Continuing my crazy galavanting across Europe I had the extreme privilege to travel to the Cotswolds of the UK. “This is the area West of London containing the Cotswolds Hills, a range of rolling hills which rise from the meadows of the upper Thames to an escarpment, known as the Cotswold Edge, above the Severn Valley and Evesham Vale. The area is defined by the bedrock of Jurassic limestone which creates a type of grassland habitat rare in the UK, and which is quarried for the golden coloured Cotswold Stone.” (According to wikipedia) All I knew was that one of my best friends from Muskoka, whom I literally lived on top of this summer, was going to be visiting her parents who lived in the area and she graciously invited me to come visit. Steph’s parents live in Cheltenham (they work for the Canadian government and have been stationed in the UK for three years) which you will see on the map is West of London and Steph had planned on visiting them for two weeks.
I took the overnight bus from Lille to London on Thursday night which is always an adventure. In classic emzups style I was late for my bus and so I ended up sprinting from the metro to the bus which is always fun. The bus journey spans from 12:30 am- 5:30 am and going into the UK you have to get off the bus to go through border crossing before the bus is put into a shipping container on a train to go across the Chunnel (not recommended for the claustrophobic). I got the short end of the stick and got an aisle seat and so not much sleep happened for me. Add in another bus ride to Cheltenham and it was a long night of travel for this guy. None of that mattered as when I saw Steph at the bus station there was nothing but excitement and adrenaline. Steph and I’s relationship is something I can imagine would be quite funny from the outside. We are both blonde, loud, obnoxious, and silly and all that amplifies when we are together. We are siamese twins and even though we hand’t seen each other since the summer as soon as I stepped off the bus our giggles and chat began. Cheltenham is a small town and easily walkable and so it was only a short wok to her parents flat (which was STUNNING). Her Dad was an immediate host offering me anything I needed. After living away from home for so long and traveling, being in the care of adults is always SO nice.
(Steph’s Parents Flat- they were on the second floor)
Thanks to camp Steph and I have a few international friends, one of them being Em from England. Em is from the North but goes to uni in Bristol which you’ll see isn’t too far from Cheltenham. Steph’s dad offered to drive us there as he was making a trip to the Costco which is also there. (Being in Costco reminded me SO much of home- free samples ftg). Arriving at Em’s flat the giggles only intensified. After a short walk around town Steph being the caretaker she is made me take an hour power nap so I would’t pass out on them later. I woke up to dinner already made (not complaining) and the three of us enjoyed lots of chat and ciders. Seeing as it was Friday we got all dolled up and enjoyed some more drinks and games with Em’s roommates before heading out into town. Around 3:00am is when the exhaustion hit me and so I had to be the party pooper and we all headed home (we stopped for kebabs first obviously). A true mark of Steph and I’s friendship was demonstrated that night when she told me that a way to cure the spins while lying down in bed was to keep one foot on the floor. Well she came back from brushing her teeth and I was fast asleep with both legs swung over the side of the bed, feet planted on the floor. Bind trust in Stephs knowledge.
After a glorious sleep-in the three of us enjoyed breakfast outside as the weather was nice and warm. I had my first crumpets (amazing) per em’s request and I plan on never eating anything else again. We headed out on the town for some wandering and shopping. Bristol is STUNNING. Very much a student town it is filled with all sorts of hip shops, cafes, and pubs. It is also on the water and very hilly so its a gorgeous place to walk through. It actually reminded me A LOT of Halifax. We spotted a TGI Fridays in the mall and bee-lined straight there. We had to laugh as the night before I had explained to Steph that the thing I miss most about Canada (after the Zupnik’s and Keith’s) was chain restaurants like Applebee’s or TGI Fridays. I have been getting sick of French cafe’s and craving a real American chain restaurants where I can get BIG appetizers, and BIG drinks, for SMALL prices. So you can imagine the smile of my face when I saw TGI Friday’s. After our day of shopping we headed back to Em’s flat where our friend Paddy who lives near Birmingham was waiting. Paddy came down for the evening to take the three of us to dinner which was SO lovely. We went to the most amazing pizza place (I can’t stop its an addiction) and then Paddy drove Steph and I back to Cheltenham (seriously one of the nicest people I know).
My first full day in Cheltenham Steph and I took to the streets and explored the shops. (I don’t know if you are noticing my shopping habits increasing, I am slowly becoming my mother). Later that night we met her parents at the local wine bar which is a super cute pub that has huge bay windows that overlooks the town for some ciders.
On the Monday we had quite the surprise when Em took a train to spend the day with us in Cheltenham. Steph’s dad drove us through the country side (SO SO beautiful) and we spent some time in a tiny little town called Bourton-on the- water. We got back to Cheltenham and went for a long dinner and drinks. We actually ended up at the Slug and the Lettuce which is the same chain pub that my sister worked at when she lived in the UK. It was half priced food, and two for one drinks so we ate until we physically could not anymore.
My final day was spent with Steph doing a little more shopping and enjoying patio beers and burgers in the sun. Tuesday night I caught the bus back to London where I caught another overnight bus back to Lille. This time I thankfully did get some sleep. Going back into France border control could not care less. I didn’t have to get off the bus once, and no one asked to see my passport. ALL ARE WELCOME IN FRANCE YA’LL!
My extended weekend I spent in England was one of my favourites I have had in Europe thus far. Not only was the scenery and towns absolutely beautiful but spending time with camp friends is always so fulfilling. Spending a summer up North at camp with people creates a friendship so different and so deep, and it is for sure a huge reason why I continue to go back summer after summer. I think I even loved the country-side of England even more than London. You get the UK vibe without the craziness and chaos of London life. Speaking English for five days was also a huge treat. I noticed how much I miss being able to chat to whoever I want. I don’t get the luxury of talking to store clerks or waiters in France- my French only allows the basics haha.
I will keep enjoying the beautiful spring weather here in Europe for all of you stuck in cold Canada. I hope all of your hearts are as happy as mine!