Chapter Eleven: Gloucester and Gardens

EngDay11K #01Chapter Eleven:  Gloucester and Gardens

Day Twelve – 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, Maybe I’m A Maze, 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

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.

EngDay12K #13In 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 words will help me remember our trips a little bit better (hey, there’s lots of gin in my future, so anything helps).

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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.

P1010451Less than an hour from Tetbury, and our first stop of the day, Gloucester boasts a famous port and of more interest to our crew, a very famous cathedral.  Gloucester Cathedral 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.

P1010453 Before we got to the cathedral, tragedy was narrowly 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.

P1010448What’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 (a kind of poor man’s George Clooney sans Sandra Bullock).  The blackmail details have yet to be worked out.  Once extricated from the vehicle, we walked through town to the cathedral.

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Once again, we received a 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.

P1010473We also saw the effigy of King Edward II (who was supposedly murdered at Berkeley Castle), one of the earliest alabaster carvings in England. The tomb of the slain king attracted many pilgrims in the 14th century.  Edward’s body was embalmed at Berkeley Castle, where it was viewed by local leaders from Bristol and Gloucester before coming to the cathedral.

P1010481One of the most noteworthy areas of the church is 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.

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We expored the cathedral for the better part of an hour.

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The South Chapel in Gloucester Cathedral has a beautiful indigo stained glass window.

P1010482We just kept wandering. Some say the fan-vaulted roof is the finest in Europe.  Gloucester Cathedral wwas used in the filming of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for a few Hogwarts School scenes.

EngDay11K #10There were lots of photo ops here (no flash, of course).

P1010459We happened to be visiting 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.  The Crypt was built in the 1000s, but soon became waterlogged…and still does today…so it was not used for very long.

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Upon exiting, we checked out the rest of the cathedral…

P1010470…and then it was time to depart.

P1010460We 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.  The church has a unique collection of chest tombs and monuments that date from the early 17th century onwards.  They were carved in local stone by local craftsmen.  The late English architectural historian, Alec Clifton-Taylor, once described the churchyard and its tombs and yews as, “”the grandest churchyard in England.”

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Some interesting trees distinguish the grounds of St. Mary’s.  In 1792, 99 Yew trees were planted.  Why? It is said (by whom, I haven’t a clue) that each time a 100th tree is planted, it dies.  I guess we’ll never find another Yew.  We decided not to plant another one…

P1050883…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…”try” being the key word.

P1050866As we walked back to the car, the Yew trees called to us so we walked back through the grounds of St. Mary’s Church with its unique looking clock that was restored in 1986.

P1050865We also stopped to take a photo of an interesting door knocker and a place where we could take our corgis on our next visit to the Cotswolds.

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First, we traveled the short distance to the the Painswick Rococo Gardens (£6.50 and £5.50 for geezers over 60…like us).

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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.

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Hyatt’s 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.

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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.

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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).   Actually, some of the trees were already in autumn mode.

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Our resident garden expert (Tracy) said she really enjoyed Painswick (if she’s happy, then so am I).  Then she suddenly turned sheepish.

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But she had fun with her impromptu visit with some “faux sheep.”

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We also liked the rather unusual statues that we saw along the way.

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Oh, and it isn’t a true European trip without Tracy and me getting lost in a maze. As you can see, we finally surrendered.

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In hindsight, we enjoyed the tranquility, and the Painswick Rococo gardens provided our trip some necessary tranquility.

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We would recommend a stop when you’re in the area.

EngDay11K #03The “older gentleman” back at the Royal Oak Pub had told us that the Painswick Beacon was right off of A46. We drove back and forth along the road, but unfortunately there was no beacon to the beacon (since we never saw it, I had to steal this photo off the internet).

painswick_beaconWe 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 (mostly fro) trying to find this famous 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 we enjoyed Happy Hour.

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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.

P1010546Looking 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.

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

P1010548Mary, 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, and then I had to take the requisite English phone booth photo (we’re such tourists).

P1010555The following day would start with a private Maitai Four Tour that I had arranged online with the owner of one of the Cotswolds’ premier attractions.  Gotta have connections baby!!

Next: Day Thirteen – 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, A Smoking Dog, The Lady Or The Tiger, Shopping At The Prince’s Store, Step By Step, Wine Closeout and Another Good English Meal

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