Far from the Madding Crowd

travel stories  by Laura Onea

The Cotswolds

What do you want to do when you grow up? Well, older, in this case. Though, I wonder if growing up is a matter of aging or a cumulative effect of how you respond to experiences in your life. Probably both. To answer the question: I would move to rural England and own a tea shop. A small and homey tea shop luring passersby with an enchanted scent of roses and steamed milk, in the same way Jean-Baptiste Grenouille explores the emotional meaning of essences in a perfume, in Suskind’s mesmerising book “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”. (If you haven’t read it, or watched the movie, I urge you to do so. It will exalt your senses.) Don’t panic, I won’t turn into a cold blood criminal. :)) I am pretty sure I’ll be a cool but warm and friendly lady sharing stories with her guests all day long.

However, I think you need to be prepared to face the solitude and peacefulness. Yes, yes, you heard me well, to face it. Sometimes we also need to learn (or relearn) how to embrace things that theoretically should have a positive effect on ourselves. I am almost sure I am not the only one who needs to overcome that restlessness that makes us feel uncomfortable if we sit too long in either a quiet or a noisy place. But it’s ok. 🙂 So until I reach that deep feeling of comfort and peace with my own thoughts I will continue to treat myself, once in a while, with the charm and cosiness of the countryside.

What I like most about Cotswolds is that it gives you time and space to fantasize. And if you are not a big fan of the girly airy fairies, then you might as well imagine hobbits welcoming you into their tiny houses, some almost entirely covered in creeper plants. Rural England is a painting in itself.

For a diversity seeker like myself, the area is pure delight given the mixed feelings it arouses. Now I am wandering in a fairy tale, or playing hide and seek in Pan’s labyrinth, while the next moment I am an aristocrat drinking tea with the Queen during a golden age. Time travel at its best.

One of the most popular villages in Cotswolds, if the not the most popular, and if I remember well, the first one I set foot on, is Bibury. Love at first sight. The main and most visible attraction are the charming cottages always dressed in multicoloured flowers and plants. But this festive look on the outside stands in a subtle contrast with a feeling of peacefulness and warmth you could guess by peeking inside. I would feel like knocking on every door, but I master the impulse and end up taking a photo, or several. I recommend the Trout Farm in the village, by far the best cooked trout I have ever eaten.

Other two nice villages that fall in the same popularity category as Bibury are Bourton-on-the-Water and Chipping Campden, famous for the honey coloured stone architecture, romantic bridges that cross the river, local tea shops, antiques and picturesque scenes. They tend to become a bit crowded during high season but you won’t feel suffocated like when you are experiencing the crowd of a big city.

The places that have the most powerful effect of reverie on me are the smaller ones, idyllic villages like Stunton or Lower and Upper Slaughter. It’s unlikely you cross your path with more than 5 people, and it’s oh, so quiet. You wander along till you become incapable of distinguishing magic from reality and wish you could linger there for some time. Forget the diet and treat yourself in one of the local tea shops with their favourite scone and cream tea. Choose the smallest tea shops as they will give that cosy feeling that you have entered someone’s home.

We have recently bought bikes (well, actually, I have recently learnt to cycle, but don’t tell anyone!) and the Cotswolds is our favourite area to practice, enjoying beautiful views and peacefulness. And less traffic if any at all! There are plenty of routes between villages but you can also choose one of the off-road trails. Broadway Tower Country Park, for example, is home to a herd of Red Deer and includes several peaceful woodland trails. There are nice views from the top, where the tower is. Another good option is to cycle along the Kennet and Avon canal from Seend to Devizes.

If you like autumn, just head to south Cotswolds and prepare for a delightful fashion show performed by the Autumn Fairy herself. She dresses all her children, the trees, in a haute-couture richness of colourful clothes. Westonbirt Arboretum hosts a beautiful collection of rare and exotic plants and trees over an area of 2.4 km². Most of them were planted in the mid-19th century. Never in my life have I seen so many reddish trees in one place, it’s like entering a vibrant painting which stays in your mind for a long time.

Another special and enriching thing to experience in the area is to look for an accommodation through Airbnb. And if you haven’t yet, this is the perfect place to start doing it especially because people living here often resemble the characters in the stories I was telling you about. Like place, like people, so to say. Most of their homes are converted barns or very old houses, and people like collecting vintage pieces of furniture or even building furniture themselves, which lends character to the house and recreates a historical atmosphere. In case you haven’t noticed yet, we are very fond of dogs, so each time we have the occasion we choose an accommodation with dog/s included, which makes the experience even better. 🙂

I have been to the area several times so far but I never seem to get enough. There are many hidden corners and secret passages that await your imagination to make up a story about them and then picture yourself in it. See you soon!

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