Friday, May 11, 2012

Exploring the Cotswolds (aka Up Close and Personal With Sheep)

We took a day trip through the Cotswolds with 14 of our closest friends from around the world (folks on our tour bus ranged from France to Hong Kong to the US). Our knowledgeable driver pointed out the sights and gave running commentary as he drove, enlightening us on the region that is dotted with small homes from the 17th century.
Our first stop on the tour was a village called Castle Combe (pronounced 'coom') but there wasn't actually a castle there. There was a delightful little church with a creepy-looking graveyard, though. Most of the graves were so weather beaten that they were no longer legible, but those I could read were from the 1800s, though the church is reportedly much older than that.
We stopped for lunch at a cute, touristy town called Bourton-On-The-Water, where I tried plaice fish for the first time. Not a big fan (bring on the haddock!). Fortunately, a pint of Guinness covered the taste well. hehe On our table at the pub, we discovered a condiment packet labeled "salad cream" and, figuring we were already being adventurous, gave it a try. It was really good! I don't have much to compare it to, but the ingredients were vinegar, mustard and egg, so maybe like the middle of a deviled egg, but more liquid. I can't say I'd put it on my salad, but it was good for dipping my chips!
After our lunch, we drove to Upper Slaughter, which sounds violent, but I'm told is Olde English for 'Muddy Place.' Well, it certainly lived up to its name! England has been enduring heavy rains, so many of the fields had standing water on them. Feeling bravado we would later regret, about half the group elected to walk from Upper Slaughter to Lower Slaughter through the sheep fields. You know that sucking sound your shoes make when you step in mud that doesn't want to let go? Yeah, it was that for about half an hour. On the plus side, we got really close to some sheep (wool was the main product of the region at one time). They were, understandably, unimpressed with our difficulties in the mud.
A common site throughout the Cotswolds is hand-stacked stone fencing topped with vertical stones, which are designed to keep the sheep from jumping over. Sheep, the guide explained, are not stupid and can tell by looking at the sharp stones jutting from the top of the fence, that trying to escape will result in serious injury. As a result, the fences don't need to be very high to keep the sheep in. I might have to test that theory on my daughter's window once she hits her teenage years. LOL (Just kidding, honey!)
The real take away from our day in the Cotswolds was the odd intersection of the old and the new. Tiny windows, stone walls, and even the odd thatched roof gave the impression that we'd been transported back in time, but it was hard to immerse ourselves in that image because of the cars dotting the town (not to mention the tour buses-ha!).
On the way back to Bath, our tour bus developed a mechanical issue that caused the engine to drag, so we couldn't go very fast and had to pull over a number of times for the driver to try and wiggle a wire here and there in hopes of fixing the problem. So we were an hour late in returning to Bath. We hopped on the train to London, grabbed a taxi as soon as we arrived and checked into our hotel, then raced to the London Eye, hoping to make it there before they closed (since we had pre-paid tickets). We didn't make it. However, the manager was all kinds of sweetness and told us we could use our tickets the next day. Thank you, Simon! *hug*
So we got to see the London Eye from the outside at night and will be back in the daytime!


  1. Very pretty part of the country - glad you got to see it - sorry for all the mud hehe. Amazed you like salad cream though *shakes head* can't stand it myself ;-) Have fun on the eye x

  2. How did I miss this post? Hmmm.

    Loved the little town and of course the sheep! Sorry the weather is so much like home :( That's a bummer. I think vinegar, mustard and egg are all ingredients in mayo. Maybe you were just eating British mayo :)
    But, tell me, was the Guinness cold????? LOL.