One of the amazing perks about living in the Balkans is the short(ish) plane rides throughout Europe. Elise moved to London about five years ago to pursue her passion and calling to ministry in the Church of England (we, her friends, like to call her, in perfect theological correctness, Priest Elise), and had recently overcome a work visa hurdle. We needed to celebrate, so I hopped on a plane for seven days of rambling around the English countryside.
To kick off our week together, we hit the ground running by not leaving the couch. Firmly ensconced in her house, we managed three impressively complex meals, six to eight episodes of Fringe, and multiple Trevor Noah / John Oliver Youtube clips. We did, at one point, confirm we had each brushed our teeth, so – win. Day two we went to a nearby nursery and spent the afternoon sprucing up her garden.
By day three, we were rested, relaxed and ready to hit the road. Our first stop was Trinity College in Bristol. Elise began her C of E theology training at Trinity when she first moved to England, and I wanted a tour.
In true English manor style, the small college was stunningly beautiful, and it was easy to see how attending ended up being one of the best years of her life.
Then we were off to Bath. Anyone familiar with Jane Austin’s canon is aware of Bath, the New York Hamptons of its heyday (which happened to last for a few centuries). Originally built up by the Romans, who fell in love with the area’s natural hot springs, Bath became the place to see and be seen during high season by high society, as well as where one would come to “take the waters” when looking for relief or remedy from illness.
We arrived in town mid-afternoon and found ourselves, almost immediately, in front of the famous Pump Room (one of the premier historical spots to be “seen”), where we were able to snag one of the last available tables for afternoon cream tea (tea and scones, gluten-free for me), whilst enjoying a live string quartet under a chandelier-lined ceiling (pinkies up).
We also toured the main bath (no one actually goes in anymore, the water is a tidbit disgusting) and associated museum. Of the baths it was noted, “The picture is not complete without some quarrelsome fellow, a thief caught in the act, or the man who loves the sound of his own voice in the bath – not to mention those who jump in with a tremendous splash” (Seneca, Epistulae Morales, 56; 1st Century AD). I find it a comfort to know some things never, ever change.
We toured the Royal Crescent and Circus, both historical residential town-home quarters, crossed the River Avon via the covered Pulteney Bridge, and enjoyed dinner and cider at one of Elise’s favorite pubs.
Day four began with a hike and a spot of tea in Prior Park. It doesn’t get more English Countryside than this! Even the swans look British.
Exercised and caffeinated, we again hit the road, this time to Wales. Both of us were keen to get in some serious nature time and were both excited to hike around Brecon Beacons National Park.
We clocked in a few thousand steps that evening, found another great pub for dinner and crashed out early. We’d need the z’s for day five.
Which looked like this!
I mean, come. on.
Brecon Beacons (obviously) did not disappoint. Everything, from our adorable and comfortable bed and breakfast, to the walking path along the canal, to the tea house alongside Brecon Cathedral exceeded all our exceptions. We were quite sad to leave. But, our tour was winding down and we had to begin the journey back.
Day six was a road day – it was a long trek back to her home in Essex and traffic in and around London is no joke. But we did manage a lunch break in a little town called Oxford (huuuuge college town), at a quiet little pub called The Eagle and Child (absurdly packed and famous for its hosting of The Inklings in the 1930’s and 1940’s, a friends’ writing club that included JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis).
Then we were back on the road and back in traffic. We made it home just in time to catch the tube into central London and have dinner with Elise’s delightful aunt and uncle, who were in town for one night before catching their Norwegian Cruise north.
And just to make sure we came full circle, day seven was, again, spent on the couch. But not unproductively – we both, again, confirmed we had each brushed our teeth, and we persevered to finish the entire first season of Fringe (the last episode’s credits rolled just under the wire at 9pm). The next morning Elise had a sermon to give and I had a plane to catch, so with high fives and good-nights, we bid adieu to what had been a most excellent adventure.