The New York Times has a great pub guide to the Cotswolds.  The pub!  Why has this concept not been imported wholescale into the States?  There is the odd gastropub now in Chicago but they do not capture this ambiance:

There are the spacious stripped wood tables, the milky light coming through the frosted windows and the fire smoldering across the room. And my big plate of fresh fish and chips (for the equivalent of $15) is sumptuous. Amid the low murmur of relaxed conversation you can feel the easy comfort, the happiness, of human beings at rest. And with the old plow tackle hanging from the ceiling, and the flagstone floor, and the bushy hops among the beams, there’s a sense of history’s being a friend, of this means of relaxation’s being sanctioned and endorsed through having been enjoyed for centuries. You sense it’s true that Europeans — even the English — still know how to live.

To reach this sense of peace, there has to be good beer (OK – I will now accept that cold lager might be necessary as well as the room temperature English bitter!), no TVs, a sense of welcome and a slow, slow pace.  Going into a  neighborhood pub where the regulars treat strangers with suspicion is annoying.  Remember the movie An American Werewolf in London?  That took things to an extreme, turning the strangers who enter the pub into werewolfs, but you get the picture.  Americans are more welcoming than the English so the friendly atmosphere should be easier to pull off here.  It’s the leisurely pace that is harder to replicate.  But I think someone should try.

I have visited and stayed (!) at one of the pubs, the Falkland Arms in Great Tew.  It was long ago (March 1999?) and it seems the management has changed.  The beer is different and the food seems better.  The rooms have also been renovated.  That last fact is very important.  I remember the shower had the lack of pressure that is typical of England.  In addition, it vacillated randomly between being boiling hot and icy cold.  My wife, who is hardy, got flu soon afterwards.  Hopefully, the showers have been updated from the nineteenth century to at least the twentieth.  Next time I visit Oxford, I’m looking forward to heading to the Falkland Arms and enjoying the slow pace of pub life.

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