Last week I had a little down time while I was waiting for a proof to come in, so I decided to look into some quick day trips from London. I quickly found St Albans, which is a small village just 20 minutes outside of London, and sent out an email asking whether anyone wanted to join us. There isn't much to do in St Albans, especially on a day when it's below freezing outside (literally). However, there are a lot of dog-friendly pubs around the city, so we took the dogs and two other couples—the Frasers and the McGuigans—and took the train up there around mid-day this past Saturday.
When we arrived, the first thing we wanted to do was grab some lunch and a pint. The first dog-friendly pub I had on my list was Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which claims to be the oldest pub in England and holds the Guinness World Record for it. We had hot chocolate with Bailey's in it and good food. The pub was a bit disappointing in that it was playing a mix of new hits and club music, which seemed weird for one that claims to be the oldest in England, and it was so cold! There were some areas that had fires, but we were apparently near an open door and were quite chilly as we ate. The food was really good, though. I think everyone was pleased.
When we walked out we discovered, to our dismay, that it was snowing. Yes, snowing. Then we walked through a gate into a field to find the remains of a Roman Wall, and walked right onto a huge frozen pond. Frozen solid!! There were people ice-skating on it!! I still can't get over that. In all my years in Alabama, I don't think I've ever seen a pond frozen completely solid enough that you could walk and ice-skate on it. We walked on the pond for a bit (I let Hadley pull me along by her lead), looked for a dead bird that was frozen into the ice somewhere in the pond about which everyone around was talking, realised that we were freezing and didn't have time to find said dead bird, and made our way across to the Roman Wall. The Roman Wall is just one small section of the two-mile long wall built between AD 265 and 270 to defend the Roman city of Verulamium. Most of the old Roman stone was "robbed out" for subsequnet building projects, principally the Cathedral. The main section of the Roman wall in Verulamium Park is enclosed by a fence.
After that we realised that it was getting dark, so the only other thing we (well, I) really wanted to see was the remains of Sopwell Nunnery. The nunnery ruins are set far enough away from the road to feel secluded and, yet, weren't hard to find. We arrived at the perfect time; the last people wandering around were just leaving, so we were free to roam around freely and take pictures unhindered by strangers. The remains have a rather mystical and eerie quality; there was a light fog that added to atmosphere. The fact that the local authorities keep the land around it naturally overgrown gives the effect of stumbling across some previously undiscovered ruins.
The original nunnery dates back to 1140 and was built by Geoffrey de Gorham, the abbot of St Albans. In the 1500s it became part of Sir Richard Lee’s Tudor mansion, but the nunnery seems to be the only surviving building. There is enough of it left to provide an idea of the size and layout.
The nunnery was by far my favourite part of our trip to St Albans.
By the time we finished at the nunnery, we were near frozen. We really couldn't feel our fingers and toes, and it was starting to grow dark, so we made our way to another pub called The Goat.
I had seen online that they had board games available to play at the bar, so I figured that would be a good place to wind down and finish the day. We ordered our pints and played Scrabble. Sharon beat the poop out of the rest of us, and when we were finished, we made our way back to the train station and headed home to London to thaw out with some hot and spicy Thai food from the Churchill Arms, our favourite Thai pub.
I know, I know. We went on a day trip and only saw two things and two pubs! We didn't arrive there until around 1pm, and it gets dark around 3:30 or 4pm, so we didn't have much time. Plus, you just don't understand how cold it was!! To be honest, I didn't even really pay attention to the weather forecast when I planned this trip; I just wanted to go somewhere that the dogs would enjoy. I should have planned a trip SOUTH of London, rather than North. Oh, well. It was a lovely day anyway.