Anyway, this time we didn't take the dogs. It can be a real effort to load the cage in the back of the car for Alfie and then go through the process of getting their leads on, particularly as Alfie gets so wound up and the noise he makes, so we decided to leave them at home this time. Also, it would have meant, had they come with us, they would most likely have spent the whole time in the car, as where we went wasn't exactly dog-friendly.
We drove west. On the way we went through Buckingham, where we often go on our way to Stowe Landscape Gardens which is one of our favourite National Trust properties. There are definite signs of spring which we can see as we drive along, not least how green everything is looking, as well as newly-born lambs in the fields and no end of daffodills and crocuses at last daring to make an appearance after what seemed like endless weeks of snow and ice. It must be one of the latest springs on record.
So, dear reader, where is all this leading, you may very well ask? We really just wanted to get away from Milton Keynes, because the weather had warmed up, and we have had such a cold winter, and Carol is on holiday, so it seemed a good idea to get out for a short while. We were heading towards Bicester, and had an idea that there was a garden centre we knew was opening somewhere nearby, so, when there was a choice of which road to follow, the left to Bicester, or the right, to Oxford, we chose Bicester. There is an outlet shopping centre in Bicester, or rather, just outside, imaginatively called Bicester Village, which we have visited on several occasions, and we decided that, if we didn't find the elusive garden centre, we'd go to Bicester Village.We always seem to end up somewhere that has either a restauraunt or tea or coffee shop, which was what we wanted to find right now, as we had been driving just over an hour. It's amazing how so many of the places we visit have a very convenient restaurant or other outlet that has food or drink! The National Trust properties we go to, art galleries or museums, all have excellent facilities serving good food. Generally speaking, of course, there are very few that have poor food outlets, but most are good. Also, it's amazing how, once you've completed you visit, and are about to leave, you end up in either a restaurant or in the gift shop. It seems that the lay-out of these places is such that you are magnetically drawn into these places so as to spend as much of your cash as possible! Well, on visiting National Trust properties we end up buying something from the gift shop, usually the guidebook, unless we've been there before. As a result we've amassed quite a collection over the years.
We saw signs for 'Bicester Outlet Village' and followed the route, but went past. It was a mile or two later on that we saw 'Bicester Avenue' advertised and Wyvale Garden centre so we drove in and found the carpark. This place is similar to Bicester Village in that it has a shopping mall with outlet or factory shops for some well known highstreet brands, such as Cotswold, Cotton Traders etc. The main shopping area is a very big Wyvale Garden Centre, which not only sells garden-orientated items such as plants, spades, pots, planters etc, but furniture, books, barbeques as well as housing a really large restaurant where we eventually landed up and having tea and toasted sandwiches. We did spend some time wandering around looking in the shops, but we decided that we'd come back, probably in the summer, as some of the shops were still not open, were as-yet unlet or were being fitted out. It would appear that the whole complex can't have been open very long.
We left soon after our tea and toasted sandwiches and drove back towards Milton Keynes and stopped at Tesco's in Buckingham and bought some salad and bits and pieces for our evening meal.