I’ve got the bug again. Man, do I want to go on a vacation. One with just me and Ryan, or with us and friends. No kids. No nap times (except for ours) and no curfews.
So because I never officially wrote about our Cotswolds vacation, I’ll relive it now to relieve this urge to explore.
We went to England in April 2011 and I was four months pregnant with Ruth. We first were planning (and had plane tickets bought) to go to Israel and backpack The Jesus Trail with a stop off at the Dead Sea. But then everything blew up politically and we (mostly me) backed out. While we were in England, we heard word that there was a bus bombing. That would’ve been one day after us arriving in Jerusalem. I felt happy with our decision, tucked away next to a pub fireplace. The only bomb near us was Ryan’s bombshell of a wife.
And you may quit reading now after that. Goodbye.
But if you’re still here, let’s talk details! The Cotswolds Trail runs from Chipping Campden to Bath and are foot trails that run through towns, countryside, private farms…everything. The fact that I had to constantly watch out for sheep poo made me squeal. There are sites that let you pick out B&B’s along the way.
Our trip focused on the northern part of the trail, from Chipping Campden to Winchcombe. I chose this section because of the time it took to get there from London. A quick train ride to a town about 8 miles out of Chipping and then catch a bus to our B&B.
That is, until I realized we arrived on a Sunday. With no bus service. 8 miles from our first destination.
Ryan tried to call in some favors, but apparently the taxis in the area were also taking a break.
Our hiking trip started a bit earlier than thought, was all, however, with all of our baggage. We’d hired a company to pick up our bags from each B&B and deliver it to the next one, so all we’d have to carry is a small backpack. If we’d been in Israel, we would be carrying everything including a tent. We so weren’t ready.
Plus, we got to see this sign which made the whole first leg worth it:
After some miles along cute woodsy areas and curvy roads through one-street towns, we finally saw our destination! But excuse me as I first squeal over the hand built stone walls covered in moss.
We made it to the beginning, woo hoo! Now where’s our lodging, my back hurts.
Found it. It was a home in the newer part of the city. Not gonna lie, my first impressions were “womp womp…”. We’d booked this trip with a week of leaving (holding out til the last moment for Israel) and I never looked at pictures of any place that we were staying. I’m an oldie but goodie type of lodging. It could be a teepee, but if it’s an old teepee, I’m all in. All of those preconceptions of staying in a new building were quickly thrown out the window when the nicest of owners opened the door to us and gave us a skeleton key for our room.
And our cute little room. This is what I want in my house: English Country with a fireplace full of balls of yarn.
Not to mention the breakfasts too! I never took a photo, but the food was perfect as well as the company. We stayed two nights in Chipping and the first morning we walked down to a couple already seated at the table. Some B&B’s have many little tables to eat at, this one had only one big one. They sat at one end, we sat on the other and it didn’t take long before a conversation was started amongst us. They made me daydream hardcore after visiting. Their job? They drive around to the various castles/museums/etc and work with them to create children’s books featuring that particular site. She is the presenter/writer, he is the artist. You know I was in awe and wondered if Ryan and I could do something similar. But what made me love them even more is that when we told them that I was pregnant with our first, she said, “I obviously don’t know you very well, but I can picture you travelling with your child, carrying him or her in a papoose on your back.”
Let’s be frank. They didn’t have kids….and at that time, neither did we. So I really believed her.
I can’t wait to travel with my kids, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t wait to travel without them either. See ya papoose.
That night, we went to our first pub…. as well as the first of Ryan’s week long “Finding the best Fish and Chips in England” mission.
And I got…. lasagna? Don’t ask. But it was good. Next time, I’m taking up Ryan’s challenge.
The following day we went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to visit Shakespeare’s home, but first had to take a shot of the library. Excuse me while I get a library card and never leave again.
I was even enthralled by the dang trash cans. Rotting old wood? Ryan had to continually pull me along.
Outside Shakespeare’s home, two guys were circling one another reenacting scenes.
Okay, admission: things like this make me feel embarrassed. It could be someone playing the guitar for money, it doesn’t matter. But if I don’t have a ticket in hand and a theatre seat, my stomach hurts. I don’t know why. I think it’s their committment to performing with no one around. This is odd coming from a performance-obsessed gal like myself…. but if I’m the only one watching I feel like they’re thinking: Hold up, there’s only one girl here listening to us. And then they make eye contact with their actor-friends, do their secret code (winking twice- I’m sure this is what it is) to let the others know to break character and go out for a drink… because there’s only one girl here listening. So because I know they want to take a break, I go against the weird embarrassed feeling in my stomach and sit front and center to prove that I’m not embarrassed and force them to finish their performance.
Someone help me. Or help them.
Either way, we all made it through this particular Shakespearean scene, but ended up missing the bus for the day, So we had to walk the five miles back, but along the way stumbled upon Anne Hathaway’s house, Shakespeare’s wife. We didn’t really research anything very well, so this was a nice surprise.
And then of course had to get a snack. We’d already walked more than we planned and hadn’t even started our official hiking part!
The next day we woke up ready to get going on our hike. The plan was to walk from Chipping Campden to Stanton on 7-8 miles and Stanton to Winchecombe on Day 2: 7 miles. Not nearly long enough, but we also wanted to stay in Bath and then London for a couple nights.
First up, the weather. Everyone we talked to said that we sneaked in on the most beautiful weather they’d had that year. It’d been cold and raining, but that week it was sunny and cool. It only got really chilly in London.
We walked downstairs to a family staying in the B&B and by the end I was sure they’d invite us to their home for the holidays. But to spare them the awkwardness of having to turn it down, we skipped out of there, I was too excited to walk the countryside! We walked up a big hill and found our first marker of the journey. Beware: lots of “oh another picture of Ryan and Carolyn walking in a pasture” are about to be shown. Deal.
My first encounter with sheep poop and I was excited. Real Cotswolds sheep poop, people! I was here, finally!!
Little itty bitty paths leading up to stone walls to climb over like the one here are basically what we walked on. Other times we crossed huge fields with no indication of where to go.
This is on the way to Stanton: the Broadway Tower. It’s a “folly tower” which means it’s new, made to look old. You can climb to the top and look out, which we debated about doing and decided against it.
Sheep surrounded the tower and Ryan started counting them.
He got to 9 before falling asleep in the field.
We walked into the town of Broadway for lunch.
Then hit the trail again. Seriously, you guys. This trail. You walk the countryside and then it takes you into little passages that open up to thatched roof homes.
We made it to Stanton, probably our favorite little town on the whole trip. It was basically one street long, nothing spectacular. Maybe it was after our first long day of walking and we were just so happy to arrive, but I think it was more than that. This little town was quaint and quiet and old.
Our B&B had a detached building as our room.
Ryan counted sheep again and promptly fell asleep.
That night we went to Stanton’s only pub/restaurant: The Mount Inn.
Don’t ask me about my food choices. A meat platter? I obviously was pregnant.
We carried a pack of cards and played games whenever we didn’t feel like talking. Which is what we did here, sitting on a cushioned bench near the warm fire, alone in the whole place.
Luckily for us, some entertainment in the form of two girlfriends going out for dinner joined us. We four were the only people in the room so everything said could be heard. Their waiter was new, took their order and dropped the ticket off. We were seated closer to the bar and overheard him telling the bartender that he’d forgotten what one of the drinks were. There was a back and forth of who should go back over and ask, and because the new waiter was embarrassed, the bartender walked over instead… and said:
My colleague here has forgotten your order….
The first waiter was watching all of this a few feet away, got embarrassed that he was being called out, and rushed over saying to one of the ladies, “Your first drink. What was your first drink again?”
My first drink?, she asked. My first drink… it was a lager, I was nine.
And with that she had her an American audience for the night, because we laughed deep and loud. She played to us too. Throughout the night, she’d make cracks and then glance over. We had nothing else to do, so we listened and laughed at her and played cards.
It was one of those special evenings that you don’t forget. Ryan still brings up the Mount Inn, sitting up on a hill in sleepy Stanton. I like when he reminisces unprovoked.
The next morning we had our breakfast, alone at a huge table in the old Post Office and went on our way.
By far, this was the best walk we’d done. I won’t forget the sun and the air and open countryside and the tucked away buildings and the horses and the sheep and the quiet.
We’d seen those mushroom-shaped concrete things all over the place, in people’s yards as decor, in homes, etc… And then we came upon a building held up by them.
Way off into the distance, Ryan points to our next destination: Winchecombe. But first we walked through a woods and explored abbey ruins.
Remember the shot of Ryan sleeping at the B&B? Yeah, at some point he took of his glasses and rolled over, breaking them. As soon as we walked into Winchecombe, we found an eyeglass shop. We thought it was perfect because his exact glass shape were bolted to the side of the building.
Turns out, it wasn’t. It took 30 minutes for them to say nothing could be done, instead gave Ryan some tape to make do. Another highlight for me, watching Ryan trying to be taken seriously with taped up circular glasses. Ah, it’s the little things people.
Afterwards we went out to eat at the White Hart Inn. You had to step down into the restaurant and kind of looked up to the people on the sidewalk. Once again, we groaned our way through the meal. I should probably go walking before every meal. It makes every bite so much better.
…and once again at our B&B:
I instead did this:
Another night, another small pub.
The next morning something Ryan said or did made me laugh really hard, so I made him reenact it. Neither of us can remember now.
But I think it has something to do with this door.
Breakfast was a bit awkward. We sat at a table with a big group traveling together. I asked very bubbly what they were in town for? My father’s funeral.
It was hard to recover, but somehow we did and ended up having a really good conversation. We got all packed up, left our bags at the door, and went on a quick jaunt to Sudeley Castle just north of where we were staying.
The tall shrubbed walkways were amazing.
Then we hopped on the bus and headed to Bath. I sat behind Ryan and kept mumbling to the other passengers, “Who’s the tourist? DOWN IN FRONT!! Geez, what a nerd.” And then laughed too loudly.
We made a lunch stop at Bourbon-on-the-Water. Glorious day. Can’t remember the food. Didn’t matter, the weather!!!
We popped into a small scale replica of the town made in the 40s. Nothing had changed much since then and the details were awesome.
I drooled over this house and if we’d had more time, would’ve tried to find it in person. Dirty stone siding? check. Lace curtains? Check. Muddy stone entrance to wood door? Check Check Check. Next time we visit the cotswolds, we’ll just come straight here and never leave.
And in the midst of my la-la-la-ing to the exit, scrreeeeech! Ryan couldn’t get out the door.
No matter how we finagled it, no was our armoire of a backpack getting through there. The ticket guy made a big ordeal of opening the entrance gate so he could get out. People were told to Back up!! Tourist with a Big Backpack Coming Through!!
Finally we boarded the bus to a connecting town on our way to Bath: Stow-on-the-Wold.
It was announced that no gum shall be chewed on this bus. Ryan told on me.
But oh, Stow! What a pleasant surprise. We had a couple hours to kill before the Bath bus came through, so started walking around. And what do ya know, this town was the stomping grounds of Tolkien. It’s thought that these trees, growing around the door to the town’s church inspired one of the doors in Lord of the Rings.
This one apparently, the West Gate of Moria:
The town square still had its prisoner holding thingamajig. We both had to try it out. Should I have cared that there were a billion people sitting around? Probably. But I didn’t.
Neither did Ryan.
I know there are tons of photos on Ryan’s phone that still haven’t been uploaded, but until I can find them just imagine us hopping onto the bus and finally arriving in Bath. It was the evening, so grabbed a quick dinner and walked (really, too far) to our lodging. I’d gotten lazy and never took photos. It was probably my least favorite, but still clean and good food.
The next morning we woke up early and walked our long walk to the city center to catch a bus for Stonehenge. Along the way, we saw metal circles in the stone walls. Later we asked our tour guide what it was and he said the stone fencing was sawed off to make artillery for the war.
We also passed this sign and if only we’d stayed a couple more nights, I would’ve totally crashed this dance party. A map was provided, it would’ve been their own fault.
We caught our bus to Stonehenge.
Ryan tried to ask a serious question to the guide. We can’t remember what it was, nor what her answer was. This is why you always write blog posts right after a trip, my friends. Pathetic. I’m sure it about some magnetic beam lining up with the rocks to create an alternate universe in which Ryan’s hat is actually cool.
Just kidding. I like his hat. And his old-timey glasses. No one else does, which is why I think I do.
I titled this photo: Sprinkler Stonehenge.
And this one: Stonehenge Selfie
We can’t remember why our hands are on this rock. It was important enough to get a photo though.
Back to the city center. Loved Bath so so much. Next England trip, completely skipping London. We agreed we could’ve stayed there the whole trip.
And not just because they have free walking tours. As they divided up the group into two, I was hoping against hope that this guy would be our guide. In the intro, he was the crowd favorite: funny and knowledgeable. So we scooted further and further until we were on his side of the imaginary line.
Look at that confidence! Anyone else would’ve timidly pointed at the building. Not this guy. Three fingers, yo!
Random tidbit we do remember:
A tax was created based on the number of windows on your house. Most had two windows on each floor:
So people rebuilt their windows so that it was only one. You can see on the left of the windows the outline of where the windows used to be.
Thank you Mr. Guide Friend.
I managed to catch a shot of Ryan gazing at him too. See? I wasn’t alone.
Along the tour, I spotted the Jane Austen Museum with a man all decked out in front.
He never gave me the time of day. Which, if I’m honest, would’ve pretty much been my life in the Regency too.
Luckily, I had this path to fall back on. The one that many people in Bath walked along and where they think Jane Austen referenced in many of her books. Look at me. Regency right there, friends.
The Royal Crescent. I’m sure important things were said about this place, but the only thing that stuck was about the Ha-ha ditch. And only because I want to implement one in my backyard. If you’re standing at the house looking out, the field looks even and flat. But if you walk out, you come upon a little wall that you can hop down off of, it’s a ditch really. And it’s called a Ha-ha because people will walk and fall off it because they don’t realized the ground drops off.
After the tour, we gave our tourist friend a tip and Ryan pulled me away before I started gushing too much. We had Roman baths to hit! My mom always says she has a Roman nose, so I guess this was for her?
It was a long day. Longer still because I think Ryan and I got into an argument that evening and decided to just go see a movie. A teeny movie theatre in one of the old buildings with old fashioned chairs and foyer and everything.
We made up and had a bite to eat before walking back home.
The next day we took the train to London. After checking into our hotel, we asked the concierge where we should head first. He said, Whatever you do, don’t go to near Trafalgar Square. Little did we know that London was having its own political dispute… about government programs getting cut. And it wasn’t just a little dispute. It was a full-on protest. Poor concierge, we just can’t resist a good protest! So off we went, exactly where he told us not to.
The streets were packed and continuously moving. Talk about a great tour guide! Ryan and I just floated along with coffee in hand staring at the buildings as we passed.
All the while people were throwing paint balls at windows, some were throwing rocks.
But mostly people were acting silly. Like this guy:
Who is he and can we be friends?
Because we had the Jack the Ripper tour to do and it was a night tour!
The next day we went to the Changing of the Guards..
I hardly even watched the procession, I was too enthralled with my husband’s glasses.
…and playing the “Where’s Ryan’s glasses” game. There they are!
On our way back, Manchester was playing Scotland and the subway was packed with fans. In Kilts. Singing Sound of Music songs. No joke. Until you’ve heard a bunch of guys singing “Doe A Deer A Female Deer…”, you really haven’t seen anything.
Once again, (both Ryan and I) secretly begged: Can we be friends?
Probably because a butt ton of stairs had to be walked to get to that level. I’m with ya girl. Move over, we’re sharing that bench.
And then we rounded up the day with a touristy trip to the Tower of London. I think I have a thing for tour guides.
This was the last photo I took of the entire trip. Ryan, climbing to the top of the tower. Where they kept prisoners.
Poor guy, he knew his fate before we married. We look back so fondly on this trip. It wasn’t the most adventurous or the most relaxing, but it was a good combo of many different elements. I always say it’d be hard to visit the same place twice (at least overseas).. but the english countryside will always my heart after this trip.
Onto our next adventure! You know, cleaning the kitchen.