Monday, August 6, 2012

European Adventure Part 1

Greetings, my friends! We are back at last from our exciting, adventurous, and all around action-packed trip to Europe. We had the most amazing time but, I have to say, I'm glad to be back home again. We managed to visit four countries, each with amazing sites to be seen; we trampled through a few languages (je suis desolee!); and we had some of the most deliscious food I've ever had in my life - all in just two weeks!

Well, the bags are officially unpacked, the laundry has been done, the jet-lag has finally subsided, and I can't wait to share my first BIG adventure with you! I'll start with England and Wales.

First Stop: London

We started off our two week adventure in London, which we made our home base for day trips to the South of Wales, Stonehenge, and Bath. Amazingly, it only rained briefly while we were there. It had been raining non stop prior to our arrival, but cleared up right before we landed. Our first stroke of good luck! We had a day to explore each location (not nearly enough) before heading on to Paris, so we packed in as much as we could!

The first day we went sight seeing in London, a truly gorgeous city with some of the most amazing sights. We hopped on the metro (a wonderment in an of itself) and stopped off at Piccadilly Circus, Tower Bridge, then off to Big Ben and the London Eye...we also walked around quite a bit getting lost!

We really enjoyed finding our way around the city and checking out the sights, but I think one of my favorites was the early morning cab ride to St. Pancras Station to catch our train to Paris. It was nice to see the city early in the morning before all the tourists filled the streets, and seeing all the old buildings. There is so much we didn't get a chance to see, and I can't wait to go back already!

South Wales: Newport & St. Teilo's Church, Llantilio Pertholey

After our day of sightseeing, we were off to visit Wales! We started out the day with a mad dash through the metro and an all out sprint through Paddington Station to get to our train on time! We literally jumped on board as the doors were being closed - whew! Our second stroke of luck! I still can't believe we actually made it. (It may or may not have been my fault that we almost missed the train, but I don't see a need to go into detail.)

We took the train from London to Newport, where we rented a car and anxiously made our way to Llantilio Pertholey to see St. Teilo's church. (I say "anxiously" because they drive on the opposite side of the road there and it takes some getting used to, to say the least!) I discovered a few years ago that many of my paternal descendants were baptized and buried at the church during the 1500's (and probably earlier), so I wanted to check it out. The Church Warden was charitable enough to open it up for us and give us a tour. So kind, and what an amazing structure!

The church grounds most likely started out as a Celtic ritual site, as the Church Warden explained, with ancient Yew trees encircling the grounds. One of those trees is still standing in the churchyard, and is thought to be nearly 1,200 years old! The grounds have been a site of worship in one form or another since then. The oldest part of the current structure is estimated to have been built in the 12th century. The most amazing part to me is that the church is still in use today and continues to be a communal project - a piece of living history.

Surrounding the church is a cemetery with ancient stones prevailing one side of the yard, and more recent stones on the other. Unfortunately, the weather has done a number on many of the stones. The oldest that are readable date to the 1800's, so I was unable to look for any of my ancestors.

I did however, get the chance to enjoy the new Riverside Walk that runs along the edge of the churchyard and the Gavenny river. It's a peaceful place to sit with nature and connect with the past.

Although I only had a few short hours to spend in Wales, it was one of my favorite stops on our trip. The people were wonderfully nice, the countryside was breathtaking, and getting a chance to connect with my own family history was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Many thanks to my friends at St. Teilo's for opening the church for us! I hope our paths cross again!

Stonehenge & Bath


Our last day in England was a trip to Stonehenge and Bath. We decided to take a tour bus so we wouldn't have to worry about driving and finding our way, and for the most part it was a fantastic experience. My only complaint is that we had just a brief 30-40 min to visit Stonehenge. Now, some people might think that 30-40 min is plenty of time to look at a bunch of rocks, but those people would be wrong ;). I could have spent a couple of hours there at least! It is incredibly hard to fully take in something so magnificent in only half an hour, in my humble opinion.

After our brief visit to the ancient, moss covered stones, we were off to Bath! While there we visited the Roman Baths, drank some of the "healing" waters at the Pump Room (bleck!), walked the quaint streets, and finished our trip with some amazing food at the Coeur de Lion ("Bath's smallest pub") before heading back to the bus for the long ride back. Needless to say, we slept very well that night!

Favorite Food (and Drink)!

Now, this would not be a proper Scattered Cook blog post without some food! Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of all the wonderful things we ate while in London. Partly because we were usually starving by the time we had a chance to eat and, therefore, promptly forgot about the camera as soon as the food came; and partly because we ended up grabbing sandwiches a lot of the time, due to our packed schedule. Here are the things I DID get pictures of, however:

One of my personal favorites had to be the toasted tomato and cheese sandwich at Coeur de Lion, which was prepared with their homemade bread - yum!! I also really enjoyed the tea I had at the Queen's Hotel pub in Newport. A little damp and not quite sure where to go, we had ducked in out of the rain to warm ourselves at the first place we saw. As we waited for our cab to arrive we drank the warm, smooth liquid and let the craziness of the morning fall away. It may seem ordinary, but the overall experience made it much more.

Wrapping it Up:

I hope you've enjoyed my adventure so far; next up is Paris, then Italy! I also have a new recipe in the queue (don't mind my feeble attempts to sound British), so stay posted, friends!

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  1. Loved the pics and your travelogue! Looking forward to seeing you soon! Anne F.

  2. Thanks, Anne! So glad you enjoyed it! Looking forward to seeing you too :)

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