Wednesday, August 18, 2010
We woke up to rain again this morning, but as we already knew what we had planned we just went ahead with it. After breakfast, showers, and some laundry, we got in the bus and headed east. Er, we went outside where the owner was working with her horses. So we stopped and talked about the horses for a minute, petted the cat, learned everyone’s name… and then got in the bus.
Our destination was Cheddar, England. Google maps gave the travel time at 1 ½ hours, and in spite of all our misgivings, that was about right (as always). We arrived at 11:30, so our first priority was toilets and then lunch. The toilets were clearly visible from the main road, so after we got parked (in the “coaches” parking area, with the blessing of the attendant) we trotted down the hill into town. We settled on a little tea shop for our lunch, as it had signs out front describing today’s special as Cornish pasties (said with a short “a” sound) 2 for 3GBP to take away. I went in and ordered 8 of them, hot please. I took the bag and we all walked down a wide footpath to a bench under a tree, where we sat and ate. The pasties were quite good and filling. Our cheapest meal out so far!
Next, we wanted to visit the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Factory, where (for 4 GBP total) we were allowed to watch a man make cheese. There was a 25 minute video that showed all the steps to authentic cheddar, and a few antique implements on display. In all, there was less to the show than at the Chocolate factory in Yorkshire, and that was free. After that we exited into the shop for free samples (this area was open to the public). Unlike the Wensleydale cheese room, Cheddar’s samples were administered by an attendant, and while they did their best, it still took longer and I felt like we shouldn’t try every single one. I did buy a wedge of cave-ripened cheddar, and a jar of onion and ginger relish. That relish is something else! One bite and I didn’t want to eat for hours.
We walked around town until 5pm, checking out the candy-making shop, the fudge shop, the other toilets, an antique shop, and a couple of gift shops. I had hoped to be able to get a small cheese for each of my family members, but it is all (even the waxed or still-wrapped) marked “keep refrigerated” and I don’t want to risk food poisoning. We drove on up to the top of the gorge, where Bob took a few pictures, and we saw “mountain goats” and heard a peregrine falcon that RSPB was out looking for. We were almost out of gas, but the two places in Cheddar were 1.19 and 1.20GBP per litre, and Bob thought we could make it a little ways.
On the way back to the motorway we took a detour through the town (village?) of Axbridge (Hi, HoJo’s!). It is a pretty place, home of King John’s hunting lodge, but has no gas stations. I had planned to go back the way we came, but Bob took a “wrong” turn, and it’s a good thing he did, as there was a BP station just down the road. It was still 1.18per litre, so he just got a half tank. We followed that road to the M5, and then after 1 ½ miles we stopped at a services area (I keep trying to think of an American equivalent; I guess it is similar to a truck stop, with convenience store and toilets. Some are more like small malls, some just have a gas station, and some have several separate buildings, often including a hotel). We had supper at Burger King. I got the Cheddar bacon Angus burger, and it was SOOOO good! After supper we bought 2 Magnum Ecuador Dark ice cream bars, which we thought weren’t being made anymore (can’t find them anywhere in East Anglia), but are everywhere out here, and shared them around. Gas there was 1.22. HaHaHa.
Where the M4 crosses the Severn Estuary, from England to Wales, you have to pay a toll. No toll coming into England, just going into Wales. We got charged as a bus – 10.90GBP!! Oh well, what are you gonna do? The trip home was a bit longer than the one out, as the M4 was closed around Newport, so all traffic was diverted to an A road, with a half-dozen roundabouts and stop lights. Then when we got to our exit we both had a brain fart and forgot which way to turn. We took a trip around the roundabout, and decided we may as well check their gas prices. 1.16 per litre, so we stopped and filled up, and then back around to our road home.