After a week in London, we headed out to the English countryside. The kids needed to know that England wasn't only London and vice versa. We picked up a rental car in central London - the husband did all the driving and I kept him alert, talking him through the roundabouts and unfamiliar surroundings. It was harrowing, but we survived!
Our first destination was Stonehenge. It's incredible! Just a short 2 hour drive from London, Stonehenge is a good spot to stop and stretch your legs. Be sure to get the complimentary audio tour. It'll talk you through the creation of Stonehenge, what it was used for, other yet-to-be excavated area sites and the people who inhabited the area. It was fascinating!
We continued west from Stonehenge to Bath, arriving in time to visit the Bath Abbey. Bath Abbey had a wonderful scavenger hunt for the kids that guided them around the abbey to see the most important things. Our uncles visited Bath Abbey recently and took a tour which included a visit to the belfry and the roof. I want to do that next time!
We stayed at the Parade Park Hotel and it was great. It's very close to the Roman Baths, the Abbey and most importantly, parking. Parking in Bath can be difficult. The breakfast was fine - not fantastic, but I don't fully appreciate English breakfasts.
The following morning, we toured the Roman Baths. Again, the audio tour was well worth it and highly recommended. Those Romans really knew their plumbing! The uncles enjoyed afternoon tea in the Pump Room, but it was a little too fancy for us. The kids only lasted a couple of hours before calling it quits.
We hit the road again, heading north toward the Cotswolds. Quintessential rural England, the Cotwolds are filled with little stone cottages, thatched roofs, green fields and lots and lots of sheep. We stopped in Stow-in-the-Wold for lunch before arriving in Chipping Campden where we had reservations at the Lygon Arms Hotel.
During our entire 19 day trip, the only glitch we had was in Chipping Campden. The Lygon Arms had lost our reservation! I had planned our four days in the countryside based on the Lygon Arms' 2 night minimum, but they only had room for us on the second night. They were extremely apologetic and asked if we would mind staying a few miles up the road in their 16th century Elmhurst cottage in Quinton. Would we mind?!? It was one of the highlights of our trip!
From Elmhurst cottage, it was a short distance to Statford-upon-Avon. We visited Shakespeare's birthplace and Anne Hathaway's cottage. There's a small kid-friendly museum attached to Shakespeare's birthplace that gave us a good overview of his life and work.
You could easily spend a couple of days in Stratford, especially if you want to see a play or two. We tried to limit it to just enough time to get a flavor without overwhelming the kids. I think we struck the right balance.
After a quick pick-me-up ice cream across the street from Anne Hathaway's cottage, I dragged the family to Warwick Castle. They were not happy and wanted to head back to the cottage to hang out. Thankfully, they were glad I insisted. Madame Trousseau created an exhibit there of Henry VIII and his wives, as well as an imaginary "Edwardian weekend in the country with the Prince of Wales." We climbed towers, descended into dungeons and imagined what it would be like to live in a castle.
Now, looking at Warwick's website, it seems to have gotten a bit touristy. An alternative would be to visit Windsor Castle on the way back to London.
The next day, we drove back to London, dropped the car, took the Tube to Waterloo station and boarded Eurostar for Paris.
To be continued...
Travel book I used for this portion of the trip: