This is simply quintessential England!
How nice it was simply to escape the madness and the fast passed life of London and venture out to the simple life, the real England and breathe in all that fresh countryside air.
This was the England I was after. The proper stuff; cottages, lush green cascading landscapes, farms, quaint towns, local pubs and getting a glimpse into the traditional everyday life of the English countryside.
I kicked off the morning with a visit to Stratford upon Avon, a few hours north west of London. If you are the literally nut then you would have most likely heard of this town as its most famous resident is William Shakespeare. The town is typically English in terms of its’ half timber architecture and tudor-mock structures however the most famous house of all is that of where Shakespeare himself was born in. Now converted into a museum, it is fascinating to think that the original house (despite the expected restoration work over the years) has been standing for nearly 500 years. Within the courtyard of the Shakespeare House, expect to see an actor standing in the middle reciting lines from Shakespeares most famous plays on demand. I wish I could say (unfortunately I cannot) that I am familiar with all his plays however I just watched this actor in awe at his stand alone performance and the fact he could belt out scenes as per request. What a nice and unusual touch upon visiting a museum!
The next stop would be one of my highlights visiting England thus far. I still cannot get it out of my mind how picturesque this part of England is. I feel like I am in love – actually I am with Cotswolds.
What? Never heard of it?
Well neither had I but I am glad that I have now. When I would daydream of the English countryside, what would spring to my mind is that it would be this peaceful place that is ever still with rolling green hills with quaint and old-fashioned stone structures thrown in the mix. Lets just say I wasn’t disappointed with the reality of the (possibly) stereotyped vision in my mind, when it came to be true and more.
I was being lead down winding roads in the English countryside in the district of Cotwolds via mini-bus along a route that is considered to be off the beaten track due to the roads being so narrow. It was here for about an hour or so, I was snail pacing through countryside and gazing upon the stone honey coloured and thatched housing as well as the 18th and 19th century stone walls featuring everywhere in the small village of Bibury. Interesting to know that structures in the region need to abide by area standards to look in a certain way and it is the only region of the UK with that particular look. No wonder everything was so damn cutesy!
Now it was time for that postcard perfect moment and that was seeing Arlington Row which is possibly the most famous line of cottages in the UK that date back to the 14th century. I know I get caught up with these fairytale visions in my head but the landscape reminded me of the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast where Belle is singing away words of ‘little town, its a quiet village.’ Yes I made a Disney reference (yet again)!
Perched upon the banks of the River Coln, it was only a short cross over the bridge to come up and close with Arlington Row which has also been made famous as it features in British passports. I also went to visit Bilbury Court which houses a cemetery. No I don’t get kicks out of being in a cemetery but it was actually quite stunning to be there, seeing old tombstones coming out from the evergreen grass with the old 15th century courthouse (now converted into a hotel) in the backdrop.
The final stop on my magical tour of England (I say magical as it was ever so refreshing to be outside of the chaos of London) was to the beautiful and my favourite university city of Oxford (sorry Cambridge). This was the second time I had visited the city however the first time at sun down despite the fact it was 5pm – welcome to an English autumn.
Oxford is home to the world famous and impressive 900 year old Oxford University. Walking around Oxford and seeing young people everywhere makes you feel ever so envious of the students that are studying there as it I can’t imagine many other universities being as beautiful and grand as this one and its surrounds. There are simply old buildings upon every corner you venture to and it was really unique to be in a university town which has so much history to it. Visiting Oxford twice now has made me want to go back to university just to experience the student life there!
So what does one do in Oxford if you aren’t hitting the books?
First of all, if you really appreciate old, medieval and late modern architecture, then you should definitely put Oxford on your list of places to visit. Despite its’ compact size, it has a list of world renowned buildings including the beautiful and impressive Radcliffe Camera. Actually I cannot limit it to one, there are simply so many!
Christchurch, New College, Bodleian Library and Blenhiem Palace look familiar to anyone? If you are a Harry Potter fan you would also be lapping up the place as it is the setting of some of the scenes in the Harry Potter movies. Let the magic of the place speak for itself.
A great way to get a nice overview of the city is to visit the roof top bar The Varsity Club, that way you can really soak up Oxford in all its’ glory while sipping on a cocktail. Take that from personal experience!
Despite the fact the weather was stereotypical English grey weather, it couldn’t have been more perfect even with a drizzle or two, it just made the setting and the feel more quintessential England. Just what I had always envisioned it to be.
I was traveling as a guest of The English Bus.
For more information, please see below for the nitty gritty details:
Want to do the same tour? Check out Oxford, Statford & Cotswolds Villages