Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Less Than an Hour by Train

Dateline: Buckinghamshire, 2/7/08

"Less than an hour by train" is a phrase that Leonard Bernstein used to describe American suburbs in his 1950's opera Trouble in Tahiti. Travel less than an hour by train from London, and you're not in the suburbs, you're in the beautiful English countryside, in Buckinghamshire (abbreviated Bucks), a county north of London. We traveled here to spend the day with Jeffrey's old friends Richard and Judy, who live in the picturesque town of Stony Stratford.

Richard met our train in Milton Keynes, the largest city in Bucks, which from what we saw consists mostly of office buildings and shopping malls. We quickly drove out of Milton Keynes to the small town of Winslow, which had a farmer's market that day. We had lunch at a small sandwich shop that served delicious and unusual fillings, such as bacon and Stilton, on baguette.

After lunch we visited the village of Nether Winchendon, which according to Jeffrey's research is one of the most charming villages in Bucks. The village has no stores or restaurants, only houses and a church dating from the early 13th century. Richard pointed out the old mailbox; "V R" means that the mailbox was made during the reign of Queen Victoria. (Newer mailboxes say "E II R", which stands for the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.)

Our next stop was Claydon House, the ancestral home of the Verney family. The estate now belongs to the National Trust, although members of the family still live in one of the wings. The Verneys were associated with the English civil war in the 17th century, and also with Florence Nightingale, whose sister married a Verney, and who was a frequent visitor to Claydon.

We ended the day in Stony Stratford, where Richard and Judy's house is about a block from the main street. The town was beautifully decked out with flowers, part of an effort led by Judy to enter the town in a beautiful village competition. Stony Stratford is the place where the phrase "cock and bull story" originated, referring to two rival pubs. The town has no less than 6 Indian restaurants, and we ate at the one considered the best, Kardamom Lounge. That night the restaurant had its "gourmet special", where for 10 pounds each person could choose a starter, main dish, bread, side dish, rice, and dessert. The amount of food on the table was astounding, and even more astounding, the 7 of us managed to eat most of it. When we left the restaurant at around 10, there was still some daylight left, although it was completely dark by the time we got to the train station for the trip back to London.


Anonymous said...

This is Jeffrey, Fae's cousin, often referred to in these blog entries. From the outset I've tried to enter comments, but for some reason found myself blocked from doing so. But today it's seems to be working, so here I am adding my sense of the pleasure we had together in our London trip.

Melody said...

Don't you just love British place names? Nether Winchendon, Stony Stratford. How about Chipping Campden and Stow on the Wold?

Anonymous said...

And, Melody, have you ever gotten caught by the chancy pronunciation of some of these British place names? Beaulieu (= Byoo-Lee), Cirencester, etc. (not to mention the famous ones, like Leicester).

-Jeffrey (sorry I keep appearing as Anonymous. I can't figure out any other way)

Vivian said...

In one of Bill Bryson's books, I believe it's Notes from a Small Island, he talked extensively about the names of British places. Even more interesting if you listen to the audio book which is read by the author, a very cross-cultural person, accent included.