Our trip across Wales was quite long and we got lost at least twice before calling our hosts, Ed and Caroline Claydon and getting directions to their home. We'll have to fill in the details of this wonderful part of our trip later since we are having such a great time.
Sunday, September 20 - Thursday, September 24
On the way from Wales to Somerset, a long drive, we stopped to see Tintern Abbey in southern Wales, which was a magnificent Cistercian Abbey before Henry VIII closed it down. The ruins still are awesome. We finally arrived at our friends, Ed and Caroline, who live near Wells in Somerset just outside a small village called Westbury. They have a cottage (actually two cottages joined together) - not a cottage by American standards, but a very nice house - made of stone and very close to the road - the traffic seems inches away from their kitchen window on a very narrow road. There is no room for widening these country and village roads without major demolition which would be ridiculous! The name of their house is St. Cleer Cottage, and Ed had done much, if not most of the renovation, as well as the fabulous gardens which include tropical plants. They have a beautiful view down across the "levels" which used to be underwater centuries ago before land reclamation. Caroline had a delicious dinner for us, even though we were late arriving and we had a great evening. They are terrific hosts, and the kind of people you can pick right up with where you left off - which was in Dublin a year ago in July. (We met Ed and Caroline in the South Pacific when we went on the "Aranui" cruise through the Marquesa Islands in French Polynesia. That was a great two weeks and gave us all time to get to know each other.)
On Monday, we had a leisurely morning and got some wash done - in a washing machine for a change - and hung it outside to dry. Then we set out to see a traditional willow basket-making factory which is about 150 years or more old. The "levels" are marshy with a peat base which is good for growing the willow used in this operation - they plant, cultivate, and harvest their own willow. We had a tour of the factory and watched the stripping of the bark and saw the steaming operation to produce various shades of willow, as well as the making of the various products by hand by very experienced willow weavers. Besides baskets, they make garden fences, furniture, and even willow coffins! That evening we ate back at their home and had another absolutely delightful evening, staying up until nearly midnight.
(A treat for Tom was having Ed drive all of us in their car, and Anne could relax and not have to navigate!)
Tuesday was a visit to the lovely city of Bath. There is a great Park & Ride on the outskirts, so we did not have to deal with either driving in the city or parking - both are very difficult. Caroline and Ed did some shopping while we toured the Roman Baths - an incredible relic of Roman times. Then Tom and I visited Bath Abbey - another magnificent cathedral-size church, with lots of tombs and very beautiful. That night Tom cooked dinner and made shrimp pitas, a la Sinbad's back home.
Wednesday took us all to nearby Wells, a nice compact and old city, where we toured the cathedral and the Bishop's Palace, and saw a bit of the river nearby. We all came back into Wells that night for a fine dinner at a very good restaurant.
Alas, time went by too quickly, as it always does when one is having fun, and Thursday arrived with out imminent departure. We are so glad that we were able to have this fantastic visit and spend time with these wonderful people again. we will just have to find another way to get together again, and of course, we want them to come visit us in Webster, as well as see the United States.