A relaxing 2-hour train ride from London brought us to Somerset County, South West England. Another 15 minutes by car and we arrived at Willow Farm, our friend Rosi’s lovely English farmhouse in the village of Batcombe, where she lives with her partner Mike Humeniuk. Batcombe boasts 300 villagers, a lovely church, the Three Horseshoes Pub, and miles of breathtaking hills and farmland, with cows and sheep dotting the landscape.
The girls started their stay by paying Carl, the dairy famer next door, an impromptu visit. Within minutes, their sneakers were covered in fresh cow patties and they were busy chatting Carl up about milking strategies, cow herding, barn cats and kittens, and so on. Startled to learn that Carl does not name his calves, they quickly remedied that situation. “Poppy” and “Brownie” are the newest members of Carl’s herd.
Day 2 in Somerset and we visited Bath, a beautiful city and World Heritage Site. Roman ruins dating from 60 AD are nestled right in and among the cobbled city streets. A tour of the famous Roman baths was fascinating for us all, and we learned about the Roman period, Iron Age, Post-Roman and Medieval times. We felt the warm waters from the natural hot springs and wandered through archeological ruins with our audio headsets describing life thousands of years ago. We met a Roman stone cutter who explained his trade and showed us his beeswax tablet and tool with which he marked his accounts (pre-paper and pens folks). Beeswax can be melted in the sun or smoothed over with a simple tool when you need to start a fresh page. Genius!
Bath also boasts a Fashion Museum which was another favorite activity for the girls. Can you imagine roaming hallways lined with case after glass case displaying gowns and robes dating from the Elizabethan Era to the days of Jennifer Lopez? Yes, we stayed for quite a while. Jeff was riveted.
Day 3 in Somerset and we discovered Nunney Castle, built in the late 14th century and complete with a moat, crumbling walls, and absolute freedom for little girls to run around and explore.
Day 4 in Somerset and we visited the small town of Glastonbury, known for its myths and legends relating to the days of King Arthur. A fun town to poke around in, Glastonbury can be described as a New Age community (think hippy meets witchcraft, throw in some magical fairies and incense). The girls picked up some crystals and magic fairy dust, along with some delicious treats at the local bakery.
You might wonder how we are getting to all of these places? Rosi and Mike are kindly driving us through miles of country roads (supposedly 2-lanes, but that means one car has to pull into a corn field to let the other car pass). We rented what the Brits aptly call a “people carrier,” known to us as simply a minivan. British people carriers carry up to 7 people but not without a struggle, and you are forbidden to attempt to place additional luggage in the car because there is hardly room for your purse. Thankfully, these “people carriers” miraculously still can sneak into most European parking spots, which would be considered big enough for a Mini Cooper at home.
Our Tea with the Queen!
Just kidding. But we did have a true English tea party with Rosi and Mike using her vintage tea set and her best teapots, each with their own flavor of tea. Rosi lectured the girls on proper tea etiquette and we daintily scarfed down muffins while we quietly slurped our tea.
Jeff in the English Countryside
It’s worth noting that Jeff had a gaggle friends in the small village of Batcombe and beyond after only three days. Why, you might wonder, does he know the cheese maker by name, the pub owner by name (well, you can probably guess on that one), and some random (but lovely) people from a few villages up the road by name? Because each evening around 7:00 pm, just before dusk, Jeff goes out for a run along the tiny, winding, hill-ridden lanes, dodging cows and milk lorries (that’s British for truck) and optimistically believing he can tell one stone farmhouse from another to find his way home. Somehow taken completely by surprise at the arrival of sunset and instant darkness at around 8:00pm (keeps happening every night around the same time – so baffling), Jeff then knocks on some poor chap’s door and asks directions home. Since there are no lights in these villages, these kind Englishmen take pity on the ridiculous sight of Jeff jogging after dark in navy blue shorts, a navy shirt, and a navy baseball cap, and unceremoniously put him in their car and drive him back to Batcombe. And voila, new friends!
It’s farewell to England now, and off we go to Denmark! This will be a first-time visit to Denmark for everyone in the family. Here we are boarding our Norwegian Airways flight to Copenhagen.