Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Linda and Joseph Stubbs of Arlington
Where, when, why: To celebrate Joe’s retirement earlier this year, we planned a trip to test our physical fitness levels and our ability, after 45 years of marriage and separate careers, to spend all day together. We wanted to get out of London, see the countryside and walk some of the public footpaths of England. For a week in the Cotswolds, we walked from village to village, 10 or more miles a day. We enjoyed cool temperatures, partly sunny skies and damp trails for our mid-May adventure.
Highlights and high points: The Cotswolds are justifiably designated an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.” We encountered one charming vista after another: Crayola-green hillsides populated with adorable lambs (and their less-than-adorable mothers), impossibly perfect old villages carved from honey-colored stone, beautiful blooming cottage gardens and the ancient churches that are monuments to the prosperity that existed when the wool trade reigned.
Cultural connection or disconnect: Contours Walking Holidays mapped out our Cotswold Villages Trail route, arranged our bed-and-breakfast spots, and took care of transporting our bags between overnight stops. Otherwise we were on our own. By our fifth day, we were feeling pretty good about our hiking and navigational skills. That morning, we came up behind a puppy and its owners who seemed to be going our way, so we confidently followed along their path, inattentive to our written directions, missing a critical turn and ending up far off the intended route. We stumbled into Snowshill, an appealing and tranquil village, and took refuge in the Snowshill Arms. After pints of Donnington BB ale, hearty sandwiches and some encouraging words, we set off on an alternate path, proud that we had overcome the detour without an argument.
Biggest laugh or cry: Our path crossed lush green hills and meadows occupied by herds of dairy cattle — apparently unaccustomed to the abundant fresh grass. We expected to be dancing around cowpies, but instead we found unavoidable stripes of Holstein diarrhea spreading in all directions. Later, when we entered a pasture with a freshly posted sign reading “Bull in Field,” our hearts raced and our stomachs turned. Fortunately, we made it through without seeing the bull or adding to the mess in the field.
How unexpected: Each village seemed to have a pub or restaurant where foodies were making their culinary marks with Cotswold cheeses, fresh seafood and local meats and vegetables. In Bourton-on-the-Water, Joe had a comforting lamb shank at the romantic Rose Tree restaurant. The Wheatsheaf Inn in Northleach featured perfectly prepared Wye Valley asparagus. At Guiting Power’s Hollow Bottom Inn, a hangout for horse-racing fans, the chef’s pâté was deliciously memorable. We watched the sun set in the Black Mountains at the busy Mount Inn in Stanton, where Linda had the “Mountmans”: three cold flavorful meats, three homemade chutneys and three local Gorsehill Dairy cheeses with apple, grapes and baguette. All this fresh English food and drink was unexpected and fabulous!
Fondest memento or memory: As we passed down narrow paths from field to field, we went through or over more gates and stiles than we could count. It took some effort and practice to lift ourselves gracefully over the stiles, one leg after the other. But the kissing gates brought us together. At each one, we connected, enjoying each other’s company and confirming that the prospects for a retired future together are bright.