You know that movie ‘The Holiday’ feat. Kate Winslett and Cameron Diaz in which they house-swap and Cameron’s character heads to the English countryside to a teeny tiny little secluded stone cottage for Christmas? That’s basically the atmosphere in which we spent our Christmas last year (minus the snow which we somehow avoided completely over winter). I actually researched that specific house from the film to see if we could spend our Christmas there, but it turns out it was a set… Nevertheless, to the Cotswolds we headed to attempt to recreate what I had imagined would be a British winter!
As our first UK Christmas and our first Christmas ever away from our families, we wanted to make it special and as Christmassey as possible, knowing we would be without the usual traditions that have awaited us every December 25th for as long as we can remember. We tried to start our own traditions and used the time to relax, cook, eat and explore parts of the UK that we hadn’t yet seen.
With Blake’s last day of work being Christmas eve, I spent the day picking up last-minute groceries, including our 2kg Christmas ham, and packing aforementioned groceries into a suitcase. Somehow for five days away we managed to completely fill up two suitcases and I could barely carry mine… a kind gentleman helped me down the stairs at the tube station and actually joked ‘what do you have in this thing? Bricks?!’ ‘Nope, a Christmas ham’. Brilliant.
We jumped on a train to Swindon to then pick up our hire car, and after a near disaster in which the car was running on a completely empty tank and we didn’t know where we were and it was late on Christmas Eve, we were saved by a petrol station, filled the tank and headed on the road. Two hours and lots of Christmas Carols later we arrived at our adorable little cottage, unpacked and Skyped all my family in Australia (as it was Christmas morning there!). Stockings were set up by the fire and a glass of wine was consumed before heading to bed.
Then, fa la la la la, Christmas Day!
Christmas Jumpers to prove it 😉 PS how good is that view to wake up to?! I had to pinch myself every morning.
We awoke late, had avocado on toast and Skyped Blake’s family to greet them all and wish them a happy Christmas. Thank goodness for technology I tell you. I was privy for a few glorious minutes to the annual Christmas celebration at a family-friends house via Skype, watching them sing and play live music in their living room. We opened our presents, started a fire, listened to music, ate a delicious cheese board for lunch and prepped the Christmas dinner.
Blake who likes to outdo himself on a regular basis in the kitchen, made a roasted quail with pine nuts as an entrée, and baked our Christmas ham with a whisky glaze. I was supposed to make gingerbread for dessert but didn’t so we ate lots of chocolate instead. Of course being only two people we had completely overcatered and were eating ham for the rest of the trip, but it was delicious.
On Boxing Day after recovering from a few too many glasses of wine, we discovered a bizarre/amazing combo British tradition in the form of a Fox and Hound hunt. Yep, just like every stereotype ever. We drove to a town called Cirencester and wandered into a park, following a crowd and not really knowing where we were going. We were greeted with this!
NB They don’t use a real fox, but rather a trail that the dogs follow. Still, it was cool seeing the hounds all head off, the dudes with the jodhpurs and fancy blazers riding their horses and playing bugles, there were a lot of real country folk and it was a lovely way to start the day. Note to self, buy Hunter wellingtons if attending future fox/hound hunts in the English countryside as we were very much the odd ones out without them.
We then discovered a nearby Roman wall, still partially intact, sitting just behind a row of houses. Just casually the backyard for a bunch of families. A wall. From the Romans. From who knows how long ago. Amazing! That was definitely a ‘Europe is cool’ moment.
As expected, the Cotswolds is a stunning area. It was probably the most beautiful landscape I think I have ever seen, even in slightly gloomy weather at times. This is a typical road to drive along in the area…
We spent the following day cruising around and choosing towns in the area that had adorable names to visit. Or not so adorable in the case of Slaughter and Upper Slaughter (which ended up being such sweet little towns… with tiny little doors in all the houses, reminiscent of a time when humans seemed to be much shorter!). The houses are ridiculous. Gorgeous old stone, often covered with vines, all you want to do is wear a frilly apron and listen to old Italian opera whilst cooking in the kitchen, occasionally going outside to feed the ducks/pigs/chickens. Maybe that’s just me… but that’s definitely what I wanted to do.
My favourite town that we stumbled upon was Bourton-On-The-Water… the most idyllic little town with a high street complete with stone bridges, a river running through the centre and a huge model village display down to scale, that included a model of the model village within the model… Adorable!
It was really nice to wander through the town, coffees in tow, with the haze of Boxing Day permeating the air.
We did a lot more driving around, taking turns choosing songs to accompany our journey and selecting towns to stop at just because. I can’t recommend the Cotswolds enough for anyone who likes a good mixture of food, history and natural beauty. And it accompanied our first UK Christmas perfectly!