Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Britain Sampler

Get settled and grab a cup of tea because this is going to be a long one folks!

Three countries. Five hotels. Thirteen cities. Ten days.

That was my vacation. My first trip overseas. My grand European tour.

My family and I started in London and made our way North throughout England, up through Wales and Scotland, and then South back down to London, and we saw amazing things. Because it was my first time overseas and my parents' first time to the U.K. we decided to join a pre-determined tour. If you're interested in that here is the website: http://www.globusjourneys.com/tour/britain-sampler/ge/

Britain Sampler. That's truly what it was. Some of the places we went we spent mere hours in. If I were to go back I think I would attempt to go to a few fewer places and spend more time in each one.

We started off in London which was a beautiful city. The mix of new and old architecture and the expanse of parks made me so happy. We saw beautiful art at the Victoria and Albert Museum, had amazing fish and chips, saw the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, breathed the same air as the Queen at Windsor Castle, ate Spotted Dick for dessert, walked across the bridge Voldemort destroyed in the 6th Harry Potter, visited 221b Baker Street, and so much more in just two and a half days.

Our next stop was Stonehenge, despite it being rainy, windy, and freezing, and not feeling well, it was an unreal experience. Seeing something you've only seen in history books makes you feel really small.

After basking in the mysterious handiwork of the Druids we made our way to Bath, England. This city, built by the Romans, was one of my favorite places we visited. Each building is made from these amazing white stones and they look fantastic next to one another. We visited The Roman Baths, another place I'd simply read about. Walking through the entrance was like stepping into ancient Rome, I could almost feel Julius Caesar's presence.

We shopped around and I took 5,000 photos and then it was time for our next location: the Cotswolds. If anyone is a fan of the movie The Holiday, and you should because it's the greatest Christmas movie ever made, then you'll know that Iris lives in the Cotswolds. So going there had me hyped. We walked the narrow streets and I tried Lady Grey tea in a quaint cafe. The tea was gross but the views were stellar. Next time I'll stick with my usual Earl Grey.

After the Cotswolds, we made the pilgrimage to Stratford-upon-Avon to visit the birthplace of the bard himself, William Shakespeare. We got to see Anne Hathaway's Cottage, see the room where Will was born, and watch a group of actors perform in the garden outside.

That afternoon we crossed the border into Wales. I loved Wales. I am ready to move to Wales. Take me back to Llangollen and I will be content. The Dee River, the rolling hills, the abundance of sheep, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, it was by far my favorite place we visited. We took a canal cruise over the aqueduct and it was magical. I felt so at one with nature, I really did. It was a shame we had to leave after only half a day.

Next, we crossed back into England and spent some time in Chester. We saw the remains of a Roman amphitheater and some Tudor architecture. We carried on to Grasmere which was a fairyland. Flowers and trees everywhere. We tried Sarah Nelson's world famous Grasmere Gingerbread and took in the beauty of nature before heading over the Scottish border at Gretna Green.

For those of you who may have never heard of Gretna Green, it was a place where couples used to run away and elope. There was a blacksmith shop where they would be married and then they would flee into Scotland to avoid their parents from England. Pretty badass. Now there's a small museum and just a lot of shops for tourists.

That evening we made our way into Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh (pronounced more like Edinboro). This was another one of the places I truly fell in love with. The bagpipes wafting through the streets, Edinburgh Castle, the view from our tiny hotel. I loved it all. We toured Edinburgh Castle, shopped around the Royal Mile, and saw amazing art at Scotland's National Galleries. I could have stayed in this city forever.

Our next stop in Scotland was Abbotsford, the home of writer and poet Sir Walter Scott. I am not a fan of Sir Scott but his gardens were beautiful and he had a Turnbull crest on his wall. So that was cool.

Then it was back to England. York, England. As someone who is originally from New York, this was a cool stop. York is home to an area called "The Shambles" and it is like nothing you've ever seen. Narrow streets, buildings leaning forward, tiny shops, tea rooms. When you picture the word idyllic in our head, it's The Shambles you are thinking of.

On our last day, we went to the market in Stamford and I finally got a good cup of tea and saw some amazing dogs. We then visited the University of Cambridge which is actually just a bunch of different colleges near each other. We saw students celebrating their graduation and learned that they are required to dress up for their exams. Can you imagine having to wear a suit or heels to take your finals?

That evening we returned to London. Full circle. We went to an Evensong service at Westminster Abbey and it was unreal. That choir is transportive. I felt like I was in a movie. We also watched the church install their first female Minor Canon (similar to a deacon), and she was a lesbian. My heart was filled with this beautiful display of acceptance in the church.

We got dinner at Pret A Manger or just Pret as the locals call it, and settled in before a day of travel.

This trip was the greatest experience. I am so grateful to my parents for giving me this opportunity and to Globus for allowing us to see so many places on a wonderful tour.

I'll be back.

View my photo album here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.434997370182797.1073741844.100010176125607&type=1&l=304fe50964

Love,
Beth

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