Woot! I love when I get to check multiple things off my list in a single trip! I made my first visit to the UK in January, with my hubby. Jeff lived there for a few years, and he’s always said he’d love to take me there so I could see some of the things he knew I’d love.
Our flight was non-stop from LAX to London — it wasn’t a bad flight, but it wasn’t good, either — remember, that whole flight anxiety thing? I tried to sleep a bit and I think I managed to sneak a few zzz’s along the way. We hit London around 12:30pm, thus starting the whirlwind trip.
Let me tell you, driving in the UK is no joke. I thought the weirdest part would be driving on the opposite side of the road, but that part turned out to be no big deal. Full disclosure, I was never behind the wheel — Jeff drove the entire time. You’re welcome, UK. So, the opposite side didn’t feel odd to me, but the amount of traffic was insane in the city. And it seemed like complete and utter chaos. As the trip moved on, I’d start to realize that there was a method to the madness.
While in London, that first afternoon & night, I saw Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and a few little pubs. Having a proper pint or two in the UK was most definitely on my list. Double check! Seeing London and having a few pints in a pub, dunzo!
The next morning, we spent just a bit of time in London — we went souvenir shopping for the kids, I saw the changing of the guard there, and then we basically hit the road. Next stop? STONEHENGE, bitches! Check! For the longest time — really, since childhood, I’ve always thought that it would be badass to see Stonehenge in person. There’s so much history, and a little bit of mystery, surrounding it. At the end of the day, history & mystery aside, they’re just giant freaking rocks that have been somewhat meticulously arranged for a specific purpose. It sound boring, but seeing it in person — and the size of them — was just incredible. It was bitter cold out, and windy — we cut the visit a little short, in favor of a warm bus back to our car. It was legitimately so cold and blowy that my eyes watered uncontrollably (behind sunglasses) and I looked as if I’d been crying.
Cheltenham was our next stop, where we would meet up with one of Jeff’s friends (who was also an acquaintance of mine from my previous job) for dinner and drinks. Before we got to Cheltenham, though, we made a brief stop to Nottingham, where I got to see Nottingham Castle. I had expectations of a legit castle…the outside did not disappoint, but the inside was more administrative than anything. We got hailed on, on our way back to the car, which I thought was kinda cool. I’m a little bit of a weather geek, I know.
Cheltenham was super cute, dinner was great, and drinks afterward were also great. I really enjoyed the hotel we stayed at in Cheltenham — it had nice modern decor, but the bathroom was where it was at. I’m a sucker for stainless steel showers and heated tile floors. YES, PLEASE! I could have spent the rest of my trip there and I’d have been happy!
After Cheltenham, we were on our way to Lincoln, where Jeff used to live…but with a stop first, to meet up with our friend Bryan. Bryan stayed with us in California for a few days a year or two ago — definitely nice meeting up with him and chatting over pints & coffee.
Once we got in to Lincoln — after a drive through some of the countryside — I nearly squealed over how cute the place is. The inn we stayed at was amazing, too — it was really nice inside, but it was also the oldest building we stayed in — built in the 1300’s. Isn’t that incredible? It was a little crazy to think that the majority of places we went and stayed are older than our country. Once we got to town, I had an immediate view of the most beautiful cathedral, and the castle — right across from one another! Bonus? The cathedral was right outside my hotel window. Win! And Brown’s Pie Shoppe? Right down the road. Double win! Jeff’s been talking about Brown’s for years, and I finally got to experience it.
Now, the cathedral wasn’t on my list. I didn’t put it there because I didn’t stop to consider what I’d be seeing, and it’s sort of a given with me that I stop to see the cathedrals because I’m really taken with their architecture. I don’t claim to understand it, be knowledgeable about it, or even have weird trivia about it, but I sure love looking at it. (As a side note, the pic above is from Lincoln, but also shows Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire, which was just AMAZING. Fountains Abbey was a day or two later in the trip.)
We stopped in at the cathedral the next morning, after taking a walk down (& back up, oh my god) Steep Hill. That was not very fun, but I LOVED to see everything along the way. Quaint is a really great word to describe Lincoln. Next up, the cathedral — it was incredible…and the Lincoln Castle was, too. Just in an entirely different way. The view from the castle walls was really something — we even saw the Red Arrows practicing for a moment in the distance.
We hit the road after that, because our next destination was York. York was also super cute, and the inn we stayed at was also pretty old. We walked around York a bit — really just wandering. It sprinkled on us a bit, I had my first Yorkshire pudding — it was great! I toured the York Cathedral, which was impressive — in size, and in detail. I got to stop in at a chocolatier, got some sweets…delish.
We planned to walk the city wall in York the next morning, but wound up hitting the road in favor of Fountains Abbey before the countryside — we had about 3-4 hours in the car, headed to Holmrook in Cumbria. This was the ultimate English countryside tour; it was breathtaking and beautiful. My favorite part was when we got further into the country side, some of the farms didn’t even have fences along the road — the sheep just roamed freely, and they didn’t seem to mind us coming through! We stayed at a really great place called Irton Hall that night — the outside looked castlesque, but the inside was modern — and the room was huge! I wish we’d gotten there a bit earlier, because the sun was setting as we were getting settled in the room so we didn’t have a lot of time to discover the grounds. The bar & restaurant were nice — we ate dinner with some other guests and everyone had a good time chatting amongst the tables. The inn was even pet friendly, and one couple had their dog hanging out in the bar. Jesse was her name, and she ate like a queen that night — steak, lamb, more steak, and hamburger.
The next morning, we knew we needed to get a bit of an early start…but we didn’t head out early enough. The area was expecting snow, and we happened to drive right into it.
I’m a Florida girl. I can hold up both hands and still not run out of fingers for the number of times I’ve seen snow. Living in Southern California isn’t really any help, either. I’m used to warmer weather, and I’ve never driven in it…let alone experience snowfall while on the road. No clue what to expect or even how to handle it. Thank goodness Jeff was driving.
So, it came on very suddenly, and we wound up in about 2 inches of snow on a country back road — legit one way, not serviced, not salted, nothing. When we came upon a little Fiat that had gotten stuck on the road, we knew it was time to turn back. There was no way that little Hyundai was going to go up and down those steep hills with roads in that condition. Jeff said the anti-slip tech was doing exactly what it was supposed to, but having never experienced it before…I didn’t really care what he said, I was terrified, haha! I would have taken pictures, because it was absolutely beautiful, but I was also too busy clenching and making diamonds over the whole thing. What an experience.
We were heading back toward the inn, but realized we could just take the longer route — i.e., the second & last way out of down. The first was the route we tried to take initially. Six hours and a few stops later (one at a grocery so we could stock up on yummy Cadbury candy), we made it back to London for our last night in the UK. We were totally exhausted by that point, so we opted to hang at the hotel for drinks & dinner.
This trip was pretty much dreamy and perfect in every way. I was a bit surprised that everyone was so kind — I didn’t think that folks would be nasty by any means, but they were far more welcoming and accepting than I ever thought, as we pretty much did the tourist thing while we were driving all over the UK.
I’d heard before that the Brits were never in a hurry to get anything done, but our service was phenomenal wherever we went, and my big take away from that generalization wasn’t that no one was in a hurry — it was simply that there’s no sense in rushing around. I think it’s more or less a relaxed view on doing things, because…it’ll be there 5 minutes from now, or a bit later, and there is no sense is being wound tightly about it. Oddly enough, since being back, it’s made me re-think my own reactions to things — I think most people close to me would agree that I’m tightly wound and extremely quick to pop off and be reactionary about things. Not only was it a fan-freaking-tastic vacation, but it was also a nice attitude adjustment.