After the early morning van from the marina deposited us at Shannon Airport, we boarded the short flight to England, eager for a week of hiking in the Cotswolds.
Arriving in Winchcombe, our cute two story row cottage was just as advertised. Plus, courtesy of our landlady, a bouquet of white roses, a banana nut cake and bottle of wine awaited us!
Here’s the audio if you prefer:
Next morning we walked to the vintage train station at Greet to board a restored steam train. It was like stepping back in time. We bought tickets from the costumed volunteer, found our seats in the carriage, and watched billowing clouds of steam envelope us as the train chugged into a long dark tunnel. We relaxed and enjoyed the slowly passing hillsides filled with neat paddocks and occasional clumps of sheep or cows.
At the end of the 45 minute trip, we arrived at Broadway Station. My son who lives in London and his long-time Austrian partner were to meet us, but we weren’t quite sure how they’d find us. While standing on the corner wondering what to do, a black car zoomed up right beside me. When I looked down, Jay’s beaming face was looking up at me through the windshield. They’d found us!
During lunch at a trendy organic cafe, we caught up with Jay and Simone’s latest news. They too had been traveling – spending time with family and friends in Austria and France. For me – I just drank in being with my son, watching him tell stories, and enjoying every moment. Since he’s lived in London for decades, it’s a rare treat for us to be together in person. I miss him.
Afterwards we drove back to Winchcombe where we gathered around our small kitchen table. It was time for that essential British pastime – afternoon tea – so I broke out our landlady’s handy treats. We talked till the light started to fade and sadly it was time for them to leave.
That day will long linger in my memories as a perfect travel day.
After two more days in Winchcombe, including a huge afternoon tea in the quiet back garden of an antique shop, it was time to begin our three-day “Walking Tour of the Cotswolds.”
Day One started out great. Our driver, Eddie, drove us from Winchcombe to Chedworth Roman Villa which is publicized as “a luxurious country house from the ‘Golden Age’ of Roman Britain.” Eddie, who had our luggage, confirmed he’d pick us up at The Wheatsheaf Inn in Northleach at 6:00pm and drive us to the inn at Bledington.
After poking about on our own in the drizzling rain for an hour, a local archeology professor took a group of us on an informative guided tour.
We learned the villa wasn’t the dwelling of homesick expat Romans as I’d thought, but was actually built by a rich local trader doing his best to impress in the latest style: that of the Roman invaders – distinctive bathing rooms included.
After an hour of information, we were impatient to strike out on what we thought would be an easy 5 mile walk. We picked up sandwiches from the villa shop and confidently strode off through the parking lot. However, after only a few yards, we discovered we had two very different interpretations of our directions.
Luckily we followed Bill’s interpretation because he was correct. Obviously orienteering wasn’t my forte.
After hiking fields and country lanes on rarely signposted trails, carefully climbing over various styles, edging our way along a narrow sheep track on the side of an incredibly steep hill, we finally stopped to reconnoiter.
Yet another bunch of frantic pheasants exploded out of the nearby hedgerow in panic. Once our hearts stopped pounding, we came to a most unwelcome realization.
We were lost!
Standing in acres of rolling farmland without a sign of civilization, there was no point in calling Eddie. Frustrated, we backtracked, following our directions until we found a different way that seemed to fit.
Eventually we ended up on a busy two lane motorway – no road signs or village in sight – definitely not where we intended. Our hearts sank.
Still stiff and sore from my fall on the boat, I was more than ready to call it a day.
After plodding along the highway for a while, I suddenly spied a large commercial truck parked some distance ahead. Since I was too stiff to run, I yelled to Bill, “Go ask that trucker for directions before he drives away!” Bless my man; he immediately took off. By the time I arrived, they were already mulling over our map.
When the driver pointed out where we were and told us we had to return the same way we’d just come, tears came to my eyes. I was hungry, hot, and tired. We’d covered many more miles than the original five planned and we still had quite a ways to go. The afternoon sky was sprouting menacing clouds. Time was flying.
Truly feeling this man was an angel in disguise, I thanked him from my heart for rescuing us. Part of the miracle was that he could locate us on the map. He did look at me a bit strangely when I told him: “You’re an angel!” I’m quite sure my fervent prayers for help were answered by this one strategically placed man who thought he’d pulled over to sweep out the barley malt dregs before picking up his next load.
Unhappily, we agreed with the driver’s suggestion to continue along the highway, a much shorter, although more difficult, route to Northleach than our marked trail.
Without ever finding any Northleach signs, and briefly getting lost two more times, we finally staggered into town two minutes before 6:00pm! Eddie’s distinctive black SUV was waiting.
During a blissful moment alone in the pub’s public toilet, I fervently thanked the Divine, Ganesh, and all our angels for guiding us safely through the hike. In particular I thanked the angel who wore the guise of an English truck driver for us that day.
We skipped the next day’s 8.5 mile hike over more hills, moors, and meadows. Instead we had a delightful adventure taking the local bus to the nearest laundromat located in the quintessential Cotswold town – Burton-on-the-Water, otherwise known as the “Venice of the Cotswolds.”
Sometimes it’s something as mundane as a desire for clean clothes that creates a great travel day!
PS: My Akashic colleague – Nancy Ring – kindly pointed out the following to me after I’d already written this post.
The perfect time to call Eddie and ask him to pick us up early was when we were with the truck driver. That angel could have told Eddie exactly where we were and shortened our walk that day by several hours. However, as I understand it, even angels can’t help us if we don’t request their assistance.
So – once again I receive the powerful lesson that suffering is optional!
To be continued . . .
December: Part 3 of 3:
The Miracle Return of the Lost Credit Card in a British Train Station
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