Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 2023: Two Weeks in the Cotswolds and London
By Deva from USA, Fall 2012
Trip Description: We spent a week in the Cotswolds visiting the various towns, hiking/walking and basically touring using mass transportation. Then another week in London, seeing the sites and enjoying the food!
Destinations: Countries - United Kingdom; Regions/Cities - Cotswolds, London
Categories: Vacation Rentals; Foodie Trip; Garden Visits; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 15: Day One: Arrival and a Glimpse of London
After saving vacation time and money for over a year, my husband Bob and I were finally ready for another big adventure in 2012: one week in the English countryside, and one week in London!
I love reading exhaustively-detailed trip reports, so I am probably going to go overboard with my own write-ups. I'm going to divide it into several posts, and include a list of favorites and resources at the end for folks looking for just the highlights.
We arrived at Heathrow just after 6am. With economy seats and a wailing infant a few rows away, neither of us had gotten much sleep. Thankfully, we both still had plenty of energy due to excitement and the fact that a direct flight from Boston to the UK is relatively short! After a bit of searching, we found our way to the platforms for the Heathrow Connect. While not as fast as the zippy Heathrow Express, it's considerably cheaper. I purchased our round-trip tickets online, and we claimed them at a kiosk near the platform with no hassle. We could have taken the tube even more cheaply, but we were nervous about navigating the underground while jet-lagged, and the HC goes straight to Paddington, where we would be catching our train. If I were doing things over again, however, I would have gotten only one-way tickets, since the tube was actually a faster and more convenient way to get back to the airport from our apartment in Chelsea.
By the time we reached Paddington Station it was still not yet 9am, but the station was already bustling with activity. I still didn't quite feel like I was in London, possibly because there were so many other tourists around! The station is quite a cool, old-fashioned structure, long and vast, with elegant, old-fashioned metal filigree decorations that give it an almost art nouveau feel. There are also plenty of fast food kiosks and grocery outlets offering a wide array of quick, cheap food.
Our train wasn't leaving until 1:30pm so we decided to spend a few hours getting an early glimpse of London. We checked our bag at the Left Luggage office in the station, picked up our train tickets from the automated kiosk, availed ourselves of the 30 pence toilets, then headed off in the direction of Hyde Park.
A few minutes walk, and we were surrounded by green fields and trees, joggers, and dozens of dogs out on their morning strolls. We were impressed by how many of the dogs were off-leash! And so well behaved! It made us miss our own dog Charlie, even though we'd been away for less than 24 hours. We passed through a lovely Italianate garden, still bright with flowers, and then made our way toward Kensington Palace (and the street behind it, where my handy Google map told me I could find several recommended bakeries!)
We took our goodies (just-okay almond croissant from Ottolenghi's for me, good plain croissant from Patisserie Valerie for Bob) and hot drinks back to the park and had our first London meal on a bench watching more Londoners and their dogs. It was a lovely way to ease into the trip.
Thus fortified, we continued on. We ogled the enormous, elaborate Prince Albert memorial (which made me sad, knowing how young he died, and how deeply Victoria mourned him), then headed out of the park toward the Museum of Natural History.
I adored the exterior of this building! It's huge and set back from the street, and absolutely every corner and window and ridge is decorate with carvings of flora and fauna. Everything from monkeys to pterodactyls (and a few of what I took to be griffins-- not exactly "natural" but quite imposing!). There was a huge line of people (mostly families with kids) waiting for the doors to open (the museum is free) so we continued on to the Victoria & Albert museum, of design, right next door.
The V&A is also free, which we really appreciated since we only had time for the briefest of surveys. Everyone says it's enormous and overwhelming, and they are right. We really only visited two areas: the Greek and Roman statues, and the rooms with art from the Middle East. Unfortunately I think I was too jet-lagged to really appreciate the details, but I really enjoyed just wandering the huge rooms full of beautiful items. Overall this wasn't one of my must-see sites, but I am glad we did get a glimpse of it.
By the time we left, the waiting crowds had entered the Natural History Museum, so we decided to poke in there too. I really wanted to see the great hall, and I was not disappointed. The interior is just as richly carved as the exterior, all brown wood and rich natural colors, with an elaborate staircase leading up to the second level balconies that run all around the hall. Wandering past the old-fashioned display cases I could almost imagine the modern tourists replaced by Victorian-era ladies and gentlemen. After a quick photo-op with the statue of Darwin, we headed back out to catch our train.
Ninety minutes later and we were disembarking at Moreton-in-Marsh! We easily located the bus stop in the parking lot. I'd been a little nervous about the buses since all I had to work from were schedules found online, some of which were not entirely clear. Fortunately this stop had posted times and line numbers, which confirmed that the next bus to Chipping Campden was due in ten minutes (they only run every hour or two, so that was lucky timing!)
As soon as we were on the bus I knew we'd made the right decision not to rent a car. Those Cotswold roads are so narrow! Even on the bus I was wincing whenever we passed another vehicle, at first. But before long I had stopped watching the cars, and started paying attention to the ridiculously charming countryside. It had been a bit overcast all day, but as we were driving, the sun began breaking through the clouds! When we got out in Chipping Campden my heart gave the same sort of little leap it had when I first saw Paris and Venice. It was perfect! The rows of buildings all gold in the evening light, the long curving main street, the patchwork of green fields covering the gentle hills.
After a bit of wandering around we oriented ourselves and located our apartment (it was actually almost directly across the street from the bus stop, behind the Noel Arms Inn) and the promised key in its hiding spot. We explored our new home and found it just as charming as the town itself, tiny yet perfectly comfortable for two people. And surrounded by other adorable houses with beautiful gardens still overflowing with roses. Our house even had a lovely outside sitting area lush with flowers.
Jet lag was starting to kick in by then, so we availed ourselves of the small Coop grocery store around the corner. We really loved how easy it was to get fresh Indian entrees in all the grocery stores! After a meal of microwaved Chicken Tikka Masala and Lemon Rice, we headed to bed.
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