We began our day with a visit to the Visitor Information Centre in Cheltenham Spa (as is the full name of the town). We collected various brochures on local attractions, bought the local tourist guide for £1 and a tourist drives guide for £2.50! How is that Kelli and Lisa! Three on duty and not one asked if we wanted any information, not one said hello or welcome. Interesting visit.
The Visitor Information Centre is in the same building as the Municipal Council and outside in the Promenade there is a park with a number of military memorials. The WW1 Memorial has a total of 1,225 names inscribed in memory of those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice. How sad.
This is a town of considerable wealth with lots of cars being top end of the market - Lexus, Audi, Porsche etc. And plenty of ritzy people kissing the air when they greet each other.
Cheltenham is a beautiful small city - nicely laid out in the City Centre, clean and tidy. There is a great variety of shopping available and a good choice of eateries, bistros and pubs - some very traditional with names like The Hogs Head, The Exmouth Arms and The Slug and Lettuce and others more contemporary.
Next week one of the country's largest show races - the Cheltenham Gold Cup - is held. The event is surrounded by a week long festival called . . . The Cheltenham Festival! And at the moment, everyone is gearing up and shop displays are all themed around the race.
So, information in hand, we head out in the car to do some off the main road exploring. We head toward Stroud and then once out of the town area of Cheltenham, start to take the small side roads. We explored hamlets like Frampton Mansell, Chalford, Burford, Brimpsfield and Coates where we go into St Matthews Church after seeing it from miles away. This church was built in 50 years from 1316 and you can still see many of the gravestones set into the church flagstone flooring. The oldest one we could read was 1608 but we could not get it clearly on photos. The church is still being used and in the graveyard surrounding the church there was a burial as recently as 8 months ago.
The Cotswolds are such a beautiful part of the country. So picturesque. So, well, English!
After a while we end up at Cirencester. What a gem. It is so hard to describe this town, but we didn't get any photos here because just as we were about to have a very ordinary devonshire tea, Michael realised that he had left his Akubra in the church. So back we go to retrieve it. We will come back to Cirencester in the next couple of days as there is a Roman Villa nearby and a museum with early Celtic relics.
Michael is fascinated by the back roads and we travel down quite a few where the warning sign 'Single Track Road ahead' belies the truth of a road of up to 5 miles where the single track is barely wide enough or formed enough for one vehicle. Luckily we meet very few oncoming cars and we all just chill - one of us would reverse back until we could pull over enough to allow the other to pass. Many photos later ...
And a beautiful sunset to end our drive!
Tonight we are going to the local playhouse - the Everyman Theatre to see a show - For King and Country. We will have dinner at a local restaurant that we saw this morning and which is offering 20% off main courses for theatre goers. Let you know tomorrow what it is like. I have had to get the thermals out again as it is freezing and the overnight low is predicted to get to a miserable -3.0°C - brrrr. A good night for bed and a cuddle ;).