My mother and I just returned from a week in Lavenham (and a subsequent stay in the Rutland Water area), and who could have predicted that we would have fallen so completely in love with both places? We didn't think any place could surpass Cornwall for beauty and friendly folks, but I have to say that we got more than our fair share of both of those things in Suffolk (and in Rutland).
We arrived in Lavenham by taxi in the pouring rain, and unfortunately, the keys that had been left us to get into our self-catering cottage on the High Street did not work. A kind taxi driver tried to help us get in, and then a couple of men from the pub (The Greyhound) directly across the road also tried - to no avail. We managed to get warm and dry, and get a bite to eat, in the pub while we sorted out the problem and within a short time, a caretaker arrived with a key that actually worked. The cottage that we rented was delightfully old and quirky, but never really warmed up during our stay. I'm sure the radiators were doing their very best, given the cold temperatures outside.
We experienced just about every kind of weather imaginable. One day when we drove to Aldeburgh, we encountered sunshine, rain, sleet, hail, snow, more sunshine, more rain, etc. It was amazing how the weather changed hour to hour! We loved Aldeburgh, and I'm glad we visited for the day. It was also a delight to watch the snow fall in Lavenham from our cottage windows. It doesn't get much more picturesque than half-timbered buildings dusted like sugar with the white stuff!
I had been concerned about renting a car and driving again (having had few scary encounters on the tiny Cornish lanes last year), but with SATNAV we had no problem whatsoever finding our way around, and we also found that the advice given here was quite true: The roads in Suffolk really ARE wider and better marked than in other areas of the country.
A few highlights of our visit included being invited into the 14th century home of a couple that we met in the pub, for coffee after church on Sunday. We were welcomed so kindly and given a very interesting tour of their old, old home. It was lovely. We absolutely adored The Greyhound. My mom is a professional pianist, and she played every evening when we were there. On our final night in Lavenham, there were no less than 3 piano players in the pub, and we all had what we've learned is called "a knees up" - so much fun, with everyone gathered 'round, singing everything from "Deep in the Heart of Texas" to "God Save the Queen", with a fair number of Beatles tunes thrown in for good measure! Oh yes - we also developed quite a taste for your Aspall Cider!
We drove to various outlying villages/towns (at least one new place per day) and enjoyed taking in the different sights. Particularly lovely was strolling through Kersey on a late, sunny afternoon. We were a bit disappointed to find that the daffodils hadn't quite come to fruition (too cold, I'd imagine), but were delighted by the snowdrops everywhere. (I even went home with a snowdrops tattoo ... Got it outside of Windsor on our last full day in the country, and I must say that my 73-year old mother is a real gem - good-naturedly coming along with me on that particular journey! ;-))
We enjoyed afternoon tea at various places (probably our favorite was at The Swan in Lavenham - such a beautiful place; we also enjoyed the Airman's bar there as well). Chilli & Chives on the High Street also produced a delicious scone and cuppa!
Did a bit of shopping, and I ended up with an orginal acrylic painting of St. Ives, Cornwall (a place we visited last year), purchased in Long Melford. It was behind glass, and the shop owner told me that it was a lovely old PRINT ... but I suspected it might actually be an original. I was so happy to take it out of the frame and discover that my suspicion was correct. Also happy that it survived the trip back to the states in my luggage unscathed!
We have so many fond memories and would love to return again to the area. It's wonderful to return home with newfound friends (email addresses, Facebook contacts, etc.), with whom we will keep in touch. The warmth of the people really made our trip perfect. Thanks to all of you for the help that you provided as I planned our visit. Your assistance was invaluable!Edited: 22 March 2013, 04:30