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Cotswolds

I will only manage to get in a single blog entry in between two vacation trips, so I better write as much about the first one as possible before going onto the second one. So, here we go, briefly about Cotswolds…

Cotswolds is an area in Middle England that has similar significance for the country overall as Provence has for France, Andalucia has for Spain, or Tuscany has for Italy. In other words, it is often an idyllic place, easy on the eye, slow on pace, which retains plenty of cultural authenticity that is hard to find in big cities or famous tourist centers.

The weather in Cotswolds, of course, hardly compares to those other idyllic places, but, hey, England is hardly known for good wether, is it?

The heart of Cotswolds is located only about 70 miles north of London – even though it takes us a full hour to cross the city from our southeast starting point, the overall one-way ride is quite reasonable even for a day trip.

On our way there, we actually stopped and spent several hours in Oxford, which is not as picturesque as Cambridge, but is probably more imposing architecturally. We happened to arrive in the middle of some festival, and all over the town centers, colorfully dressed troupes presented inelaborate folk dances. Food market was also in full swing, selling meats, cheeses, sweets and everything in between. We gravitated from stall to stall, from performance to performance, visited one of the well-renowned colleges of the famous university, climbed a tower for a rooftop view of the town, and left quite satisfied.

CottagesThen, it was three days of driving through hedged green fields, taking in quaint and atmospheric towns and entertaining ourselves with various endeavors.

One of those was horse-riding. Beyond a pony ride at a local fair, none of us has ever sat a horse, so anticipation of the event was well mixed with trepidation, at least on the part of Natasha and me. Kids were boundlessly excited. We signed up for a hack, a leisurely ride through the countryside, where each of our horses were led on a leash by a trainer. Each one of us got equipped with a protective vest and a helmet, we not so much vaulted into the saddles as climbed with help of strategically placed steps, and off we went.

The weather was bright, the horses docile, and the path very inviting, so we all had a great time. Certain parts of our bodies went numb pretty soon, but we soldiered on. Going through a sleepy village was one of the highlights – a certain feeling of ages past crept in, weary travellers entering the town after a long ride from afar… The cars parked on the side of the road spoiled that feeling a bit… Another highlight was climbing out in the open on top of the hill and surveying the plains below…

Anyway, we survived the experience, and may actually try it again another day.

The girls also had a pottery lesson, and managed to create passable vases, which still need to be painted. Kimmy, who has better artistic instincts than anyone in the family, actually did quite well…

In one of the castles, we visited a pheasantry, where the mating season must have been in full swing. Several impossibly brightly colored male birds were engaging in some dancing around their far plainer female counterparts. There were also some attempts at fighting among rivals for affection. The kids were in stitches, watching the crazy birds…

Bourton-on-the-WaterBesides such diversions, we visited half a dozen beautiful towns, several gardens and manors, and generally indulged ourselves.

The fields of Cotswolds are full of grazing sheep. The girls excitedly looked for the animals from the car, but then, on several occasions, we had a chance to walk in near proximity of the herds. The kids kept trying to replicate the sounds that the sheep made, and at some point I started to wonder who was imitating whom, as the beh-eh-eh‘ing and meh-eh-eh‘ing kept alternating between Becky and the sheep, then Kimmy and the sheep… We did not venture to the fields themselves, keeping to the other side of the fences. One family with kids about Kimmy’s age did; the boy kept asking his father whether he could go chase the sheep; the father kept saying no; at some point, almost the entire herd that they were walking by started cantering towards them while making loud noises, scaring the kid mightily – he ran far ahead and climbed the nearest fence… Some combative sheep, they were…

All in all, we had a great time and probably could spend twice as many days in the area, but with our flight to Rome scheduled for Saturday, we figured we wanted to have at least a couple of days to detox from one trip before embarking on another one. My detox actually consisted of a day at work – and I am surely ready to go on another holiday.

Our travelog notes on Cotswolds can be found here. The pictures from the trip will likely be posted in a couple of weeks, after our return from Tuscany.

Posted in State of travel