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The traveler: An expected journey This time it's the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden & Norway before England again for several weeks and on to Croatia.

Welcomed Again

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 14 May 2018 | Views [287]

Sometimes it is a rare gift to meet a person you can connect with from the first moment, and a friend you will talk about almost anything with. Since my last trip I've maintained an email connection with someone like this, and 3 years later she was the final person I visited before heading home. There was at the same time so much to talk about, and yet we knew so much already about the journeys we'd taken in the intervening time. If we'd put all of our conversations over the next 2 days in an email it probably would've filled hundreds of pages.

We began the grey day with a breakfast of smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and toast in the cafe at Broadway Tower. Our first conversation on my recent travels carried us through breakfast and watched the cafe slowly fill around us. Eventually we got up to leave and headed off for another walk in the countryside, along tracks, between sheep, and over and through gates to a long borrow at the top of one of the hills. It wasn't until the late 1800s that anyone really came up to to examine the burial mound, and not until the 1920s, when they sealed off parts of it leaving the 3 side openings just big enough for 2-4 people to hunch over and walk inside the little nooks. Despite the archaeological work that's been done, I think there's more for them to discover in the meaning of these long burrows built so long ago.

By the time we'd made our way down and back to the car, we were surprisingly getting hungry again. Continuing on our village site seeing trip on the way back home our next stop was Burton-on-the-Water. During the drive our conversation turned to British sign customs, which seems to center on providing the name of a destination on a sign pointing you along a road, and then dropping the name of your destination for the next several intersections and signs. It can make a road trip quite interesting, even if you have some familiarity with an area.

Another British road custom is to periodically pull over to let cars go in the opposite directions on the almost entirely 1 way roads winding their way across the country. The concept of two lane roads is reserved for the newer and busier highways. Of course you must give them credit that unlike American roads most of theirs were likely built in the days of horses and carts.

After strolling once up the waterfront by the river in Burton-on-the-Water we choose a restaurant to sit down in, and our talk turned to politics and Brexit. Apart from this what I will always remember here are the deserts we almost passed on, but as we were having a rather fun day out together we decided to have the second course. My friend ordered ice cream and I cheese cake. What came out were works of art. The ice cream was presented in a tall, fanned glass dish with a sundial shaped flake of white chocolate topping the little hills of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream. Meanwhile my raspberry cheese cake was a white rectangle topped with a layer of raspberry sauce and a thin twisted arch of dark chocolate like a modern civil engineer's creation for a bridge. Not only were the deserts almost too beautiful to eat, but they had wonderful favors as well. Our second surprise came when I looked down at my watch and had to check it twice. Somehow it was already 6 pm!

Nonetheless we stopped at one last village that was on my list to see. Bibury (by-bury), like so many other Cotswolds villages was built around a woolen mill. The object of such photographic interest (at least as far as what you find on Google) are actually the workers cottages. Still intact, they are lived in today. The small windows, stone tile roofs, and wavy rooflines only adds to their charm, though it may be a different story living in and maintaining them. A wonder up the lane and across the main road brought us to some of the slightly bigger houses higglty, pigglty placed next to each other with driveways and car parking clearly only an after thought hundreds of years after they were first built. Yet they are so appealing with their stone walls the backdrop for trees and other plants, as well as a window here and there that you must wonder how and why it got there. As dusk began to fall we walked below the the fishery with its many ponds and flowing water that, apart from the buildings, now seems to provide the largest attraction and income. Perhaps anything would look appealing in the evening, but it was certainly peaceful.

After a leisurely breakfast and conversation the following morning my friend gave me a tour of the estate gardens where she lives. The wealthy couple that own the main house have converted most of the previous farm buildings into living spaces (and a swimming pool). My friend lives in a beautifully converted barn and hay loft with a sitting area and kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and up a short wooden ladder a second bedroom in the top of what could easily be an A-Frame. Outside there are multiple flower beds bordering the green spaces. Though it's a late spring in England the daffodils are in full swing, along with the primroses, and "winter roses". Just the beginnings of life are starting to show at the end of the tree branches. In addition to the flower beds there is a small orchard with plum and apple trees (still slumbering), vegetable garden, and woodland garden in which they are starting to plant new trees. Out of this garden I tasted the tender inside tops of nettles, as well as the leaves of wild garlic, which is remarkable similar to the root of the same plant.

For lunch we found ourselves at the Star Anise cafe in Stroud, a place that would easily fit into Boulder. We both ordered the beet Anocine: beet risotto balls on a bed of lettuce and cooked carrots or beets with pesto on top. I'd highly recommend the place it you ever find yourself in Stroud.
Following this delicious meal we visited Ruskin Mill, another of the former Cotswold woolen mills powered by the river. The specific place has been turned into a college for children with learning disabilities to study hand crafts such as woodworking and pottery. Like Bibury, Ruskin Mill is also host to a fishery and the accompanying greenery between pools and a path alongside. My friend actually worked here for several years. Like all places it's the people who either make a place a dream, or a challenge to work.
Ruskin Mill also produces flow forms, which were developed around the idea of restoring the natural structure to water after it has been processed, rather akin to Dr. Emoto's work of changing the shape of water crystals with the energy of words. The flow forms look similar to a fountain designs with two petal shaped bowls on either side of the small central channel and run through 10 or so of these pairs of bowls. Each time the water runs down into the next pair of bowls it's gently pushed from side to side like the ebb and flow of the ocean before proceeding to the next set. It is an intriguing example of biomimicry.
My last stop in the Cotswolds was to Painswick, the village I fell in love with on my last trip. It is strange to return with different eyes, and yet at the same time remember so clearly my last walk along its narrow streets. The twisting lanes and small cottages, each different from the next, are a beautiful labyrinth with surprises tucked in each stairway, tiny yard, and unique doorway. I couldn't help, but notice the several For Sale signs along the streets, and at the same time see that managing to park along the steep one lane roads, not originally intended for cars, would be a step up from any challenge San Fransisco offers.
Like the other villages, this time I discovered on the outer edges the place where newer homes meet the old with the current. Beneath the picturesqueness of the village is a reality that only people with a considerable amount of money can afford to live here. With the passing of the years Painswick has also lost the small grocery stores, and local store owners that I imagine used to add so much charm. Modern life in a village with centuries of history is an odd paradox of the old and the new side by side.
The next day, in an ironic repeat of my first visit with my friend, we arrived at the train station where I would catch the train back to London to discover that it was not there. We dashed off to another station where I discovered several trains had been canceled due to lack of crew. Thankfully there was still a train to London, but over an hour latter than I'd planned. I arrived at Heathrow only to discover that my departure flight was leaving in 45 minutes from a different terminal. Despite their suggestion that I rebook my flight, I dashed back to the unground for the 10 minute trip to the other terminal, through security, and then down the long, long corridor to my departure gate, which was of course at the very end. I doubt I've ever been as grateful to get on a plane before!

Tags: bibury, burton-on-the-water, cotswolds, painswick, ruskin mill

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