A weekend in the country
My little housemate, Rosie, and I decided we needed to get out of London. As much as I love London (more on this soon), it was high time we took a little wander south into the country. The word, “country” here was key. Before we made any bookings, I made it clear that I had but one request – to the country we must go!
And so we went tooooooooooooooooooooo…………………………………………………. (play below clip please)
Yes, Rosie assured me that this was indeed the country. And perhaps to a born and bred Londoner, it is. But once there, I shared more of my expectations of the English countryside. No traffic (or even better no cars), low numbers of people, crisp English air, limited retail entertainment, dogs on the street and in pubs and an abundance of leaves.
Granted, Guildford checks off a few of these things, but not all of them. While the atmosphere was much more relaxed than in London and it certainly felt like the country in comparison to London; it just wasn’t the quiet, picturesque English country of my imagination.
We stayed in a bed and breakfast in Guildford on the Friday night of that weekend. That was a rather exciting experience, especially for Rosie, who had never been to a B&B before – as I said, born and bred Londoner. My parents, who are exceptionally huge fans of B&Bs have had a very difficult time coming to terms with the fact that when they visit their kids in London, they will not be able to stay in a B&B.
The next morning at breakfast, a couple there suggested a few places to visit. One of these places was called Shere. They were quick to tell us that this was the home of the movie, The Holiday. In fact, it was also featured in other such chick flicks as Bridget Jones Diary: The Edge of Reason (very briefly) and The Wedding Date. Wikipedia it, it’s true.
In the morning of that day, we went for a walk/run. I’m not quite sure what to call the place we stumbled on during our walk/run. A park? No, not really. A farm? There was a farm within but we stuck more to the fields surrounding it. Nevertheless, it was at least a taste of the country and it was very peaceful. After breakfast, we returned to the same spot and spent some quiet time there, horses keeping us company.
Later that day, we decided to visit the little village of Shere. Picturing scenes from The Holiday (in fact it was this very movie that I cited as an example when explaining what my ideal destination would look like), my excitement levels grew and grew as our taxi drew closer to the village. I’ve probably already mentioned that I’m naturally a cheapskate, so I don’t usually take taxis. However, it was either that or wait three hours for the only bus between Guildford and Shere (another sign that we were approaching the countryside!).
Once we arrived in Shere, I gave the village my private stamp of approval – at last, we were in true English countryside! The village of Shere seemed to comprise one main street, reaching up to a forest, in which direction a number of cyclists were heading. A shop selling cycling and hiking gear was located at the top of the street too and it was obvious that this was a popular area for outside activities.
Crisp air – check (but with sun!). Abundance of leaves – check. No traffic – check. Cars – quite a few but nearly all parked. Limited retail entertainment – check (Entertainment consisted of a few quaint touristy shops, a flower shop and antique shops). Low numbers of people – check. Dogs in the street and in pubs – check. There was even a little stream with ducks and birds. My imagination and reality met and, although this doesn’t happen often, it’s truly glorious when it does
We didn’t have a difficult time choosing our pub of choice since there were only two. We soon settled at a table in the sun at the White Horse and just as quickly began to feast on English favourites.
I left Shere feeling satisfied that I had indeed visited the English country that weekend. I was more than a bit sad having to head back to crazy, busy London after that. However, the weekend taught me that there are beautiful, quiet, relaxing spots within an hour of London and certainly I have many, many more to explore.