We spent the first week staying with our cousins, Ron and Penny, in their country home in the town of Hereford, in the south of England. Former headmasters (read: School principals), they were extremely gracious hosts, and went out of their way to make us feel welcomed and comfortable.
Hereford itself is a quintessentially English town with a river running through it (the River Wye), an old city center with some unique architecture, and an historic cathedral, the Hereford Cathedral, dominating the main square.
Q: “What’s the difference between the US and the UK?”
A: “In the US, 100 years is a long time. In the UK, 100 miles is a long way.”
So says my cousin Amanda, who lived in Colorado Springs for a while. I have to agree with her. 100 miles, on English roads, with “roundabouts” seemingly every 1/2 mile or so, seems a long way. And Stonehenge is about 100 miles from Hereford. But, we needed a “shake down” cruise, to get used to driving on the left, prior to striking off for the midlands and Wales, so we borrowed our generous cousin’s car and took off.
We discovered that it takes at least 3 Americans to drive properly in the US. One to actually drive, and concentrate on shifting with the right hand and looking to the right for the rear view mirror. Someone else, to sit in the back seat, head down with the map and GPS to attempt figure out where you *should* be going, and a third passenger to sit in the front seat, and point out the exit from the roundabout the driver should have taken, if only they had seen it in time, and keep saying over and over, like some traveler’s mantra to keep you safe, “On your left, on your left, on your LEFT!”
We made it, none the worse for the wear. Wish I could say the same for my cousin’s car. Unfortunately, we lost a hubcap, straying just a little too close to the side of the road and hitting something (a rock? a curb? an old lady? a small child? we never did figure it out) at a high enough rate of speed to lose the hubcap. So sorry, Ron.
After returning to Hereford, and enjoying several lovely cups of tea in Ron & Penny’s 3 season room, to calm our shaking nerves, while looking out over the rainy garden (this *is* England, after all), we ventured forth once again, this time to the picturesquely named “Devil’s Spittleful” nature reserve. Ron drove.
Once a year, a field there erupts in a display of poppies that needs to be seen to be believed. The devil certainly did spit a lot, that day. Our timing was perfect – the poppies were in full bloom, and the sun was even shining.
From Hereford, we roamed north, to the place where I was born, and my sisters had spent much of their childhood – Long Eaton