Thursday, 25 March 2010

A Day Out In The Countryside

Our return to England was met with concrete colored skies. It was cold, wet and windy. A typical English day of late. Not one we have been used to over the last 10 months. But something we have to get used to now.
We had hired a car at Heathrow, mainly as we had a tonne of luggage to get to Basingstoke, and we also had a day or two to chill before an interview was to be had outside of Oxford. Much more fun to go by car than train. Plus we could sneak a day out in the countryside in the mean time.
As Hampshire is one of the most beautiful counties in England. No bias from me, as a Hampshire Hog I love the countryside there. Just driving down country lanes evokes feelings of Watership Down. Heaven.
Also Hampshire is close to a good few Prehistoric sites, which are mainly in Wiltshire, like Stonehenge, Avebury and many a White Horse. So as Basingstoke, or Boring Joke as I once heard someone call it. It fits. We decided to do a bit of touring.

First off was to visit the White Horse at Uffington. It was carved into the hillside around 4500 BC. An impressive task as it is really best viewed from the air. Kinda makes you wonder if our ancestors were not giants, like the old Nasca folk.
A nice drive to Avebury was next, but first it was time for lunch. I had searched the Internet for good places to eat in Wiltshire. A fair few places popped up, but something about The Bell in Ramsbury grabbed my attention. So after a browse of the site and read some reviews. Lunch was sorted.

It’s a nice plush country pub. It has a small bar are with a larger restaurant area. We wandered through the pub looking for an empty table. None in the bar, but loads in the restaurant. Only two tables were taken, and they were filled with some old aged pensioners. Not much of an atmosphere. So we wandered back into the bar to find a space and some atmosphere.
We, having lived in London for over 7 years now and I’ve been travelling for nearly half my life now am willing to share a table with other folk. It’s the norm. So we approached a couple of guys who were sitting at a large table, so we asked if we could sit at the other end. They moved but didn’t look liked they enjoyed the idea. It seemed we had committed a faux pas in the countryside. Obviously people here do not share tables, as the owner rushed over to us and ushered us into the Laura Ashley styled restaurant. We felt shamed, and gave no resistance.
The menu was nicely put together. Lots of good hearty English country dishes. Which on a cold windy day was perfect.
One thing I had missed about England was proper beer. Colombia has three mainstream lagers. All taste the same. I.e. nothing. They are however making a few other different artesian beers, but they are kinda hard to get hold of and a little expensive. But worth drinking when I had the chance.
Luckily the pub had a good choice of beers from small, locally brewers, and one from Ramsbury. So a pint of Ramsbury Gold was ordered. The driver unfortunately couldn’t drink, so Lina had a juice. I’ve never wanted to learn to drive, and now I do not see the point.

I was tempted to have a starter but as we were eating at my sisters that night, it was best to miss starters and puddings. It was a wise decision, as when we left her house I was on the point of bursting. I need to join a gym just to get rid of that night.
I opted for the pork chop, mash and black pudding. Lina had yet another dish of fish and chips. I think this was her third since we had been back. I’m sure though it will be her last for a while. There are just so many fish and chips you can eat in a week.
My instincts about picking this place were again champion. The food that came was the best we had eaten since leaving New York.
The pork chop was a hearty beast and cooked nicely and lots of yummy fat still attached. But it was the small tower of black pudding, shredded and cooked red cabbage and mash that was the star of the show. 3 layers of different flavours, textures that contrasted and complimented each other. Excellent. The slightly squeaky bobby beans were the let down. It’s that squeak that puts me off. But it was just a quiet squeak. But as my sister says, a squeak is a squeak.
Linas fish and chips were probably the best we had ever eaten. The chips were perfectly cooked. Great texture and flavour. Not greasy at all. Heaven. The batter on the cod was crisp and had a fantastic taste. The cod inside was moist and flaky. Wow. It will be a challenge to find a plate of one of our (in my opinion) national dishes. But it is a challenge that I now am going to undertake. But it will be done slowly. Too much of a good thing can put you off something, sometimes. Hope not.
All in all it was a great lunchtime meal. Shame we had to spend it in the restaurant, and not the bar area. But all in all pretty good.
After lunch we drove to Avebury, to see the other not quite as famous, but still just as important stone circles. I’ve seen and been to Stonehenge countless times, but never to Avebury. Apart from having to pay to park in a pub car park (which is the only pub situated inside stone circles in the world), it’s a nice day out.
The circles and the surrounding area are very impressive. They are a lot smaller than their more popular neighbour, but these have more atmosphere. It was cool to walk around and being able to touch these stones. Try doing that at Stonehenge now. A prison sentence awaits.
I think these days out, now we are living in London will be happening more and more. It’s cheaper to hire a car than to go by train. It’s about time I got to know my country a little bit more.
We drove through Marlborough and Hungerford, both looked fantastic small market towns in rural England. One day we will move out of London and live n the countryside. One day.

No comments: