After Ireland and Romania there was little thought of more travel this year, which we had accepted without issue, I don't think either of us are the sort of folk that 'need' travel, we just 'want'. With Christmas edging towards us like a hungry panther ( slow to begin with then POW! ) and plenty of weekends booked up playing host to family and friends we didn't need this trip, but breaking those little weekly work life routines by doing more than just sampling a new eatery or walking a different route to and from work was well worth it.
I suggested a weekend away in Bradford-on-Avon on the Tuesday and by Wednesday we had booked an overnight stay in a little cottage not far from the town centre via AirBnB. I did a little google of things to do in BoA , but didn't retain much of the digitised suggestions, sometimes it's nice to remain unplanned and a little ignorant of an upcoming destination.
Travel does come at a fair cost , we didn't have an amazing budget but it can be a little perplexing to know that travelling within England can cost more than jumping on an easy jet some far-flung corner of Europe. As we were leaving our building Saturday morning for the train station we bumped into a neighbour who said he'd heard flying to Georgia was currently only 17 pounds, the exact cost of our return train tickets!
But hey ho, trains aren't that cheap we know and we only had the weekend to spare.
The reason for Bradford-on-Avon was purely down to Girlie who had suggested the town numerous times based on how pretty she'd found it. In my head I pictured a sleepy town akin to Bath without the shopping centres or of course Roman Baths or tourists and used pictures I'd seen of Castle coombe on instagram to formulate a mental picture. I expected sleepy little streets filled with outward leaning bath stone houses and a CoE church with one or two open-fire public houses. I wasn't far off to be fair. But the reality was better than my limited imagination that was more crayon than oil flicked canvas.
For us Bradford-on-Avon is a stones throw from Bristol , if you fired said stone from an extremely powerful cannon. To me anything that is under 45 minutes on the train is considered close by.
Off the train we knew the cottage wasn't too far and with it spitting cold flecks of rain we decided to duck into the nearest pub first for a quick light liquid refreshment before heading onto our temporary abode.
The pub was luvely! Bare stone walling and thick wood beams with cheery locals at the bar and the old gent sat near the open fire reading his paper, all the boxes ticked as far as my requirements for a local pub.
We sat by the fire and discussed life while I took advantage of the publicans tolerance of e-cigarettes.
The cottage was about 20 minutes walk so really not far, every street looked beautiful, the town center well catered with fashionable bars but more imortntly the most pictureseque river bridge crossing, old mills and a curious little tower on the bridge like an ancient lookout post for when people were nay taller than hobbits.
The town lifted up around us and beautiful architecture peered down at us as we headed up narrow streets passing young professional couples with prams and expensive looking wine shops into the quieter residential area with characterful homes, some of an advanced age where windows have seemingly gown like warts and bunions in odd places.
Our cottage was lovely and the owner a very welcoming host who had not long moved from London into the area, commenting on just how friendly it was. Her front room window completely exposed her life as people passed by, not one peering in, so open but hospitable.
Up some extremely creaky stairs with a vast book collection sprawled up the wall our room was lovely, the floor was also as musical as the stairs but you don't expect sturdiness from a cottage, you pay for anything but.
After getting a bit of local perspective we found out the pub we visited was very local where all the boat people frequented and that a restaurant we'd booked for the evening was more pricey and pretentious than all the town had to offer.
We decided to go for a quick recon anyway in the posh restaurant and sat in an extremely nice cosey posh eatery with eclectic armchairs and had a nice little drink. Although we were happy to eat there it was closer to our cottage than the town center so we decided to cancel on this occasion and head back into town for our evening meal.
In town we made a beeline for one the recommendations, the Dandylion pub. It was really busy , imagine places like Bath, Clifton , it kind of had that feel only more friendly. Once soaking up the atmosphere having chatted to a gregarious scotsman at the bar and watching every spare tables get snatched up we gave in to the Welsh waitress with that warm tone welsh people can posses and ordered some tuck.
Girlie went for the Medallions of Pork Tenderloin while I went for the 'Dandy' beef burger. It was nice that neither of us suffered the insufferable first world issue of food envy. Both plates were so flavoursome, nothing on the plate was there as a filler, my burger had that crumbly texture of a home crafted patty with deeply flavoursome runoff in the guttering on my wood platter, red onions with sweet pickling tartness and a mellow yellow oak smoked mayonnaise with chunky chips that helped me dab up as much of the rich emulsified mayo and meat juices. The pork tenderloin was perfectly mellow with an apple sauce that could transport you to sunny meadows and rolling pastures where the reality of farming is all too distant.
After our nice meal we had a little stroll around but decided to check out the first pub we'd hit hours earlier to check out the local music. The place was much busier and the bar almost two deep, a friendly scouser offered to let me jump in front of him as his group debated their next round. We sat back at the fire and stayed long enough to decide the band wasn't quite to our liking struck up conversation with the table next to us for a bit then decided it was late enough to make our way home for the evening so we can make something of the following day.
Back in the cottage there was hardly any noise, definitely no early morning revellers announcing which football team they are affiliated with and especially nice, the complete lack of light beaming in though the curtain from nearby street lights , when we did nod off it was a pretty peaceful slumber.
Next day we had a coffee and a pain au chocolate, had a little lie-in and headed back out leaving our bags in the cottage kindly permitted by our vacant cottage owner who had left for the day.
We explored the impressive normal church and the relatively eerie Saxon church almost childlike in complexity but so tall especially when you consider how vertically challenged the saxons would have been , childlike themselves in stature by our modern standards. We strolled through woodland where squirrels squawked and a local feline ran over to mark us as part of it's territory with a head rub on our shins and extended hands before visiting the tea room we'd seen the day before and fallen in love with.
The tea rooms was a very old building ,the door is really low and definitely challenging for the awkwardly mobile, I am not a tall man but had to stoop pretty low to clear the doorway. Another open fire and pretty seating with costumed staff, the menu ad quite a bit to offer but we held to our guns and stuch with tea and scones with clotted cream and jam, cream first, that it seems can be quite an important decision.
After a bit of conversation we found ourselves talking to the lady who was the first to greet us , initially I thought she might be awkward to engage with , but it turned out she was an ex nurse and we ended up duscussing trips to scotland and how she had recently gone against her reservations and taken a coach trip up to the highlands, herself and her husband the youngest on hte trip but at such an agreeable price it was easy to ignore the age difference in the fellow passengers.
After that we deiced to pick up our stuff and take in the sights for one last time before heading back for around 5 , felt it was a good time to leave before the place really quietened down and places began t close for the day.
As we walked past another beauful church it felt like the right time to do something I had intended that weekend, I proposed to my girlfriend. I wanted it to be a little bit of a surpirse , not the moon lit rowing boat lake trip proposal that would have been ideal , but felt like the right time , a nice time to ask her the big question, sometimes you just have to go with your instinct.
She said yes :)
We did a little loop round the canal the biting cold making fingers start to quiver , passing numerous boats belching out smoke from wood fires as the inhabitants worked hard to maintain the kind of creature comforts we can easily take for granted.
Back at the train station we bickered about whether to buy a return ticket at the station or wait until we were on the train while said locomotive was delayed. Suddenly two transport police officers raised across the platform bridge to our side where they arrested a gentlemen who got increasingly perplexed as the cuffs were placed on his wrist, as he got more animate and hostile he went to bolt but stumbled the officer still keeping a tight grip on his arm causing the detainee to fall into the nearby pillar cracking his head quite hard which really didn't help his mood as he was led away screaming blue murder.
It turned out the unfortunate fellow had jumped in front of a train not long beforehand.
Back on the train then back into Bristol we hooked up with some friends in a local bar down in Bedminster and shared our happy news, they themselves having got engaged recently. we discussed our weekends, what was going on with ourselves and of course did a little bit of putting the world to rights.
Bradford on Avon will definitely be a fond memory now and I couldn't help but mark such a beautiful place by proposing to my beautiful girlfriend.