We began our last minute-ish excursion to southern England at 3:30AM. E-frickin-gad. This allowed us to get cleaned up and repack the few things we’d used while being in a sleepy state and still get down to breakfast just as it opened at 4AM; one of the benefits of a hotel that caters to airport commuters, they know why people stay there. This requires no explanation if you’ve been in Portugal for awhile, but breakfast was mostly pastries. I swear these people; we love ’em, but would someone please show them a sausage patty or something? Then followed one of the biggest surprises we’ve had in travel in quite some time. Cliffhanger!
Not much of one, though. The big surprise was that we had a perfectly smooth travel experience, from checking in with Ryanair in Porto to collecting our bags and finding the shuttle bus in Bristol. Everything was smooth, no weird delays or ridiculous extra steps in the boarding process. Heck, we even had gangways(!) although, to be fair, since we were boarding from the back of the plane we actually went down the stairs and walked across the tarmac to get to the back steps on the plane. Still, we’ll take it! Heck, we even had our “leave the middle seat empty and maybe nobody will take it” strategy paid off for once. Score! And so it was that we made our way to the train station in central Bristol, from whence we would scoot out to where our car rental spot was.
This is where the shockingly smooth portion of the travel ended, although it wasn’t really a nightmare or anything. We mis-read which side of a minor highway the agency was on, so we walked 5-10 minutes in the wrong direction, turned around, got to the crosswalk and then got to the right side of the highway. Then there was the vaguely industrial-park vibe to where the rental agency was – it was Hertz, but I think most of their trade was long term van rentals. Put it this way, we were the only people who even vaguely looked like tourists in there, and rolling our bags along just completed the picture. Nevertheless they were lovely folks there and we were gone in no time with our hybrid (woo!) Toyota Yaris thingy. An hour or so later and we were in the driveway of our new, temporary, home in Dursley. I don’t think we’ll be sharing any pictures of this place, because I see way too many social media posts from clever dicks who can figure out where you are from almost no evidence and, well, it’s not our house. No reason to scream “the owners of this home are gone for a month!” to the internet.
So, we settled into our new digs for August. It is charmingly, well, normal. Suburban bordering on rural – not sure how locals would describe it, but we’re in a classic developed residential area (winding streets, a lot of houses that look almost identical), and we’re 5 minutes from cafes and shops, but we can also look in 3 directions and see sheep farms and rolling hills. Anyway. We met Oberon (Obie for short), the resident cat. Like most cats, after an initial “who are you what’s going on I want nothing to do with you” it became clear to him that we were the source of food, water, and the stick with the jingly ribbon on it and now we’re on the “ok” list. You can tell that we don’t play with the toys properly, but any port in a storm as they say and he grudgingly gives in.
The next several days have been us slowly figuring out what our rhythm for this trip actual will be. This was mildly complicated by the fact that we had talked past each other a little; this is what we call it when we’ve had what seemed like a thorough conversation about something only to find out that we still thought we heard something different from what we were told. Once we figured out the pace that we actually wanted to move at and were in agreement on, it locked in nicely. Granted, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
We said we were looking forward to this because the weather reminded us of Seattle in April or May. Well, yeah. As if to hold up a sign that says “be careful what you wish for” our first trip out, to Lacock Abbey where there is (we are told) a lovely garden, was rained out. Like, we haven’t forgotten how to be in rain, but it was coming down hard enough that we watched visitors who were dressed for rain walking out of the place in large clusters. Literally, we pulled into the car park and John turns to Lisa and says “we’re going home, right?” and she says “yep, we’re going home.” So, another hour or so through the English countryside.
It hasn’t been all bad, though. We had a lovely sojourn to Painswick Rococo Garden which, aside from its normal loveliness, does a “fairy walk” during the summer where they sprinkle little wicker-esque fey folk all throughout the gardens. It really is a charming touch and sends you hunting around all the nooks and crannies. It is privately held as opposed to being part of the National Trust; this isn’t a bad thing per se, but the Trust-managed properties have a certain spit-and-polish to them that the private sites often do not, although that can lead to charming quirks as well. Like, well, wicker fey.
Tomorrow we begin a new phase of the trip, journeying farther afield than we’ve been going, with planned trips to Bristol and Cardiff as well as a southern jaunt to Avebury and Stonehenge. Knock on wood!