Monday, November 25, 2013

The Cotswolds and the Countryside

Kyle and I had a nice, relaxing English countryside trip planned following our three days in London.  On our last day in London, we took Kari, my little sister, to Heathrow airport to fly back to Indianapolis after her two week European fall break.  After Kari checked in to her flight and got through security, Kyle and I went to pick up our rental car.  Kyle was going to do all of the driving since it would be on the wrong side of the road!


Our hotel was in Cheltenham, which is in a great central location for what we wanted to see.  About halfway between London and Cheltenham was Oxford, so that seemed like a natural stopping point!  Oxford is a gorgeous little town.  We grabbed a quick bite for lunch before making our way to the tourist center for a short guided tour.  We thought a guided tour would make the most of our short time there, and it did not disappoint!  Our guide was a 1956 grad of Oxford, so he had a lot of interesting information.  The different colleges of the University are spread throughout the town, so it was kind of a combined town and campus tour.

This chapel is a smaller replica of St. Chapelle in Paris

Any Harry Potter fans recognize this room?

After our tour we stopped to warm up in a cute cafe for Cream tea, which is another name for afternoon tea.  We had scones with clotted cream and jam to go with our own little pots of tea.  Yum!

We stayed at the Rising Sun Hotel on Cleeve Hill overlooking the town of Cheltenham.  It had absolutely gorgeous views.  The hotel also had a nice restaurant and pub, which was very convenient.  We ate there a couple of nights. 

View from our hotel

Our first full day was spent exploring the Cotswolds.  It is such a beautiful and peaceful area.  We really lucked out with sunny weather which made the changing colors of the trees even more impressive.  The first village we stopped in was Bibury, known as the prettiest village of the Cotswolds.  It was a tiny village that looked like it was straight from a movie or a novel.  On the narrow road there, we had to keep stopping for pheasants to cross, and we even had a sheep run down the road towards our car! Most of the villages in the Cotswolds were at one point in time sheep towns, so most of the people that lived there made their money from wool. 

On the road to Bibury

The second village we stopped in was Bourton-on-the-Water.  It was a larger town and a bit more touristy, but it was so charming.  It has a little river that runs through the center of town with many cute bridges crossing it.  I think this was Kyle's favorite stop because we visited a bird sanctuary on the edge of town.  Kyle loves the birds!

We stopped for lunch in the next town called Stow-on-the-Wold.  It's another picture perfect town that's known for the antique shops.  We stopped at an old pub for lunch where we had a bit of a weird experience.  A kid came and sat at our table.  He was overflow from the group of men he was with.  He waved to us both, and then we both swear we saw him make the slitting motion across his throat.  It was pretty creepy, actually.  The group he was with must have been local farmers.  They were speaking English, but we couldn't understand a word they said!  But in the end, the boy did offer us some chips, so maybe he didn't want to kill us after all.

Leave it to Kyle to find the mac and cheese

Our next stop were the two tiny and quiet towns of Upper and Lower Slaughter.  They were such beautiful, peaceful towns with pretty little streams that ran right through them.

Our last stop of the day was Moreton-in-Marsh, a pretty little market town.  Here we stopped for afternoon cake and coffee at a nice little cafe before heading back to the hotel.

We started the next day in Chipping Campden, which is considered the jewel of the Cotswolds.  It definitely was a gorgeous town!  From there we headed about an hour or so north to the town of Warwick.  We walked around the historic part of town, had lunch in a pub and toured the impressive cathedral.  After that we headed to Warwick Castle, which was the real reason for us visiting Warwick!

Chipping Campden

Collegiate Church of St. Mary, Warwick

Warwick Castle was originally a motte-and-bailey castle built by William the Conqueror in 1068.  In  the 12th century the stone castle was begun, and was added onto and changed throughout time.  It's considered one of the best medieval castles in England.  It was right before Halloween, so they had some fun stuff going on.  There were just enough spooky decorations to make it fun, but not hokey!    We really enjoyed watching the impressive falconry show.  We also got to watch a trebuchet shoot a fireball!

The original motte-and-bailey

We had one full day left in England, and we did not luck out as much on the weather.  We still had a very enjoyable day.  There was one more village I wanted to see called Painswick.  It's supposed to be one of the prettiest in the Cotwolds.  It is also the birthplace of the founder of Twining's Tea!  The entire time we were there, the church bells were ringing.  We asked a person in the information office how long they would ring.  She said they had visiting bell ringers, so they might ring two hours or so.  Wow!

From Painswick we drove to the town of Gloucester to see the cathedral.  While the town wasn't all that impressive, the cathedral was gorgeous.  If you've seen Harry Potter, you might recognize the cloisters as being the corridors at Hogwarts!  The town also had a really nice, revitalized port area with a lot of shops and restaurants.

That evening we met up with some friends that live in the area that we had met while living in Maryland.  We met them at an art nouveau theater-turned restaurant for drinks before heading to a gastro pub for dinner.  We had a great evening with them.  It was very nice to catch up!

Our flight the next day wasn't until 8:30pm, so we still had some time for a little bit more site seeing.  Our flight was out of Stansted airport, and we wanted to drive a bit closer in case we hit traffic.  We headed towards Cambridge, which was about forty five minutes from the airport.  A storm was coming in, so it was very windy and blustery!   We had lunch at an extremely old and cozy pub just outside of Cambridge before our walk around town.

When we first started our walk around Cambridge, I thought that it's not as pretty as Oxford.  As we neared the historic town center, I was proven wrong.  I couldn't decide which was nicer!  Like Oxford, Cambridge University is divided into separate colleges that are scattered throughout town.  You find gorgeous Gothic style campus buildings surrounded by pristine grass on quaint village streets.  We definitely could have spent more time there!

We were pretty cold and had to turn in the rental car, so we got to the airport early.  We hung out a restaurant and watched the media coverage of an epic storm rolling in that evening that we would just miss by a an hour or two.  Cory and Lynn were flying back to London later that evening and we were concerned that their flight would be cancelled, but they made it in the midst of the rain and wind.

Kyle and I were completely impressed with the quiet beauty of the English countryside.  It's a calm, relaxing place and the people are so polite and friendly.  It's definitely a place I wouldn't mind going back!

No comments:

Post a Comment