sheep in the meadows

                                                     The King's Hotel in Chipping Campden

                                                    The old Market Place still standing from ancient times

                                                   St. James' Church in Chipping Campden

                                                    The birthplace home of William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon

                                                     The River Avon in Stratford

Day Ten  -  Friday, September 9.

After breakfast, we all got in the car and took off for the town of Cirencester.  The history of the area just continued to come alive as we walked the narrow streets and watched the people and looked at the old buildings and churches and businesses.  The cathedral in town was being renovated and a large canopy covering blocked the view of the main entrance.  I had to settle for a picture of the church from the back side.  Still and all, it was impressive.

My main objective this day was to find a good traditional fish and chips pub.  We had been so busy and had not taken time to find one yet.  After seeing some amazing places, we asked some locals about the best fish and chips place in town.  We were told to go to a place called The Crown.  We found it.  The tables were old and wooden.  The bag of cashews were delicious!  The fish was the best it could be!  The fries were big.  The Coke was cold!  Life was good.....ha ha!  It was just one of those satisfying meals that you hope for.  Anyway, it was fun.

Around 3 pm, we drove over to a small village named Bibury.  It is so relaxing and peaceful as you stroll by the rivers and streams and ducks and fish.  Beifei knew of a very old hotel in the village, built around 1633.  It was still elegant and a special place for the wealthy as they came to the town.  We went out to the back garden and had tea and biscuits (what they call cookies).  What a special time of seeing God's beauty in nature and enjoying a beautiful day.

We were back home in Cheltenham about 7 pm.  (We learned quickly that "home" is where your suitcase is!)  Trying to decide about dinner, Sondra and I ventured further into town and found a mall called the Brewery Mall.  All kinds of shops and restaurants and a movie theater were there.  We were acturally looking for a small place that served soups and bread, but had no luck.  We chose an Italian place called Prezzi and had Minestrone soup (delicious) and a ham pizza (very good as well).

                                                     The trees growing together to form an arch on the highways was common

                                                    Sondra in front of one of the many homes with thatched roof

                                                   The tower of the church rises high in Cirencester

                                                   The old Woolmarket entrance

                                                   Here is an example of one of the many narrow streets in the villages

                                                    The river runs silently and smoothly through Bibury

                                                     Galen and Sondra on the bridge with the homes in the background

                                                   The picturesque homes are on the narrow winding pathways

                                                   This magnificent hotel has been here since 1633

                                                    Ken and Beifei, Galen and Sondra enjoying tea time on the hotel grounds

Day Eleven  -  Saturday, September 10.

Our last day in the Cotsworld region began with a hearty breakfast, and then we were off to Stow-on-the-Wold.  This was a small town that was quite busy with tourists because it was the weekend.  It rained just a little.  The real story of this town was trying to find our way out of it, as we took some turns here and there to view the streets and homes.  At one point, I was driving and came upon a very narrow street (in the U.S., we might call it an alley) and decided to make it through.  We looked at both side mirrors much of the way down this street and it became one of our "adventures" along the trip.  We made the passage safely, but I was ready for a big road!

We made it back to Oxford to turn in the rental car about 1 pm.  We then backtracked to go home to Guildford - by train and by taxi.  At 6 pm, we were at our host home.  The man of the house (Robert) was to celebrate his 50th birthday that very evening and two of his adult children were to be in town to take him and Alison (his wife) to dinner. 

Sondra and I took a walk in the evening air to find a little eating place nearby.  None was open.  In God's providence, we met a couple coming our way on the sidewalk and I stopped them to ask about a restaurant.  They said the ones nearby were closed at this hour, and we began to walk together back towards our house.  During our walking and talking, I shared with them why we were there and the various churches we had attended so far.  They told us they were members of Emanuel and were at the same evening service last Sunday night.  By this time, we were enjoying a great time of fellowship in the Lord with them and they asked us to come by their home right then!

They lived two blocks from our host home and knew Robert and Alison Stevenson well!  What a divine appointment we enjoyed together.  Les and Jean (the names of this couple) took us in, fed us bacon sandwiches and dessert bars and lemonade, while Les and I talked about past years and famous pastors and churches.  Some of my favorite preachers of old (known and well-versed by Les also) are Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Dwight L. Moody, George Whitefield and others.  Les' father was a pastor and we had a wonderful evening of sharing, as my father was a pastor as well.  It was getting dark as we finally took leave and went home, rejoicing in such a delightful encounter that was unplanned!

                                                    Getting ready to pack the car to head out for Stow-on-the-Wold

                                                   Galen in the driver's seat with Ken as navigator

                                                   One of the many places of interest in Stow-on-the-Wold

                                                    The church towers can always be seen in the center of the towns

                                                   One of the many narrow streets we navigated through as we traveled
More to come!

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