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

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

Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 01:19 PM
  #161  
 
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Tom -- What a storyteller you are! So glad you got your CC back and very glad you didn't have to make that 999 call. Looking forward to more. I'll be there next July. I was just looking at car rental costs for 27 days (automatic with insurance)-- PRICEY!
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 02:43 PM
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susan: Can you drive a stick?

If so you can save a LOT. w/ autoeurope a compact standard transmission runs about $400 for 27 days pick up at Newcastle and drop at LHR.

The cheapest automatic would be approx twice that. (If you do know how to drive a stick -- don't let the fraidy cats scare you off -- every car I rent in the UK is a stick.

And FYI your credit card almost certainly will cover the insurance so you can look at the cheaper packages.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 03:19 PM
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Susan,

At the risk of hijacking Tom's thread... if you don't know how to drive a standard transmission car... learn! You have lots of time to research how tos and videos on line. Find a friend who has a manual transmission car and go for a spin. Find a driving school who offer lessons on how to shift for yourself. It's not hard... just a couple of hours of practice and you can be using a clutch pedal like a pro!
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 03:39 PM
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Hi ParisAmsterdam,

I learned on a manual. I know how to drive one, just don't want to shift with my left hand and worry about a clutch when I'm in the roundabout. I'll reconsider. It's now been 13 years since I've driven a manual (and that was one day in Hawaii -- before that it had been 14 years). I just prefer auto transmission.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 03:45 PM
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Hi janisj. Just saw your post. I will reconsider. I read someone's thread just this morning. He dented his rental and the insurance package completely covered it. Might be worth it. Do you usually rent a compact? I know in GB they have tiny Vauxhall's and they haven't gotten very good reviews for suspension on the open road.

Sorry, Tom, for highjacking here. Maybe you can tell me something about the rental car you four had.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 04:04 PM
  #166  
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We always drive stick shift cars in Europe...but not in England. It was hard enough to concentrate on being on the wrong side, why complicate things? Plus, we had the advantage of two couples splitting the cost, so no big deal.

The Audi was great...and roomy.

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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 05:56 PM
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Everything is identical except the gear shift is on your left. It isn't as though you are power shifting or trying to pull someone off the line

I also think renting a stick is actually safer. Having the gearshift laying there over on your left side is just one more mental cue that things are different and helps keep you alert. Sometimes when one is using an automatic you get a false sense of 'normalness' and drift into a sort of autopilot. That is when you can get into trouble. (Those saying you MUST get an automatic usually have never tried a stick - sorry Tom but its true)

I am 100% useless w/ my left hand - yet have no problem shifting in the UK. I wouldn't rent the very smallest class cars - I'd go up one or two groups - not because you need the space but because of engine size/power.

Sorry - Tom -- back to the trip report . . .
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 06:10 PM
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I don't care if someone gets a Flintstones car and drives with their feet. Do whatever is comfortable for you...it's as easy as that. I never said you MUST get an automatic. It's what we wanted, so I don't know what the big deal is. This conversation is really meaningless, but it is so Fodors to make a mountain out of, well, nothing.

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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 06:17 PM
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whoa - I wasn't dissing you. susan mentioned that the car would be VERY expensive and I only suggested if she could drive a stick she could save hundreds of $$$/£££.

back to the trip report . . .
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 07:31 PM
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Tom: thanks for sharing your thoughts on the car you chose and why.

Janis: I've appreciated your help, really.

With all due respect, I think I'll go forward with my original thought of getting the automatic -- midsize car. I'm going to be doing lots of driving, and I think the best thing would be for me to drive something somewhat similar to what I drive at home: an automatic trans Honda Accord.

Looking forward to reading more of your report! Sorry for the diversion.
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Old Nov 24th, 2013, 04:13 AM
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Glad we got the car thing settled. Okay Tom... normal service can be resumed! ;^)
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Old Nov 24th, 2013, 07:24 AM
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San Diego State upset Boise State...all is good in the world!

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Old Nov 24th, 2013, 11:09 AM
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There are people waiting here for an update Maitaitom. Get on with it please!

Really loving it
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Old Nov 24th, 2013, 04:57 PM
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Maitaitom--anxiously awaiting your next installment and glad that no real health issues emerged.

I know you are joking about the threat of rain and you were lucky that you had rather dry weather. When we last visited in 2012, we were there when the UK experienced record rains and lots of flooding in the Midlands and up north as we traveled from York to Edinburgh. We were glad we packed water proof shoes because we got caught in plenty of downpours. Still enjoyed the trip but would have preferred to see it in drier conditions. So it really does rain in the UK.

On with your report--enjoying it immensely.
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Old Nov 25th, 2013, 06:55 AM
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I'm with you, MaiTai. I could get you to the hospital if I had to drive a manual. But it would take a lot longer, due to the number of times the car would stall out.

I'll pay for the automatic. I'm old and I've earned it.
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Old Nov 25th, 2013, 07:03 AM
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In 1969, I drove a VW Beetle (with stick shift) from Heathrow to downtown London. The 3 others in the car were screaming the entire way. I may have been screaming also. Must agree that an automatic removes the stress of shifting with left hand, learning to re-judge driving on the opposite side of the road, remembering to look right on one-way streets, and doing all this while driving fast enough to not impede traffic!

More please, Tom, and hi to you and your crew.
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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 06:33 AM
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<B>NEXT: Chapter Ten – I Got My Thrill With Blueberries Hill, Are You Sure That’s The Name, A Brush With Combe, Sunday Roast, Butterflies Are Free, Admitted To Berkeley, B&B Perfection, Someone Get This Dog A Drink and Dinner With A Fodorite Bearing Homemade Gin </B>

I woke up feeling good (reports of my heart attack were greatly exaggerated), but incredibly hungry (going without dinner will do that). Harry and Douglas had the perfect cure for an empty stomach.

Not modestly, I will confess, in my not-so-humble opinion, I make the best blueberry pancakes on the planet. Eat your heart out Barefoot Contessa! However, after inhaling the blueberry pancakes (along with sausage and bacon) at Hill House, I will say the blueberry pancakes at Hill House…were close (I won’t give up my crown that easily). Well done, gentlemen!

Great location + great hosts + great rooms + great food equaled the perfect stay in Bath at Hill House. They get an A+ for everything. Unbeknownst to us, our stay in the next town on our English excursion would receive an A++, but before we got to Tetbury, the four of us were going to get our first real taste of the Cotswolds (not counting those great pancakes).

The fearsome foursome had downloaded all the information I had compiled before the trip onto our ipads with Google Drive (believe me, these compilations of places I write about make Rick Steves’ look like a slacker). This way we could see our itinerary for the day while being offline. I plan our trips for nearly a year, so even though Tracy believes I’m looking at porn in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, I’m actually checking out how much a tower tour costs at Salisbury or what sites we can see in Malmesbury.

On occasion, the crew just likes to be surprised on our daily activities, so as Kim guided the Audi out of Bath, Mary asked, “Where’s out first stop this morning?”

“Lacock,” I answered.

“Didn’t we already see a blue one of those in London,” Kim quipped? These jokes never get old.

Situated about 30 minutes from Bath is the first of the beautiful Cotswold towns we would visit over the next six days. The 13th century village of Lacock has been used in many movies, including Pride & Prejudice and Emma. Obviously, Jane Austen was not going to leave me alone on this trip. We might as well have invited Emma Thompson to travel with us.

The area is indeed lovely, and after parking (£3) we walked into town, passing by the Abbey of Lacock, which we passed on. I hadn’t eaten in, oh, about 45 minutes, so when I saw a bakery that was selling scones filled with jam and a glob of some mystery, giant white goo, I couldn’t pass it up.

That goo turned out to be clotted cream (obviously called that because of the clots in your arteries it causes when eating it). Fortunately for my waistline and internal organs, I didn’t find clotted cream all that great, so at least there was one food in England that wasn’t going to kill me. The jam, on the other hand, was delicious, so my arteries were still not entirely safe.

We spent about a half hour in Lacock, but now it was time for the next picturesque village on our morning excursion through the Cotswolds.

It only took about 20 minutes to reach our next destination, Castle Combe. It’s obviously a popular spot, because we had to park outside of town (about a 15-minute walk).

I had read that Castle Combe was arguably the prettiest of the Cotswold towns. For Tracy, there was no argument…this turned out to be her favorite town.

Castle Combe is a picture-taking mecca, and we toured the town by foot and going into the quaint St. Andrews Church. Inside the church is the Castle Combe Clock, which dates from the 15th century and is one of the very few medieval clocks that still work. Our much newer clock (the iPhone) told us it was time to eat.

We popped into a nearby pub (what a shock) called the White Hart. This is where we first heard about the traditional English Sunday Roast that features roasted meat, roasted potatoes and lots of other good stuff. We weren’t that hungry, but we enjoyed the food (soups were good) and ambiance. Soon we were back on the road, and we were faced with a slight quandary.

Before we reached Tetbury, there were two more attractions on my list for the day and both were open only on Sunday. With limited time, we could only visit one, so it was time to choose between the Woodchester Mansion or Berkeley Castle. The group gave me my choice, and I decided to sacrifice Woodchester for Berkeley Castle. I think it turned out to be a wise decision, because this was one of the favorite places we visited on our trip.

Berkeley Castle is the longest owned private castle in England after Windsor Castle. The Berkeley’s have been here since the 12th century (I believe they said 47 generations). It’s also the place where Edward II met his rather unpleasant demise.

Upon arriving, we were told that a free tour was starting shortly, but we could bide our time with some winged creatures in the Butterfly House. We’ve been to a couple of these type attractions before, and these enclosures have always been a bust. Not today!

Walking inside the enclosed area, hundreds of gorgeous butterflies were fluttering around everywhere. They landed on all of us, but especially Mary, who apparently is a butterfly magnet. For about ten minutes, we were in a land of butterflies. As Maxwell Smart would say…”And loving it!”

It was now time for our free, guided tour (we luckily timed our arrivals on this trip at just about the same time one of these would start). Our guide, Rob, took us on an informative, interesting and fun tour of the castle. He gave us a great history lesson on England, the monarchy and the castle.

Afterward, we walked around the splendiferous (they really were) gardens that surround the castle, with dahlias blooming all around us. There was even a bowling green that was put in for Elizabeth I. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we spent about 20 minutes walking through the gardens.

Clouds started rolling in as we reached our destination where we would spend three nights. At 4:30 p.m., we reached Tetbury where we were greeted at our B&B (The York House) by its proprietor, Brock. I asked Brock how old the house was, and he responded, “Older than America.” It was built in the 1640s.

Brock gave us the lay of the Tetbury land, some restaurant recommendations and showed us to our rooms on the 2nd floor (although I guess it is technically the first floor in England…always get that confused). Tracy and I had the magnificent Master Suite, a large room that overlooked the B&B’s spacious backyard garden. The large, modern bathroom was equipped with both a shower and a tub. Kim and Mary had reserved the very charming Chapel Suite at the front of the house. Both couples were more than content with the rooms.

We didn’t need reservations for the first night because Fodorite Julia, who was going to meet us at 7 p.m. at the Snooty Fox, had already made them. We freshened up and took a little stroll through Tetbury before dinner. We stopped by St Mary’s Church, an 18th century Gothic church, and walked by the Market House where they used to sell wool and yarn. We actually had to pull out our umbrellas again for two or three minutes while a squall went by. This rain was getting unbearable.

At 7 p.m. we walked over to The Snooty Fox. I read this on their website and jotted it down. Whether it is true or not…”the pub was originally The White Hart, but legend has it that the name was changed by previous owner, industrialist and entrepreneur, Maxwell Joseph. So the story goes, Maxwell wanted to ride with the local hunt, The Beaufort. The hunt was rather disparaging about his industrial background, and even though they were happy to meet in the bar of his pub, they blackballed him. Maxwell responded by kicking them out and renaming the pub The Snooty Fox. They’ve not been back since (although they’re very welcome…) and the name has very firmly stuck.”

Inside a very nice lady asked if we were the Maitai party. It was Julia. We sat down at a table, but were told we had to go in the next room where the bar was located to get our drinks. Kim and I went in the bar area where a bunch of patrons were, of course, drinking.

Now it's not uncommon to see a bar with someone’s head slumped down on it after imbibing a few too many, but this person was not drunk. Actually, it wasn’t a person at all. At the end of the bar was a cute little dog that occupied one of the bar stools and who seemed rather tired as he laid his head on the bar. He would occasionally raise his head up to greet people who wanted to pet him.

When we got back to the table, Julia surprised us with a couple of gifts. One was a book on walks in the Cotswolds, while the other turned out to be a very tasty homemade gin concoction. She used a fruit from the fig family to make the gin even more flavorful. Julia, if you’re following along, maybe you could refresh our lost memory (gin will do that to us). In any case, that little bottle of gin was finished long before we departed Tetbury. It was delicious Julia, and thanks!

Dinner was quite good. Kim and I downed some sausages & mash with onion gravy, Mary went for the warm potato salad with blue cheese and bacon, Tracy the fish & chips and Julia had the beet and goat cheese starter with a warm salmon salad.

The five of us chatted, drank and dined for about two hours. It was a great way to end another packed day. Tomorrow would actually be a rather easy day (for us), but we would still get to see an exceptional cathedral and a church with some pretty cool trees.

<B>NEXT: Chapter Eleven – Brock’s Breakfast Bonanza, You Sure Do Write A Lot, Tales From The Crypt, 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>
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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 09:28 AM
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Hello Tom...

It was such a nice evening meeting you all! Please pass on my best wishes to Tracy,Kim and Mary.

It was Damson Gin I brought you - not quite sure if it was the last of the 2002 vintage or it might have been the 2010. I'd just made about 5 litres of 2013 fruit gins so my memory is slightly fuddled!!!

Anyway, damsons are small plums, with a slightly tart taste. Usually stewed and used in puddings, one can also make damson cheese or damson jam. However damson gin is IMHO the best way to use these little fruits which contain large stones/pits.

I'll post a recipe if anyone would like, but from what you said, I don't believe damsons have crossed the Atlantic. But you can still make great fruit gins (or vodkas) with other fruits. Raspberries for example.

(By the way, and off topic, my Marmite Vodka is much loved by my Bulgarian ski buddies!)

I am guessing from your cryptic comments for Chapter Eleven, you are in Painswick, Queen of the Cotswolds, my home town, tomorrow!
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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 10:00 AM
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Does this mean Americans are unfamiliar with sloe gin?

And if so, how on earth can they go foxhunting on Boxing Day?

The proof of the existence of a benign Deity is that She organised sloes to get to their fattest just in time for them, picked and macerated in Lidl's cheapest rotgut gin, to mature into divine flavoured gin on Boxing Day.
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Old Nov 26th, 2013, 10:17 AM
  #180  
 
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You didn't enjoy clotted cream??? Heresy, lol.
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