Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Bath, a reunion

On the eve of yet another trip, I have the need to record the last outing before it becomes ignored and unforgotten venture. A pint of St. Peter's Mild in hand, I commence.

The first weekend of January we took off to visit my old haunt, Bath (or as Olive says much like a local, Bauth). We took off driving Saturday and arrived just after noon. I have to say driving the outskirts of town was beautiful... HILLS, well, green rolling landscape in comparison to the dry flat husk of Suffolk, it was a welcome change. I was a bit turned about once in town because I rarely visited it in a motored vehicle, but found my bearings well enough once on foot.

For those of you who were there with me, all the faves are still there: The Huntsman, Ts, Moles, Cadillac, and all the others of the past 10pm venues. Didn't visit a one. But we did snag lunch at Marmaris! Beth's and my thrift shop with the coat is still thriving. The street performers have remained true in there golden statue and juggling acts. The one truly noticeable difference was the end of town near Wells Road is Upscale. Jaz told me about it, but I didn't recognize the place with new shops and no heroin addicts sleeping on the street.  It's high street, main stream, commerce.

We took in the Abby, had a tea, and then walked up to the old place and through the park. Did a bit of stone skipping on the canal (dirty as ever) with the family. Students now have put out chairs (why didn't we think of that?) and amazingly most of the message is still there that Steve, Beth, and I left. Cheesy Brit pop song lyric!

On the walk back we wondered the park and spoke of the beloved Canadians. Saw the circle and crescent and Jane Austin's door. The magic of Bath was created by the people I lived it with. The memories far exceed the town.

That night we spent outside Bath in the George Inn Hotel, which is over 700 years old. We stayed in a room with large bowed wooden planked floors, and four poster bed, and a low ceiling. Lovely tap room with a large fireplace, wood carved details in all the furnishings, and just a very neat historic experience. Think, nearly 700 years of a rooms continual use... what all has happened inside those walls!

The next morning we were off to Stonehenge. Olive enjoyed the automated audio tour. She was proud knowing her numbers and punching in the correct ones for the stories at each station. Lucky to have nice weather and a walk before we started our way home. By chance we needed a break from the drive back and ended up in Winchester, the home of "The" Round Table. After taking that in and having a quick sausage roll, we were on the way home.

There you have it.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Left Unattended-Weeds Will Grow

I look at this blog like my garden. When the weather is nice and sun is shining, I truly enjoy digging in and making something nice. The rest of the time, F-it, let the weeds grow. Well, until the weeds are overtaking what meager winter plants are left. Time to trim them back and leave bits of tales for you to read.

December was a blur between general holiday happenings, traveling, a planned visit from friends, an impromtu visit from Rob & Barbara, and the numerous school events which Olive experienced and I volunteered for. (I was immersed more in religion in December than I was my entire life up until then... C of E, making my child a believer) One of these events was a school Nativity play cleverly titled "Is There a Baby in There?" If you want to see Olive pretending to sing along while yawning and over doing the choreography with her British classmates, watch above. She was a Ladybird, if you were wondering.
View of Baden Wildbad from the Charlottes Forsthaus
entry hall
We did make it to the continent again to take in the festive atmosphere of the Christkindlmarts. We met up with the Laramie & Kasparek families in Bad Wildbad, Germany to share a villa and have a mini Washington Expat reunion. The Charlottes Forsthaus was a fantastic find, thank you Josh, and it was so cleaverly decorated with pewter cups, wood carved furnishings, antlers, a stuffed bird, and photographs of the matriarch and family who once lived there. Included was a photo of her husband in his SS uniform siting proudly on the desk.
Our first day was spent around the villa &wandering in Baden Baden's small market (no pictures, forgot the camera). The second day was in Stuttgarter & Ludwisburg. Much Gl├╝hwein was needed to keep off the chill while we wandered and ate our way through Josh's childhood memories of the markets. Grilled brats, creamy mushrooms, lebkuchen, candied nuts, hard cookie balls with unpronounceable names... we even stopped into a local restaurant in Ludwigsburg for dinner. It was the kind of eating establishment that doesn't have pictures on the menu, or an English translation- a first in our travels thus far. We guessed at what we were ordering since Josh is the only one amongst us that had any German schooling and was able to order us some grub (Babs be proud of your boy, he did well!) By the time we came out, the lights were aglow and the town's angel motif was adding to the brass band's festive spirit under the pavilion. Before we left, Josh ordered himself a feuerzangenbowle, or a chalice of mulled wine & spirits put a flame.
Ludwigsburg Market Square
Bridge the Falls in Triburg
The third day we headed further into the Black Forest to seek out the home of the Cuckoo clock, Triberg. The drive over, admittedly was very beautiful with all the snow, but I was too gripped with fear in our little rent-a-Ford  to be able to admire it much at the time (or take photos!) Josh was very patient with me and with the driving. At times there was over five inches of unplowed snow on the roads, on hills, with no guard rails... Once coming out of a grove of trees into a small village, it took a moment to scan the landscape to deduce where the road lay- between two snow poles and then a sharp left. I was happy to have the Kaspareks forge ahead with their mighty Beast and leave our little put put to follow in it's tracks.

Once there we had a lovely lunch at a restaurant used to tourists. So much so that there was the German equivalent of an Applebee's like decor about the place- hunting medals, game, antlers, nutcrackers, wood carvings, gnomes, and of course, squirrels playing cards crowded off the walls and ceilings. After we had our Black Forest Cake, we went back out into the snow to explore the town. We happened into Oli's Schnitzstube, the one real clock maker there, although we didn't know it at the time. He was a lovely fellow who took the time to teach us about Cuckoo clocks and the quality, or lack there of, that you are buying. After our tutorial, we wanted to see what else there was since you never buy the first thing you see, you want to check out to see what else there is. Once we did, however, we realized that it was all just junk. Back we went to Oli, picked out our clock, and had it shipped to the UK. He was kind enough to give Olive a Cuckoo clock whistle that was made out of wood. Have to say, if you ever find yourself in Triberg, go see Oli, master carver, third generation clock maker, he'll hook you up.

For further tales & another view on the trip visit the Kasparek's Blog:

Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House, London
The rest of the year was spent in and around Cheveley. Christmas came and went. You will have to ask Olive and Josh how it was, I was poorly. Father Christmas brought Olive her "Red Nutcracker" as instructed. He was kind enough to throw in a set of Ballet tickets for Boxing Day down in London. Since it was a holiday, no trains were running. And since no trains were running, it was an ideal time for a tube strike. Josh now can add another major city he has navigated a car through. The theater was beautiful, the ballet okay, and Olive's reaction memorable.
Olive before her first school dance, I mean Disco, showing off her Gingerbread Man (see last post).

The New Year was rung in at our neighbor's house, Squirrel Cottage, celebrating her daughter's 5th birthday with a hand full of their family and friends. Lucky to have the jumbled lot of them - a bit of art and insanity in our otherwise quaint and normal existence here in Cheveley. Josh got to try ginger wine. Ask him if you are curious about it or the after effects.

And that gets me here to 2012. There, caught up for now. Although I didn't tackle it all, I at least don't feel like I've neglected it as much.  Still have last weekend to write, but that can wait until another time. Maybe I'll have January wrapped before the end. You shall see.