Monday, January 31, 2011

Malmesbury and Tetbury

With a sunny forecast, we set out for a walk near Tetbury. The plan had been to poke our noses in a few of the antique shops it's famous for -- that, and the nearby estate belonging to HRH Prince Charles. Unfortunately, it seems that most of them are closed on Sundays, so we settled for wandering the grounds of the Church of St. Mary The Virgin, and saw the Market House and the Chipping Steps -- with a property for sale! If you can spare most of your limbs, no doubt -- before making our way back to the car.

Aside: I'd be remiss were I not to raise the subject of the decidedly un-cat-like black cat we met near the top of the famous Gumstool Hill. His cries for attention, while prodigious, didn't particularly distinguish him; rather, it was his ingenuity: when I crouched down to take a shot of a nearby hotel, I felt this sudden weight in my lap, followed by much, much closer meowing. I walked around with little muddy cat paws on my thighs for the rest of the day.

A quick flip through our walking book later, we were off to the neighbouring Malmesbury to walk the public and permissive footpaths that surround and divide it. First up, however, was a carvery, at the Smoking Dog, we decided. (Despite my aversion for those horrid "Dogs playing poker" paintings and whatnot, which Tea helpfully brought to mind, pointing at the pub's sign and smirking.)

As I went up to order our pints, my gaze fell upon the "Continental Guest Beer," Blue Moon. I couldn't help but laugh and comment on the sight from 'home', to which the bartender replied, "Oh, yes. It must be an acquired taste." That's one way of putting it, I thought. A final point on the bar: when I was up for another round, I noticed the gentleman who'd been sitting beside us chatting to the bartender. As I waited, I realized he was making good on a comment he'd made at the table about the ale being too cold, and how the management would probably like to know. The two of them were now lamenting how little you can do about the temperature of your cellar. It really is that important to them, folks, and I'm sure they'd be deeply offended by the "warm, flat beer" comments I've heard from the mouths of Canadian visitors. But, to each his own.

Our bellies full -- Tea ordered a burger, which surprised me, though she enjoyed it; pork loin for me -- we made our way past the old silk mills to the ridiculously muddy path. Tea immediately cursed her lack of foresight, as her wellies languished in the car. On we went in the lovely sunshine, slowly ascending through town to the impressive Malmesbury Abbey. The other pub we'd read about, The Whole Hog, wasn't far from the car park, so we decided that some refreshments might be in order.

The Whole Hog has a fantastic bar area out front, with large, well-maintained windows that look out on a square, and, according to our book, a market cross that's one of the best examples from its era in England. It was a great place to take a load off, particularly with a pint of Three Castle's Corn Dolly in my hand, and listening to guffaws, the likes of which I never would've called anything but campy British were I not there to witness the sincerity of their delivery. Good times!

We'd read about the Priory Inn in Tetbury earlier in the day, and in the spirit of perpetuating those good times, we decided to stop in, for supper, as it turned out.

I can't recommend this place enough. They have this fantastic "Thirty-mile food zone" that they do their best to follow, and promote local musicians -- we enjoyed an excellent performance by Juey that evening -- and artists -- we bought a lovely drawing of cows in Cardigan Bay by Carole Condé that we'd been ogling all evening; it really reminded us of our trip to Wales.

So, yes, good for the conscience, clearly, but very good for the soul too. Their wood oven pizzas are delicious -- we saw more than a few take-away orders that evening -- and the treacle and marmalade tart was out of this world!

As always, check out our Picasa album for more pictures from the day.

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