I arrived back in England last Sunday morning with Michael and what a week we had before he flew back to Florida. In addition to settling me into my new temporary home we explored Glastonbury and Exmoor National Park together and then Bath, Lacock and London with two friends whose European honeymoon happened to overlap with our time here. Fair warning, this is a long entry covering seven full days.
We arrived on Sunday (March 12) morning and then picked up our rental car. I had booked an automatic four-door car since we knew we would have our friends Brandon and Caitlin with us later in the week. At the Enterprise desk I asked about a GPS. I was offered two options: (1) Pay $13/day for a GPS or (2) Pay $15/day to upgrade to a nicer car with built in GPS. I uncharacteristically decided to treat myself and upgraded to a Jaguar XE! It has been quite fun driving that car around all week, though maneuvering and parking a car that size in the English countryside villages can be cumbersome.
Day one consisted mostly of finding my AirBnB cottage in Croscombe (just outside Wells) in Somerset. Our GPS tried to take us down some dodgy country lanes, including an unpaved one called Dungeon Lane that we chose to avoid. Hah! Once we dropped our things in the cottage we set off to Wells to run some errands. We had lunch in the center of the village and then stopped in at Waitrose for groceries. Waitrose is like England’s Publix and ironically also has a green and white logo. After putting away groceries we headed back out, this time to Glastonbury, to my favorite Indian restaurant for dinner. Jetlag hit me that night just as expected. I was wide awake at midnight and stayed up for two hours before falling back asleep.
Day two we dedicated to Glastonbury. When I first visited Glastonbury in 2012 it quickly became a special place for me. It became a special place for both of us after Mike proposed at the top of Glastonbury Tor back in June 2014. So it was great coming back together and revisiting some favorite places. Started out at Glastonbury Abbey, where I bought a membership for my stay, and strolled around the grounds for a bit.
We left the Abbey and headed just across the street to the George and Pilgrim for a cup of tea before our walk to the Chalice Well Gardens. We visited the Chalice Well and I stuck my feet in the ice cold well water before we headed outside the gardens to The White Spring, which is about a new-agey as a place can get in Glastonbury (and that’s saying something). You enter what feels like a crypt but it’s just a very dimly lit (candles only) chamber with pools of water from the spring. The areas around the pools are decorated with all sorts of pagan things (think Venus figurines, antlers, etc). It’s a very neat experience if you’ve never been. The sound of moving water and an occasional person chanting echoes through the chamber and creates a very cool ambience.
From there we went to lunch at The Hundred Monkeys for delicious open-faced sandwiches and chai lattes. This gave us the energy we needed for our Tor hike which was our last item on the itinerary for the day. The beautiful weather of the morning was fading and clouds were rolling in but we went up anyway.
Afterwards we decided we didn’t want to go home just yet and made the spontaneous decision to drive out to Weston-Super-Mare for dinner. I had never been, and it wasn’t really the right time of year to be visiting a sea-side town, but we ended up finding a great Italian restaurant called Il Michelangelo and ate a delicious meal!
Day three was dedicated to exploring Exmoor National Park. It was a first time visit for both of us and it certainly did not disappoint. Our GPS also took us through the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which was a nice surprise but also not the ideal route for our Jaguar which got covered in mud from the narrow country lanes. At one point we had to “ford” a small creek. Hah! We started Exmoor visit just outside Lynton in the Valley of the Rocks. This site affords visitors some spectacular views of the coast along the Bristol Channel. We completed a short circular walk from the car park and ate our sandwiches on the cliff-side.
From there we drove about 15 minutes further west to the Heddon Valley trail head at Hunter’s Inn. There is a National Trust shop here but we chose to pop into the Hunter’s Inn for a quick bite to eat before our trail walk. We enjoyed a delicious traditional Devon Cream Tea. A yummy scone topped with clotted cream was exactly what we needed to keep our energy up. We then completed the Heddon Valley trail that leads out to Heddon’s Mouth beach. It took us about 35 minutes to get to the beach which is very rocky and pebbly.
On the drive home we started getting hungry and opted to return to the George and Pilgrim in Glastonbury for fish and chips before heading back to the cottage and falling asleep pretty quickly.
Day four was my day to get things squared away at the University of Exeter. We drove over in the morning and parked on campus. For any Broadchurch fans (like myself) the student union/forum is used as the county courthouse. 🙂 We met with my advisor in the College of Humanities, Professor Rudd and had a quick chat over coffee. He was extremely nice and made sure I had everything I needed to begin my research. Then I met with a coordinator from the graduate school who gave me my student ID and showed me a study desk that I could use when I was in town.
From campus, which sits on a hill, we drove into downtown and explored historic Exeter for a bit. We visited Exeter Cathedral where we were cornered by a very talkative cathedral docent. Mike quit literally walked away and left me to find a way to lose this poor old man. Hah. We had lunch at a restaurant on the Cathedral Green and then headed down to Exeter Quay along the River Exe and topped off lunch with another amazing cream tea. Fun fact, VisitExeter regrammed this photo I posted of it on Instagram.
Leaving Exeter I felt excited about my journey this summer as a Visiting Research Scholar. We had dinner at the cottage and got some rest for our early morning start the next day.
Day five we drove to Heathrow Airport and picked up our friends Brandon and Caitlin who were beginning their European honeymoon with three days in England. We offered to be their tour guides for two days and they happily accepted. So we picked them up and drove straight to Stonehenge so Caitlin could check it off her bucket list.
From there we continued on to Bath where we checked into a great AirBnB right in the center of town. We had booked visits to the Bath Thermae Spa where we soaked in the heated pools for about an hour before showering off and headed out for dinner. We ate a Garrick’s Head Pub which had delicious food and then walked around Bath in the nighttime. We had dessert and drinks at an Italian place along the river and then played Jenga over our last set of drinks at another pub across from our AirBnB before turning in for the night.
Day six we left Bath fairly early and headed to the historic village of Lacock where we enjoyed a full English breakfast before exploring Lacock Abbey and grounds. Lacock is nearly completely managed by the National Trust and various parts of it have been used for TV and film. For example, a few rooms in the abbey were used as Hogwarts classrooms, including Quirrel’s Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.
From there we headed back to London where we checked into our hotel just off Trafalgar Square. Mike and I took them straight to the Borough Market for lunch, because is there any other place you should go first when you arrive in London? 🙂
From there we headed to the BFI IMAX where I’d booked tickets for us to see Beauty and the Beast because we all wanted to see it opening day. It was amazing! I was on a theater-kid-feeling-revived high for a good two hours afterwards. We finished off the day with a walking tour of the Westminster and Buckingham Palace area before going back to the hotel to sleep.
Day seven was a sad day. We parted ways with Brandon and Caitlin and I drove Michael to Gatwick Airport. I spent two hours with him there before we said a very tearful goodbye and he went through security. This isn’t really the blog for me to gush about my husband, but I have to say that I am very lucky to have my best friend and soul mate in Michael. I was pretty inconsolably weepy all day, which unfortunately included a lonely 3-hour drive back to Wells. However, once I found things to busy myself with I was ok. I’m sure the next 60 days of Phase I of my fieldwork will pass more quickly than I currently anticipate and I’ll be back in Florida for a bit to see him before I know it. 🙂
At any rate, it has been a whirlwind first week and I look forward to what the next few weeks have in store for me. I look forward to sharing more with you right here!