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Cotswold Memories

Cotswold Memories

As we anticipate returning to this ever-so-charming area of England next month, we’re looking back on previous visits – such as this one, with our Bath Mozartfest tour guests in 2015:
Our guests have been looking forward to a day in the Cotswolds – it’s been twenty years since they were last here! Well, this is a part of the world that probably has not changed much in twenty years – and the Cotswolds like it that way!
Even in the drizzle the villages are a delight…we walk along the river trailing through Bourton-on-the-Water, well-prepared with our umbrellas. After greeting the duckswe stop for a warming lunch in The Rose Tree, then bundle up and explore further.We’re not the only ones exploring the village, other umbrella-toters are taking in the late fall beauty as well.The drizzle continues as we drive on to quaint little Bibury – doesn’t this look like a fairy- tale illustration? A plus of the dreary weather is that there are fewer sightsee-ers here today. In September we had trouble finding a parking place, and had to weave between busloads of people checking out the tiny village. Now we can actually see the entire Arlington Row,picturesque cottages built in the 1300s as a monastic wool store, and later lived in by weavers in the 17th century. Current owners keep them beautifully maintained both in front and behind. Just a few memories – we’re looking forward to exploring yet more when we return!

 

England’s Smallest City

England’s Smallest City

One of our favorite day trips from Bath during our November Mozartfest tour is delightful little Wells, “England’s smallest city”.Wells is named from three wells dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle, one in the market place and two within the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace and cathedral.
Although the population recorded in the 2011 census was only 10,536, Wells has had city status since medieval times, because of the presence of Wells Cathedral, hence its label of England’s smallest city.
We always plan our visit for a Sunday, in order to enjoy the afternoon Evensong at 3:00.
The Crown, right in the market square beside the cathedral, is just the place for a traditional Sunday Roast. William Penn stayed in Wells shortly before leaving for America in 1682, spending a night at this very inn. He was briefly arrested for addressing a large crowd in the market place, but released on the intervention of the Bishop of Bath and Wells – I hope he got to appreciate a Sunday Roast before he left! We certainly enjoyed ours – Yorkshire Pudding and all. Walking through the vaulted passageway into the Cathedral Close, we pass the moat, swans peacefully paddling in the calm water,then enter the awesome Cathedral.
On this Sunday, rather than the usual boys choir, sweet young voices of girls sing the psalms and hymns as we sit with them in the beautifully carved choir, intricate tapestries and needlework adorning the seats.Built in Early English Gothic style between the 11 and 1400s, the Cathedral is filled with awe-inspiring craftsmanship, such as the massive and unique scissor arches stabilizing the center after an earthquake left it weakened. Although this video is too dark – by the time Evensong is over at 4 the short winter day is dimming – I think you’ll enjoy the organ resounding in this splendid space.
The Chapter House, up a well-worn stairway, is another don’t-miss part of this ancient beauty.Built in 1306, this meeting place for church affairs would have been an inspiring place to conduct business, with its delicate tracery and vaults rippling across the ceiling, supported by a central pillar that’s been likened to a giant palm tree, spreading its foliage above.Like many of the places we visit on this Bath Mozartfest Tour, Wells transports us back hundreds of years with its ancient beauty and the peaceful generation-spanning quiet of Evensong.

A Sunshine Day in Taunton

A Sunshine Day in Taunton

Weekend of  January 13-15, 2017
Taunton, England

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

After a bountiful breakfast by the fireplace in The Castle’s dining room, we have an hour to have a look around Taunton before the morning lecture and concert – and the sun’s out today!Within the castle complex is the Somerset (the county that Taunton is in) Museum, and this cute “tiny house” is an Almshouse – subsidized housing of old – of which we’ll see more in the town. Following a path along a stream, over a bridge, and into the center, we ramble along, enjoying the views of Victorian bridges beside Tudor buildings – eons of history in this town!
Then back to The Castle for another interesting lecture followed by Dvorak, Beethoven and Schubert….Richard Wigmore describes the gorgeous cello duo in the Schubert quintet as “peaches and cream”, exclaiming “I want to hug it, wrap it up and take it home with me!” After that refreshment for the soul, the tea table is waiting…scones, cream and more for days in a row – heaven! Finding ourselves a cozy corner, we sit and enjoy…
As I’m dressing for the evening events, I glance out the window  – what a sunset!More Dvorak, and a Brahms Sextet delight us… with yet more “wow” moments for the cellos – strains of a Bach cello suite in the slow movement – exquisite! Another fabulous dinner, and we climb the stairs for a deep sleep in our cushy bedroom.
Today will end with buses, trains, flights….but we won’t think about that this morning, just enjoy the decadent breakfast, walk around town some more, and relish a final lecture and concert – Dvorak, Mozart, and Brahms. Before our taxi comes to take us to the bus pickup (from where we’ll shuttle to Bristol Airport, fly to Brussels, then Marseilles, then shuttle to Aix and walk to our apartment!), we walk a bit more – it’s a bit blustery with showers coming and going, but we’re going to be sitting for hours so are eager to walk! We find a few more interesting churches, an old mill that’s now a restaurant, and on the edge of town a lovely park – well worth the stroll! Taunton has been a pleasure from start to finish….a town we’d never even heard of, which boasts a castle to stay in, heavenly music, superb cuisine…when can we return??
Coming up – France awaits us!

 

Music in the Castle

Music in the Castle

Weekend of  January 13-15, 2017
Taunton, England
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Don’t you love traveling by train? And this Great Western service from London Paddington to Taunton is exceptionally good, with electrical outlets by our comfortable seats, and free wifi. It’s a pleasure to gaze at the beautiful English countryside as we zip southwest.The sun is shining when we pull into Taunton and walk the short distance from the train station, passing through the archway to Castle Green, where The Castle Hotel, our abode for the weekend, now occupies the historic edifice, the origins of which first stood on this site in the 900s. Elegantly renovated inside, it’s now an excellent blend of ancient history and modern comfort.
Afternoon tea is our introduction to the cuisine of The Castle – and if the pastries, sandwiches, scones and cream are any indication, we should be in for a delicious weekend!
I take advantage of a couple of free hours before the evening events to see what’s in the neighborhood – delightful ancient buildings (can you see the “1578” under the eaves?)  tucked convivially in with new construction, scents of sausages wafting through the air, several gorgeous old churches, and an impressive town hall in the center of it all.Back under the arches to The Castle, and we dress for the evening…first a pre-concert lecture by BBC music critic Richard Wigmore, who brings delightful life to the pieces by Dvorak and Mozart. The Wihan Quartet, whom we so enjoyed at Orpheus and Bacchus on our Bordeaux/Dordogne Tour in the fall, once again thrill us with their music…I’m in heaven! We’ve long heard of the outstanding cultural tours offered by Martin Randall, and now finally experience one for ourselves!
We finish the day with a superb dinner, getting to know our fellow guests as we savor one delicious course after another. “Oh, you’re the Americans!” we hear time and again – we’re the only non-Brits here for this delectable weekend and I hope we’ll be back for more!

 

 

London in the Rain

London in the Rain

Thursday, January 12, 2017
London, England
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Are we surprised to find never-ending showers in London? Not really! And in spite of the rain I’m eager to walk and see as much as we can in the few hours we have here before training southwest tomorrow. So bundled in our coats and protected by our umbrellas, we leave our elegant warm room (are we crazy?!) at the Royal Park and walk the couple of blocks to Hyde park, then down to Oxford Street, in search of a cozy pub for lunch. The Marlborough Head squeezes us into a window side table, and we both order one of their “proper pies”  – Chicken and Mushroom. A perfect first taste of England!
Just across the street is grand old Selfridges, and I can hear the overture to the PBS series and just imagine Harry Selfridge proudly striding into his spectacular emporium – that was a great series!
I convince Kirk to go a little further in the rain to Liberty – a tudor wonder outside and in. Those Liberty prints so remind me of reading Seventeen in my pink bedroom under the eaves in Quito decades ago, wishing for that flowered a-line dress on Twiggy.
A little nap back at the hotel, and we’re off to another pub for dinner – The Victoria, which proves to be quite a neighborhood favorite – and we quickly grab a table by the fire that’s just been vacated.What a treat to find that the rain has ENDED when we exit! We take the long way back to the hotel, enjoying being umbrella free 😉
Café Nero has become a favorite stopping place on our recent UK trips, and, passing one elegant white townhome after another,  we find a nearby one for breakfast…yes, I know scones, cream and jam are for tea, but I can’t resist!
That blue sky didn’t last for long..we’re walking back to the hotel in the snow! And as we pack to walk to Paddington for our train, we watch the flakes flurry in the mews. Regards to Paddington Bear, and we’re on our way to Taunton for a weekend of music with the Wihan Quartet.

 

Charmed by the Cotswolds

Charmed by the Cotswolds

Thursday, November 19, 2015
The Cotswolds & Bath, England

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Our guests have been looking forward to a day in the Cotswolds – it’s been twenty years since they were last here! Well, this is a part of the world that probably has not changed much in twenty years – and the Cotswolds like it that way!
Even in the drizzle the villages are a delight11191501 bourton on the water and under the water…we walk along the river trailing through Bourton-on-the-Water, well-prepared with our umbrellas. 11191501 bourton on the water and we are preparedAfter greeting the ducks, 11191501 quack greetingwe stop for a warming lunch in The Rose Tree, then bundle up and explore further.11191501 pretty even in the rain Kirk demonstrates the boot cleaning station – this is an area for serious walkers and they’re well provided for! 11191501 bourton on the water boot washThe official weather forecast? 11191501 forecast stone is wetThe stone is wet – it’s raining (notice that’s the first option here in damp England), no surprise! We’re not the only ones exploring the village, 11191502 rain stops no oneother umbrella-toters are taking in the late fall beauty as well.11191502 lunch and strollThe drizzle continues as we drive on to quaint little Bibury – doesn’t this look like a fairy tale illustration? 11191502 sweet village of biburyA plus of the dreary weather is that there are fewer sightsee-ers here today. In September we had trouble finding a parking place, and had to weave between busloads of people checking out the tiny village. Now we can actually see the entire Arlington Row, 11191502 weavers cottagespicturesque cottages built in the 1300s as a monastic wool store, and later lived in by weavers in the 17th century. Current owners keep them beautifully maintained both in front and behind. 11191503 beauty all aroundThe village, just steps away, is quietly lived-in, with a primary school and a beautiful old church.11191503 lining topiaries Hardy roses hang on11191503 hardy rose amidst colorful traces of fall11191503 fall remains and approaching winter.11191503 seasons all winter berries on roofThrough the churchyard, we’re surprised to see the gate leading to Bibury Court, a former hotel, now open. 11191503 surprised to find gate open as it used to beSo we accept the invitation and wander through the beautiful gardens,11191503 would love to see in summerpausing by the stream to watch swans on the lookout for a snack. 11191504 bibury swans are lookingThey found it!11191504 bibury swans foundSpeaking of snacks, it’s tea time! So on we go to beautiful Barnsley House, where we’ve reserved our favorite spot, right by the cozy fire. 11191504 cozy fireside spot waitingIt’s our last day in England – and we’re finishing it in quintessential English style.11191504 cream tea What a perfect finale this scrumptious afternoon tea is!11191504 deliciousBarnsley House is an ideal country house hotel, complete with an outstanding restaurant, gorgeous gardens, and a spa – but it’s family friendly as well – wellies of all sizes at the ready! 11191504 family friendly plus spaBack in Bath, we’re fitting in a final evening of music as well – 11191504 last concert schiff last sonatas the gala 25th Mozartfest Anniversary concert in the Assembly Rooms11191504 lovely assembly rooms featuring pianist Sir András Schiff. We’re spellbound by his artistry as he plays the final sonatas of 4 composers: Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert. A perfect finale to our Music and Markets week.
And now it’s goodbye to our Alfred Street apartment, 11201504 goodbye to alfred streetand on to more adventures.