That’s German for Great Britain, and it’s so Groß, aka Great! Har har, German language jokes.
Back to our holiday family fun! The third weekend in December, Sean and I left Bonn for England to meet up with Donna, Ian and Andrew so we could kick off another adventure. We arrived to Heathrow and while on the search for them, with some rapid movement, a crazy man came running toward us waving his hands in the air. Everyone around us was alarmed by the motion and this man doing a not so stealthy surprise sprint over to us. I yelped and of course got all sorts of stares! This crazy man was Andrew!! The people around us just weren’t used to such joy in action. It wasn’t exactly Love Actually, with music playing in the background in the airport but it was a joyful greeting.
We made our way out of the airport to find a shuttle that would take us to the rental car place to head to Malmesbury for a visit with Sean’s grandmother. While we were waiting, we were surrounded by those wonderful black English cabs that look kind of like a hearse, and the driver sits on the right side. The shuttle came and we hopped in and headed to pick up a car to drive to Malmesbury.
Once we got the car, we put our lives in the hands of Sir Ian – as I call him since Andrew yells at me when I call him Ian. Sidenote: He’s English, and has much experience driving on the left side of the road but it’s been a few years, in actuality he is, of course, a wonderful English driver and I just like to mess with him (and see if he reads this ever – shhh don’t tell him). So we loaded our huge bags into the car and were on our way!
The drive on the highway was lovely, passing through England seeing farms, sheep, SO MANY CHICKENS, even Windsor Castle (the Queen’s residence -and the flag was up meaning she was home!). Absolutely beautiful rolling hills and farm and greenery galore. If you ever get the chance, seek out some English “countryside.” We arrived in Malmesbury and immediately sought lunch at the Three Crowns. It had all the charm of a legit cozy pub that’d you expect, complete with a great wooden bar and a well lit picture of the young Queen on the wall. Here I indulged in some genuine and HUGE fish & chips and mushy peas, which I thought were great. Donna and I split the fish and chips – which was a good move because this was a great sized fish. The mushy peas were delicious, and a Fuller’s to wash it all down! We had a great lunch catching up on how everything was in the U.S. and telling tales of life in Germany while enjoying our first meal in England.
Over the weekend, we had two nice visits with Sean’s grandmother, and stayed in the coolest Inn that was likely an old hunting Lodge, The Kings Arms. The Inn was situated in Didmarton which is the next town over in the Cotswolds, “a stone’s throw away from Bath!” and about an hour from Stonehenge.
This place had the most delightful feeling: nicely balancing cozy Inn ambiance with nice modern decor. I’d highly recommend it. Maybe even getting snowed in here. Or staying in their little cottages during the warmer months enjoying long summer nights under the stars in their outdoor garden. The restaurant featured high quality locally sourced ingredients, and delicious and interesting offerings. On top of that the staff was very friendly, the Inn had a cute dog mascot and, oh man, the beds had the most luxurious down comforters I’ve ever had the pleasure of floating through my dreams cozied up.
For dinner at the Kings Arms I had trouble deciding what to go with but settled on trying something way out of my norm – Pheasant! I wasn’t so sure about this, but it was a solid decision in the end. Each of us ordered interesting local dishes – venison, beef tips, a stuffed cheese dumpling item, and some great spreads to start the meal. We had a really nice evening together, taking in the lovely Inn, enjoying the meal, and observing the locals who were there for a Christmas party and getting rather smashed ha.
I woke up early and decided to head out to chase the sun as it rose and take a walk around the area. Unfortunately the clouds kept me from seeing a magnificent sunrise but it was still so stunning and serene, it didn’t matter.
It was a pretty warm morning in this sleepy little town, and apparently the locals were preparing for a hunt, riding into town in their formal hunting wear. On my walk back, I saw many people beginning to head to the hunt, and again on our way out of the town we got held up in the car by groups of people on their horses. Talk about small town life. Such a cool sight to see! Before leaving though, to my delight, we ate a huge traditional English breakfast starring the most amazing English breakfast tea you’ve ever had (I think we had 5 pots of it!), locally made jams and spreads, sausage, eggs, bread, and black pudding. Sean and I both surprisingly liked the black pudding, and yes, we know what it is ha!
We headed back for another visit with Sean’s grandmother and a super quick stop in the downtown area of Malmesbury, to see the main street, and drop by the Abbey. Everyone in Malmesbury was SO FRIENDLY AND CHIPPER! It was amazing. We were wandering around and everyone was exchanging such lovely pleasantries amongst themselves. I guess it’s a small enough town where everyone knows each other, and with a population of only about 5,300, I’m not surprised. It was just a nice change from walking around the street in Germany where people tend to keep to themselves.
While walking around the town we found a small Christmas orchestra playing in the Malmesbury Market Cross – a shelter for market traders built in 1490 in this main street crossing. The orchestra was playing festive music and someone in a grand red robe was collecting money for the “Mayor’s Charity Donations.” Who could it be? The Mayor himself! Earlier in the day, Sean found a 20 pound note on the ground, which is rather a lot of money to lose (pounds, geez!). So (at his mom’s kind and brilliant suggestion) he placed the pounds in the bucket. The Mayor profusely thanked him, and the rest of us too. This visit really got us into the Christmas spirit!
Malmesbury has an impressive history and the abbey is stunning: According to their website, the Abbey was founded in 675’s and the currently standing building was built in the 12th Century in this market town. Malmesbury is thought to be the first capital of England…the first king of England (King Athelstan the Glorious), the first man to fly (Brother Eilmer), the father of modern English history (William of Malmesbury) and the father of English philosophy (Thomas Hobbes).
I couldn’t get over how beautiful this part of England was – everything was so lush green and beautiful. Such a wonderful visit. After our quick visit to Malmesbury, we headed to London for the evening, took in the “Book of Mormon” (that’s its own story hahaha), ate at dinner at a fun Italian place, walked around London a bit!
Next up, Munich! Giddy up!