I’m not going to show you 4000 slides of what I did on my holidays, tempting though it obviously is. Instead let me give you a whistle stop tour of some of our highlights, and some of the less gripping things.
We love treasure hunting. We are forever in charity shops, flea markets, antique fairs etc, buying more junk, as my poor, beleaguered husband puts it. Our house is creaking with stuff. None of it is of any value whatsoever, frankly, which is what I think distresses Jason more than anything. If we had a house crammed full of Faberge eggs he would be more kindly disposed towards my hoarding. As it is, we mostly have four trillion dog eared books, out of date maps on the walls and shelves full of cracked and chipped pottery. Sadly for him, treasure hunting never loses its charm, and our ‘treasure’ remains stuff nobody else will touch with a ten foot pole.
On our holiday we spent several very pleasing hours at the Cheddar car boot sale, which takes place every Sunday, just outside of Cheddar. It costs the princely sum of £1 per car to get in. It has a proper market, a huge car boot and an inside bit with vintage/antique stuff. We had great fun. Tilly bought a rude drawing of a lady with no clothes on. I bought a doll with no face. Tallulah bought the world’s ugliest handbag. Oscar bought comics. We were all delighted. Jason was very patient.
We also trawled charity shops all week. I can recommend most highly, Whiteladies Road and Clifton in general (Bristol) for great chazzing. Also Southville in Bristol has some excellent shops. Despite a plethora of charity shops we found nothing in Weston Super Mare (unsurprising to most people I expect). Avoid Glastonbury charity shops in the main. Overpriced and rather dull. Winscombe has a couple of good ones. Cheddar has two that showed potential. I really should do a charity shop tour of the UK.
In terms of real, touristy things to do, we loved Tyntesfield, a huge National Trust property just outside Bristol. It’s a glorious building, restored by a previous owner to Arts and Crafts glory. We are members of the National Trust so I have no idea of admission prices, but I recommend membership if you can stretch to it. It’s great value, and they do amazing things with your money if you’re into history, conservation and ecology. The tea rooms are good, the flap jack is palatable and the house is great. There are 540 acres of grounds to explore and depending on when you go, all kinds of events. When we were there, some ladies were restoring the curtains and explained how painstaking it all is, without ever being boring about it. It was actually fascinating. There was an exhibition of some of the books from the library, including one of only two copies of Morte D’Arthur with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley, and a fantastic story telling company in the grounds outside, showing people what living through WWI as a soldier would have been like.
We were lucky enough to be in the area when the Bristol Balloon Fiesta was on and spent a glorious Sunday evening taking nine billion pictures of the hot air balloons rising. It was surreal and beautiful and well worth seeing. The event itself is like a three day fun fair, with rides as well as live music, vintage stalls, a huge food area with everything from traditional hot dogs to Lebanese takeaway and tons of things for kids to do. It was crazy busy when we went, and when the balloons were about to launch we walked up through the park onto the hills behind and watched them from there, where there were much less people. It was glorious, the city was spread out below us, the balloons shimmered up through the trees and it was perfect.
Beach wise, we loved the National Trust beach at Brean. We’re not really sand/sea/sun people, so we went at about nine o’clock at night in a drizzle, and spent a great deal of time shouting to the sheep on the headland, falling in rock pools and arsing about. We had the whole beach to ourselves and it was most pleasing. I found a yellow spade. Treasure trove. I’m not declaring it to the Queen. She can buy her own. We also went to Sand Bay at the far edge of Weston Supermare one evening. It was quiet and lovely and not at all commercial.
We did Stone Henge on one day. We have been before, but not since the new visitor centre was built. It’s all very swish, but I wish we’d have had the stamina to walk to the stones instead of taking the bus with twenty Germans on a guided tour. It did spoil the ambience rather. I have to say that I much prefer all the barrows and mounds that dot the landscape. The urge to take a metal detector and a spade and go and explore one is strong. I suspect it’s probably frowned upon. Which is sad, because there might be real treasure, and Jason would be so pleased.
We also did Glastonbury. Every time I go, I like it less. It’s basically Disneyland for hippies. Everything you can buy there, you can buy in every other city in the UK for about half the price and with more good will and cheer on the part of the shopkeepers. Also, fucking patchouli gives me a headache. Having said that, I nearly bought a taxidermied creature which looked like a cross between a bat, a small bear and a hot water bottle cover, and which was moulting terribly. We also had a top notch fry up in one of the cafes. I’ve been to see the Glastonbury Thorn before, it’s ok. I’m too lazy to walk to the Tor, and also don’t want to do it with four million other people. If you want spooky stones, I recommend Avebury. It’s mental. Also Silbury Hill.
We went to Wells Cathedral, which is splendid. I love a good bit of church architecture and Wells is fabulous. It’s also a rather pretty place to visit outside the cathedral. And it has a fabulous reclamation centre, as long as you realise that 95% of the things they sell are about as old as my children. It’s good fun to poke around though, and it’s absolutely huge. Glastonbury reclamation centre is much more the thing if you want real architectural salvage. I was tempted by a pulpit and six, huge wooden pillars. I may start my own cult.
Foodwise, I cannot remember the name of the Glastonbury cafe, but it was just down from the Hundred Monkeys cafe, and was lovely. We had a great lunch at The River Cottage Canteen on Whiteladies Road in Bristol. We had a superb Sunday lunch at The Swan at Wedmore. The food was delicious, the staff were brilliant and accommodated us at short notice, and I had the nicest gravy I’ve ever tasted, ever. We had wonderful Thali at The Thali Cafe in Southville, Bristol. We had terrific fish and chips on the sea front at Burnham on Sea. We had a fabulous lunch at The Bath Arms in Cheddar, which was fun because they had a skittle alley and we whiled away the time before our food was ready playing terrible skittles and even worse darts.
There were loads more things we wanted to do but didn’t, because we did spend quite a lot of time watching films, sleeping and reading books, so we will definitely have to go back one day and tick some more stuff off of our list.