Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring in Full Swing

We're having a fairly low-key spring, spending our weekends relaxing and staying in England rather than zipping off for weekends away on The Continent -- hence the lack of many updates. We went on another walk with the local Ramblers group in and around Grafham Water, a huge reservoir about 20 miles west of Cambridge.

We've been enjoying spring by visiting some old haunts, such as Milton Country Park, and some new ones, including the Darwin Farm Shop, which even has its own farm.

And we've discovered you can look at our house on Google Street View, which launched last week in the U.K. While I'm a bit creeped about by the fact that you can see my car parked in front of my house on my street, I don't consider it the privacy invasion that several others do, and today an organization issued a formal complaint against it. So, if you've got my address, enjoy looking around my neighborhood while you can. Or, better yet, come visit: Airfares are lower than they have been in years. The pound remains weak against the dollar and euro, so we're staying put. But it's a great time to spend your US dollars in Britain -- the exchange rate continues to hover under 1.5 (it was $2 to £1 for much of last year).

That's about it for today. I'm off to enjoy the spring sunshine.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Nano-Break in the English Countryside

It did not escape our notice that we passed the two-year anniversary of our arrival in Cambridge last month. At the same time, it certainly wasn't as notable an occasion as last year's anniversary. We've become even more comfortable in our home on Paradise St and we continue to struggle to reconcile our desire to be home in America with friends and family and our gut that says "It's going too fast. We still have a lot to do here." How that war of emotions will play out remains a mystery to both of us, but it's one we'll have to figure out sooner rather than later.

The Stour River Valley

In the meantime, we're trying to make good on our vow to see more of England rather than gallivanting across Europe as we have in the past. To than end, we loaded up the car last weekend and drove...about 45 miles away. Whose bright idea was that? Well, before my wife throws something at me, let me quickly say it was a brilliant idea. KT and I were apart for Valentine's day so she plotted a weekend in the Suffolk countryside for us to escape our Cambridge metropolis (These one-night dashes from home are the trendy economical vacations dubbed nano-breaks, I'm told by the papers). The idea was to visit small villages, walk the countryside, see old churches, houses and castles, drink good beer in cute pubs, and have a nice dinner out. Our 30 hour adventure met all those goals. We had a great Saturday lunch at a pub that smokes its own cheese, fish, and meat, and ended the night at our hotel/restaurant that had great food and 30 wines by the glass--fortunately our room was a short walk away. KT has created a trip photoalbum with captions but above and below are a few of the pictures--she's getting good with her new camera!

Much of our trip was spent near the Stour River Valley, a place many call "Constable country" in honor of the famous British landscape painter John Constable. We started the day in Claire, where we found affectionate swans (top picture) and a bakery serving a caramel iced cake almost identical to my favorite cake from Sanders. Later that afternoon, just as the sun came out, we took a several mile walk along the river to Flatford mills (bridge in the middle picture above). Katie even snapped a picture (below left) from the same vantage point Constable used for his famous "Hay Wain" that is on view in the National Gallery in London. In another village, we found curiously sized doorways (below right)--hmm, perhaps where the hobbits live? Our final stop was in Lavenham, an adorable town best known for its many surviving half-timbered house (above right). We stopped at a local pub and read the Sunday papers as watched families finish their Sunday roasts--a very British afternoon and nice end to our nano-break.