Wow. Our third month in the Cotswolds was the toughest to write. Maybe it’s because I wrote it on the plane ride home, fresh from saying our goodbyes. Or maybe because I keep thinking of the scene in the quintessential holiday season film The Holiday where Cameron Diaz says, “I wasn’t expecting ‘I love you’”.
I expected to love the Cotswolds. Somewhere in the depths of my soul, or in the flickering memories of a past life, I knew this was my place. What I wasn’t expecting was how much I would love the people we met during our adventure. It wasn’t even on my radar.
We had no idea what to expect going into this journey. All we knew was we wanted something different. Well, we got different and a whole lot more.
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It’s clear I adore the Cotswolds, but Steven and I had to adjust to the lack of diversity compared to where we live in the US. In our town, it’s not unusual to see people of all different colors, religions and sexualities. From what we saw in the Cotswolds, it was much more homogenous. The reason I’m pointing this out is because the start of our third month also marked Hanukkah. I remember walking Abraxos around the village one morning when suddenly, I saw all these menorahs. I ran back to the cottage, bursting with excitement.
“Steven, there are members of the tribe here!”
Well, thank you social media because one of my Instagram followers pointed out the “menorah” I spotted didn’t have the right amount of candles. Turns out, it was an Advent candelabra. Definitely not Jewish, and we couldn’t find a menorah at any local stores. Our family still observed Hanukkah, teaching the history of the holiday to our kids with the help of YouTube.
During this week, Steven and I had our only date night…of the entire trip! We were meant to have one weekly, but between the lockdowns and road trips, this turned out to be the only week we were able to go out at night. It was much appreciated.
Over the weekend, we took a trip to Oxford. If you read my last post, then you know I totally geek out over Harry Potter. It was fun to see so many familiar sights from the movie. Also spotted were locations from A Discovery of Witches.
Where we ate: Whistler’s in Chipping Norton; Ben’s Cookies in Oxford
The highs continued this week. For my birthday back in October, Steven got me a full day spa experience at Bamford Haybarn, the spa at Daylesford Farm. They use all natural and organic products, and it’s 100% my vibe there. Between their packed schedule and the lockdown, I finally got to use it nearly two months after my actual birthday. Well, let me tell you, it was well worth the wait.
The next evening, Steven and I took the kids to Blenheim Palace again, this time in the evening for the Christmas light show. This is a must for anyone in the Cotswolds during the holiday season. It was amazing and magical in every possible way. Of course, having several bars littered throughout the trail followed by dinner from the Psoul food truck didn’t hurt either.
Over the weekend, we went to Bath, which was almost like a mini-London but with a vibe all its own. On the ride down, we stopped for lunch in the town of Marlborough where we ate the best burgers…ever. A side note: burgers in England are not for me. There’s some sort of regulation on burgers where they all have to be cooked well done, and I’m a medium rare girl. When I heard about the burger at Kitchen Sisters, I decided to try it, somewhat skeptically. I was blown away. Apparently, they have special permission to cook their burgers to any temperature owing to the freshness and close proximity of the meat. After a taste test, they determined the best flavor was when burgers are cooked…wait for it…medium rare. Also, the owner and his wife couldn’t have been nicer.
After burgers, we stopped at the Avebury stones, which is a stone circle surrounding an entire village. It was incredible.
In Bath, we stayed at the Queensberry Hotel and tried to see (and eat) everything. The first day, we went to the Jane Austen Centre, and I still can’t believe my kids did the tour. They particularly enjoyed writing with real quills and ink. The second day, we split up in pairs to do our Christmas shopping. On the last day, we went to the Roman baths. They have an audio guide specifically for kids, and both kids loved it. Since no trip to Bath would be complete without Bath bunns, we tried the most famous of them all at Sally Lunn’s.
Where we ate: The Porch Inn in Stow-on-the-Wold; KitchenSisters in Marlborough; The Scallop Shell, The Olive Tree and Dough Pizza Restaurant (all in Bath)
This was Christmas week, and we went into full-on holiday mode. We put up a tree and a wreath, plus some other decorations the kids made. As is my tradition, I watched as many Christmas movies on Netflix as I could (including the aforementioned The Holiday where I had a new appreciation for the driving scene).
On Christmas Eve, I baked cookies for some of our new friends in the village, and the kids delivered them. Then I made a fancy Christmas Eve dinner for the four of us. On Christmas Day, we had a festive holiday lunch at a restaurant a few villages over. Then on Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas for my fellow Americans, we had the most incredible vegan Wellington courtesy of Psoul. When Steven wolfs down a vegan twist on a traditional meat dish, you know it’s good!
In case anyone was wondering, Santa managed to find us in the Cotswolds, and the holiday was magical for us all!
Where we ate: The Sheep at Stow in Stow-on-the-Wold
I took this week almost completely off from work, alternating between long walks and binge watching Bridgerton. On one such walk, we met a new family who moved in around the corner from where we were staying. While I want to say the best part was they had two young kids who immediately became friends with ours, truly the best part was how fast the adults made friends.
On New Year’s Eve, we went to Jo’s house where she and Leo treated us to delicious food, way too much wine and amazing conversation. I even made it to midnight! Okay, it was while walking the dog before bed, but still. I can’t even remember the last time I made it to midnight on New Year’s Eve!
Where we ate: Jo and Leo’s 😉
Week 13 +:
This is when our imminent departure became more real for us all. Our final days in the Cotswolds also coincided with yet another lockdown, one much stricter than the November lockdown.
We took our final “sightseeing” trip to Broadway Tower. It was such a snowy and foggy day that we couldn’t even see the tower until we were practically right in front of it. The weather made for a dramatic backdrop to this historical place.
While lockdown didn’t allow for any good-bye gatherings, on the day before we left, it just so happened everyone in the village walked their dogs to the church green around the same time. It was both heartwarming and sad to say goodbye to all the friends we’d made during our stay. Steven and I promised to come back, and we intend to make good on our promise.
Where we ate: Quince & Clover in Great Tew
To close out this three-part recap, I want to say thank you to our new friends who made us feel so welcome. ❤️
Thank you to:
- Roy and the world’s sweetest chihuahua Dolly
- Polly & Craig
- Anne & Abraxos’ girlfriend Spot, the shameless flirt
- Charlotte with the beautiful Irish Setters
- Jonathan and Rachel (and yes, Jack, even if you and Abraxos didn’t get on in the slightest)
- Cathy and Mark, plus their hilarious daughter-in-law Lela (I will take you up on that 5 hour tea!)
- Lucy, Alessandro, Serena and Ariana – we’ll see you soon for sure!
- Special thanks to Julie and Chessie for driving all the way out to meet us in the Cotswolds, especially you Chessie being secretly in your first trimester and so so nauseous.
- And the biggest thank you to Jo and Leo for opening your home to our children. Jo, you gave my kids back their love of learning and replaced their “sure” with “yes please”. I can’t express enough how much you contributed to our experience these past three months.