The first weekend of this month was my husband and my seventh wedding anniversary. This one, like no other one before it, has just blown my mind at how quickly the time has passed. SEVEN years. Unbelievable.

Last year, we tried to do something really fancy as it was our first year in London. So we got a sitter, had lunch at the Ritz, went to a theatre show and then had a couple’s massage at a little day spa in Mayfair. So it was definitely fancy! And the show and the massage were awesome. But I kind of felt like the lunch at the Ritz was a total waste of entirely too much money that we should’ve spent on their famous afternoon tea instead.

This year a few things seemed to coalesce at once to form a plan. 1. We thought we’d do something a little more down to earth and include our son. 2. Living Social had a fabulous discount on a hotel in the royal Forest of Dean that used to be a 17th-century hunting lodge. 3. Puzzlewood Forest is in the Forest of Dean and on my bucket list. 4. Early May is when the bluebells come out, and one of the best places to see them is supposed to be the Forest of Dean. So off we went to the Speech House Hotel.

Speech House Hotel built in the 1600s as a hunting lodge in the royal forest.

Speech House Hotel built in the 1600s as a hunting lodge in the royal forest.

The fire place in the lobby.

The fireplace in the lobby.

Butcher's "faggots" with peas and mash.

Butcher’s “faggots” with peas and mash.

"The Cathedral" on the Sculpture Trail in the Forest of Dean.

“The Cathedral” on the Sculpture Trail in the Forest of Dean.

Another fun sculpture.

Another fun sculpture.

In retrospect, it didn’t turn out to be the most relaxing anniversary as it was a bank holiday weekend, and the traffic was terrible. It took us an hour just to get through Oxford. So a 2.5-hour drive turned into 4 hours. Our GPS was a little spotty in the woods, so my hubby got a little stressed out driving around. And we never did find the location of the carpet of bluebells that I’d seen photos of, so that was a little disappointing. During our first meal in the hotel, I found a DEAD SPIDER floating in my red wine glass…after I’d already finished half of it. UGH, disgusting. So from then on, I only purchased full bottles of (white) wine and removed the cap myself. A simple solution. 😉

But the hotel itself was really cool with great historic touches. And the family room they put us in had four beds and was plenty spacious. I also got to try a new item of crazy British local food called butchers “faggots”…yep, that’s their real name…and they are traditionally made from pig’s heart, liver and fatty belly meat or bacon minced together, with herbs and bread crumbs. Basically it tasted like meatloaf with liver in it.

And we did get a chance to wander around in the woods and follow a “sculpture trail” with some neat art on it. After that we made it to the ancient Puzzlewood Forest and had a great time exploring the trails. Where the Forest of Dean is huge, incorporates a few towns and covers 42 square miles, Puzzlewood is quite small and only covers about 14 acres. But it had great atmosphere and a series of twisty Tolkien-esque trails that had been laid out in the early 1800s that wound all through it. And I even got to see a few bluebells.

Next year, we’ll be in Iceland. So we might try to find something between overpriced-fancy and spiders-in-the-wine. Happy anniversary, baby!

Easy to see why Tolkien would've loved Puzzlewood.

Easy to see why Tolkien would’ve loved Puzzlewood.

One of the many trails.

One of the many trails…reminded me a bit of the northwestern U.S.

Part of the trail made with tree rounds.

Part of the trail made with tree rounds.

One of the many staircases up and down the little hills.

One of the many staircases up and down the little hills.

And a few bluebells. :)

And a few bluebells. 🙂

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