Before we left, I asked everyone what one or two things they would most like to do or see on this trip, and my dad said he wanted to see the countryside. He was a farmer, after all, and if he couldn't get onto a real British farm (believe me, we tried), he at least wanted to see what their farmland looked like.
I found a tour that seemed to fit the bill for all of us, and so we headed out to the Cotswolds. But there was a bonus at the end of the tour, too. You'll see . . .
First, we took a train about an hour outside of London where we immediately hopped on a coach ("bus" in Brit-speak).
(Exciting bunch, aren't they? Guess the theatre was too much for them the night before.)
About 30 minutes later we arrived in the lovely little village of Minster Lovell, a tiny little Costwold hamlet that anyone in their right mind would sell everything they have just to live here. It's that lovely.
Sorry. What was I thinking? Oh, yes, you would indeed have to sell everything you have to live here--it's that expensive. Our tour guide, Richard (who, by the way, was outstanding and made our day even more special), explained that the "cottages" you see lining the streets actually sell like mansions in the near-1 million pound range.
One can dream, can't she?
Anyway, back to Richard. He took us walking through the street of this village (I really think there was only one street), telling us about the thatched roofs of the cottages and explaining how the muckity mucks of London come there on the weekends (think the Hamptons) when we reached a farmer's field.
Dad was a happy man!
We walked through a gate (at this point, Richard told us how the name "kissing gate" got its name, but it's too long to go into here. Google it.) and into the field. Yes, in England there are thousands of miles of public walkways, so you can just wander into farmer's fields whenever you want.
Farmer's horses greeted us.
We walked a little further, trying unsuccessfully to avoid the cowpies, until we saw a church in the distance.
Richard explained that in Medieval times, these villages were centered around the church (a.k.a. the "Minster") and the Manor House. All of the little cottages were built for the servants of the Manor.
Give me a bucket and a broom, I'm movin' in!
We walked a little further, through another gate, where we came upon this pond.
Words cannot describe it. *Ahhhhhh*
We walked around the pond when suddenly, right before us, stood this sight. . . .
I swear, it looked like something from the set of a movie, just plopped right there, on the edge of a tiny river, for our enjoyment. Apparently it's also there for the enjoyment of the residents of Minster Lovell, too, because families with children were hanging out near the ruins, eating picnics and playing near the water. Too cute, I'm telling you. Too . . . English!
Anyway, we wandered around the ruins for a while, Richard telling us interesting stories about the family who lived there. This was the Manor House, the place that employed people like me who lived in the little cottages in the village.
I honestly cannot imagine how much it would cost to keep that place in operation today. Probably why they had to let it go to ruin (get it?!).
Next to the Manor House was the church, which is still being used today, thankfully.
Isn't it lovely?
So after that breathtaking little stroll, we wandered back down the street (remember, there seems to be only one) to our coach.
I snapped this one as I was walking past someone's kitchen window.
Our coach then took us just a few minutes away to another village called Burford where we had exactly one hour to either walk around and see the place or sit down and eat lunch. Some in our group just needed to sit, but you can probably guess what B and I did. We walked.
Richard had mentioned that Burford had a beautiful church, a fine example of Medieval church architecture, so B and I decided to head down there for a little look-see.
The church was beautiful, but once you've seen one medieval church, you've pretty much seen them all.
We had fun looking around, but the best part, for us, was when we checked out their bookshelves. There we saw books by authors we actually recognized and some we even knew!
Here is "The Big Picture Story Bible" by our friend, David Helm . . . right there! . . . on a bookshelf! . . . in Burford, England!
And here's "Disciplines of a Godly Man" by our former pastor, Kent Hughes. Just sittin' there, waiting to be read . . . in England!
I don't know why, but I got such a kick out of seeing those books by people we actually KNOW sitting on a shelf in England. There is just something too cool about that. (The only thing cooler would be seeing one of MY books sitting on a shelf in England. Ha!)
We left the church and quickly toured Burford's High Street, grabbing some pastries to take back on the bus with us for lunch.
All-in-all, we LOVED the Costwolds. Even though this was my sixth time in England, this was a region I had never before seen. Not that I hadn't wanted to go there before, it's just that there are so many wonderful places to see and things to do in England that you just can't see or do it all.
Here's one thing I know, though . . . I will be back. This is an area that deserves much more of my attention.
Once again I've gotten long-winded, and I'm probably boring you to death, so I'll stop my rambling now. You'll have to come back tomorrow to find out the surprise at the end of our day trip. It's worth a blog post of its own anyway.
Now, I'd love to know . . . of all the places I've posted about so far, which would you most like to see in person? Leave me a comment and let me know.