October 26, 2011

Wandering in the Cotswolds

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:19 pm by newsurroundings

A few years ago, I read an article about a couple who had honey-mooned in the Cotswolds, England.  I had never heard of the place, so I “Googled” it and immediately decided I wanted to go there.  Maybe it was the names of the towns that drew me in- names like Morton-in-Marsh, Bourton-on-the Water, Stow-on-the-Wold.  It just sounds charming.  Well, we finally made the trip last week, and I must say, it tops my list of places to visit.  It is known for gentle hillsides (“wolds”), peaceful villages with honey-colored limestone buildings, an abundance of sheep, and for just being so typically English.  Another bonus for us is that it is great for antique shopping and that has become one of our favorite past times.

the village of Snowshill

I thought it would just be a hop and a skip to England from Belgium, but I was wrong.  It was actually a tram ride, 3 train rides, 2 taxi rides and, finally, a rental car.  Bryan had his first experience driving on the left side of the road and, after a bit of a nerve-wracking ride through Oxford traffic, he quickly got the hang of it.

Driving the English way

As our base, we stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast in the village of Broadway.  I plan to write a review of the Olive Branch Guest House in a later post because this place was so special.  Broadway has one main street with lots of high quality art and antique shops, good restaurants and a variety of other specialty shops.  It is well-positioned near several of the loveliest villages in the area.

HIgh Street in Broadway

There are miles and miles of walking trails in the Cotswolds.  In fact, many people go on “walking holidays” there.  I couldn’t understand the appeal in that until we took a couple of short walks and enjoyed them so much that I could easily see walking all day and not getting tired of it.

For our first walk, we walked from Broadway to the Broadway tower, through meadows filled with sheep, surrounded by hills and hardly anyone else in sight.  We did a small portion of the Cotswold Way, which  is a 100 mile walking trail that runs from the town of Chipping Campden all the way to Bath.  There are signs along the way, although the path is not always clear and we did manage to get lost for a while and wandered around like lost sheep until we finally found the marked trail again.

Broadway Tower

A stop along the walk at the church in Broadway.

Sheep are not the only ones who get lost.

The next day we took a short, wonderful walk between the villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter.  The names of these two quiet towns belie their charm.  It was only a one mile walk between the two towns, along the water and, again, with lots and lots of sheep.

Along the walk between the Slaughters

Lower Slaughter

We visited Stow-on-the-Wold one day since it is known for its antiques and it did not disappoint.  Then we went to Chipping Campden, which is one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds.  The church, St. James, is known as a “wool church” since it was built during the very prosperous time of wool trading during the middle ages.  It was built in the 1500s.  We walked around and tried to read the dates on the tombstones.  A few were dated in the 1600s, but most of the engravings were no longer legible.

St. James church in Chipping Campden

Chipping Campden

The English countryside is so beautiful and a place I could happily return to many times.

October 10, 2011

Pillow Party

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:42 pm by newsurroundings

Recently I went to a pillow party with the American Women’s Club of Antwerp and we spent a few hours cutting, sewing, and stuffing heart-shaped pillows in pretty pastel floral patterns.

These pillows are taken to Sint Augustinus Breast Center in Wilrijk, Belgium, where they are given to cancer patients post-operatively.  After breast surgery and lymph node removal, the pillows are used under the arm to ease pain and tension on the surgical site and reduce swelling.

As we worked, we enjoyed good food and good conversation.  We completed about 25 pillows and cut out and sewed many more that will be completed at the next party.

At this point, there is much demand for the pillows and we can hardly keep up.  Our hope is that one day soon these pillows will not be needed.  In the meantime, we’ll keep planning parties and hope that this small gift brightens someone’s day.