London: Revisited

En route from Loch Lomond to London, we decided to make one last stop along the way to further break up the drive. We stopped for just a day in the Peak District, figuring at best we’d have a day to maybe get in one last hike, and at worst, we’d end up with a rainy day to catch up on some photos, writing, and holiday shopping. Well, we finally ended up with the latter (probably about time we got one after such implausibly perfect weather this year). But, at least we were trapped indoors in this cozy little cottage – an old, stone cart house that had been impeccably renovated into a gorgeous living space. We were both admiring the huge central beam as soon as we entered, and sent a message to our host inquiring about the property’s history. Originally called Moorwood Hall, the farmstead shockingly dates back to 1416, when it was home to a family of local gentry (it even had its own coat of arms). Sadly, a fire in the 1600s burned most of the property to the ground, killing a number of family members. The surviving family moved on, ultimately abandoning the property. The small cart shed, as well as other buildings on the homestead, have since been rebuilt using all existing materials, including that gorgeous, original wood beam. The property has now been in our host’s family for three generations, and they’re working hard to maintain its historic integrity – including renovating one of the barns using wood reclaimed from 17th-century boats.

And even though the weather was particularly sucky, we did find a brief break in the rain to make our way to the Chestnut Center. The small facility on the western edge of Peak District National Park rescues and rehabilitates native species, such as otters, owls, and deer, and also participates in breeding programs for endangered species, such as the giant otter and Scottish wildcat. The center has been focused on wildlife welfare and conservation since its beginning in 1984, and has a lovely piece of land tucked into a wooded valley for the animals to enjoy.

After making our contribution to helping the local wildlife, enduring a bit of rain, and catching the ever so tiniest glimmer of green from the aurora the night before, we made finally it back to London with about 36 hours before our return flight to the U.S. It was hard to believe that, after just under a year on the road, it was time to pack up our bags one last time and head home. With a rush of emotions – anxiety, excitement, disappointment – we selected a few last stops for our final day in the city.

Having tried a few really tasty craft beers during our last visit to London, we thought we’d hit up one of the local breweries for a tasting. It seems a number of London’s microbrewery taprooms are only open on Saturday, which meant we were finally in town on the right day. We headed over to Fourpure Brewing Co., a small, fairly new brewery in a little warehouse quarter near Surrey Quays and Southwark Park. With more than a dozen beers on tap, you can create your own flight to enjoy. The tap room is kind of a bare-bones garage space, but it had a great atmosphere and some really good brews (even a couple of As, for you spreadsheet keepers). Of course, what’s beer without a good hunk of meat, right? For his last day on the road, Stephan decided to pair his beer with a bit of local fare he had yet to try – a salt beef sandwich and a Scotch egg (an egg encased in pork, rolled in breadcrumbs, and lightly fried) from the Broughton Market. I, as usual, just sat back and watched as he beamed with delight at yet more new, wonderful, culinary treats.

And since we hadn’t explored the London sidewalks at night, we ventured out for some nighttime photos. Now mid-December, the city is all aglow with the twinkling of festive Christmas lights, strung up and down the city streets as far as the eye can see. It’s really quite lovely, and definitely brings some nice, holiday cheer to the traffic-laden thoroughfares. After enjoying the Oxford Street Christmas lights, we headed toward the Thames to take in the view of Big Ben’s clock tower, illuminated over the river against the night sky. It was a great way to cap off the city, and the trip. While it’s been a truly inspiring and incredible year, and we’re more than a bit disappointed that it’s coming to a close, as soon as you see those Christmas lights twinkling and hear those carols ringing, you know it’s time to go home and spend the season with family and friends.

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