On tonight's episode of Family Travel Gone Wrong: A family pulls into a parking spot in the center of the small city of Wells in Somerset, England, a 20-minute drive from their campsite. They arrive very wet, having woken up to a soggy campsite after a torrential downpour all night. (Miraculously, our Coleman Instant Tent stayed completely dry!) They had spent the previous 24 hours stranded at their campsite when the matriarch of the family (me) locked both sets of keys in the trunk of the car, leaving them with only one wallet, a little bit of cash, a tent and some clothes. All other belongings including phones, food, camping supplies, books, etc., were locked inside the car. This family endured the drama of three different mechanics attempting to unlock the car over the previous 24 hour period.
Needless to say, we were in need of a hot meal and something (anything) to go our way if our weekend camping getaway was to be salvaged.
After refueling (oh, what two cups of steaming coffee does to an exhausted parent's disposition!), we embarked on a walk about town. It was raining again at this point, but we were so overjoyed to be out exploring with full, warm bellies that we barely noticed.
First stop was the landmark that put Wells on the map, so to speak. The cathedral. It stunned in a way that only an architectural triumph like this can. We walked almost entirely around it so we could admire it from all angles. A real highlight was that we were treated to the chiming of the church bells at high noon.
From there, we made our way to the Bishop's Palace. We were going to only admire it from the outside but then realized they had a festival happening inside, so we bought tickets and ventured inside. It couldn't have been a more glorious afternoon (well, aside from the rain, of course).
The boys got to watch and then practice sword fighting, archery, and falconry. We toured the palace and learned more about the building, including where the toilet was, which was a real highlight for Little Arrow. Never underestimate the power of potty education for young boys!
The outdoor space offered lovely views of the cathedral and had a maze, climbing tree, gardens and sculptures. We were even treated to a sword fighting show by some of the festival entertainers. The sound of that metal banging and echoing around those ancient stone walls was thrilling for all of us.
It was once again a perfect marriage of fun for kids and historical charm and beauty that all ages can appreciate. I don't know how we keep stumbling upon these treasures in our travels, but I hope it never stops. Sometimes I think half the battle is just showing up... not letting a little (or a lot of) rain and some rotten luck slow you down.
Wells, thanks for the warm food, fun entertainment, and beautiful surroundings. We certainly needed your hospitality that day, and just like that hot cup of coffee, you brought us back to life.