In 2005 I was living back in San Diego. Two of my good friends, Peggy and Suzanne, still living in the Pacific Northwest had been wanting to go to England and decided that this was the year. Together we planned a 2 week trip. It’d been 3 years since I was able to go and I was so ready to go back. I got on the internet to research places to stay and found a great website called holiday-rentals.com. I just checked and the website isn’t there anymore, however, you can find Stone Cottage on ludlowcottages.co.uk. I contacted the owner about renting the cottage for the week. We decided it best to have a base and then take day trips. This worked out really well and I highly recommend it. Not only do you not have to schlep luggage to a different hotel every night, it gives you a chance to thoroughly explore an area. We found it fun and relaxing to go to the local shops to get ingredients and cook our own meals or go to a pub to try the local fare. My mother in-law, Jean, recommended the town, so we thought we’d give it a try.
This time we were going in May and I hadn’t been at any time of year but September. This is the first time I’d ever taken such a long flight alone. Marcie couldn’t come because her daughter was getting married in the same month. As it turned out, the plane wasn’t full and I got the triple seat to myself. I flew British Air this time and I really enjoyed it, extra room and the food was great. I got in a couple of hours before my friends, so I got to freshen up and have a cup of coffee. I did some people watching which is always interesting. Finally I see them coming out of customs, I missed them both so much. We got on a train and headed for Crystal Palace. We got so engrossed in catching up that we missed the connection in East Croydon. I knew we were in trouble when I saw the Thames and London Bridge. I’m sure they weren’t too happy with me, We’d all been traveling since yesterday morning. We still had to wheel all the luggage down steps, under the train tracks, back up the steps, get the train at East Croydon, get off again at Crystal Palace which has it’s own daunting sets of stairs and then the 7 minute walk to Fox Hill, half of it up a steep hill. Whew!
It’s always so great to visit with the Haighs and coming back to this house is nice, a home away from home. Tim drove us up to a restaurant called Joanne’s in Croydon. What a great place, the food was fantastic, so was the service and atmosphere, we thoroughly enjoyed it. We got back to Fox Hill to have tea and catch up with the Haighs and then took a walk up to the Safeway to pick up something for a light dinner and wine, then off to bed for a much needed sleep.
We got up for a breakfast of English bacon and eggs and then head off to pick up a travel pass and head for Victoria Station and a day exploring the city. I’m disappointed to find that the flip time tables have been replaced with digital:( The feeling of seeing the times flip and hearing the clacking is replaced with silence. Jeez, sometimes progress is not better!
We got tickets for The Original London Bus Tour. I said it before, but it bares repeating, if you have a choice, always go for a live tour guide instead of the headphones. It’s confusing to have the voice tell you to look for a particular building only to find that the bus hasn’t yet reached it or we’ve already passed it. You can’t account for traffic, so the headphones have no idea really, where you are. After jumping off at Trafalgar Square we head into the National Gallery to check out paintings from our favorite artists. It’s so powerful to see them in person as opposed to a picture or online. I fell in love with paintings by Georges Seurat. We also asked a guard where the oldest painting in the museum was. We walked around, got lost then finally found it. A religious icon of some type, not my thing but I’m glad I got to see it.
On to Buckingham Palace and The Rubens Hotel for an authentic English Tea. Lovely as before. We then headed over to Leicester Square to see if we can get theater tickets to a play. We ended up going to the movies instead and saw “The Wedding Date”, a very enjoyable film, but if you’ve read my post before you know that this is the most expensive movie I have ever bought a ticket for! 12 quid, the equivalent to almost $24 US dollars! It was fine and I’d do it again, but I’m always astounded when I read that in my journal, that is 3 times what a movie costs back home. Just something to keep in mind if you’re trying to keep to a budget, it all adds up.
We asked one of the ushers how to get back to Crystal Palace and he told us if we hurry we can catch the last underground train of the day. Suzanne and Peggy’s first ride on the tube, we just made it and got back at 11:30. We walked back from the train station, talking about all of the wonderful sites we’d seen that day and planning for the next. Tomorrow we pick up our rental car and then hit the road to Ludlow.
After having a nice breakfast of porridge, delicious toast and orange marmalade, we get ready to head out on our next adventure. I’m elected to drive since I am the only one with experience. I really don’t mind, it’s easy once you get the hang of it! It was a long drive and we are all ready to stop. I had a moment of panic when I realize that I don’t actually have an address for Stone Cottage and Ludlow is much bigger than I expected it to be. This is something I do again and again, I’m so sure of myself that I don’t bother to get the facts of things, very naive of me. I’m such a dork! Luckily Peggy knocked on an Antiques store door and the gentleman that answered kindly made a call to his son who apparently knows the area. He guessed at the the approximate house and it turned out to be right! It was really quite amazing considering. We had seen pictures from the internet so we recognized it and were very lucky really.
We were stunned when we got inside, what an awesome house. Over 200 years old and everything is completely re-done, spotlessly clean and cozy. The kitchen is perfect and it has a very light and wonderful conservatory. It turns out that the stone cottage is attached to Broadgate, in the oldest part of the walled city, dating from around 1138, the walled city I mean, not the cottage. There is a magazine from the 1970s there that shows how the current owners bought the cottage and gutted it and made it the wonderful property it is today. It is attractive and comfortable and very convenient to stay here, I sincerely hope I can go back one day.
We ran down to the local Tesco that we had passed when coming into town and picked up some groceries and wine, went back to the cottage and Suzanne made us a fabulous dinner. Parmesan chicken, roasted veggies, salad, wine, cookies and tea. We are happily stuffed and looking forward to spending the next day in this beautiful medieval town.
We slept like rocks, boy, wine really helps a girl sleep! Got up and made a breakfast with Peggy of Scottish porridge with currents, juice, yogurt, toast and tea. We took off to explore this ancient town on foot, stopping in all of the shops, looking at the architecture, and talking with the locals. So many fresh food shops, we are very impressed with this. Even the cafe where we have our lunch serves food that is grown and raised locally. It’s called DeGrey’s and it is a lovely cafe and bakery. The shops have the most beautiful produce, organic meats and cheeses, and lots of bakeries. Suzanne and I decide that we want to buy a gooseberry pie since neither of us has ever tried it. We pick up some local cheese, fresh raspberries and strawberries, and also eggs, mushrooms and asparagus. Suzanne whipped it all into a gorgeous dinner. She took the leftover roasted veggies and chicken from the night before, added some fresh mushrooms along with sun dried tomatoes and local Gloucester goat cheese, mixed it altogether with eggs and it was fantastic. She served it with roasted asparagus and crusty bread. We had stopped at the local video store and amazingly they let us rent movies even though we were just visiting and had no permanent address. So we put on our jammies, light the electric fire and cozy up with a movie and some gooseberry pie to end this fantastic day.