And finally, to prove to Dave I'm not dead...
We left home on Friday in persistent drizzle and it took about six hours to get to Oxfordshire. I've not been through the Cotswolds before, it's very pretty countryside and has some gorgous villages. The hotel was an old coaching inn, reputedly haunted by the ghost of a highwayman - his image was everywhere, looking backwards from his horse - so you would for example open the menu and be confronted with a large horse's arse. Nice.
The room was quite comfortable, albeit with a manky old blanket and mysterious stains on the bedspread - judging by the damp patch on the ceiling, they'd had a little accident at some point.
We descended to the bar for a pre-dinner drink - over £6 for two pints. Yeeouch. Still, managed to nab a couple of armchairs in the corner with the bookcase which was full of old editions of things like Keats, and My Family And Other Animals, and so on - the volume that caught my eye (no idea why) was King Solomon's Ring. Upon examination this turned out to be some kind of naturalist's treatise, but the chapter headings made me laugh - they included Pitying Animals and Laughing At Animals. Eh?
Dinner was served by a pretty French waitress and the tallest, thinnest waiter I've ever seen. Who tried to serve us someone else's soup, much to their indignation!
To start with we had pigeon salad with bacon lardons, pine nuts and raspberry jus (which met with my approval in the definition of the word salad stakes, in that it was minimal salad and lots of bits of meat). Never had pigeon before, but it was rather nice, quite dark, bit like venison. Also, overcooked, but hey ho.
For the main course, C. had rump steak with pink peppercorn sauce (which was brown - doesn't that rather defeat the object of using pink peppercorns?) and I had salmon on wilted spinach with langoustine sauce, which was rather violent orange and quite rich - we both agreed our courses were improved for scraping off the majority of the sauce heh. Also, could have done without the standard issue 'lump of cauliflower, pile of radioactive carrots and a few beans' on the side. But still, nice enough.
The raspberry mousse I had for dessert didn't really taste of anything though, on a sad and soggy sponge base. C. had strawberries and cream in a brandy snap basket, which seemed okay, and we had coffees and a very nice bottle of wine (actually in a big silver ice bucket on a stand, which I was possibly over excited about.)
Saturday was the day of the track thing. We started out with the breakfast buffet, where you can basically have whatever you want from huge trays of sausages and bacon and eggs and all sorts, or cereals, or fruit, or even danish pastries. I'd quite like a day in that room, actually...Oh, and the second tallest, thinnest waiter I've ever seen. I think they must be breeding them specially. This one looked like Egon from the Ghostbusters, and I kept expecting him to burst out of the kitchen with a powerpack on his back and Slimer wrapped round his head...
We eventually found the right airfield entrance, after bothering a big American security guard at the wrong one - please don't shoot us sir - and the airfield was ace, full of miles of creepy old deserted hangars. Just begging for an episode of the Avengers. The U Drive track day people were all together, so there were people waiting not only to drive the Caterham and Lotus that C. was booked in for, but also two red Ferraris, silver and yellow Porsches, and Subaru and Mitsubishi rally cars. The Lotus was the prettiest, but boy did the Ferrari make the best noise. If ever there was a noise that could be described as knicker-elastic-snapping, that would be it.
It was misty and cold and windy, but not actually raining which was good. C. went in the Lotus first and then the Caterham, for which he had to take off one of his shoes because the pedals are so close together! He was ranked 83% and 88% respectively, and did not stall (unlike one guy in the Porsche) or drive over the cones (like one guy in the Ferrarri) although he did get lost in the Lotus and get an extra lap out of it...
Afterwards we made our chilly way to Woodstock, and had a steak sandwich in the Marlborough Arms, having managed to bag the leather sofa in front of the log fire. Ahh....We had a walk round afterwards, it's an intensely pretty town full of shops selling shiny things at the price of small council houses. We were going to go into the grounds of Blenhiem Palace, but it was £7.50 for the privelege, so we decided bugger that and went instead to see the Rollrights Stone Circle which was amazing - such weird stones, all pitted and knarled. The sun was setting in a wintry sky (it was only about 3pm at this point!) and it was very peacful, we had the circle to ourselves, despite there having been other people milling about in the layby. We walked around the edge of the field to see the Whispering Knights, and then back over the road to see the King's Stone - very odd shape, gives the impression it's spinning, everything's at an odd angle.
Stopped off in Chipping Norton for a hot chocolate pitstop, then back to the hotel briefly before going in search of dinner. The original intention was to see if we could eat in the place we'd originially been booked ion to stay, as the menu had sounded good, but we couldn't find it in the dark, so follwing my beer radar, we ended up at the Crown and Tuns in Deddington, which is a pub that specialised in pies! It had a log fire, and decent beer (Old Hooky) and I had beef and ale pie. And chips. Mission successful.
Sunday - more breakfast buffet joy (and Egon) and then the trip back, mostly in the pouring rain - although Oxfordshire saw us out in style by snowing on us!!
Oh, and we parked next to an Aston Vantage in Exeter services...