Surprises Outside of London

Even though I could probably spend the rest of my life living happily in London, we left the city to spend a few days in the countryside. Our home base was Cathy’s family home near Dorset.

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We thought we’d spend our weekend relaxing in countryside gardens (which we did) – but there were a lot of surprises in store for us as well! First, did you know Dorset has its very own castle? Corfe Castle. Its seen better days, but as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I usually prefer ruins to majesty.

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It doesn’t take long to tour the grounds, we were there for maybe an hour, but Corfe Castle has some fascinating history.

978 – King Edward the Martyr was murdered by his stepmother Elfrida at the site of the Old Hall
1086 – William the Conqueror swapped a church for the land where he began to build Corfe Castle
1106 – Henry I imprisoned his brother, Robert of Normandy, in the King’s Tower
1199-1214 – King John imprisoned his French niece, Princess Eleanor of Brittany, at Corfe Castle (this is really not a great castle for families!)
1572 – Queen Elizabeth I sold the Corfe Castle to one of her favorites
1643-1646 – Under the command of Lady Mary Bankes, Corfe Castle twice held off sieges during the Civil War. It was finally captured due to treachery from within its walls

Plus, being on a hill (security reasons, of course), meant it has lovely views of the town. And Chandler, like always, found his shady respite while I roamed and explored.

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After that we bought some honey mead (so sweet!). It was nearly our one-year anniversary and it turns out that a full moon’s supply of honey mead was traditionally given to the bride and groom after their wedding. And from that we get, “honeymoon,” which I suppose this trip sort of is for us, since we had a whirlwind move to Accra after our wedding.

Next up was a stroll through the city Cathy grew up in and a stop at the beach, and since Europe was experiencing a massive heat wave, it was packed. We lunched on cheese sandwiches at the Salty Pig. As vegetarians, we always have exciting meal escapades.

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We could have called it a successful day after that, but instead, Grace and Cathy led us on a two-mile walk to a pub that very much felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. That, however, couldn’t have been further from the truth, given the packed outdoor space and the 20-minute wait to order.

I’ve learned that you can’t judge a place by how many cows and sheep you have to walk by to get there!

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But it was well worth it. I got to sample some local cider and Pimm’s (my new favorite adult beverage!). We mostly encountered it with lemonade, berries, and mint, but you can really make it however you wish. In Accra, we’ll make it tropical with 7UP, mango, and pineapple!

Chandler learned a lot about “true” ales and lagers, needing two pints to adjust to the concept of warm, flat beer. Or so he claimed when he got up to order the second : )

Saturday in and of itself would have made for a lovely trip to the countryside, but we weren’t finished. Grace and Cathy surprised us by saying we’d be stopping at Stonehenge on our drive back to London. On the way, we passed through Salisbury and decided to stop for a peak (and bathroom break) at the Salisbury Cathedral. Unbeknownst to all of us, it houses one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta. Now, of course we couldn’t read it (Latin and all), but it was still cool to see it and think about all the ways it shaped the world we live in today (due process of law). Also, the cathedral (see, obsession) was stunning.

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After our pitstop (much, much better than American pitstops!), we arrived at Stonehenge. Or, the Stonehenge parking lot, which was approximately 3 km away from the site itself. I’m not sure any site I’ve ever visited has felt as much like a circus as this did. Waiting in line to board the bus, walking on circular path around the monument, waiting in another line to be taken back, having to walk through the gift shop in order to exit the building…

But, Stonehenge was a great place to people-watch. One girl filmed herself silently walking around the whole structure. Another couple gave a Skype tour to someone who couldn’t make it. Some picnicked to extend their time at the site. Others took a photograph every time they took a step. It was fascinating.

The stones themselves were all right. They’ve been up for a while, 4,500 years or so. Also, along with cathedrals and mosques, I like temples, though this is probably the least detailed one I’ve ever seen.

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But these photos wouldn’t be complete without the real experience: the people.

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