Touring the English countryside by car was one of the bookends to my first trip abroad. A girlfriend and I had flown into London and spent a week in that fabulous city prior to a European tour. (More on that when we get to letter L). After the tour bus returned us to London, we stayed on another week and took a road trip.
We picked up a rental car in London and sweated and swerved our way through crowded streets, around the round-abouts and out of the city proper. Sitting in the passenger seat, on the “wrong” side of the car made me crazy. Everything was out of perspective, and I was sure we would side-swipe every vehicle parked on my left. I made the usual noises that one makes when she sees impending danger, imagined or real. This startled the driver and caused a bit of discontent in the small automobile . After two days as passenger, I commandeered the driver’s seat -- just to share the experience.
With no real plans or reservations, we took off to the west along the M4, traveling through farmland and small storybook villages. The first day out, we stopped at a bed and breakfast for the night. Happily, we were able to find accommodations wherever we landed during the week.
We learned that English pub food suited us best for a hearty lunch or evening meal. So those establishments were our usual stops. While there, we’d usually get into a conversation with some of the locals and ask for advice about what we should see while in the area. The friendly folks pointed us to magnificent cathedrals and castles, especially in Salisbury, Leicester, and York. Often, their suggestions determined which direction we took when we left their village.
At lunch-time after getting into Stratford-upon-Avon, my
friend requested a green salad from our waitress. She thought a second or two
and said, “I think I can organize that.” and whisked away to the kitchen. We chatted
with nearby locals while waiting for our food and found out the theatre was
dark that evening. Soon, our waitress reappeared, carrying an oblong platter
and smiling. She looked pleased with herself. With a flourish, she set down the
platter in front of my friend. After a quick look at the plate, our wide-open
eyes met. The salad consisted of beautifully-arranged fresh vegetables, all of
which were varied shades of green. Yep, it’s
a green salad alright.
|York Minster, England's largest gothic church|
Stratford-upon-Avon is to William Shakespeare as Hannibal, Missouri, is to Mark Twain. Everything as far as the eye can see has Shakespeare’s name attached to it. We toured the town, including Shakespeare’s home and the visitors’ center at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre before continuing on our way.
One travel day, we crossed into Wales, where we toured a
village or two. I bought a small porcelain mug with a blue glaze for my mom and had
to protect it for the rest of the journey. That night we
slept in Wales at a place that had a pub with live music on the first floor and
guest rooms upstairs.
|Royal Shakespeare Center on the River Avon|
By the fourth day out, we had both mastered driving from the right side of the car, on the left side of the road. Negotiating the round-abouts was still a challenge, and we did have one little mishap; though I’m not sure it was entirely our fault. But driving the two-lane country roads, with little traffic and beautiful scenery, was pleasant. By the time we returned the rental car to London, we felt pretty confident.
That was a terrific trip, driving through the green-and-gold countryside, observing the everyday lives of the people, and seeing names of towns that were familiar to me from books and movies. As always, the time is too short, and now I wish I’d been able to visit some of the areas I've read about in Elizabeth George's books.
~ xoA ~
(All photos from Google images)