After Stonehenge we drove back to Clevedon, where we took a longish walk around town in search of Chinese takeaway. We passed a much needed restive evening, watching TV, eating Chinese, and reading books. I also briefly met up with my friend Zina, who lives in Clevedon, and we made plans to meet in Bristol the following day.
In Bristol we were able to take advantage of the Park & Ride, thus saving my sanity. Zina was a wonderful host and took us all over the city, and we even managed to see Georgian House, which is one of the few tourist sites in Bristol I hadn’t seen before. Mum & John were fairly tired of museums and historic houses by this time so they mostly sat and enjoyed the outdoor scenery whilst the three of us explored. Dad had really wanted to go see the house of a Brethren preacher who used to live there, but we deemed it too far out of town and instead Zina took us to see John Wesley’s chapel and lodgings. We arrived near closing time but the staff were incredibly kind to us and delayed their closing so that we could explore the building. Dad enjoyed wandering around the chapel so much that he neglected to see Wesley’s private rooms on the top floor, and I had to drag him up there and literally push him around so that he could see the most important sites before they locked up. He is very meticulous when it comes to reading every bit of explanatory text on walls, but I think he forgave me for propelling him along when I announced “and this was Wesley’s bed”. Like a pilgrim to a holy relic went my father, and he not even a Methodist!
Following our tour of Bristol we had a really late lunch at a delightful Italian restaurant which Zina led us to. It is one of those treasures that only locals know about, little hole-in-the-walls with incredible food. We sat in the upper room, which had a giant mural of Padre Pio on one wall, and feasted on pasta, pizza, and garlic bread. I think even mum was glad of the Italian meal, as we had kind of reached the limit on how much pub food we could stomach. We had a great time visiting, and I was really happy that my family could meet one of my English friends.
The next day was the last day of our UK tour. We managed to squeeze in three different cities, and two different countries! First, we went to the village of Cheddar, where cheddar cheese originates. The village is located in Cheddar Gorge and its cliffs are full of caves, making the village a popular choice for both cheese lovers and spelunkers. We fell into the first category, which meant we spent the early afternoon touring the cheese factory, sampling cheese (and Somerset scrumpy), buying cheese (and scrumpy), and eventually eating lunch. I think we eventually walked away with 6 different types of cheese (vintage cheddar, two garlic & herb cheddars, ewe’s milk cheese, Somerset brie, and jalapeno cheddar), roasted pepper spread, pork scratchings, and two jugs of scrumpy (medium & sweet). After a cheesy lunch of paninis at the Cheddar Costa Coffee, we started our search for the Bristol Blue Glass Factory.
The BBG is located off a little strip of highway just outside Bristol. It took us so long to find that we couldn’t stay for more than thirty minutes, but it was long enough to watch the guys in the workshop make a glass jug, which was fascinating (I love watching glass blowers). We then plundered the gift shop, and I was pleased to see that their prices were equal to what we’d paid the day before in the city for my blue glass cat.
We decided to drive to Wales for supper, in part because we wanted to see Wales and in part because there is something delightfully glamorous about driving to a new country just to have a meal. Zina had recommended a trip to Abergavveny, and so we decided to take our evening excursion there. Upon arriving in Abergavveny, we promptly located the castle ruins and spent a good fourty-five minutes clambering over the broken stone. The setting was beautiful, especially in the places where we could look through the crumbling casements and into the green Welsh hills. The first rain of our trip came just as we were leaving our last tourist spot, which is certainly miraculous for the UK.
On Saturday morning we drove back to Cambridge, leaving early so that we could arrive in good time for the John Cleese performance that night. The show was hilarious, there was ice cream at intermission, and dad managed to stay awake for the whole performance. We were all happy to have been able to see the comedic legend in the flesh. Then there was the vacation denouement. I went back to work, my family took a few day trips, and all too soon it was our last day together. David took us for a last tour of Cambridge, including a punt ride on the river which left John terrified. We finished the night by celebrating John’s birthday, and feeding him lots of Baileys as compensation for his terror of small boats/dirty rivers.
It was a whirlwind tour, but it was so amazing to be able to see the United Kingdom with my family, especially when I think back to the days when we could barely afford a trip camping in Qualicum.