Hey there! It’s so good to be writing to you again! Many of you have been asking to hear about our trip to England and our adventures and mishaps traversing that country, so here is a small slice of some of the highlights (and low lights)!
After flying out of Chicago at 5:32pm, we arrived at 6:25am their time (12:25 am our time!) in England to a beautiful sunrise. It was the perfect way to start the day after only a couple hours of rest in those airplane seats!
LOOK CLOSELY. See those small backpacks? We love traveling light. VERY light in order to save on expenses ‘n hassle, and to have the flexibility to explore the area! Each of us only got ONE airline “personal size item - 8x10x17 inches depending on the airline” for the entire 12 day trip and it needed to be comfortable enough to carry while walking for miles! You gotta try it! It’s super freeing! (Plus, it’s interesting to know you can live on what you can carry around!)
P.S. My backpack weighed in at a comfortable 14 pounds!
Bath is a gorgeous city named (guesses anyone?) after the Roman Baths built to take advantage of the hot springs in the city! Built in 60-70 A.D. by the Romans - that’s the definition of old!
Anyone want to try that lovely hot springs water at a tasting station? (FYI, it tastes NASTY!)
We were amazed at the beauty and charm as we hiked all around the city. (Testing the luscious gelato was a perk…)
Ever wonder what to do with your old piano? Wonder no longer!
Mishap #1: after getting almost no sleep on the plane and walking all over Bath, we were thoroughly tired and ready for a good night’s sleep! It was sprinkling and getting dark and chilly. One BIG problem: the staff for our pre-paid accommodations for the night wouldn’t answer the phone and give us the keys to our apartment!!! After chatting, texting, emailing, and calling for close to 2 hours (frustrating when we weren’t in the middle of laughing at our misfortune!), we picked up our backpacks and trekked a mile across town in the dark and the light drizzle to a hostel that had two rooms we could completely fill and book. On the bright side, we discovered (and devoured!) the BEST lemon curd EVER!
One of the top highlights of our trip was exploring the cute, historic towns and villages in the Cotswolds (known as an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”) such as Chippenham, Castle Combe (TOP FAV!), Cirencester, Stroud, Bourton on the Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Broadway, Chipping Campden, and more.
The Manor House at Castle Combe
BTW, Dad was a PRO at driving on the left hand side of the road! He never messed up!
Having a step counter would have been an enlightening experience! To say we got our exercise is an understatement! :)
According to a local at the grocery, this was her favorite sheep cheese, especially when grilled. We got some to give it a try!
Fun fact: Did you know? In many of the tiny English towns, we found that you had to pay for each restroom visit!
Isn’t this super cool?
The siblings at Stow-on-the-Wold
Silas, our expert travel planner, told us that this tower was built by Lady Coventry in order to see if a beacon lit on this tower could be seen from her home 22 miles away!!! Yep. It could! What a reason to build the tower…
The flowers all over England were simply spectacular!
How would you like to accidentally run across this beauty while weeding your English garden? He was waiting for us one morning outside the doors to our historic cottage where we were staying the night.
Throughout our stay in England, we enjoyed our talks with the locals, watching street performers and live statues, walking around pieces of ancient history from 1,000 years ago, tasting delicacies at bake-houses, jostling our way through an incredibly crowded open-air flower market, admiring gorgeous sculpted thatch roofs, and eating their homemade hot sticky pudding.
Carrying around everything we took on the trip while soaking up the history of this place!
Hungry, anyone? We opted get an idea of what the old-fashioned English food tasted like so we tried the local fare at this tiny place. When reading historic books as a young girl, I’d always wondered how only one of these cold meat pies could keep a person full… and now I understand! It feels like a rock in your stomach - one that won’t be leaving anytime soon!
Their doors have so much personality!
As our guide and travel planner, Silas did an INCREDIBLE job! He got us the cheapest flight deals, and then selected best choices for transportation throughout each day (whether it was the underground, the overground, trains, planes, cars, buses, or walking - we did it all, often with multiple bus or tube changes). Silas guided us around each city, town, and countryside road, providing intriguing commentary and historic stories about each destination and all the places we passed en route! None of the rest of us needed to know how to get anywhere! We just followed his lead and asked whatever questions we desired as things piqued our curiosity. We are super blessed to have him as our brother!
Bicycles are kinda popular.
Another highlight: This Beefeater (A Yeoman Warder - a prestigious position) gave us a guided tour of the fortress of the Tower of London! His stories kept us entertained and gave us many things to think about. We all walked away thankful that we did NOT live back in that time in history!
Pretty much all the people you can see below are standing in line, waiting to see the crown jewels. As unbelievable as it sounds, we made it from the back of the line to the front in only around 30 minutes, thanks to Silas’ careful planning.
Misfortune #2: We didn’t think our lodging could possibly go wrong again. But it did. And it was only a few days after it happened the first time.
After a long, fun day, we arrived in London at what was supposed to be our apartment for the upcoming week while we explored that epic city, visited renowned museums, ate world-famous chocolate, and enjoyed being refreshed as a family and celebrating all of our long days and hard work at the theater. With our apartment there located close to London’s “Little Venice”, what did we have to lose?
We walked in the door at 10:36 pm only to find dirty dishes in the sink, a filthy kitchen, trash overflowing, dirt, ants, all the beds unmade (with the previous people’s hair throughout), water on the floor, and empty cough syrup bottle!
Ummmm. Not good.
After spending hours working through customer support (not helpful) and calling over 30 hotels (NOBODY had ANY vacancies), we finally found one that had ONE room available. So, we picked up our backpacks, and started hiking. By 2:23 am, we had arrived, checked in (God provided more rooms!), and were able to get ready for bed.
We fully enjoyed our next day in London and all the sight-seeing opportunities, sans our backpacks! The hotel had locked storage that they offered us. Our lodging (the dirty place) had said they would have everything ready for us this time, but we weren’t going to take any chances on having another super late night. So at around 8:40 pm, we arrived at the apartment yet again to survey the situation.
You guessed it. The place was no where near “clean” by any definition of the word, so we bought a few cleaning supplies at a local grocery and set to work! Mom and Dad have taught us all the value of teamwork and we all appreciated it then. Karen, Luke and Abigail ran (literally!!!) all the way to the nearest laundromat in order to get all the bedding washed before closing time at 10 pm. (They made it out with 2 minutes to spare.) Dad and I cleaned the bathroom, floors, furniture, etc. while Mom, Seth, and Silas tackled all the dishes, fridge mess, and other grime in the kitchen!
Ta-da! Clean sheets!
We all LOVE Magnum ice cream bars, and for some glorious reason, many varieties were on clearance at the various London grocery stores!
Fun fact: Our regular food ONLY cost us each $7.10 per DAY for 12 days including eating out 3 times throughout the trip and visiting several bakeries! Silas knew all of the best grocery stores and we picked up local grocery store food each day during our times exploring the landmarks. The only thing that cost us extra above the $7.10 were the chocolates, specialty desserts twice, and macaroons…
Disclaimer: We did eat sandwiches more times than we can count…. but they were good ones with English toppings.
We splurged and bought some hand-made macaroons and chocolates!
It was crazy fun for all of us to see the styles in the luxury shopping district! The guys admired all the Maserati and Lotuses driving around.
We always knew Karen was an angel!
St. Paul’s cathedral was our family’s top favorite cathedral of the trip! While we were there, we were privileged to hear the choir and the massive pipe organ let loose!
The workmanship is exquisite!
Hobson’s Fish and Chips were the best!
Mom LOVED Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens! They are London’s largest collection of roses with over 12,000 rose bushes PLUS 9,000 Begonias and other shrubs as well. We visited during peak blooming season!
Touring Windsor Castle - the Queen’s favorite weekend home. We all got Black Current Clotted Cream Ice Cream - made with milk from the Royal herd. SO delicious!
This play is the longest running play in the world! We went to performance number 27,831 and they did an incredible job keeping us guessing and trying to solve the mystery. Dad is the only one in our family who correctly guessed the mystery at intermission!
We were in the cheap seats in the nosebleed section, so there wasn’t much leg room!!! None of our guys would be classified as short! It was a great experience.
Yep. We also got to experience crowed subways!
Throughout the multitude of highlights and the crazy lodging snags, we learned many things about life, England, and history. I could tell you a million more stories with hundreds more pictures, but I will refrain myself for your sake. ;)
We hope to see you at another show soon! Enjoy this amazing world God has blessed us with!
How have you all been? We’d love to hear from you!
- Laura for The Johnson Strings family