We took an overnight flight that landed in London on May 8.
We rented a car attached our GPS (or as the Brits call it, the SATNAV)and headed down to Portsmouth to catch a Ferry to the Isle of Wight, where my Aunt and a second cousin live. Bob adjusted to the driving very well, I would NEVER be able to manage the wrong side of the car, and the road along with paying attention - because the view was magnificent - everything was green, and rolling and there were fields covered with yellow (rapeseed) in between.
Leaving Portsmouth on the Ferry
The weather was NOT warm, until the day we left! So the Ferry ride was chilly but the view made up for it. Once we reached the island, we decided to stop at Quarr Abbey to do our first bit of sightseeing. There was a show of local botanical artists going on so we enjoyed their work and the ruins of the old abbey as well. In order to get there you have to walk past some of the largest, happy pigs I have seen. They apparently get a lot of attention, and food.
I could tell Aunt Stella liked Bob from the start. We offered to help her with anything she needed and she let us hang her curtains that had just been re-lined. At 84 she doesn't look at day over 65! Auntie made us Coronation Chicken in honor of the Queen's jubilee the first night we were there and the 2nd we took her out for fish and chips by the sea. It was a cozy little place that we all enjoyed (finished with treacle sponge cake and custard - mmmm). We explored the island some - this is a place you could spend WEEKS enjoying, even though it is very small (14 miles wide by 27 mileslong) We visited my uncles memorial, went to a garlic farm, a garden center (these are FUN places to go - all with comfortable lunch facilities and yes we had lunch! Gardening is taken very seriously in the UK so you need time to rest and rejuvanate while you are planning and buying!! We drove along and enjoyed the seaside and stopped at a couple touristy-shops. We visited the windmill in Bembridge (where my Aunt lives) and Went over to Gurnard to meet my 2nd cousin, Katie and her family. Our time with them went very quickly and Meg (Kate's partner) gave us some lovely gifts of paperweights and a perfume holder that I will treasure forever. The 5 children were a delight and the house was one of the happiest, busiest and most fascinating we've seen! We had to take a tiny ferry after we left to get to our port, and that is where Bob had his first Pasty mmmmm. This is a pastry filled with savory delights.
Lily of the Valley growing on the Isle of Wight
Yep - that's Stonehenge!
Next we visited Stonehenge which is near another cousin and her husband. We stayed with them and enjoyed a great night at a local pub called Bath Arms - Bob had Shepherd's Pie and I had Sticky Beef. Both were YUMMY! Elaine has a very old kitty - 17 that had a raspy old-lady purr and just LOVED my lap. We loved staying in their home which dates back to the 1600's! It was an old farmhouse - and her garden is one to envy - full of everything I like!! She also took us to an antique store where she has a booth and manages the rest, a few other antique shops and a reclamation facility where I fell in love with JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING there - especially the old doors! This is upcycling at it's finest.
Driving into Bath
When we left Elaine & Mikes we drove through Bath, stopped at the oldest farmer's market in England and picked up some wonderful cheese's - Bob's first sausage roll and a few other fun things! Then we crossed the bridge to Wales and met up with my cousin Wendy who took us straight away to St. Fagans. This is a medieval type place in parts and pure history in others - we truly enjoyed the whole adventure! Getting to Wendy's house was another adventure - through the highest hedgerows down a 2 lane road that only physically had one lane! Even with Wendy in the lead, Bob overcompensated in one spot and down came the passenger mirror on the rental car when he moved to the right (yes the right) to avoid an oncoming car - but we were able to fix it.
We loved our 3 days in Wales, it went MUCH too quickly. We visited Cowbridge, a quaint little village with upscale boutiques, antiques and yummy treats! I finally tried a Welsh Cake in Cowbridge - and have attempted to make them 3 times since we've been home (oh great, I've mastered another treat!) These are like scones baked on a warm stone (or in my case - a NAAN pan!) We went to Cardiff Castle - Cardiff is a large city that we spent Bob's 50th birthday enjoying. Funny thing in Wales - all signs are printed in English and Welsh. Welsh is a lilting, soothing kind of language, sort of like our Southern Belles. Except you could NEVER pronounce ANYTHING in Welsh trying to sound it out! My 2nd cousins children sang Happy Birthday to Bob in Welsh. Sure wish I had recorded it! We had a special Birthday lunch, then a trip to Cardiff castle, then wandered in the city for some time and enjoyed a late afternoon tea/scones at an upscale department store. Correction...I had champagne! Then we went back to the Brown Lion in Llanmaes (Wendy's house) and walked up to the local pub where we had a wonderful Birthday dinner. Bob had toad in the hole - a sausage and yorkshire pudding dish.
One thing about the UK that is so cool - the houses and buildings have so much history. Wendy's house (Brown Lion) was an old pub - dating back to the 1600's. You can "feel" the history. Her garden is like a slice of paradise. Across the street is the church we attended (St. Catwg) which dates back to 1234 AD! It is a different experience entirely worshiping in a church that old....very moving!
....more in the next installment!!!