Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Delightful English Garden

It's sad to say, but we have come to the point in our journey where we are all just exhausted. The point where the idea of driving for two hours to see Canterbury Cathedral sounds like 60 days in the desert without water. The point where, if we were on a road trip, we would head for home.

But since we can't fly home until Friday, we call our good friend Michele who has welcomed us so graciously into her home, and ask if we can come back to their house and the comfort of their hospitality for the last few nights. We are done driving on the left. We are done wandering about looking for thatched roof houses. We are done.

So we abandoned our plan for Brighton and Canterbury and headed back to Beaconsfield. On the way back, Michele suggested we stop at Hampton Court Palace. It is one of her favorites and it was on our list. What a treat that was indeed. Take a look...

This is the most beautiful garden I've seen in this lovely country. It is sunken and surrounded by stone walls, so it retains heat and therefore was just in the perfect time of bloom. It was completely spectacular. It completely revived our spirits. This made it worth the trip alone and I could have spent all day just gazing. The palace is also quite impressive...

But the gardens stole the show!

Today we went to the British Museum for a bit and saw all the Egyptian Mummies. That was only fun for about an hour, so we went exploring for Portobello Road's famed antique shops. We found lots of treasures we can't take home in our suitcase, but loved the shops and got lots of inspiration. A good day overall. Tomorrow is our last! We can't decide if we have it in us to explore Windsor Castle. We still haven't received an invite from the queen... I'm sure it s just a mix up with the Royal Mail.


Location:Hampton Court Palace, London

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Cotswolds

On Monday, we wandered through the wonderful villages of the Cotswolds. These are the little country villages that have lasted hundreds of years and are charming and peaceful. First we stopped in Moreton in Marsh, then Stowe on Wold and finally Bourton on the Water, also known as the Venice of the Cotswolds.

I was a bit disappointed that we weren't able to find the thatched-roof houses. It gave me an entirely new perspective on giving other people directions! The nice people who live here know how to get around without the need for signs and simply think you'll find a Hamlet by "go down that way and turn right then turn right again." following these directions did allow us to see some very nice neighborhoods and villages, follow a single lane road where there was a traffic jam with two horses and then find the only road out blocked... That was fun.

The highlight of the day for the boys was finding the Cotswold Motoring Museum!

And look what I found inside- Three unique Caravans!

I've seen so many caravans on the roads in England, bring pulled by regular sedans! Thy are very brave...

Today we are off to Brighton, Arudel Castle and Dover. Cheers!

Location:Bourton on the Water

Monday, April 16, 2012

Stratford Upon Avon and Shakespeare!

Sunday we had a restful day. We spent the night in a lovely hotel in Stratford Upon Avon. This is the birthplace of Shakespeare!

First, we were enthralled watching the little canal barges going through the many lochs of the canals adjoining the Avon river. I had a brief vision of becoming the Vintage Barge Lady, which was quickly squelched by Mr. V. hmmm...

After the barge experience, we visited Anne Hathaway's Cottage. It has beautiful gardens and a wonderful thatched roof. So peaceful and lovely.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage

We stopped for a lovely lunch at the Pen and Parchment before heading out for a little shopping and a visit to Shakespeare's childhood home.

All of the plants in this garden are used in his plays and poetry.

I think Warwickshire is the prettiest part of England and I can see why it inspired such wonderful writing, poetry and theatre. I bought a little book of Sonnets. Tanner bought Macbeth. He is a much deeper thinker than I.

Location:Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England

Blenheim Palace and Warwick Castle

On Saturday we set off for a fun filled day with the Gardners! We started with a tour of the grand Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. I didn't know that he was the nephew of the Duke of Marlborough who was gifted this palace from Queen Victoria. What a splendid gift!

The kids loved spending the day together jumping off walls in the garden and playing in the fountains. It is a beautiful palace and the grounds are magnificent.

Next it was on to Warwick Castle! We've been hearing about Warwick since the Gardner's moved to the UK almost two years ago. Warwick is a wonderful place where castle life comes together complete with a working trebuchet, tall turrets with lookouts and classes on becoming a knight, using a long bow and shooting flaming rocks at your opponent. Any question why it was their favorite?

They could have spent a week there and still not had enough time. It will be one our list if we ever get to return. Great fun!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Salisbury Cathedral and Stourhead

On Friday we woke up early and wandered the quaint little town of Salisbury. It is a lovely little village with nice shops and a beautiful cathedral. The cathedral houses one of the oldest known clocks in the world and a spire that weighs 6500 tonnes.

It is also here that I found my favorite shop in all of England called Forever England. I purchased a beautiful new bed spread, shams and a white cotton night dress. I will have to share those with you when we get home. My quilting friends, you will love it!

From Salisbury we made our way to Stourhead House and Gardens. This is An incredible garden made for entertaining. The house has a rather sad story, including abandoned children, death, and fire. Not all at the same time...

The garden, however was a true masterpiece. This garden is where the most recent version of Pride and Prejudice was filmed- the one with Kiera Knightley- not the six hour version with Colin Firth. Remember Elizabeth's distressed run across the bridge in the rain followed by Mr. Darcy's passionate yet poorly worded proposal?

What a wonderful and romantic park filled with fantastic places to explore. I loved this little cottage where I pictured Snow White to live with the Seven Dwarves. Then there was the underground grotto with secrets hidden inside.

What an amazing treasure to find. I am so grateful to Michele for knowing all the sights that you must see when in England and many do not. A lovely day with my dear Mr. Vintage... My Mr. Darcy.

Downton Abbey! ...and Stone Henge

Thursday was my favorite day of our trip thus far. Heath and I ventured out on our own to see our most anticipated sight, Downton Abbey! The estate is actually called Highclere Castle and is owned by the 8th Lord and Lady Carvarnon. Look how lovely!

We weren't allowed to take photos inside the house, so I can't show you the beautiful rooms, but they are exactly as they appear in the series- furniture and all. We first entered the Library with the original desk used by Lord Carvarnon and Lord Grantham! Then the amazing dining room with a 13 leaf dining table. Indeed this is "not Toad of Toad Hall, Edith." Granny was right on many accounts. We even saw Mr. Pamuk's room- very scandalous.

This gorgeous house and the grounds are simply wonderful - its actually set high up in the hills surrounded by green fields with sheep and pheasants. The exotic trees where they wander on walks and have liaisons are all there- perfectly as you imagine. We wandered all over saying snide comments and calling each other Edith and Matthew and Granny. It was so lovely. I want to go back!

After finally being forced to leave Downton- much like the Duke - we struck out for Stone Henge. What an amazing place. We arrived just after a torrential downpour and look at the colors!

Every step gave us a new view of the henge. It was an incredible experience - very humbling to see the work of ancient people who built this incredible edifice without the heavy equipment we have today. Completely awe inspiring.
That night we had a lovely dinner in the small town of Salisbury and a good night's sleep at the Red Lion.

We wondered if our friend Michele felt the same way keeping two extra children for the day and night. The boys had a great time hanging out with their friends and we are so appreciative of the Gardner's hospitality. They are truly wonderful friends.

A wonderful day in the English Countryside

Location:Warwick Rd,Stratford-upon-Avon,United Kingdom

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kensington, Harrod's and Wicked!

Time to play a bit of catch-up... Not to be confused with ketchup (which btw, is referred to as tomato sauce in England). We've been having such a wonderful time that I've fallen rapidly into a mild coma each night with no energy left to blog a word about it. So here's what happened on Wednesday...

We had a lovely visit to Kensington Palace where the beloved Princess Diana lived. Sadly, they only had one room dedicated to her memory. I wonder if the queen is still mad at her? We did get to see three of her gowns- she was such an elegant lady, I miss her. My favorite part of the castle was the Queen Victoria exhibit. I think I would have loved her too if I had lived in her time.

The gardens were just blooming and so lovely. Lovely is my new favorite English word. Everyone says everything is lovely! Try it now in your best English Accent... Go on... It's mostly like luvly.

Next we were off to Harrod's- the world's first department store. Harrod's had the first elevator and it was so scary for people that they would give them a shot of brandy at the top to calm their nerves. Its a shame they have not continued that practice- it would have been really helpful for some of us- not because of the elevator, but simply because of the sheer number of people...It was insane! But what a magical place- just walking through the food halls was an unforgettable experience. I wanted to eat my way through every room.

We closed out the day with some fine West End Theater. Wicked! It was just as wonderful as I remember but all with a slightly English accent. The boys said they liked it and I thought it a huge success until on the train ride home Carson asked "Why do they have to sing so much in plays?"

Lovely! Cheerio...

Location:Warwick Rd,Stratford-upon-Avon,United Kingdom