Despite a solid 9 hours of sleep last night, I still woke up tired this morning. Blame it on my body thinking I was getting up at 1AM. I had a few hours to spend in London before heading to pick up the rental car, so I took advantage of the quiet streets and wound my way from my hotel in Westminster to Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park, and back.
London has a very different feel when you beat the crowds and can enjoy a walk without wall to wall people surrounding you. I took the obligatory pictures of Buckingham Palace (and the boatload of news vans camped out awaiting the Royal baby announcement!) and then headed back to my hotel via St. James’s Park. While there are plenty of other things to see and do in London that I skipped over this time, the Cotswolds were calling me.
Why the Cotswolds? I don’t know when or where I first saw pictures of the picturesque (there really are no other names for them!) villages lined with honey colored stone cottages and thatched roofs, but I’ve wanted to come here ever since. My plan to do a day trip on my last visit to London was foiled due to conflicting plans, so I made up my mind to take a trip just to the Cotswolds.
Of course, my first hurdle of the day was the rental car. I made it to the Hertz location without a problem, and after several different car-type offers, I was off and running in a Kia Cee’d. I didn’t begin to panic until I drove up to the “check out” booth.
All of a sudden I realized that once that gate went up, I was going to be driving straight into the traffic around the airport and onto the motorway. Yikes! I should have brushed up on my British road signs before leaving home. I still don’t know what some of the signs mean. Once I got on the motorway and away from the city, driving became a lot easier. As easy as driving a right-hand drive car on the left side can be anyway. I exited the motorway near Oxford and took back roads to my first destination: Moreton-in-Marsh. Sort of a large village, Moreton was my first introduction to Cotswold stone architecture, and also my first afternoon tea of the trip. Not being into tea at all, and not finger sandwiches either, I discovered on my last visit that cream tea was invented just for me. It typically involves a scone with jam and clotted cream and tea. Fortunately, nobody even bats an eye when I ask for hot chocolate instead of tea. Tilly’s Tea Room was the perfect setting for my first afternoon tea.
After Moreton-in-Marsh, I made my way to Stow-on-the-Wold, one of the more popular Cotswold villages. I found easy parking in the car park and then walked around the town, including St. Edward’s church. Most stores and shops are closed on Sundays, but it was fun to peek in the windows and take in English village life. My last stop before heading to my hotel was Blockley. Coming into the town, I parked by the small church and explored the village. This village is more residential than commercial, and walking up and down the lanes was exactly what I pictured the Cotswold villages to be. Beautiful honey colored stone cottages, tiny lanes lined with compact cars and flowering trees, and a quaint village center with a matching honey colored church. It was an afternoon I could relive over and over again and never get bored.
My final destination was the lovely Charingworth Manor on the outskirts of Chipping Campden. Charingworth is an old manor house built about 700 years ago that has been converted into a hotel. While the rooms have old-world character and charm, they also have modern amenities like TVs and “wifi” (I was told it is spotty at best here in the countryside). The day was capped off by dinner in the hotel lounge and some white chocolate covered honeycomb candy I purchased at a cute little sweet shop in Moreton earlier in the afternoon.