Travelling is often synonymous with getting away from it all or venturing to the other side of the planet to see the new, the unfamiliar, or the exotic. However, I would also argue that some of the most eye-opening travel experiences can happen practically in our own backyards when we are willing to look at the familiar in a new light or take a break from our normal routines.
This was made very clear during a recent trip MrElaineous and I made to the Wiltshire market town of Marlborough, well-trodden territory for us. We visit every few months, whether to take in the stunning carpets of bluebells in nearby West Woods or shop at the fantastic zero-waste shop, Packaging Not Included. It was a place that we didn’t think held much in the way of surprises.
Yet within a few minutes of arriving we found ourselves inside WJ’s Café, a TARDIS-like building located down a small street in Hughenden Yard. From the vantage point of the upper floor, a peculiar magic trick takes place as you look out the window and down the narrow alleyway. Rather than looking out on the expected traditional English scene, you could be anywhere: it was easy to imagine that we had somehow found ourselves dining in a café located off a piazza in Italy or a plaza in Spain. And while I have no intention of branching out into food blogging, I can vouch that our meal was excellent too!
This shift in perspective helped us slow down to enjoy our walk through the town, taking in the picturesque town hall—built in a Dutch style that was popular at the turn of the 20th century—and stumbling across a shop that made me do a double take. We Elaines do get around!
On the way home we stopped at Silbury Hill, one of the many Neolithic monuments that cover the landscape. While perhaps not as well known as its rock’n’roll counterpart, the stone circle of Avebury, Silbury Hill is the largest manmade prehistoric mound in Europe and it continues to dominate the landscape today. The recent rains had turned the surrounding fields into a moat, and the dramatic view produced a similar effect to the window of WJ’s Café. But rather than any place, we could have been in any time over the past five thousand years—if that’s not getting away from it all, I don’t know what is.