Sunday, May 23, 2010

Week 20 - Headed to England

I would say the flight was uneventful but we left late and then had to fly way north over Greenland to get around the ash cloud. So, we arrived 2 hours late, which was just late enough to have missed the tour bus. There were 4 of us on the flight (Ann & Liz from Washington, who Andrea knew from previous trips – we’d hang out for the rest of the trip) and after a fiasco with an unmanned information desk and no one knowing anything, we found a cab that had been hired to take us to the first stop on the tour. It was great to be in England again and I spent the ride gazing out the window, loving the scenery. We arrived at Cold Harbor Mill just in time to grab lunch, visit the yarn shop and get back on the big bus with the rest of the tour. From there we went to Dartington Hall, which would be home for the next 5 days.

Dartington was magical! It was built in the 1300’s, had four wings built around a huge courtyard and was surrounded by gorgeous gardens. Andrea and I settled into our small but quaint room, where I unpacked (why not? We’d be there 5 days!) and we met up with the group at 5:30 for Jean Moss’ (the knitting designer who planned the trip) lecture followed by a dinner so fantastic that we took pictures of the food. I was determined to try new things so started with a venison appetizer, which was fabulous. Once dinner was over, we fell into bed exhausted but looking forward to the rest of the trip.

After a yummy English breakfast, we had our first workshop – Shadow Knitting taught by Jean. I had been worried that I wouldn’t be a good enough knitter but there were all levels of knitters and I did just fine. Afterwards we hitched a ride with a local who had gone to the workshop to the Cider Press Center – an arts center on the edge of the estate that had shops and restaurants. We had planned to grab lunch but were having so much fun shopping that we ran out of time so walked back to the hall just in time for a tour of the Dartington gardens, which of course I loved. Then it was time for show and share, which was a great way to get to know everyone and see their knitting. I went first with my pathetic train wreck socks, knowing they’d be the lamest thing there. They were. The others had some amazing stuff to share and it was inspiring. We had another fantastic dinner – 3 courses over 2 hours that didn’t start until 7:30 – and headed to bed right afterwards because the next day was going to be a full one.

At 9:00, we left for Bovey Tracey – a cute town with a nice yarn shop and shopping area. We checked out a few shops and I started my stocking stuffer shopping – yay! I found a great bakery and bought some goodies then Ann, Liz, Andrea and I stopped for tea until it was time to rendezvous at the bus. We then headed to Widecombe-in-the-Moor, a quaint village on Dartmoor (my favorite place on Earth) for lunch in a pub. The village had it all – ponies roaming the lanes, herds of sheep, an ancient pub covered with wisteria, a gorgeous old church…you name it. From there we headed to Plymouth for a cruise up the River Dart to Totnes – the town closest to Dartington. Unfortunately the weather turned just as we were starting out. It started raining and it was windy on the river. It was miserable! We huddled under the awning, getting colder with every passing minute. The captain pushed the engines to the limit so we could finish early and get out of the wet. We found a cozy pub, complete with a nice fire, and I had my first half pint of cider of the trip. Yum! We sat knitting until it was time to leave for dinner, considerably warmer than when we arrived at the pub.

We drove to Riverford Field Kitchen (the restaurant at a local organic farm) for supper. This was, bar none, the best meal I’ve ever eaten! The food was fresh, seasonal, organic and in ridiculous quantities (it could have fed three times as many people) and I tried everything. There were at least six starters and even more mains. Then they invited us up to the counter to pick our desserts. I tried to write down what we’d had when we got back but I know I missed some. It was all amazing.

Jean did another workshop Thursday morning – Japanese short rows, which was fun. Then we had the afternoon free and I had arranged to have a rental car delivered at 1:15. I was headed to Meavy – the village on the west side of Dartmoor where I spent Christmas with the Chittendens in 1981. Andrea and Ann came along as guides and to keep reminding me to stay left. Considering that the only other time I drove in England I returned the rental with 2 dented fenders, I was happy for the help. I drove slowly and did OK, just hitting the curb on the left a couple of times before I got used to it. We went to Sheepstor first, which was Fr. Chittenden’s other parish and is a tiny town out on the middle of the moors. A local gave us directions to Meavy via the scenic route around Burrator Reservoir. We got the full moor effect – a pony and her foal, sheep and gorgeous vistas. Then Meavy. We went to the pub to try and get lunch but got there too late. We checked out the church and then headed to the next town to try and find lunch. We were too late for the cafĂ© so Ann and Andrea ended up grabbing a sandwich at the market and eating it in the car. We then headed across the moor towards Dartington for another gourmet meal.

Friday morning was another workshop – British Isles Afghans by Martin Story (a British designer who works for the yarn company Rowan.) We had fun designing our own afghan blocks and he gave us tons of free yarn. Afterwards the four of us jumped in the car and drove it back to Totnes. I drove up to the auto shop that I’d rented it from, proud to be returning it unscathed. But the guy had a strange look on his face and informed me that I was missing a hubcap. I was dumbstruck! It was on the passenger’s side and I had no idea I’d lost it, although we later recalled a bump after I hit the curb once that must have been when I lost it. Long story short, it cost me 58 pounds to pay for the replacement and an alignment. I guess I should have paid the extra 35 pounds so I wouldn’t have a deductible, which I had skipped since it was as much as the rental fee. Oh well, it’s just money.

We had fun in Totnes, starting with tea at an adorable tea shop called Grey’s. Then we shopped our way down the high street and checked out the church. When we were ready to leave, we walked up to the bus stop to check out that vs. a taxi and the Dartington Hall bus drove up and stopped right in front of us. So we headed back and I had just enough time before dinner to take my last walk in the garden. After dinner we had an evening of music that I wasn’t looking forward to but ended up enjoying. Then it was back to pack because we’d be leaving first thing in the morning. It was hard to believe the trip was half over.

While we were packing, Andrea realized her camera was missing. We tore the room apart, even moving furniture, finally deciding it must have fallen out of her pocket on the bus. So after breakfast, we went to the office and they had it listed as found on the bus and had the number of the woman who had it. They called a few taxi companies and found one that could pick it up and deliver it to Dartington. We were only delayed leaving by five minutes and it only cost Andrea 15 pounds. Much better than losing her pics and having to buy a new camera.

We were headed for Bath but started the day stopping in Wells, which had a nice yarn shop, a gorgeous cathedral and a nice market. I had my only ploughman’s lunch of the trip in a pub there. From Wells we went to Peto Gardens at Ilford Manor – a gorgeous Italianate garden in a beautiful valley. I was in my element, trading plant info with Jean and taking tons of pictures. We had time to grab tea and cake in their tea shop before boarding the bus for the final leg to Bath.

The hotel in Bath was interesting. It is the hottest hotel in Bath (movie stars stay there) and was made from 3 terraced houses that we joined together. But since the street in on a hill, the floors didn’t match up so there was a warren of hallways with lounges around every turn and stairs, usually just 2 or 3 at a time, everywhere. Our room was on the third floor but our bathroom was on the second. We had an entire staircase inside our room to get down to our bathroom. Odd but it was a very nicely appointed room and had a wonderful shower.

Sunday was a rainy day English style, meaning it was misty and didn’t even merit an umbrella by US standards. We had a walking tour first thing, which was great because it oriented us to the city and the guide was full of info. We went to the Fashion Museum afterwards but it was kind of a bust. I did find a pin of an enormous orange button though so it wasn’t a total bust. Then we had the afternoon free. We ate lunch at Jamie’s Italian – one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants. The food was delicious – fresh and super yummy. We did some shopping and walked around some more. Then it was back to the hotel for a lecture and dinner.

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