We’re currently back in the Cotswolds, in a lovely farm cottage just outside the village of Chalford. There are donkeys and sheep in the paddock behind us, and through the kitchen window is a view across the valley to Chalford Hill.
It’s beautiful- and I’ll show you around when I have more wi-fi. We have wi-fi, but it’s a tad slow for loading too many new photos. Besides, if you follow me on instagram, you probably will have already seen them.
We’ve just passed the halfway point of our tour around England. By Friday we’ll be down south, and from Monday we’ll be in London for a week.
It’s gone quickly.
Taking stock at the halfway point, a few observations…
What we’ve been listening to…
Of course, there’d have to be a soundtrack. We’ve been listening to BBC radio 1 the whole way around- lost reception for a few short days up in the Highlands, but other than that…
As a result, the soundtrack of the trip is what’s been on high rotation.
Songs like Perfect by One Direction, Love Me Like You, by Little Mix, Hello by Adele, Renegade by X Ambassadors and the latest one by Coldplay whose name escapes me now- something about a great adventure.
Grace’s You Don’t Own Me, is just hitting high rotation- on both the radio and on the House of Fraser Christmas ads. Oh, and Heart by Cherub. I shazam’ed it in a Jack Wills (Fabulously British) store, and seem to have heard it everywhere.
What we’ve been eating…
We’re eating mostly in pubs because:
- Usually they’re a cost effective option
- Usually they’ve got a great atmosphere
- Usually it means chatting to the locals
- Mostly because we like them
In Scotland, though, most pub food options were starchy, heavy and huge…and came with chips. I tended to go for the bowl of soup at lunchtime, and have now eaten more variations of parsnip soup than I thought possible. There’s been parsnip, pear and ginger; parsnip and apple; and spiced parsnip….which is very similar to parsnip with chilli and ginger. Yep, I’ve had that too.
When it came to evening meals, I’ve got into the habit of leaving half the food on my plate. Sure, it’s waste, but seriously, the portions don’t need to be that big.
Down south there tends to be more (relatively) lighter options available- and more “gastro” pubs.
The other night at the Crown in Frampton Mansell I had monkfish served on crushed chickpeas and gremolata. The monkfish was great, and the chickpeas were something I’m going to attempt to replicate at home.
Because we’ve been self-catering where we’ve been somewhere for more than a couple of days, we’ve been able to make do with toast and jam or yoghurt and granola. It helps keep the cost and the calories down.
Lunches on the days we’ve done a lot of miles have been tougher. We’ve either gone without, grabbed a pie or a bowl of soup from a service centre (on the Ms) or been ripped off from a touristy café (Gretna Green, I’m looking at you).
Where the kitchen has allowed, we’ve taken breaks from all the dining out to whip up a quick spa bol.
Even with this, I’m pretty sure that I’ve put on the few kilos I lost before we came away.
Oh, and if you’re interested, the best pub meal of the trip- so far- has been lunch at The Swan in Broadway. Those smoked haddock fishcakes were seriously good.
What I’ve learned about urban (food) myths…
The Scots really do eat haggis. It’s on most (local) pub menus, and we’ve seen it in kebabs and pakoras. In butchers it’s sold by the slice- for easy frying.
Also, deep fried mars bars exist. And they’re not as disgusting as you’d think…I had a nibble when Sarah tried one in Callender the other day.
What I’ve learned about the cold…
It was colder than I imagined it could be in the Highlands. Having said that, everywhere else, we’ve been fine layering up. I have a few fine merino camisoles that I bought the year I went to New Zealand in winter. On top of that I’ve layered long sleeved t-shirts and my fluffy yeti vest. Add a beanie and a scarf…and something to keep the rain off and I’ve been ok…except for in Scotland.
What I’ve learned about the weather…
At home we’re spoiled. If it’s raining we can settle back and say something like ‘I can’t be faffed with going for a walk today,’ or ‘it’s too wet to be doing the garden,’ or, ‘it’s pretty manky out there, I think I’ll stay in.’
If you did that here, you’d never get out and the dog would never get walked. No clear patch of sky can be wasted; and activity- even in the rain- helps keep the blood flowing. What’s the worst that can happen? My hair gets curly. Already there. Every day is worth getting out in- besides the light can be great.
What I’ve learned about daylight…
Don’t take it for granted! In Scotland, sunrise was at 8.15am, and sunset at 3.45pm. Yes, really.
What I’ve learned about water pressure…
Don’t take it for granted. We’ve had a few stays where choices have had to be made between water pressure and heat.
What I’ve learned about Christmas…
It’s done so well over here, and somehow it really seems more, I don’t know, Christmassy. The ads (which I’m sure annoy the crap out of locals), the lights, the decorations…it feels really special.
Oh, and Christmas jumpers- like the ones on Bridget Jones? They’re for sale everywhere.
What I’ve learned about roads…
We’ve trained Rhonda the google maps lady (yes, I’ve named her) to stick to the minor, more scenic routes where possible. Although you get from A to B much slower than on an M or a high A road, those little A and B roads and lanes can have surprise villages around every corner.
What I’ve resisted…
All the amazing clothes in the shops… Monsoon, I’m especially looking at you. No matter how tempted I’ve been, I’ve had to remember that:
- Our party season is not in winter
- It won’t be cold enough to wear the lovely new things until June next year, and
- The jackets that I love will probably be too heavy for a Sydney winter…
So I’ve resisted. So far.