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"It Will Rain Tomorrow." England Weathers The MaiTai Four.

"It Will Rain Tomorrow." England Weathers The MaiTai Four.

Old Nov 26th, 2013, 10:29 AM
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"Does this mean Americans are unfamiliar with sloe gin?"

flan - Sloe gin is what girls I dated in college used to drink. We haven't done much fox hunting lately over here. I thought Boxing Day was when you sit down and watch old Henry Cooper fights.

thursdaysd - I guess I'm more of a jam guy.

julia - By all means put in the recipe. Sloe gin or fruit gin, I'm all in!

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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 11:38 AM
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MaiTai: You are not only quite a comic, but I must say, also a first rate story teller. This is really fun.

I thought everyone in the world had been thru the Cotswolds. I was lucky enough to do so when I was a mere child, in 1967 or 1969,(That should probably be "when you were a mere child") and I had some of the same reactions you've had. So it's great to reminisce.
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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 11:54 AM
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I would also love the recipe, Julia.

How fun to meet one of "the locals" - lol It cracks me up whenever I hear that come out of Rick Steves' mouth. Sorry. A little side-track there.

I'm also very happy that you didn't have a heart attack.
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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 02:38 PM
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Thanks for taking the time to post this Tom, very enjoyable and brings back some great memories.

Hi also to Julia, we almost met in a pub in Bisley a few years ago but alas it wasn't to be.
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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 04:11 PM
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<B>NEXT: Chapter Eleven – Brock’s Breakfast Bonanza, You Sure Do Write A Lot, Kim Gets Stuck, All In The Family, Tales From The Crypt, Queen Of The Cotswolds, I’ll Never Find Another Yew, A Royal Lunch, Out Of Season, Beacon Bemusement, We All Scream But No Ice Cream, What Are Dazzling Urbanites Like Us Doing In A Rustic Setting Like This and A Whiskey Lesson</B>

Thanks to Julia’s homemade gin, I slept like a Beefeater. The York House only has four rooms, and for the next couple of days, we were the only guests. Obviously Brock has read some of the trip reports I have put on my website and warned others to arrive Wednesday.

In fact, at breakfast in the beautiful York House dining room, Brock confessed to having read “some” of my musings. “You do write a lot,” he said, emphasizing the “a lot.” Yes, I get a tad wordy, but if I live to be 80-years-old, then all of these these words will help me remember our trips a little bit better (hey, there’s lots of gin in my future, so anything helps).

Brock offered a few options for his very good English breakfast dishes. We chose from eggs, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, hash browns (stupendous), bacon and sausage. The sausage is locally made exclusively for the York House.

Less than an hour from Tetbury, and our first stop of the day, Gloucester boasts a famous port and for us, a famous cathedral. It was founded about 1,300 years ago and is the cathedral church of the Gloucester diocese. The first church burned down 1,000 years ago and was rebuilt.

Before we got to the cathedral, tragedy was averted when Kim found himself in a rather unusual predicament. Kim parked the car very close to a pillar in the parking lot and was unable to exit on his side of the vehicle. Thinking quickly, but not moving quickly, Kim attempted to exit the Audi through the passenger side.

What’s better than watching a 62-year-old guy get stuck on a gearshift? Right…watching him do it twice! After a rather ungraceful exit in which he found himself in a rather unflattering position on top of the gearshift (upside down), Kim decided to get back in the car and park in a different spot in case we were hemmed in by another car.

Fortunately (for the rest of us) I had my camera ready this time and shot photos of Kim incredibly duplicating this incredible feat of gravity, spinning around inside the car. He was kind of the poor man’s George Clooney sans Sandra Bullock. The blackmail details have yet to be worked out.

Once again we got the docent (Ann) led tour of a cathedral. She showed us where William The Conqueror’s oldest son (Robert Of Normandy) is buried (he hated his dad because he passed the crown to his second son, who in turn imprisoned this poor guy at Cardiff Castle, where he ultimately died). Robert’s effigy was carved out of an Irish bog oak in the 13th century.

One of the most notable things we saw was the Great East Window (installed in 1350 and, at the time, the largest window in the world), which spent World War II stored in the church crypt (along with other national treasures). When the window was taken apart and removed, there wasn’t much time to jot down exactly where all the glass was positioned, so after the war it had to be reassembled by looking at old postcards.

Speaking of the crypt, we were there at the time a crypt tour was going to be held, so we took an interesting ½ hour trip through the bowels of the cathedral.

We were on the road again a little after noon, and we drove into the Slad Valley and parked in the Queen of the Cotswolds (also known as Julia’s home town), Painswick. On our walk though this cute town to find a place to eat, we stopped by the 15th century church, St. Mary’s.

Some interesting trees distinguish the grounds of St. Mary’s. In 1792, 99 trees were planted. Why? It is said (by whom, I haven’t a clue) that each time a 100th tree is planted, it dies. We decided not to plant another one, but instead planted ourselves at the nearby Royal Oak Pub (why not the Royal Yew, I thought).

Kim, Mary and I ordered burgers while Tracy had a BLT. It was quite good, and I started drinking beer again, since I didn’t believe the diagnosis by Tracy and Mary (or at least I didn’t want to).

While eating we started talking to an older gentleman (at our age, it’s hard to find an older gentleman). This guy was the church historian, and he recommended we go to the Painswick Beacon for great views. He also said to visit the Elkstone Church (St John the Evangelist) near Birdlip. He called it “the loveliest church in all the Cotswolds.” We said we would try to go to both.

First, we traveled the short distance to the the Painswick Rococo Gardens (£6.50 and £5.50 for geezers over 60…like us). Asthmatic Charles Hyatt moved to Painswick in the 1730s to escape the smog of Gloucester. He died before the house (called Buenos Ayres) was completed. His son created the gardens, which eventually fell into disrepair, in the valley behind the house. For about 40 years, this was a place for garden parties, where they would play Ricky Nelson albums.

Luckily he had an artist paint pictures of the gardens, so when garden historians wanted to recreate these Rococo gardens in the 20th century, they had something to go by. The flowers and plants were a little out of season (although we were told it is gorgeous when the trees change color later in October). Our resident garden expert Tracy said she really enjoyed them (if she’s happy, then so am I). She wondered why these types of gardens fell out of favor, so perhaps one of our local British experts could chime in on this.

The “older gentleman” had told us that the Painswick Beacon was right off of A46. We drove back and forth along the road, but there was no beacon to the beacon. We finally decided to press on, made a couple of turns and realized we had not been on A46 after all. Oh well, we decided to go get some ice cream in Stroud at Winstone’s Cotswold Ice Cream.

As we drove through Stroud, the capital of the Cotswolds, our GPS went completely haywire. After driving to and fro and mostly fro trying to find this ice cream joint, we gave up and headed back to Tetbury for a little relaxing time before dinner. Luckily, we had some extra wine and cheese and sat in The York House Parlor that overlooks the garden and enjoyed Happy Hour.

Brock had made reservations for us at The Priory, a restaurant that would provide us with our first “Wow” dish of the trip (but not our last). Before we ordered, however, I asked Kim a question about his favorite Irish Whiskey.

Looking at the drink menu he spotted Jameson and Bushmills, so we each ordered a shot to make a little taste test. Kim is a Jameson man, but upon further review it was too close to call which was best. We did feel very relaxed however.

Our waitress (from New Zealand, of course) explained some of the modern rustic dishes the Priory is known for.

Kim started with a green salad and ordered a four-cheese pizaza. Mary started with buttered fresh veggies while Tracy and I had a wonder Cream of Spinach Soup with Stilton Blue Cheese.

Mary, Tracy and I had the “Wow” dish for dinner (sorry Kim). It was a roasted breast of chicken on a bed of rosti with creamed leeks, smoked pancetta and a girolle sauce for £16.95. All this plus wine cost about £101.

We walked back past a cute pub/restaurant where we would dine the following evening. The following day would start, however, with a private Maitai FourTour that I had set up online with the owner of one of the Cotswolds’ premier attractions. Connections baby!!

<B>NEXT: Chapter Twelve – Come On-A My House, Cromwell Slept Here, Helicopter Pad, In The Shake Of A Cat’s Whiskers, Town Tour, The Lady Or The Tiger, Shopping At The Prince’s Store, Step By Step, Wine Closeout and Where Are You From?</B>
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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 04:47 PM
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Of course, that should have been "99 <B>Yew</B> trees" at St. Mary's Church. Otherwise, that part made no sense (kind of like much of this trip report)

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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 06:31 PM
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A little too much gin, methinks!
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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 09:40 PM
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Tom, You have such an authentic writing voice... I can practically hear you speak. I'm glad you loved Castle Combe. I'll be staying there 3 nights in July. (I've never been to the Cotswolds). I'll also be staying in Upper Slaughter, and looking forward to some walks if the weather holds out.

Looking forward to more!
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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 11:15 PM
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did you know Marconi was a Jameson? Such a wealthy family he could just lounge around inventing the radio.
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Old Nov 27th, 2013, 04:03 AM
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I'm loving this report. It is vicariousy that I "see" England.
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Old Nov 27th, 2013, 06:25 AM
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Tom, still tagging along and enjoying every minute. Appreciate your reverence/interest in these old cathedrals....
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Old Nov 27th, 2013, 06:40 AM
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"Usually stewed..." good choice of words, julia_t!
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Old Nov 27th, 2013, 07:59 AM
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"did you know Marconi was a Jameson? Such a wealthy family he could just lounge around inventing the radio."

I did not know that, however sometimes I drink Jameson while listening to the radio.

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Old Nov 27th, 2013, 08:44 AM
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Thank you once again for sharing your TR. I've kept the daily installments for my lunch breaks at work. Wonderful writing and now you've got me adding rural England to my bucket list!
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Old Nov 27th, 2013, 08:55 AM
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>>She wondered why these types of gardens fell out of favor, so perhaps one of our local British experts could chime in on this.<<

I'm guessing here (no expert), but one possibility is that with Rococo-style gardens, you were displaying how much you were prepared to spend in your own enclosed area, away from the nasty wild outside. With the next fashion, you could (if you could afford it) re-arrange the wild outside to a broad, sweeping expanse - an idealised and civilised version of itself. This landscape could then be "borrowed" so your guests could look out across the hidden ha-ha and appreciate just how much land you were master of. And you could raise picturesque (and income-generating) sheep on it as well.

And/or it was just a generational change: your parents like neat, tidy, fussy, detailed? You like plain, simple, broad expanses. And so on......
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Old Nov 27th, 2013, 09:42 AM
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Thanks Patrick. I, of course, had to look up "ha-ha."

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Old Nov 27th, 2013, 11:02 AM
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Painswick Rococo Garden is almost my neighbour - just 100 yards up a public footpath and I have a full view of the front of the house and of course the ha-ha.

Ha-ha's are frightfully English. I remember jumping off one when I was very young and landing in a wet cowpat. I still recall the 'squelch'.

I'm sorry you didn't get up to The Beacon - one of the roads leading up to it is literally directly opposite the entrance to the Rococo Gardens (and it's not the A46). The views are truly spectacular from there - on a clear day you can see the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons and the Sugarloaf Mountain in Wales, as well as the Malvern Hills, Abberley Hills and Clee Hill in Shropshire. You just have to look up and ahead, rather than down to the horrific sprawl of the Gloucester Business Parks and housing estates.

I'm also really sorry you didn't find your way up the hill above Stroud and get to sample Winstones Ice Cream! Or drive across the Common and get to challenge the cattle who have right of way on the roads there!

DAMSON GIN... is much nicer than Sloe Gin. Damsons are larger and sweeter then sloes. Damson trees tend to grow in orchards, or at least in hedgerows bordering such. Sloes grow wild, on prickly thorny bushes and gathering them is a true labour of love.

There is no real recipe. It is basically equal quantities of damsons, sugar and gin. First prick your damsons - I use a fork rather than the old-fashioned darning needle.

Then I use ordinary mugs. One filled with damsons, one filled with gin, and one filled to about 3/4 level with sugar. A full mug of sugar tends to make the finished product a bit sweet, though of course you can always add more gin to tone it down. That's the beauty of this, you can add more gin or sugar at any point in the process to tweak your concoction to suit your taste.

Anyway, you fill your bottle or jar with your damsons, gin and sugar. Put it in a warmish place and shake or turn it everyday for about 3 weeks until the sugar is dissolved. Then leave it for at least 3 months to mellow. You can strain it before you drink, but you can also use the damsons to make damson brandy or a tipsy damson pie. I don't bother but just leave them in there.

It keeps for ages - we finished a lost bottle of the 2002 vintage earlier this year, and it was fabulous. The 2010 was pretty good, and I think it was what I gave Tom.

I also make raspberry gin (using frozen raspberries because I can't be bothered to go pick raspberries). Mother-in-law makes orange brandy. Friends make raspberry and orange vodka. All the same basic principle.

I also make Marmite Vodka, and having tasted it my Bulgarian friends are now making Marmite Rakia!
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Old Nov 27th, 2013, 01:08 PM
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Thanks Julia. Even though we missed The Beacon, as you will see in one of the following installments (whenever I get to it...Thanksgiving approaches), we did get our Ice Cream fix. Now I will try to figure out how to make orange vodka. Danger!!

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Old Nov 27th, 2013, 01:14 PM
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It all sounds wonderful Julia, but I don't think I'd try the Marmite Rakia.
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Old Nov 27th, 2013, 05:46 PM
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Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate the holiday, and I'll finish the last three days when the Turkey hangover subsides and I'm ten pounds heavier. Sadly, Sticky Toffee Pudding and Three Cheese Toasties are yet to be a Thanksgiving staple here in the States, but I might try and change that.

<B>NEXT: Chapter Twelve – Come On-A My House, We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badgers, Cromwell Slept Here, Helicopter Pad, Two Shakes Of A Cat’s Whiskers, Town Tour, The Lady Or The Tiger, Shopping At The Prince’s Store, Step By Step, Wine Closeout and Where Are You From</B>

About two months before we departed for England, I checked out which days certain attractions were open so we could utilize our time wisely. One of the places I really wanted to go was an historic lodging located near Tetbury called Chavenage House, which was reconstructed by Edward Stephens in the 1570s.

Unfortunately, it looked as though Chavenage House would be closed when we would be staying in Tetbury, but I emailed them just in case I misread the website. I really just expected a form email that said, “Yes, sorry we’re closed,” but much to my surprise I received a nice, personal email from the owner’s daughter, Caroline, who happened to be in Scotland. She said she’d work something out when she returned.

A few weeks later she emailed me and said, “Can you come by at 10:30 on Tuesday, October 1st? I will give you a personal tour of the house (we were charged £20 apiece…it’s usually £8…but, hey, it was a private tour).” We were in!!

So after another delicious breakfast courtesy of Brock at York House, we made the short drive to Chavenage, where we were greeted by Caroline’s mother, Rona. Rona was married at Chavenage and has lived there for the past 55 years. Chavenage had been gifted to Rona and her husband as a wedding gift.

Rona said the family still lives at the house, and it is rented out occasionally for weddings. They’ve also had lots of movies and television shows filmed on the property. She said the family used to raise cows, but the herd had to be put down from tuberculosis because of the badgers (which I guess is a big problem in England).

Rona walked us through the first room, gave us some house and family history, and then we were joined by Caroline’s nephew, James, who is also happens to be an accomplished cyclist. James took over the tour and brought us up to the bedroom where, supposedly, Oliver Cromwell slept.

After James showed us another room or two, Caroline met us and took us on a tour of the rest of the house. She regaled us with some great stories, including the time that the family received a fax from Harrods that they needed to land a helicopter on the property because luminaries were attending a party for Camila at nearby Highgrove.

Caroline’s father intercepted the fax, and while dressed in his tennis whites (and holding two tennis racquets) tried to guide the helicopter in by waving the tennis racquets while standing where the helicopter was supposed to land. “Of course,” Caroline said, ”the helicopter couldn’t land because a lunatic with tennis racquets was making it impossible for them to land.”

She had other great stories about finding original drawings of Windsor Castle in their attic and, during World II, having the home being taken over by the Americans as they planned a secret mission (which just happened to be making sand maps for the allies to use during D-Day).

There’s also a cool ghost story. Stop by when you’re in the neighborhood. The £20 we spent for the nearly two-hour private tour turned out to be a bargain, so the £8 regular tour will be well worth your time.

Brock’s breakfast had worn off, so we drove to nearby Malmesbury where we would tour the town, including the abbey where there was a grave of a woman who met an unusual demise. First, it was time for lunch.

When we parked, I went into the TI and asked where the Old Bell Hotel was located. The woman at the TI gave me a map, pointed and said, “It’s right over there. You’ll be there in two shakes of a cat’s whiskers.” Love those Brits! She also gave me a map that had a walking tour of Malmesbury.

Brock had recommended the Old Bell Hotel as a spot for lunch. The Old Bell really is old…it is the oldest hotel in England and dates back to 1220. It’s located very near the Malmesbury Abbey.

Instead of eating in the dining room, we decided to eat at the brassiere (Loring’s Brassiere), which was less formal (much like us). We ended up having two waiters, who came from (drum roll)…Italy and Portugal.

Mary had a broccoli soup with egg, along with white truffle oil. Tracy tried the prosciutto, mozzarella and rocket ciabatta sandwich, while Kim and I had a roast beef sandwich with onion, marmalade and horseradish. The bill came to £34.80.

It was now time to take our 90-minute self-guided walking tour of Malmesbury. There are 28 stops along the way including walking a little of a Cotswold trail with views of the River Avon. Malmesbury is the oldest, continually inhabited town in England. We left Malmesbury’s big-ticket item, Malmesbury Abbey, for the end.

It started to rain, but we had to find something in the graveyard outside the abbey. It was the grave of Hannah Twynnoy, a 33-year old barmaid who has the unenvious distinction of being the first person to be killed by a tiger in England. She also has the hardest gravestone to find, which really wasn’t worth the effort, especially since we were experiencing our first real downpour.

There is a plaque in a nearby town that goes into a little more detail on her demise. In a little parish church in Hullavington, the plaque reads: “To the memory of Hannah Twynnoy. She was a servant of the White Lion Inn where there was an exhibition of wild beasts, and amongst the rest a very fierce tiger which she imprudently took pleasure in teasing, not withstanding the repeated remonstrance of its keeper. One day whilst amusing herself with this dangerous diversion the enraged animal by an extraordinary effort drew out the staple, sprang towards the unhappy girl, caught hold of her gown and tore her to pieces.” Well, that’s certainly to the point.

When we got back to the hotel, Kim and Mary said they were going to take a nap (slackers!). I dragged Tracy kicking and screaming (dramatic license) to walk around town.

We stopped by the butcher shop where Brock got his breakfast sausages and purchased some cheese for our Happy Hour later that evening. We walked across the street to the Highgrove Shop in the oft chance Charles and Camila were hanging around buying some jam for tomorrow’s breakfast.

The shop contains more than 700 items, including plants, garden tools, books, candles and scarves. I know the latter because we bought one for our friend who was making sure our cats didn’t die on this trip (we have a fear of that after our 2008 Central Europe trip).

After plunking down some cash on the gift to help Prince Charles’ charities, we walked over to the famed Chipping Steps. We could have walked all the way down these steps, but, as they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words ands by now a picture was also worth 1,000 steps.

Serendipity reared its Bacchus head as we passed by a wine store having a huge sale because they were moving to Cirencester. We bought a few discounted bottles, and returned to York House.

We met Kim and Mary at about 6:30 in the parlor and enjoyed our wine and cheese hour before our last dinner in Tetbury. We felt quite civilized.

While everyone else was getting ready for the day this morning, I had strolled over to The Ormond at Tetbury Hotel and made dinner reservations. Brock had told me to reserve a table in the pub and not the restaurant, as the pub had more atmospheric charm.

He was correct. It was another really good meal, and Tracy and I said we had eaten much better meals in England than we did in Rome (I still have never gotten over those miniscule lamb chops, which were all chop and no lamb).

I started with a fantastic corn, chili and carrot soup. Then I received the second “Wow” dish of the trip, a spectacular beef bourguignon with mashed potatoes. Kim also had the beef bourguignon after ordering a rocket and Parmesan salad.

Tracy had the special corn soup and a crab salad with grapefruit and avocado, while Mary opted for a lamb chop (that actually had some meat on it…take that Rome!) with a carrot mash. With some house wine the total came to £92, and it was back for one last restful night at York House.

I can’t emphasize too much how great the York House is as a base for this area. Brock deserves all the kudos he receives online.

We had seen lots of cute towns in the southern Cotswolds the past few days, however the next part of our journey would take “cuteness” to a new level. After a day of exploring the area between Tetbury and Chipping Campden, we hoped our next B&B would be close to what we had just experienced in Tetbury.

Fortunately, our lodging in Chipping Campden would live up to its stellar billing, too, and we would have the best dinner we had on our entire trip. I was also introduced to a dessert that would steal my heart. Sorry panna cotta and zabaione, there’s a new love in my life, and I’m stuck on her!

<B>NEXT: Chapter Thirteen – You’re Coming To Sonoma Brock, Colorful Church, I Want To Buy All These Houses And Take Them To America, “A Perfect Place For My England Affair”, This Seems A Little Fishy, The Best Public Toilets In The World, Venice Of The Cotswolds, Finally Ice Cream, It Never Rains In Southern California, Led To The Slaughters, Stow It, A Girl Named Su, Round And Round We Go, Lovely Lodging, Danger A Head, Wonderful Willow and A Sticky Situation </B>
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