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Cats, Cathedrals and Ciders: The South of England: Day 10

01 Jul

Sat. May 21, 2016:
Cotswalds

The instant coffee in the room was old and stale, but I was desperate and I drank it regardless. It was not the worst, as I did get to dunk my Speculoos cookies in it. I had woken up with a headache and my immediate first thought was that it was going to rain. The weather forecast confirmed this, calling for rain in the afternoon. As we drove up to Broadway Tower I noticed a sign that said “bunker tours on weekends.” I was instantly intrigued. Parking the car, we saw however that Broadway Tower does not actually open until 10:00am, not 9:00am as the internet had stated. We had about 20 minutes of time to kill. We went into the gift shop/café to get our tickets. We ordered a light breakfast as well. The coffee walnut pound cake was just the pick-me-up I needed after the stale coffee and headache.

Our tour of the bunker was not slated until 10:15am so we took the opportunity to climb to the top of the tower and have an unobstructed and tourist-free view from the top. We would have to go back for the exhibits after our tour. It was cloudy and slightly foggy, not the best visibility. The mountainous hills in the distance were barely visible, we guessed that they were Wales (which apparently you can see from up there). Down below we could see some deer and sheep. We were definitely coming back to the top for a second view afterwards.

It was just us on the tour of the nuclear bunker. I had tried to spot it from the tower and turns out I had been way off. It was not at all what I had expected. It was just a small metal hatch atop some cement steps in a field near the tower. It was a 20 foot climb down a narrow ladder shaft. The bunker itself was a small room with a bunk bed in the corner and a small desk. I had been expecting a giant room with blinking lights, old computer screens and a red count-down clock and a world map with pins in it. There was a pipe in the ceiling through which the crew would measure radiation, it was now leaking rainwater. Apparently without proper maintenance and upkeep a bunker can develop leaks. It was unsettling. Climbing out of the bunker was just as awkward, as I was terrified of slipping and missing a rung and falling. It was an awkward exit, having to step off the ladder and find my footing on the cement platform. Brent held out his hand to help me and immediately the opening credits to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt popped into my head and I felt like her. It was an awesome moment. The tour guides were amazing and so nice, we learned a lot from them and it was a highlight of the trip.

Back at the top of the tower the weather had only gotten worse and the visibility poorer. It was now rainy and windy as well. We would have to Google it later to confirm whether or not the mountains had been Wales. Up next we drove to the main street in the town of Broadway. There were lots of antique shops and inns. Off in the distance we could hear dogs barking. I thought nothing of it, assuming there was a rowdy dog park or kennel nearby. Brent suggested that they were hunting dogs. I laughed it off, no way were they hunting dogs! He Googled it on his phone, lo and behold the town of Broadway is known for hunting. I still felt I needed solid proof. I followed the sounds and led us to the kennel where, in fact there were hunting dogs being kept. The dogs were so energetic, one literally jumped at least 5 feet in the air against the fence. On our way out of town we walked by a guy photographing another guy’s shoes, it was the weirdest photo shoot I had ever seen.

From there we drove to Chipping Camden. I was worried we would not find parking as there was an antiques fair going on. At the last second we found an easy spot to pull into. Walking down the street I noticed a place called the Lygon Arms. In Broadway we had almost stayed at the Lygon Arms Inn. This one had a pub and thus our lunch plans were settled. It was a quaint and old pub full of locals. One couple had their teacup Yorkie dog with them. This was my kind of pub, dogs allowed. To go with my ham & cheese toasted sandwich I had a delicious half pint of Stowford Press cider. For the sandwich I had asked for thinly sliced bread. And it was still really thick! The cheese and the ham were so flavourful and the sandwich was stuffed. It was the best toasted ham and cheese I had ever eaten. One shop had a sign advertising “super natural” Cotswalds ice cream but they only sold it in small tubs and all I wanted was a scoop.

The rain had finally let up by the time we got to Hidicote Manor Garden and now the sky was just cloudy. The gardens were stunning and absolutely gorgeous. The hedges were meticulously sculpted and there were so many flowers in bloom, we could actually smell them in the air. Couple that with the birds chirping and it was a wonderfully spent afternoon. There were sheep in field in the distance grazing. Towards the end of our tour it started raining again but oh-so-softly.

Driving back, there was a squirrel in the road. He was running in a zig-zag down the middle of the road, afraid of our car but unable to jump off on the right side because of a stone wall. We had to slow down and let him pass to the left side of the road and off into the bushes. As we passed by Broadway Tower we briefly considered going back for one last look but the clouds had not let up and the conditions appeared to be the same as earlier. Back at the hotel I tried to dry my shoes with the hair dryer and I hung my socks on the heated towel rack. The Orchard Premium cider I had was not that great, the only thing it had going for it was the cider-y taste as opposed to a juice taste. I had finished my book Primates of New York the night before, but thankfully I had downloaded The Torrents of Spring by Hemingway as well. I found the chocolate-toffee popcorn. Apparently when we had double-bagged everything yesterday it fell between the two bags. I spent the whole afternoon reading as it rained outside. I could hear the sheep bleating and the cows mooing off in the distance. I had thought dinner was at 7, turns out it was not until 7:30, meaning it was time for some TV. The channels took a second to load, leading me to unnecessarily worry that we were without TV. Luckily I found a channel playing the border security reality show.

Dinner was at the Buckland Manor House. The dress code was “smart casual,” whatever that means. Once again we got all fancied up and feared we would be surrounded by people in khakis. For once we actually fit in with the people around us. All the men, save for one, were wearing ties and jackets. Driving up to the manor I saw the cutest, fluffiest, fuzziest, littlest bunny ever and he hopped right into my heart. Walking up to the hotel I noticed a cat asleep on the outside bench and I had to stop and pet the cute calico, simply had to, even though we were running late. She did not even mind being petted, she just kept on napping.

Dinner was amazing, an absolute stand-out. All of the dishes were amazing- even the bright green pre-dinner amouse bouche. It was a green garlic foam (they called it a soup) with a parmesan breaded thing that sank to the bottom and tasted like a fry from McDonalds. Brent had the lamb, and even that was quite good. It still had a slight funky taste to it, but it was not nearly as noticeable as usual. At dinner I also found out that the poussin I had ordered was a baby chicken no more than a month old. I felt bad until I took a bite, it was so tender and delicious. The pre-dessert amouse bouche was amazing. It was a raspberry mousse with chilled mandarin pieces and coconut whipped cream. The apricot mousse and frozen yogurt dessert was equally amazing. The whole meal got an A+.

On our way out I had to stop again to pet the cat. They guy at the hotel told me that the cat was a wanderer from elsewhere and that she had a morning ritual of hunting on the property and then napping on the bench. She was so cute and soft, I wanted to take her home. Driving back we had just missed the sunset and it was starting to get dark. But it was not yet pitch dark. In the car I discovered I could loosen the strap on my heels. My feet were dented from it and it was such a relief once loosened. I wish I had known about this before.

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