A Cotswolds Jubilee

I bought tickets to the UK knowing that my travel days fell during a Jubilee bank holiday, but I assumed this was an annual celebration whose origins I knew nothing about, like Boxing Day or Early May bank holiday. It wasn’t until I was sitting in a pub in England’s Lake District talking to a retired television actor that I learned this was something special — a Platinum Jubilee, the celebration of a British monarch’s 70th year of reign, which Queen Elizabeth II was the first monarch ever to reach. 

The Jubilee would be a 4-day weekend across the UK, with thousands of parties and events in honor of the queen. I’m vaguely aware of the happenings of the royal family based on tabloid headlines I see in supermarket checkouts, but I would by no means consider myself big on their history or current whereabouts. It took me multiple attempts to get through two seasons of The Crown, and there’s something a bit off about celebrating an empire that claimed a sizable portion of the world’s countries as English territories until the mid twentieth century (Australia, Egypt, India, Ireland, South Africa, the list goes on). However, I’m for leaning into a unique and unexpected travel experience, which this was certainly shaping up to be. 

My husband Carl and I were spending the last two days of the Jubilee in London where pubs would be loud and overflowing til the wee hours, spending the first half of the holiday in the Cotswolds, an area chock full of villages that paint the quintessential picture of the English countryside. 

This isn’t a land of rugged moors or imposing mountain hikes. The Cotswolds are for travelers who seek farm market weekends, lazily rolling hills and centuries old village squares of higgledy piggledy stone buildings. Where organic ice cream stands list “choccy choc” as a flavor, the air smells like green onions and signs posted along footpaths read “Warning: Galloping Horses Crossing”. It’s twee and adorable and this adorableness was heightened by The Jubilee. 

Wary of overnighting in a town that draws large crowds, like Broadway or Stow-on-the-Wold, I booked The Wheatsheaf Inn in Northleach, a village with a population under 2,000. It has a small town square with a butcher, grocer, post office and pub. More community than tourist destination. It’s what I’m looking for when I want to soak up the quaintness of the countryside. 

On our first evening in the Cotswolds we took a short walkabout through Northleach and ended up in the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Posted in the entryway was a flier advertising a candlelight ceremony celebrating the Jubilee in the churchyard the following day at dusk. The interior of the 15th century church is beautiful, with tall medieval style windows and massive pillars running down the nave, but what caught my attention most was a table full of hand knit hats, childrens sweaters, and most importantly, the queen wearing a tiara and holding a leashed corgi. The queen stood upright as the centerpiece of the table, the sun all other knitwear circled around. Nearby a sign stated local women made the pieces and all funds raised through their sale went to charity. All items had clear prices marked on handmade tags except for the queen. I was intrigued. I wanted this small corgi-ed up queen so badly, but was unsure if she was for sale, and the idea of plopping some bills on the table and absconding with her felt too close to “stealing from church” for comfort. If I were to follow through on this I may as well print “I sold my soul and all it cost was a knit queen plushie” on a t-shirt and don it like a scarlet letter for the rest of my days. 

The church bell chimed 6:30PM and it was time to skadoosh back to The Wheatsheaf for our dinner reservation, leaving no more time to ponder knits and morality. On the walk back we passed a stout woman in her seventies with short white hair curling into a halo. Three terriers trotted happily with her. One brown, one tan and one white. A little ombre trio of fluff. 

The Wheatsheaf is the kind of inn that has a city aesthetic in its rooms and a countryside aesthetic in its common areas. The sage green dining room walls are covered in framed oil portraits and half of the patrons had dogs alongside them. When in the English countryside, expect dogs at pubs, inns and chic dinners. We ate vegetable and barley soup and an asparagus and ricotta risotto next to a massive sheepdog who lazed contentedly in a dog bed the size of a bathtub. My stomach was pretty upset (I blamed the sausage roll I bought in Iron Bridge earlier that day) so I could only nibble. The server kindly offered me a pot of mint tea to take back up to the room, which I took upstairs and drank next to what I can only describe as a massive, distorted photograph of Jack Nicholson. It was like trying to relax under something pulled from the pages of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Country downstairs, city upstairs. 

Come morning we breakfasted on porridge with honey and currant compote then  hit the road. The itinerary was simple: Look at as many Cotswolds towns, gardens and villages as possible. We didn’t need to do anything per se, just see. 

We started in the ever-so-serenely named Lower Slaughter, a village dating back to the 11th century that features a water mill (since converted into a museum) and cappuccino colored stone houses that are reflected in the shallow stream running through town. The museum itself was closed for the Jubilee, but its gift shop and ice cream parlor remained open for the tourists that were already swarming into the village at 9AM. 

I’d describe the vibe of the town as politely bothered by the tourist industry. Signage in Lower Slaughter: 

  • Don’t Even Think of Parking Here 
  • Private Water: No Entry AT Any Time (Except Horses)
  • Warning Galloping Horses Crossing
  • Please Do Not Allow Your Dogs To Foul This Footpath

Upper Slaughter on the other hand is entirely untouristed and has a whopping population of 163. Other than the country chic Lords of the Manor hotel there’s nothing commercial in the village. In our short walkabout there we saw no jubilee festivities and the only souls we passed were a family sitting by a stream, watching their toddler stomp in the water. This was the sleepiest village we visited in all of England (the red telephone booth in town had been converted into a defibrillator station). Quiet, peaceful and seemingly a thousand miles away from the Cotswolds crowds. 

From the Slaughters we went on foot along the Monarch’s Way path towards the nearby town of Bourton-on-the-Water. In contrast to the Slaughters, Bourton was packed. The village green was filled with hundreds of families parked along the town stream. There was no big event happening, just folks out in the name of the jubilee. The waterwalk was decorated with never ending rows of small Union Jacks. Giggling children in wellies and rolled up khakis frollicked in the shallow waters while parents beamed nearby from picnic blankets. The whole scene was incredibly wholesome. 

To add to the wholesomeness, the big sight in Bourton-on-the-Water is its model village. It’s pretty cute wandering through shin-high pubs and shops recreating Bourton as it was in the 1930s. Oh to be a kid spending the afternoon in this town. 

To detract from the wholesomeness, the miniatures display next to the model village was pretty dated and admittedly sexist, with multiple displays depicting what can only be described as “the deceitfulness of women”. One scene featured a cheating wife with her lover hiding under the bed and her husband entering the bedroom. Another told the story of a young pharmacist whose villianous girlfriend convinced him to murder his boss to take his place as the shophead. I guess this is to be expected for a decades old display, but paying to see palpable sexism never feels great. 

Leaving town we stopped into the Bourton church and found it covered in flowers for the jubilee. There were blooms hanging from the centuries old beams, greens wrapped around pillars and roses arranged next to a massive satin hat fashioned in honor of her majesty’s frequently donned top hats. From afar I thought the hat was a huge, unattended cake and was amazed at the self control these Brits have. 

We took the Monarch’s Path back to the car. The wooded walk was lovely, but it did feel a wee bit Big Brother-ish due to the many C.C.T.V. signs posted along the path letting us know that we were being watched. It felt disconcerting, like soft intimidation of the retirees and families who weekend in towns where the primary draw is model villages and organic ice cream. Turns out the UK is an incredibly surveilled area — There’s one C.C.T.V camera per 13 people, with London being one of the most surveilled cities in the world, right up there with Delhi, Singapore and Moscow. 

Our next stop is Hidcote, a 10 acre garden on the former estate of Major Lawrence Johnston. The grounds are curated into “rooms”, i.e. separate spaces sectioned off using hedges, rock walls and other natural elements. The drive is scenic. The weather is wonderful. The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society is blasting into the spring air and all is well, until we land upon a “Road Closed” sign. No matter, we turn back and make a left at the first fork we come to. After five more minutes of driving we hit another “Road Closed” sign and wonder if we’ll make it to our destination or if we’re stuck in some kind of English game we’re unaware of, like “On Thursdays we close all the roads in the parish for de-horse-manuring” and will be toggling between closed roads all afternoon. This proves a temporary concern and we arrive at Hidcote, albeit 40 minutes later than anticipated. 

Hungry, I start my visit off in the cafe with tea and a scone. The scone platter is serve-yourself. I eye the selection of gently domed scones, taking great pride in selecting the right one, even saying aloud to Carl “this one looks good”. Just as I’m about to plonk my selection onto my plate I hear a small voice pipe up next to me and ask “Could you serve me one please”, then look over to see a five foot tall middle aged woman in a black bucket hat holding out her plate with a pert smile on her face. Unsure of the correct social action, (Do I serve myself first? Is that rude? Does she see this is clearly the superior scone and is trying to snatch it?) I make confused eye contact, place the selected baked good on her plate then she leaves with a short and chipper British thank you. 

Carl, who saw this interaction, watches her walk away and asks “What the hell just happened?”. I can’t place why, but I feel so incredibly American at this moment. At times in England I feel like I’m met with an aggression or condescension so sheathed in politeness that I’m left disoriented and even paranoid. (Did I really make good menu selections or is the server sneakily telling me I’m an idiot?)

The Hidcote grounds are beautiful, filled with tree-lined walkways and rose gardens. The outdoor rooms create small spaces that make it hard to see around the corner, building excitement for what’s coming next. We come to a large field filled with grazing sheep and Carl points out a sloped ditch cut vertically into the lawn, letting me know it’s created to keep the grazing livestock out of the immaculately groomed gardens. This is overheard by a white haired man dangling his legs off the edge and he asks us if we know what this feature is called. He’s wearing a floral cabana shirt and is sitting with a pretty, thirty-something brunette in a navy sundress and wide-brimmed straw hat. We answer that we do not and he informs us this kind of sunken fence is called a “ha-ha”. This kicks off a fifteen minute conversation that touches on many things, including but not limited to — The character of the London neighborhood we’ll be staying in, gentrification of cities, the pronunciation of the English city Leicester (pronounced like the name “Lester” and rhyming with “fester”) and our respective Jubilee plans (as he mentions their plans he motions to the woman next to him referring to her as his daughter, which settles the question of “daughter or wife”). Overall, a delightful conversation and I find Hidcote a delightful way to spend the afternoon. 

Bibury is our last stop before dinner. The town has been described by poet William Morris as “The most beautiful village in England”. Google searches of Bibury will undoubtedly return images of its famous Arlington row, a lane of connected, thatched roof houses sitting pert in front of a field. The immediate response to these images is “Oh how cute. Looks like a lovely place to live!” The reality is that Bibury is jammed with tourists. And not “There’s a queue at every cafe” jammed, I’m talking the worst kind of jammed. Selfie jammed. The kind of tourism that involves people posing for pictures in residential doorways and in the middle of foot bridges. Wherein no one can walk without stepping in front of, or behind, a camera. Passersby must choose to interrupt a photo or bomb it. As soon as the camera is done clicking everyone looks annoyed. 

Even as we park the car (we managed to snag a spot right next to the row) we know we’ve made a mistake coming. Opening the door is difficult. A family of seven is stationed next to our rental and we need to squeeze through them to get out. Bibury is on everyone’s “must do” Cotswolds list, but it became the only “must skip” destination on mine. We visited at 5PM since early morning and evening were said to be the least busy times. All I can think is that 1PM here would be awful. Residents of Arlington row must need to shove strangers out of the way to enter and exit their homes. We spend a half hour in Bibury total before giddying back into the car; more than enough time to take in the swell of tourists (outside of Arlington row the village is quiet and peaceful, but parking remains a struggle). 

For dinner we’re headed outside of Southrop, a town so tiny that navigation gives us increasingly incoherent directions. At one point it had us taking a series of turns into an ally with no outlet. We landed at a dumpster and had to reverse our way around multiple blind turns. I felt like backwards Pac Man, replacing dots we’d already gobbled up to arrive back at the starting point, hoping no ghosts were hidden around the corner.

Dinner is at the Michelin recommended Ox Barn restaurant, housed within the hotel Thyme. When trip planning I briefly looked into Thyme, but with a price tag of $600+ a night for the smallest room I quickly looked elsewhere. Turning off the main road to the hotel we drive along a dirt path that cuts through a field of black sheep and into a gravel parking lot with multiple Tesla charging stations, where we park our rental vehicle between a BMW and Aston Martin.

The restaurant is in a renovated nineteenth century oxen barn. The space is open and airy, with beige walls and sage velvet chairs, all beneath the exposed wooden ceiling beams and arches. The space is gorgeous. Every employee is gorgeous. The lobby host who sees us to the restaurant has tan skin, silver hair and an enviable BMI. He compliments my dress so emphatically I’m led to believe he finds something about everyone to pay homage to. He passes us over to a top knotted restaurant host wearing wide legged navy sear sucker pants, a white linen tunic and burgundy corduroy jacket. 

I scan the crowd and everyone looks like they shop at Tory Burch. The women wear floral print dresses in varying pastels topped with cardigans or cropped jean jackets. The men wear khakis, boat shoes and crisp white shirts. Everyone drinks wine. Nearby sits a couple in their mid forties with their teenage son. No one at the table speaks; all spend the meal on their phones. 

I felt a bit off from everyone with my pregnant belly poking out from my bright dress printed in a pattern dubbed “party time” by the brand. We’re led to an ideal people-watching table in the far corner. The food is amazing. We have a lamb rump with nettle polenta and artichoke hearts and a pork tenderloin with new potatoes, arugula and pesto. Since I can’t drink, I decided in advance of the trip to spend what would have been our vacation bar money on the kind of date-night worthy dinner spots we’d no longer be able to visit as new parents. Worth it. 

When our server offers us a dessert menu we decline and ask for the check. Northleach’s candlelight jubilee ceremony starts at dusk and with the sun getting low in the sky we don’t want to risk being late. Our drive back to town is incredibly pastoral. Fields of barley shimmer and humming bugs provide a soothing soundtrack out the windows. 

Back in Northleach the community has filled the churchyard. Young parents bounce toddlers on their shoulders. Elderly couples leaning on canes chat contentedly. Northleach appears to be the kind of village where everyone knows one another and everyone is considered a neighbor. The crowd is dressed for comfort in puffer jackets, denim and knit shawls. Whereas at dinner everyone was there to look at one another everyone is here to be with one another. 

I buy hot cocoa from a snack table manned by a smiling husband and wife. They sell brownies, cookies, cider and cocoa and ask whether I want marshmallows on top. A question there is only one correct answer to.

I’m given a white candle for the ceremony and wait for the crowdsourced flame to come my way. The man beside me lights mine then turns to light a nearby womans. She immediately presses her wick down on his flame, extinguishing it in a second. She then turns to the woman beside her and does the same. Our pocket is going dark. She begins making panicked sounds and turns to me, wild eyed. I think oh no oh no oh no but it’s too late. She’s on me. She’s learned nothing and starts jabbing her unlit wick furiously at my lit one. It starts to give way and I lower it so the flame has time to breathe. She lowers hers. I move my candle to the side and tilt it. She follows. It’s like a ravenous lion coming after a zebra. There’s little room for escape but I’m unrelenting.. I don’t want to let the side down. This is not a woman I’d want to be with on a sinking ship or on a crowded subway escalator as the train is approaching. I’m certain she’d push a child out of the way to exit a building when there’s a hint of smoke. 

I made it out of this dance successful, both candles lit. I turn back to the man whose candle she huffed out to relight his. We exchange a nod. Balance has been restored. 

At dusk the town reverend treks out to start the jubilee proceedings. She’s a five foot tall black woman wearing a black cloak and velvet bonnet with a huge white feather popping out (the feather adds a good eight inches to her height). She clutches a large bible in her white gloved hands and leads the crowd in song to “God Save the Queen”. 

She continues to emcee the event, announcing that at 9:45PM a bonfire will be lit. Tonight more than 1000 bonfires will be lit between nine and ten across the UK. These fires are symbolic beacons; once used to pass messages warning of invasion, the beacons currently serve to unite communities together in celebration. The reverend reads a few bible passages, everyone bows their head in prayer, then she announces that, and I swear this is the actual title used, the “Lady Mayor” will now lead the bonfire countdown. 

Out comes a plump brunette who speaks for a few minutes then at 9:44 PM begins the lighting countdown starting from sixty. Within moments it’s clear this is a bad idea; never ask a crowd to count down in the double digits. After 15 seconds it’s pure chaos. Some people yell forty eight. Others forty four. The insanity plays on until the church bell chimes a quarter of. At this point the Lady Mayor quickly recalibrates and lets out a desperate “Ten! Nine! Eight!..” Everyone finally aligns to complete the countdown and a small bonfire is lit within a fire pit. All cheer. The festivities have come to an end but residents are slow to leave. They linger to catch up with one another. I linger for a different reason. My candle is still lit. One of the few flames remaining in the crowd, which I consider to be a personal achievement. 

There are times in life when we ascribe importance to things which have no importance. This is one of those times. 

I make it a personal mission to have the last flame standing and scan the churchyard for competitors. There are only a dozen or so flames remaining. My goal is within reach. As I watch the flames dying out I make quick and meaningless judgements of the candleholders. A flame is put out by the breeze. Pure laziness on the part of its owner. I spot someone blowing out their candle. They lack stamina. A child throws their lit candle into the bonfire. Respect – That’s a power move

And then there were two. It’s me and a bespeckled fifty something woman wearing a turquoise shawl. She’s chatting happily in a small group, unaware, I hope, that I’m watching her closely. I probably think I’m being a lot more covert than I truly am. A light wind begins to blow out my candle but I cover it with my hand and thwart the attempt. It’s getting intense but I’m unrelenting in my mission. Then my rival blows out her candle with a quick and uncaring huff and the American cheese stands alone. I declare myself the winner of a competition that has but one participant. Still, I feel victorious. I let the breeze finally quench my flame and take my triumphant attitude out of the churchyard and into bed. 

Our first stop the next morning is Stow-on-the-Wold, a market town whose most touristed spot is Saint Edwards Church, where two massive and ancient yew trees grow on either side of its great wooden doorway, looking positively medieval or Middle-earthian. We got there early and had the place to ourselves, albeit for a man drinking beer on a churchyard bench. Inside Saint Edwards’ heavy doors we found a display of handmade, bedazzled crowns, crafted by local school children. On the table with them hung massive silver balloons spelling out “70” and dozens of tiny Union Jack flags. My heart went aww, until I quickly found a large plaque dedicated to those lost in WWI and my heart sank as I saw the same last name “Webb” noted for losing William at 22 years of age and Frank at 23 and immediately thought brothers

There are 53 villages across England and Wales known as “Thankful Villages”, a term given to parishes wherein all servicemen survived WWI. Upper Slaughter is one of those places. Other Cotswolds villages were not so lucky. 

Our Saint Edwards visit began to end on a somber note, but as we headed towards the door I passed a table of childrens knitwear being sold off for charity and am reminded of the corgi-ed queen in Northleach. I have the pang of “dang, I want that queen” that I’ve low-key felt since the first night we arrived in the Cotswolds. 

For a quick snack and caffeine boost we stop off at The New England Coffee Shop. Did we choose this spot because as Americans the name felt comforting, or because of how inviting its cobalt blue door and stone facade looked? I can’t say for sure.  Here we down cappuccinos and nosh on one of my favorite baked discoveries in England: The flapjack. When I think flapjack I think pancakes, but across the pond a flapjack is oats, golden syrup and sugar often mixed with fruit and baked into a chewy bar. The English flapjack allows you to fool yourself into thinking you’re eating a semi-healthy snack when you’re really getting a mild sugar rush. 

I found Stow-on-the-Wold to be fun for a short visit, but the number of tourists and tourist-centric gift shops made for a less-than-cozy atmosphere. However, the streets of neverending retail display windows were pretty fun during the Jubilee. I spot one filled with commemorative plates and mugs. Another hocking plastic Union Jack bucket hats. Many feature portraits of the queen, ranging from black-and-white photographs of young Elizabeth to present day white haired Elizabeth. 

From Stop-on-the-Wold we head to Chedworth Roman Villa which dates back to the second century. Little remains of the original structure other than crumbled stone walls covered in grass and some impressively preserved mosaics, but historians have pieced together a blueprint of Chedworth, which in its prime featured multiple dining rooms, dozens of elaborate mosaic floors and both hot and dry bath houses. I enjoy envisioning what this villa would have looked like in its heyday – lavish and excessive and stained with wine, honey and blood. But, I can’t help but wonder what I’m doing spending my time in England visiting Roman ruins. It seems like we’re all so enamored with ancient Rome, myself included, that we’ll marvel at a stone wall for hours imagining what has been, rather than see what’s still here.

A light rain starts to fall, evicting us from the open air Chedworth. It’s just as well, because for afternoon plans I have one goal in mind: Get me that knit queen in Northleach. I can’t stop thinking of her. I’ll be sipping a coffee or looking at the green countryside and I’ll get a pang of desire. I must have her. When the sheep in the fields baaah I hear “baahhuy that queen. It’s a problem. 

In Northleach I head right to the church to find a wedding ceremony in action. Gorgeous rose and gardenia floral arrangements are stationed outside the heavy doors. Nearby a man watches us suspiciously, like I’m about to grab one of the toddler sized arrangements and run away with it. I guess I’ve got that look that screams “bouquet thief”. 

Inside the church I hear Florence + The Machine’s “You’ve Got the Love” being belted out by a male vocalist. There’s clapping and cheering and an organ blasting out the pop song and I want so badly to peek inside. Instead we head to the nearby Black Cat Cafe in the town square for a light lunch and afternoon tea. While munching on a blackberry crumble I see the wedding crowd let out and fill up the wine bar next door. The wedding guests are young and attractive and impeccably dressed. 

I always thought garish hats were reserved for the queen, royal weddings or the Kentucky Derby. Not so. A woman in a long sleeved champagne colored sequin dress wears a blush pink headpiece bursting with flowers. Her friend wears an ankle length chartreuse dress whose bodice is covered in ruffles and a navy saucer-shaped hat adorned with coiled ribbons. Their dates wear knee length jackets and waistcoats. One dons a black jacket, silver waistcoat and red and black plaid pants. Another wears a charcoal suit, heather gray waistcoat and periwinkle tie. The men’s shoes shine and the women’s hair is perfectly coiffed. 

I’m enthralled watching this crowd. In America I feel like everyone shares a wedding uniform. Pop into many an afternoon wedding and the women tend to wear a black or navy knee length cocktail dress while men wear a suit in a matching color. It’s boring. I want women to wear ridiculously ornamented hats. I want men to look like they went into a shop and asked the sales associate to make them look like a dapper nutcracker. I made a mental note to move to the UK to score a wedding invite. 

Once the crowd clears and the people watching ended I head back to the church. I know it’s unlikely the donation table has been reinstalled so soon after the ceremony, but it’s my last day in Northleach and I need to try. Inside men in khakis are sweeping up rose petals. As I guessed the donations table is nowhere in sight, but I’m not giving up yet. I spot a small nervous looking woman with shoulder length white blond hair wearing a wrap dress. She’s delegating tasks to the sweepers and I think that if anyone here knows anything about the queen’s whereabouts, it’s her. 

I approach her shyly, not quite sure what to say, but manage to get out an awkward “Excuse me, hi, hello. May I ask, there was a table here a few days ago that had some knitwear on it, including the queen with a corgi. Is the queen still around? And is she for purchase?”

The stranger stops and answers hurriedly “Oh hello! Hmm, I think I know what you’re talking about. Everything on that table was put into bins and stored. I’m not sure where they are exactly, but you can try checking the containers on the shelf in the backroom to see if it’s still here”. She gestures towards a row of teal plastic storage bins in the next room before scurrying off to tell one of the sweepers they’ve missed some petals. 

The containers are on a shelf nine feet off the ground. Beneath them pews are stacked on top of one another. The situation is precarious. My husband Carl, ever the trooper, crawls on them towards a tub that he’s spotted some sweaters in. He stands to open it. The pews wobble. He pokes around through it. No dice. He checks the next one. No queen. I begin to resign myself to her being gone. She was just a wish. A beautiful, glitter tiaraed wish. Carl opens the next tub and praise be, there she is. He hands her over to me then climbs safely to the ground where I stand, grateful that we’ve procured this treasure without injury. 

Triumphant, I locate our church friend and ask how much her knit majesty costs. She’s unsure, but she’ll call the knitter herself, Joan, to inquire. For some reason the name Joan strikes me with terror. I imagine Joan as the final boss in a video game. I’ve waited for days, fought off a wedding ceremony, watched my husband shakily climb and box hunt and now we must negotiate with the all-powerful Joan. She must be twenty feet tall, with knitting needles the size of Christmas trees. Surely she won’t pick up the phone, much less part with something so precious. But hark! The call commences. 

“Hi Joan! It’s Jane. I’m over at the church with a couple who wants to know if your wee queen is for sale and how much she costs. Mmmmhmm. One moment.”

Jane turns to us. “Name a price”. 

Man, this Joan is no-nonsense. “Will thirty do it?” I ask. 

Jane’s eyes sparkle as she answers “Oooo I don’t know. This is fun!” then she relays back to Joan “Will thirty do it?”

“You’ve got yourself a deal”

I’m positively jubilant. I’ve won the prestigious “Longest Lasting Candle” award and am going home with Queen Elizabeth II. I’m totally dominating this whole Jubilee thing. 

Goal reached and prize attained, there’s nothing else on the agenda. Perfect time for a pub and we go to The Curious Wine Cellar in the town square. With an ale in hand for Carl and a soda water in hand for me, we cozy in front of the window and play a couple hands of Elfern as the drizzle continues into the evening to dinnertime. 

No sausage roll induced stomach ache at play tonight, I’m excited to eat at The Wheatsheaf again. Even though it’s still raining we choose to forgo the more formal candle lit dining room in favor of the covered outdoor patio which has a younger crowd. As we pass through the bar and head outside we pass a cardboard standup Queen Elizabeth II, which I’m sure will be seeing a lot of selfie action in a few hours when folks are between drinks three and four. 

Dinner is stupendous. We ordered spicy veal sausage pizza dripping in chili oil, buttery cornish mussels and my favorite, a whipped white bean and vegan feta dip sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and served with toasted baguette. Carl, fittingly, orders a beer named “All Ale the Queen”. Dessert is a chocolate marathon cake with a molten peanut butter center and a coconut and vanilla panna cotta with mango and passion fruit. My regret of the evening is ordering the panna cotta, not because it isn’t delicious (it is) but because that was done in lieu of sticky toffee pudding. I told myself I was too full for double cake, but in hindsight I know I should never pass over a sticky toffee when given the chance. When being gluttonous one should lean into it. Ordering panna cotta because it’s the “healthier dessert” is like ordering the jumbo movie theater popcorn and telling yourself the calories don’t count because it’s being paired with a diet coke. 

It’s early to bed to prepare for a drive to London in the morning. I snuggle into our plush bed, careful not to face the creepy, melting Jack Nicholson print and listen to the crowds below drinking into the night. It’s only the beginning of the country-wide four-day weekend party. The festivities will carry on for days and while London will be a binge-drinkers paradise during the Jubilee, the Cotswolds have provided a glimpse into what cozy, English countryside living could be. I close my eyes and imagine Christmas in Northleach. I imagine what church is like here on any given Sunday, the children glassy eyed and bored, as children are in church anywhere. I wonder whether I’ll see the white haired woman and her trio of dogs one last time tomorrow, and with that, I fell asleep.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s