It's Christmas! Today has been a fairly lazy day, and I'm loving it. We woke up late and had breakfast just after 9:00 downstairs. Karen had a full English and seemed to enjoy it, and I had tomato (skinned, halved and grilled face down), grilled mushrooms, scrambled eggs and toast. It was pretty good. The jams that went with the toast were wonderful. We ate with a couple, she British and he French. It was pretty amusing, they own an apartment nearby but their family was all staying there, so they are staying here for some more privacy and quiet. The were retired and spend much of their time in Northwest France, but also visit with their children in Malta and Milan frequently. They seemed really nice.
We drove into Stratford to join a walking tour of the town today, it was supposed to be an hour and a half long, but walking from the car along the river and snapping photographs for 15 minutes chilled us enough to make us change our minds on doing the walk. It is really quite cold here, it was about -5 to -10 all day long. It was -7 at 4:00 in the afternoon.
After getting back to the car and warming up, we decided to return to the farm and warm up. Took about 15 minutes of reading before I zonked out, and Karen shortly after. We could only snooze for a little bit as we had lunch plans, so we got up and returned to town, parking almost exactly were we had earlier. The Dirty Duck (www.dirtyduck-pub-stratford-upon-avon.co.uk) was our destination for dinner. Christmas Dinner appears to be a very, very big deal in the UK, and the Dirty Duck seems to be a popular choice in Stratford. The place was fairly busy but we were seated right away even though we were a little early. Sam, the manager, came out to greet us, and I got the impression that we were the only Americans in today, even though John, the farm owner, seemed to think it was very popular with American tourists. Over the next two hours and 45 minutes, we ate and drank until we were STUFFED and Karen was drunk. We started off with some Canapes, I had brie and jam on crackers and Karen had some smoked salmon wrap things, and they brought us a bottle of champagne. This was followed by our starters, Karen had a parsnip soup with wonderful bread, it also smelled great and she liked it tremendously. I had a roasted red onion tarte. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was great. It was sort of a pot pie with a flaky crust and a gravy with onions in side, roasted tomatoes on top, and a salad under it. It was very yummy. A little later, we were brought our main course; Karen selected the roast duck breast, and I had a mushroom and nut loaf. Karen had never had duck before and said that it was pretty good, but similar to dry turkey. My nut loaf was good, but filled me up quickly and tasted a lot like stuffing, which I'm not a big fan of. We each had roasted potatoes, parsnips, carrots and brussel sprouts as well. The potatoes were pretty tasty, as were the parsnips, but I'm picky about brussel sprouts and found them far too overcooked for my taste, and the carrots were sort of bland. The meal reminded me an awful lot of thanksgiving food, which I could care less about. It was good for what it was though, and the staff and atmosphere were great.
For dessert, I had a traditional Christmas Pudding, it's sort of a dark cake made with dried fruits, very sticky, and served with a hot cream sauce on it. It was REALLY good. I get the impression that many of them now have a soft liquid center, but mine was two squares, sort of like brownies, but not chocolaty and it was great. Karen had champagne and raspberry Pavlova. I don't know what pavlova is, but her dessert was awesome. It was a creamy based with a crisp flaky cookie on top, stuffed with raspberries and garnished with mint. I had a taste and loved it. We both felt like the other had ordered the desert that we normally would have (I tend to be a fruit desert person, and her more heavy chocolates and such) but we were happy with our choice. A while after we finished desert, a plate of crackers, cheeses, and grapes was brought out. The cheeses were not my favorite, but I did eat more of the "aged-cheddar" than I might normally and thought it was okay. It was about this time that Karen finished the bottle of champagne and it was beginning to show. She found herself extremely amusing through most of the desert course and then the rest of the time we were there she was cracking herself up. It was pretty funny. we had been in the restaurant for about 2 and half hours and had only paid for 2 hour parking, even though I'm not sure that I had needed to (I saw someone else do it) so I thought we should leave. We settled the bill (ouch) and then headed out. Karen almost tackled me on the way to the car, just because, and then we made our way to the house. John, the owner, popped out and talked with us briefly, it sounded like they had a nice meal and the house smelled wonderful. We made our way upstairs where Karen promptly crashed and I read for a bit before typing this blog entry up.
I think we may try to find a movie theatre in a little bit, or maybe just stay in the rest of the day! (We stayed in and chilled out)
More pictures from today: