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Thanks for visiting Joy42. Follow along on my adventures as an American Expat. I hope to encourage you to seek out the little joys in your life.

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds

I'm not even sure if I have the words to describe our weekend in the Cotswolds. When Luke asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I (half) jokingly said I wanted to go to Paris for the weekend. Little did I know, Luke actually had some other tricks up his sleeve and booked a cottage in the Cotswolds, somewhere that's been at the top of my must-see list in England.

None the pictures I've ever seen of the beautiful stone cottages in the Cotswolds even do it justice. I'm sure I walked around with a huge grin on my face all day. We first stopped in Bibery, a popular little village among tourists. We easily found a parking spot off the main road and we parked across from a beautiful stone mansion. I wanted to snap a quick picture, but the property was swarming with tourists, all of whom were moving behind each other to get an unobstructed picture. I eventually gave up and walked a few paces down the road to the next house, which I think had a much more beautiful garden. (The first photo in the post.)

It didn't take long to make our way through all of Bibery. These villages are seriously small, but incredibly charming. We dreamed aloud about one day owning one of the cottages crawling with ivory with beautiful sage trim along the windows and doors. The one downside would be the tourists everywhere. They were blissfully unaware they were in the way of cars and almost every house had a "PRIVATE" sign up in English and Chinese. We also saw groups read the sign, shrug, and make themselves at home in people's gardens anyway. I'm not sure how much anyone would enjoy living in that environment.

Still, there are much quieter villages with all the same charm. We drove a little way to Coln and ate lunch at the New Inn on their beautiful patio, enjoying the sunshine. There was a table nearby with a family of four, with two young boys. I gathered from my eavesdropping while Luke was ordering lunch that they had just walked from Bibery, which was apparently an hour walk. Lunch was delicious and we did some minor people watching since there was a wedding nearby with all the guests staying at the inn, all getting ready to leave for the ceremony while we were eating. It was perfect. And especially perfect that we finished eating and paid before a major storm rolled in.

We drove to Cirencester during the storm to get food for dinner from the shop. It's a bigger town nearby with a fantastic high street packed end to end with great little shops, cafes, and restaurants. We had some tea with warm, buttery croissants before ducking into various shops along the road. After we picked up ingredients for dinner, it was finally time to check in at our Airbnb, so we drove toward Hampnett, the village where we were staying that night.

When we pulled into our cottage, called The Old Schoolhouse, we were immediately met by half a dozen sheep grazing near the edge of the the sweeping grounds. No sooner was the car in park than I was out in the grass with our new neighbors, who were a bit wary of me, but hung around for a bit regardless.

Before I made it back to the house, I was greeted by a tabby cat sitting on the stone wall. (Professor McGonagall is that you?) He approached me without hesitation and we quickly took a liking to each other. I didn't want to abandon Luke while unloading the car, so I tried to walk away from my new friend, who we later named Stephen, after Stephen Colbert, but he followed me. When I noticed, I tried to pick him up because I love holding cats despite most of them protesting the whole time. He however, did not. I carried him back to the front door where we ran into Luke. I set Stephen down to go in and see the house and he patiently waited for us by the front door.

The cottage was perfect. It was charming. Every little detail was more perfect than the last. Even Luke said he couldn't believe it was still available on Airbnb without a ton of planning ahead. We made a pot of tea, played a few games of our favorite game Hanabi and got settled in.

After three games of Hanabi and as many cups of tea (each), we decided to have a slow walk around the tiny little village of Hampnett. The village is so small that it's really just a cluster of cottages with a church. There's a posting outside the church that lists all 27 people who are of voting age living in the village. On the list, we discovered that not a single house has a number and street name, but instead they all have their own unique names, our favorite of which was Hampnett Manor. We tried to be courteous to the private property, simply admiring the houses from the road. My words won't do them justice, but hopefully some photos might.

Near the end of our exploring, we found a public path that you might even mistake for someone's back garden. We followed it to a quiet pond and more greenery than I could have ever imagined. I mean, is this the shire?!

We found another meadow full of sheep behind the most gorgeous house in the village. (I didn't get any photos of the house because it was very carefully hidden behind bushes and trees.)

We took the long way home, walking atop the hill that overlooked the entire village. Our own garden didn't have an entrance in the back, so we had to walk around a few more cottages with the nicest cars parked in the driveway.

We decided to stop off at the tree swing before heading inside. It was a little saggy so our feet would brush along the ground if we weren't careful, but it was fun taking turns nonetheless.

Luke insisted on me not helping with dinner, so I was able to relax while he cooked up a delicious dinner of my favorite foods. After dinner, we played Scrabble and he absolutely annihilated me. It was pathetic.

As the sun started setting, we headed back out to watch the sky turn brilliant shades of pink and purple with the sheep. We were greeted by Stephen once again sitting along the stone wall like he was waiting for us. He came out to the meadow with us, sprinting after Luke to sit on the swing together. (As soon as Luke sat down, Stephen jumped on his lap.) When it was time to go back inside, he followed us back again, waiting outside the front door. Maybe he knew he wasn't supposed to come inside. 

I opened a window to take a picture of Stephen sitting on our porch and maybe "accidentally" left it open. Stephen took the liberty to let himself in and hung out with us for a little while before letting himself back out. Sadly, we didn't see him again in the morning, but it was fun while it lasted.

We watched Sisters, one of my favorite movies, ate clotted cream and strawberries on biscuits, drank more tea, and had a perfect cozy evening by the fire.

The morning of my birthday, Luke made me breakfast in bed as warm morning light poured in through the windows. We decided to head toward Oxford for the day, which turned out to be a little bit of bust. It took forever to find parking since none of their parking meters take the new pound coins. You can't walk around campus without paying to get into the individual colleges, so it wasn't really worth it. The streets were crowded for the weekend, but we were able to find a great little Italian place for lunch and enjoyed ice cream in the park during another day of sun. Perhaps I'll give Oxford another chance someday when it's not in the height of tourism and prospective students touring in droves.

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BBQ Nachos

BBQ Nachos

The Expat Diaries, Vol. 1

The Expat Diaries, Vol. 1