Sep. 2nd, 2012

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I have returned.  Our holiday was excellent, though at times it seriously felt as if The Powers That Be really can't be bothered to promote tourism in England.  Over the last few years, the little tourist information centres that proliferated in the market towns and which were a Godsend for vistors have all been closed, and if it hadn't been for a bit of detective work and dedication on our part, we wouldn't even have picked this destination.

What's even more depressing was the number of people who said to us, "Oh, so you're on holiday in Wantage.  You must be visiting family then."  And when we responded with 'well, no, we're here to SEE the place,' they'd just blink and go, 'Oh! That's interesting. What on earth made you come here?'


Here's a photo.  Sadly, I haven't done the market place in Wantage much justice because it was raining a lot of the time, and on the days when the sun came out, it was full of random people who cluttered up the views as if they owned the place (which they probably did!!).  I'm sorry about the lack of images, because the place, though filled with modern 19th century shopfronts, was very picturesque:-

Anyway, here, listed below, are my Reasons for Picking Wantage as a Holiday Destination (not arranged in any particular order...):-

1) It has connections with King Alfred.

2) It has connections with John Betjemen.

3) It's within easy travelling distance of the Vale of the White Horse. 

4) There's loads of brilliant (and not too strenuous!) walking in and around the town.

5) They have a second hand bookshop that is seriously TO DIE FOR!!  It's not just colossal, it's completely labyrinthine (literally) with a history/archaeology section that's mind-boggingly vast.  The variety is combined with really modest prices. I bought about eighteen books for fifty quid, for heaven's sake, and we're talking big academic tomes here, not pamphlets!

6) A plentiful supply of red kites.  We walked two consecutive days, and spotted kites on both days.  Which was an unexpected bonus...

7) Plenty of hostelries which serve good food and decent beer. Plus a delicatessan called Umami's where the staff are lovely, the food is delicious and there's space to chill out with some tasty grub.

8) Lastly, there is The Shoulder of Mutton.  We were recommended this place as a good option for veggie dining.  We were nonplussed at first, because it just seemed like a regular pub, and it was quite hard to actually get a table (probably a sign of how popular it is!). Turned out the recommendation was the understatement of the century - despite an unappetising inn-sign featuring a butcher hacking up a flayed sheep haunch (well, it is the Shoulder of Mutton!) the menu was veggie heaven!  Not a dead sheep in sight, and oh, boy, I could  have munched my way through the menu for a week and still have been trying different things.  Okay, so things were a little chaotic at times, because the chef is clearly a one-man-band who loves what he's doing and cooks for the sheer pleasure of it, but...  How can I possibly extol the virtues of the spicy red lentil and carrot flan????  Having been 98% veggie for the last twenty four years, I've had my fair share of lentil flans, but...  This has to be the queen of flans.  If I were Rabbie Burns, I'd write a poem extolling its virtues.

Oh, and according to J, its selection of real ales was mighty good, too.  And the prices were really, really modest. 
So yeah, a bit off the beaten track, perhaps, but with much to recommend it.  The monuments were excellent, too: beam engines, Neolithic chambered tombs, hill forts and a certain white horse....

There are photos, of course.  Which I will share with you soon!


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