On our first night I wandered down the road to see what the local pub was like. I bought a beer and asked if I could have a look at the menu. The food looked great [more on that later]. Homemade pies, seafood and local game dishes and all of it for about 12 pounds a dish. It was then I looked in my pocket and realised after buying the beer I only had 10 pounds 43 pence to my name.
I had my beer and figured there was always tomorrow night, but tomorrow night turned into a week we'd all rather forget.
We'd come to Armscote village to stay in a cottage for a week, just six miles from the birth place of William Shakespeare. The cottage was great, the tiny village everything a Cotswold village should be. But Emily had brought a flu virus along for the ride.
Emily was the first to be hit. In Newquay she'd come down with a raking cough and a stream of stuff from her nose. By the time we landed in Stratford Jo had the palsy and was bedridden, Emily was ever so slowly getting better and it was just starting on James. I was managing to hold it off.... just.
Being sick in a foreign country is not fun, even when you speak the language. The drugs are different and you don't know a doctor and homesickness can set in just as quickly as a flu virus.
With everyone sick it gave me a bit of time to try to have a proper look at buying a caravan, something I'd been putting off. We've come to the conclusion that a caravan is better for us than a Campervan. With a campervan we’d have to pack up every day to go anywhere, even for bread and milk. The van will allow more freedom, and with an awning, more space.
I have to admit that I’ve been putting it off. My concern is towing the thing through Europe. Driving a RHD car on the "wrong" side of the road while towing a caravan is something I find more than a little daunting. I’m not scared of towing; I've towed lots of things over the years. I’ve towed boats, box trailers, cars, a 2 ton generator and once a gigantic advertising billboard along the Great Western Highway mixing it with the B-Doubles. None of that worried me, but a caravan in Europe does.
After just a couple of days I did find a van to buy that fits the bill. It’s a 4 berth with a big awning and by Australian standards quite cheap. We have managed to set ourselves up with a comfortable modern station wagon and a caravan for about $8500AUD. To try do get the same in Australia would set is back around 10-12 just for our car.
While I was sorting all of this out Jo was getting slowly sicker. So sick she got to the point of really needing to see a doctor. She couldn’t breathe properly and was starting to get anxious as she struggled for breath. The only place open on a Sunday morning was twenty minutes away at the Warwick hospital
After a quick inspection by the doctor the children were cleared of anything serious, but after listening to Jo's lungs the doctor sent her off for lung X-rays. Thankfully there was nothing there to be worried about and we were sent packing with a prescription for antibiotics and doctors orders for more bed rest.
All of this meant that despite being about 100 metres from the Fox and Goose Hotel there was no way we could get there for a meal.... so instead one sunny afternoon I did something most fathers only get to do once their child is 18. I took James for a beer.
The hotel is a very different proposition to an Australian country pub. The Bar area is quite small and cosy and across from the bar is the restaurant. At the back we discovered the gardens [not a "Beer Garden" but an actual garden] which had a jumping castle for the kids. Instant bliss; A sunny warm English afternoon, a beer in hand and a happy little boy jumping like his life depended on it.
It took a few more days before I got Jo to the hotel. By that stage she was getting much better so we all headed off to sit in the garden and to let the kids expend some energy on the castle. It was also a chance to soak up a bit more late afternoon sun. On that trip we decided that we would make it there for dinner the following night.
I write this just an hour or so after that meal..... A meal that shares first place for all the meals I've had on this trip so far.
Up to this point my favourite meal has been a dish in Hanoi simply called Vietnamese Noodles. That dish was much more subtle than a Chinese style or Thai style stir fry. They were just superb.... and now they have their equal, although very different dish.
Tonight I fed on an entree of Fried Goats Cheese Tartlet, followed by a homemade Lamb and Leek pie with New Potatoes. I can still taste it. I can still smell it. I can still feel it in my mouth. I want to go back and have more of the pie for dessert or maybe breakfast. I want to have Vietnamese Noodles for an Entree followed by Lamb and Leek Pie.... I want to put back on the stone and a half I've lost on this trip all in one go!
If you ever come to Stratford Upon Avon, Armscote is just 6 miles to the east. It's not even on some maps, but the Fox and Goose is worth seeking out. If you do come tell the publican that I sent you there.... he'll have no idea who I am, but if enough people tell him "Steve told me to come!" maybe if I present myself one day and tell him "I'm Steve", he might throw in a complimentary piece of that pie.