The Royal Post, The George, and the Final Night in the Country
Sep 19, 2011
When we travel, like most folks, we accumulate stuff. However, unlike most folks who toss most of that prior to returning home, we put into boxes and mail it back to ourselves so we can toss it out at home! Well, some of the stuff was all those books from Hay on Wye so I guess we weren’t totally nuts. And we did help the Royal Mail coffers, so maybe they can reopen some of those closed post offices.
Here are the steps to mailing “stuff” home from the UK -- Grantham division.
1. Get up very early so you can go to the post office and still get on the road at a reasonable time.
2. Walk to post office from hotel and discover it doesn’t open til 10; while away time watching all those uniformed school kids heading to school which does start early.
3. Return to post office to purchase boxes and envelopes only to discover long line of very elderly British citizens waiting to do their banking/mailing at the post office. Be polite and hold door open for those using walkers and wheel chairs. Smile.
4. Purchase boxes and padded envelopes and walk back to hotel. Spend the next half hour stuffing boxes and envelopes with books, maps, brochures, and tourist handouts. Use elderly scale from bathroom to approximate weight so boxes will be under 5 kilos. Fail miserably.
5. Make only sensible decision of this process -- opt to drive to post office rather than carry boxes and envelopes, thereby saving marriage for another day.
6. Drive to post office, locate parking spot, search pockets and purse for correct change for the Park and Pay machine. Fail to do so. Use old ticket and hope no one checks. Succeed at this.
7. Wait in slightly shorter and considerably younger line til one of 5 clerks is free to assist. Spend the next half hour with wonderful woman who figures out the cheapest way to mail our treasures home, helps with customs forms, and chats with us about our travels.
8. Walk back to car, start engine and leave town at 11:30 -- a bit later than planned.
Our host at the bed and breakfast in York suggested we stop in the town of Stamford, one of the first towns in England to make the decision that modern expansions were not going to be part of the town plan; it is a lovely, quintessential English town filled with buildings built with Cotswold stone. The George Inn looked like a promising place for lunch; sign posts indicated a large parking lot was just behind it. Bob picks up the story.
Although the lot was huge, it was full of cars and all the street parking was also taken. (I am talking about about a couple of hundred cars on a Monday in a small town here). Three blocks away a public car park had a few spaces left, where I grabbed one immediately. Our walk to the hotel was among more people with the same destination. Now we started to wonder about getting a place to sit & have some lunch. The hotel is also much larger than the street view would lead you to conclude and was full of tourists. It covered about two square blocks of land with buildings, gardens and the large (full) car park.
We found a nice comfy couch in one of the bars after checking out the full dining room and two other bars I ordered a Taittinger Champagne for M & another delightful Picpoul de Pinet for myself. The reason we found a place to sit here was that food was not served in this bar. Oh well, we have time; we can wait a bit for the crowd to clear.
While checking out the Gents and the interesting etchings contained therein, I discovered the Garden Room which had space for two. It looked like a ladies tea room kind of place, but the menu had a variety of offerings that sounded good. M's lunch wine was an Australian riesling ordered to go with a Thai influenced brochette of Tiger Prawns on a "som tom" salad with toasted peanuts, fresh mango & lime salsa. I went Italian with the granchio e rucola risotto of crab & wild rocket finished with Tuscan virgin olive oil. Another glass of the Picpoul de Pinet washed it down very nicely. The food was fabulous (the best risotto I have had in a long time), but why was the place so packed on a Monday? Turns out that a large wake for a departed townsman was in full swing.
Our lunch concluded with a 3 cheese course consisting of a Colston Bassett stilton by Richard Rowlett & Billy Kevan, a Brie de Meaux, Donge family from France and a Lincolnshire Poacher mature cheddar. A home made plum bread, biscuits, grapes, celery and a chutney rounded out the plate. The stilton was rich and melt-in-your-mouth creamy, while the cheddar was the best we have had on this trip so far. A glass of 09 Art Space, Saronsberg, Tulbagh, S. Africa (Syrah, Mourvedre blend) for myself and a 2010 Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia for M. Espresso with an piece of almond biscotti brought a finish to a really fine two hour lunch. Then it was back to the car to head to Banbury (as in "ride a cock to Banbury Cross to see a fine lady upon a white horse.")
The drive to Wroxton House Hotel was our usual... “this road does not look right, turn around... Oop’s missed the turn, go around the roundabout again... Well there it is right where it has been for last 300 years”. This family run Best Western was quite nice. Good room, comfy bed, a spacious lounge/bar area with comfy chairs and couches, a good wine list (had a great Spanish white wine) and a bar menu from which we ordered a light meal (chicken sandwich for M, Pate for me) kept us content for the rest of the time before retiring to bed. I think we would come back here as it would make a good base for touring the Cotswolds.