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Dearest Readers,


We had a ball this past week being tourists with our Boston-area visitors, Nancy and Patty. It was great to have their company as we visited some London attractions for the first time. We also took them to some of our favorite Oxfordshire locales. I had fun with those - more than I expected - on the repeat visits.


London Food Tour!

Patty and Nancy treated us to a "food tour" of Camden Market, a historic area of London which now features a huge variety of shops, restaurants and food stalls. This type of guided tour was new to me. Our leader was delightful and definitely knew the best dishes to try! Check out my favorites:



We also got a little history of the market area and a walk around the neighborhood, where Amy Winehouse used to hang out and perform amidst the colorful houses, murals, and music venues.



After the 3-hour tasting extravaganza, we made our way to central London and the Churchill War Rooms. This underground "bunker" where Winston Churchill and the government directed the World War II effort is now a fascinating museum.



Blenheim Palace

Speaking of Churchill, he was born while his mother was staying with relatives at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Today visitors can tour the grand house (think "Downton Abbey" scale) which we had done in February. I wanted to take Nancy and Patty there, but forgot to check the website! We found the house closed for a private event, but finally the weather was nice enough to walk around the huge gardens and enjoy the outdoor part of the estate.



Oxford

Maybe it was the spring weather (finally!) - but I had a great time touring Oxford again, this time with Nancy and Patty. We started by paying an entrance fee to one of the colleges (Magdalen, pronounced "MAUD-lin", go figure!) Nothing much is free these days, even walking around a college campus in Oxford. But I really wanted to take advantage of our timing to see the college meadow in bloom with distinctive flowers, the fritillaries. It was a beautiful spot, although we couldn't get up close to the flowers and the faraway, fenced-off purple dots we saw, compared to the website images, were disappointing.



However we still really enjoyed Oxford's grand historic buildings; visiting many of the sites used in scenes for the Inspector Morse TV series; and Afternoon Tea at The Randolph. It was fun to come home and watch a Morse episode together, recognizing many settings where they filmed.



STONEHENGE!

Nearly 30 years ago, my sister Kara took me to see Stonehenge, and in those days you could walk amongst the stones and touch them. We knew that was no longer possible, but a visit was a top priority for Nancy and Patty. I am so glad I went back. It's still a magical place, challenging your mind to visualize life 4,500 years ago, and wonder how in the world the ancients built it. I try to imagine the awe people must have felt in those days, coming upon it for the first time without knowing what to expect!


We found distinct advantages to the new set-up. Having to stand back from the stones gives you a more complete perspective. And the new visitor center is full of fascinating information, including a model of the stone circle when it was new and undamaged. A friendly docent explained that half of each massive stone is buried underground! I guess that's why they have stood for so long.



PS, if you ever go to Stonehenge, be sure to stop for lunch at the nearby pub The Dog and Gun. Despite the name, it was fabulous!


And finally...the Costwolds

As Robin drove us and our guests towards their visit to the Costwolds, I was thinking, "this will probably do it for number of tours to this area." Now I'm not so sure! We visited some different towns in the southern Cotswolds this time, and they were darned charming! But by the end of the afternoon (and the end of a VERY busy Ireland/England trip for Nancy and Patty), we were all getting tired and may have sped (only figuratively) through the final few villages. I thought Bibury was the prettiest one so far; and I wouldn't mind returning for a longer visit to Bourton-on-the-Water.



PS - My cast came off yesterday, and I had been counting down the days! My wrist is still stiff and sore, but the doctor says I am healing nicely. 😁


Next up: we have about about five weeks left until June, when we will embark on an epic road trip to Northern England and the Scottish Isles. Time is flying by. With just over four months left of our yearlong sabbatical, we're trying to make the most of our remaining time here. I wish I had the energy of a young person....as it seems for every day of adventure, one needs a couple days of rest!


💂‍♀️ 🇬🇧 🫖







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Updated: Apr 7

Waiting for the rain to cease, the mud to dry up, and the cast to come off my arm....all feel never-ending! We haven't been on any grand adventures lately, but we're enjoying the smaller excursions on our list.


Typical footpath this time of year

Farmers Market

Our nearest town with a few commercial establishments is called Deddington, and here there is an outdoor market once a month. On a March Saturday we finally checked it out. Although we're not big shoppers, we were charmed by a few things to bring home with us, including some soaps, dish towels, and a key holder from stalls set up inside the local church. We've had good luck with farmers market food offerings also, especially cheese and sweet treats. As the weather improves we'll start to see more fruits and vegetables too.



Model Village

Speaking of "small" adventures, I'd heard about Bekonscot even before arriving in England, and was intrigued. A miniature (think "doll-size") English town spread over 1.5 acres, its website says: "Stuck in a 1930s time warp, see England how it used to be, & discover a wonderful little world tucked away from the hustle & bustle of everyday life." Well, it was a pretty cute place! Apparently, Queen Elizabeth loved it as a child.


We drove from our place about 50 minutes to the town of Beaconfield, walked around the miniature village for an hour, went out for a tapas lunch in the (real) town, and called it a day. I'd go again!



Bridge Tournament in London

At the end of March we returned to London, most notably playing two days at a bridge tournament. We were taken aback at how low the attendance was. The demise of our game's popularity is happening here too. But the overall experience was lots of fun and we loved staying with our dogs at a wonderful hotel in South Kensington. Our last morning there, we took them for a long walk around the neighborhood. As we've noticed in other sections of London, there are some lovely green spaces but they are walled off and locked. Never once have we seen anyone inside one of these mini parks, which seems a shame.



But on another day we enjoyed a visit to Richmond Park, at 2500 acres ranking among the largest urban parks in the world. (Central Park in NYC is 843 acres). The large parks of Greater London seem to be enjoyed by throngs of visitors. Although early in the season, we loved the preview of spring flowers starting to bloom.



Steam Train

Robin loves all things train-related, and wanted to ride the historic Steam Railway which runs along the Cotswolds. These heritage train rides seem to be a popular tourist activity in the UK. We enjoyed the picturesque scenery from the train windows and a new way of seeing the Cotswolds. The train ended at a BIG horse racecourse in Cheltenham - made me wonder if we should partake of a day at the races sometime? But on that day, there were no races, so we enjoyed a walk around the village and another lovely Afternoon Tea before riding the train back.



In a few days, visiting friends will arrive, so our tourist shoes will be on once again. Stand by for more adventures! For now I will leave you with a fun video Robin took at the Natural History Museum in London. We had gone there, just a short walk from our London hotel, on a free morning before bridge. Our goal was a wildlife photography exhibit, but since we were there at opening, Robin suggested we try to get into the dinosaur wing before the hordes of families arrived. Glad we did - little was I expecting the lifesize animatronic T-Rex! Enjoy the video, and see you next time!





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Updated: Apr 1



Ah well, we couldn't get through the year without a mishap, could we? I mentioned in my last post that I slipped in the mud while hiking in Wales and sprained my left wrist. Two weeks later, still in pain, it seemed time for an x-ray. As the wife of a British citizen and holding an official spouse visa, I'm covered by the National Health Service (NHS). I filled out an online form requesting an appointment with my GP, but they quickly wrote back, "we don't deal with injuries, call 111."


Calling 111 gets you a triage nurse who asks your symptoms and tells you what to do next. They referred me to the ER (or A&E, "Accidents and Emergencies") here. OK then!


The next morning we appeared at the hospital in nearby Banbury, and within the hour I was x-rayed and in front of a disapproving doctor who announced a fracture of my major wrist bone, and scowled at me for waiting two weeks to seek treatment. However he was very professional and in no time the nurses had applied a temporary cast, and I had an appointment the next morning (on a Saturday) at the hospital's "Fracture Clinic."


Here I got another x-ray and saw an orthopedic specialist. He said "5-6 weeks in cast." A new, longer-term cast was then applied by some friendly and experienced nurses, and a one-week follow-up visit scheduled.



I could not have expected any better care back home. I note some minor differences: 1.) the hospital seemed a bit worn and dated, not sleek and modern like Boston hospitals (thought it didn't seem to detract from the quality of care); 2.) there's no online portal where I can see my records, test results, etc.; but 3.) the treatment didn't cost me a cent. No co-pays, no deductibles, no premiums.


I'm very grateful to have this good medical care.


We also had an interesting comparison to make recently with veterinary care. Both our dogs were sick for most of February with GI trouble (sparing you the details). During one of our trips to the vet in Bicester, they noted Gingersnap's heart murmur and suggested an EKG. She's had one before, but they thought it might be getting worse. So we went ahead with the procedure and like many older dogs her size, they found her heart is weakening. The vet prescribed the heart drug Vetmedin, which could add several years to her life.



But unlike the NHS, we have found veterinary care in Oxfordshire to be at least as expensive as in Boston, if not more so. It's not a complaint - we accept the expense in return for our dogs' wonderful companionship. And we are happy they are healthy and eager to join all our adventures.


Meanwhile, spring is putting out feelers in England. It continues to rain daily, and I'm not sure when that mud is ever going to dry up enough to walk in the fields and hills again. Maybe there is a miraculous week of drying-out coming? For now, I will adjust to living "one-armed" and enjoy any signs of better days to come, including our landlords' glorious cherry tree, now in full bloom.



The next few weeks may be mundane as we work, heal, and wait for spring. But I will be back, hopefully, with reports of our continued adventures. Stay well, Dear Readers.

🫖 🇬🇧 💂‍♀️







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