We awoke surrounded by the solid stone walls of a 17th century farmhouse. We listened to the melodious Welsh blackcaps outside our window, then proceeded to get up and head downstairs. Dan and Lena, our hosts in this rather isolated region of Wolf’s Castle on the western tip of Wales, had taken their ancient farmhouse and adapted it to the needs of their family of seven children.
Breakfast was hearty porridge with fruit and golden syrup, fried eggs, and homemade biscuits topped off with generous helpings of tea with milk. Two of the their many grandchildren played around (and under) the table as we ate.
This place is full of God stories. Dave and Lesley have created a place not only to raise a family, but also to give their children a global consciousness. Each child has learned languages, traveled to various parts of the globe and then returned, bringing various friends along to experience the rustic serenity of this place.
“We’re always getting the random phone call from a friend of a child’s friend who just heard about us and want to come to stay,” said Lena. “You never know who will come to breakfast.”
After 2 ½ hours of driving, we arrived in the rather industrial town of Bristol, England. Neat brick houses lined the streets of the residential area as we followed the directions of the rental car’s GPS to find the house.
Lena’s younger sister June and her husband Ivan greeted us at the door. Their home was quite posh compared to the ancient walls of the farmhouse. Brand new construction with shining kitchen appliances and a beautiful tiny backyard garden exuded efficiency and modernity.
We ate lunch in the back yard full of “useful” plants, including fig, blackberry, olive, bean, kumquat, lettuce and strawberry. Bird feeders brought the local Blue Tits and Siskins to sing to us.
“My husband loves useful plants, things we can eat,” said June, “and I love the birds.”
We watched her tortoise Jimmy munching on a leaf of lettuce as we likewise chewed on quinoa salad, tuna, vegetables, and a delicious blueberry cinnamon cake. The discussion ranged from life in Bristol to American politics to English aristocratic weddings and how a lower ranking earl lives his life in the modern world.
After another two-hour drive, we found ourselves in the center of education and culture: Oxford. Our daughter Erika had been studying here with a Stanford program for the spring quarter. She was working with a tutor to study the life and writings of C.S. Lewis.
We met at the Eagle and Child pub, the establishment where Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and several others had regularly met in a literary group called the Inklings. It was wild to stand in the place where minds that had influenced mine so strongly had worked.
We ordered the food at the front, and then the waitress brought it to our table. I had lentil cottage pie, Luke had macaroni with bacon, and Caroline and Erika had chicken salad.
Erika was excited to tell us about the church retreat to the Lake District from which she had just returned. The small fellowship of 30-50 people had been a wonderful addition to her life of isolated erudition, and she spoke with fondness of the friendships she had made.
“I’m going to miss these people, and I’d love to come back here to do a master’s degree sometime,” she said.
About this time, our jet-lagged eyes began to droop and Erika sent us home to our Airbnb with the promise of lots of adventure on the 'morrow.
Three meals, three places, three fond meetings and partings. One day of travel.
Connecting with people along the way as we travel proves the very best way to experience a culture. Can you share a similar fond memory?
Get your free guide:
Please make sure to check your "Promotions" tab. Sometimes we get stuck there.
No spam, ever. Opt out at any time via the unsubscribe link in the footer of every email.