Sunday, January 21, 2018

Solo on a HF Walking Tour in the Cotswolds, UK: mud, rain and great photo opportunity

Outside the wonderful city of London there are amazing treasures to explore.   Last Spring I spent a few days on the Isle of Wight at a country home  with HF Holidays.

This fall, when there was an opportunity to spend a HF Holiday weekend in the Cotswolds at Burton on the WaterI signed up for my last fall weekend in the UK.  

A quintessential village often called the 'Venice of the Cotswolds' can be reached by train from Oxford to Morton on Marsh and a short bus ride to the center of the village.  

Harrington House, the HF property is a short walk from the bus stop in the center of town.  

The river Windrush runs through the charming center of town.     There are walking paths along the waterfront with benches, several cafes and overnight accommodations.  During the day it can be busy with tour buses stopping for a few hours.  At night the village is quiet.  

On this weekend HF holidays offered several walks from basic,  about 3 miles to a longer walk of nearly 10 miles.

I had been training for 6 weeks trying to walk 5 to 8 miles a day but NOTHING prepared me for the 'easy walk' I joined the first day.
Rain and mud does not cancel a walk.  With a bagged lunch supplied by HF (a great assortment of sandwich or salad, fruit, nuts, snacks etc) my small group of 3 followed our experienced leader towards Upper and Lower Slaughter.     

Our excellent walk guide knew a great deal about the history of the area and the two villages we visited and even the type of sheep we passed.

This story is best told in photos.  Most of the weekend was cold, wet and grey but that did NOT deter the UK walkers.    There were only 3 solo travelers and I was the only non British guest.  And everyone seemed to be an accomplished walker.

A short walk outside the town we found the path to the Slaughters.
Beyond this point we were in the lush, green fields, sheep pastures and muddy tracks that did not discourage the locals from spirited dog walks.  

Not long into our walk we came to the first movie set village with stone cottages, an old water wheel mill and a country shop.  Here we stopped for a coffee and the only WC stop on the walk.

Further on, the next smaller village had the distinction of being a 
'thankful village'.    There will be a separate story on what a 'thankful village is'.

The walk was very fast paced.    The other walkers were not interested in taking countless photos of the amazing views so I often fell behind.    

As the path crossed from one pasture to another there were gates to keep the livestock from escaping.     The newer gates were a simple metal turnstile but several of the older gates were still constructed of wood.   

Warning:   Wet, moss covered wood is VERY slippery as I found out.    Slamming into one of these gates may leave you with a terrible bruise.   Just glad it did not break my leg!

The golden stone used in the buildings in the Cotswolds is almost a yellow.   On a sunny day the light reflection would be spectacular.     I shall look for a future 'walk' for photographers.   

Three of the delightful guests who were very welcoming and kind enough to explain the British only stories or terms that I did not understand.      There were others who were part of groups that also were welcoming to a solo travelers if you are outgoing.

The second day of walking was an independent day.   With a damaged leg I was limited to what I could do and on Sunday there are NO BUSES and only taxis with advanced booking.     I did find a local who offered tours but she was fully booked.  On my next visit I will be sure to book in advance.
So glad the tea rooms were open.  The British do understand tea and cakes.

Contact HF Holidays for there many walking events in the UK and abroad.    As a solo traveler I recommend enjoying a 3, 5 or 7 day event.   This is a great value for room/board/walks and a good break during one of my 3 month trips.    The HF booking staff was very helpful to find a booking that worked with the only weekends I was in the UK.  The house staff was equal to the 4 star hotels I have stayed in and willing to answer questions and offer suggestions. 

And I must include a comment on the food:  Breakfast and dinner is served in the dining room and guests may sit wherever they choose.   You indicate in the morning what main course and desert you prefer so that there is minimal waste in the kitchen. 

The meals were wonderful.  You could have a full English breakfast or just toast and cereal.  Dinner was a 3 course event and gave me an opportunity to try Britsh food I would not cook at home.  The only item I shall not repeat is a sticky pudding.


Monday to Friday: 9am-7pm

Weekends & Bank Holidays: 9am-1pm
Find the best number to call here

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8732 1220 Fax: +44 (0) 20 8732 1240
Address:  HF Holidays Limited
Catalyst House
720 Centennial Court
Centennial Park
United Kingdom

All the photos and opions in this story are my own.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Charleston, SC: Ansonborough Inn

A former warehouse, now a wonderful 
Boutique Inn:  Ansonborough Inn

Located in the historic area of Charleston, SC
  21 Hasell Street, Charleston, SC 29401


When possible and affordable, I search for unusual places to stay:   a university room, an AirStream                       trailor at the beach, a lodge in Yellowstone or Shenandoah National Park.   

The four star Ansonborough Inn is a lovely surprise.    Dark wood interior leads you to the soaring atrium with glass ceiling.    Today, the hotel is decorated for Christmas and the lights are a lvoely addition to the lobby. 

The Anson Pub is a warm and friendly spot to relax and enjoy a beverage.

The roof top deck has a great view of the city and the waterfront.
In better weather this is a great place to enjoy the sunset.

                    The rooms are extra large with '25 foot ceilings' from 450 to 750 square feet'.   

The room has a Keurig coffe maker, a microwave and refrigerator.   Across the street is a 24hr Harris Teeters grocery store if you wish to supplement the complementary beverages and cookies.

The Inn offers all the amenties:  business center, wifi, fitness center, on-site parking, afternoon wine and cheese reception and an extensive contenental breakfast.

Contact Information
tel:  843 723 1655
21 Hasell Street
Charleston, SC 29401

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Walk into a base camp in Viet Nam.................

I hear a helicopter landing and an announcement from the watch tower

Visitors to Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum outside of Charleston, South Carolina, come to explore the battleships, aircraft on site and interactive displays that can keep you busy for hours.

The USS Yorktown is a massive aircraft carrier that draws large crowds but my visit was to experience the recently opened Viet Nam exhibit.

As most of the crowd rushed across the bridge to see a war ship, I took the small path to the left towards a blue wall.     As you get closer you recognize the display.   There are dog tags representing all the men from South Carolina who gave everything during the war.

The exhibit is an up close opportunity to see and often touch the aircraft and equipment as well as the sounds that soldiers in the field experienced every day.

           A large quonset hut houses displays, a time line of the war and a theater showing video                                                          interviews from  men and women who served.

   Once you exit the 'hut' you are in a recreation of the "US Navy Advanced Tactical Support Base and a US Marine Corps Artillery Firebase during the Tet Offensive, 1968".1

A patrol boat that patrolled the rivers in Viet Nam

A look into a PX

The medical tent was a sober view of the immediate care prior to a patient evacuated to a hospital 

The exhibit is not a Disney production but the audio as you walk through the tunnel or listen to the sounds of a huey landing in the camp, projects you into the real life experience.

The watch towner announce 'incoming'
You can climb aboard a med-evac helicopter 

                     The interior was a somber reminder of the pain and death that was part of every day.

The mess tent

Volunteer tour guides and docents are available at scheuduled times.    In addition to the Yorktown the USS Laffey, Submarien USS Clamagore are docked here.  Visitors can visit the Medal of Honor Museum, Apollo 8 mission exhibit and the Cold War submarine memorial.

Contact Information:
40 Patriots Point Road
Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
843 884 2727

1.  Park brochure