Monthly Archives: May 2017

England – Day 9, Kelmscott Manor, Bibury Village and cream tea

P1160591Today we enjoyed a scenic drive through the Cotswolds. The scenery is stunning with rolling hills, fields of vibrant green and brilliant yellow as far as the eye can see.  We visited the handsome Kelmscott Manor, in a remote, rural and tranquil Cotswold village, a five-minute walk from the River Thames. Built around 1600, Kelmscott was the country home of William Morris, the motivational leader of a revival in arts and crafts that encompassed all the visual arts.  The house contains an outstanding collection of the possessions and works of Morris, his family and other members of the Arts and Crafts movement including Bourne Jones and paintings by Dante Rossetti.  The gardens and grounds are lovely and the setting very tranquil. It’s easy to see why William Morris loved Klemscott so much.P1160511P1160521P1160517P1160524P1160527P1160535P1160540 P1160541P1160538P1160547

We took a short stroll along the gravel road to visit the village and enjoy lunch at The Plough at Klemscott.  It’s a charming pub and the food was excellent and service great.

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After lunch and free time to explore the Klemscott area we boarded the bus and continued our scenic drive through the Cotswolds to the picturesque village of Bibury.  They say this is one of the prettiest towns in the Cotswolds and I tend to agree.  The Thames river runs through the town. The water is so clear you can see the spotted trout swimming around. The ducks and swans seem quite happy to make this place their home. The stone houses and colourful gardens are stunning.

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We enjoyed a delicious cream tea at the William Morris Tea House.  They served a large selections of teas, cakes and the famous scones and clotted cream.  The couple that own the tea house are very charming and friendly.  It was a delightful way to end our tour of the Cotswolds.

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This evening we celebrated our English adventure with a farewell dinner the Brassiere.  The food was amazing!

Overnight: Galaxie Hotel, Oxford

England – Day 8, Blenheim Palace, Cotswold Villages

This morning we visited the church and graveside of Sir Winston Churchill.  Churchill is buried in the family plot along with the other Spencer-Churchill members.

P1160478 P1160482 P1160481Our next stop was the baroque masterpiece Blenheim Palace, ancestral home of Winston Churchill..  With its 2,000 acres and 187 rooms, Blenheim Palace eclipses even the British monarchy’s homes. Our tour included the palace state rooms filled with stunning portraits, elaborate furniture, and the famous Blenheim Tapestries.


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Our scenic drive back to Oxford took us through the beautiful Cotswold villages riddled with old stone mansions, thatched cottages, and atmospheric churches. We enjoyed lunch in the charming village of Stow on the Wold.  The scenery is stunning. Upon our return to Oxford the ladies took a couple of hours to explore the shops and stroll along the pedestrian mall.

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Dinner this evening was at the Eagle and Child pub.  A delicious meal; crab pot with fresh homemade bread, chicken and chorizo pie, delectable desserts.  Definitely not low fat!

Dinner starter Dinner main Dinner dessert

Overnight: Galaxie Hotel, Oxford

England – Day 7, Downton Village and exploring Oxford

Today we visited the village of Downton – the real life village of Bampton, about 20 miles west of Oxford. This charming town stands in for Downton and the exteriors of the church, the pub, the library, and various houses were used for scenes outside of the Downton Cottage Hospital, the Post Office, and Isobel Crawley’s house. Springtime is lovely here with the many types of shrubs and vines brimming with colourful flowers.  We took a stroll through the village, into the church and chatted with the locals about life in Bampton during the filming of Downton. One lady was thrilled to share her experience of being an extra on the set of the Lady Mary’s wedding.








This afternoon we wandered beneath the ‘dreaming spires’ of Oxford, one of the world’s most famous university cities. The group divided into three so we could find places to accommodate us for a quick lunch. Our group ate at Chequers Pub. I had a delicious Mac and Cheese with an Oxford Ale. We toured the elegant Christchurch college buildings and grand quads which date back to the 1100’s. The great hall was the inspiration behind Hogwarts great hall in Harry Potter.  It’s one of the nicest cafeteria style dining |’ve ever seen.  The church is spectacular. This great hall also inspired Lewis Carrol as he wrote Alice in Wonderland. He created characters from those he found in the stained glass windows and a small doorway became related to the rabbit hole. the buildings and grounds of the college are absolutely stunning!


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Dinner was at The Eagle and Child pub.  Great food!  Delicious split pea and watercress soup and a choice of either fish and chips or tasty chicken and chips.

Overnight: Galaxie Hotel, Oxford

England – Day 6, Wilton House and exploring Salisbury

This morning tour guide Sue took some of us on a stroll through Salisbury to visit St Paul’s Church.  One of the treasures here is the painting of doom uncovered when they removed the plaster from the walls.  There’s also the coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth the first.

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Our exploration of Country Homes continued with a visit of Wilton House, home of the Earls of Pembroke for over 400 years and one of England’s finest stately homes. We took a stroll around the house with its 17th century interiors and world famous art collection, plus over 22 acres of parkland and gardens.  The river runs through the property and a stunning stone bridge takes you over to a green pasture on the other side. Films shot here include The Madness of King George and Pride and Prejudice and they just finished filming season 2 of The Crown where the the home was the stand in for Buckingham Palace.


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P1160371 P1160370There was a special exhibit in the previous horse arena. An amazing collection of Lord Pembroke’s cars.  Mercedes, Ferrari, Datsun to name a few.

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This afternoon we enjoyed some leisurely time exploring Salisbury. Some of us went back to the New Inn for fish and chips. Delicious!

This evening’s dinner was at the Cosy Club. We started with  a selection of delicious tapas. For the main course we had a generous selection to choose from, burgers, risotto, buttermilk chicken, salmon. Both the food and service were excellent.

Overnight: White Hart Mercure Hotel, Salisbury

England – Day 5, Salisbury Cathedral and Mompesson House

This morning we left London and traveled to Salisbury via Stonehenge, Britain’s most iconic archaeological site dating back to 2500 BC, the stone age. Many people have examined the stones and the surrounding area. There are ancient burial mounds, evidence of central living area and the stones which are like a big calendar.  The small blue stones are in the centre and the larger carved stones come from a distance away. They assume they used logs to roll  them to the area where they now stand. The compelling ring of monolithic stones is a mystical place and a reminder of Britain’s ancient history.

P1160264 P1160265 P1160266 P1160282 P1160259 P1160260P1160288The scenery of the countryside is stunning, Rolling hills of bright yellow canola, green winter wheat and farms with sheep, cattle and pigs.  The sky is bright blue today with light fluffy white clouds. The weather certainly has been on our side.

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Salisbury, a walking tour to the Cathedral showcases the architectural timeline from medieval walls to half-timbered Tudor townhouses to Georgian mansions. We visited the stunning Cathedral, one of the finest in Britain. There’s an ancient clock that works on a pulley system, there’s no face or hands.  It simply rings the church bells when it’s time for prayer. The Cathedral dates back to the early 1200’s. Salisbury is a charming town with fabulous architecture and beautiful gardens that are blooming with tulips, flowers, scented bushes.



We visited the beautiful 18th century Queen Anne style Mompesson House, the location for the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility. There is a large collection of 18th century furniture that has been donated to the gallery.  Unfortunately we weren’t permitted to take photos inside. We ended the day with a nice stroll about town then a pint of beer at the local pub.P1160324 P1160325 P1160326P1160329 P1160331 P1160332

This evening we enjoyed dinner at The New Inn, a short stroll from our hotel. The dining room was at the back of the restaurant overlooking the gardens. The service was great and the food excellent.


London dinner Salisbury

Overnight: White Hart Mercure Hotel, Salisbury

England – Day 4, Downton Abbey and Needham House visits

This is the day I’ve been waiting for!  We found out what it’s like behind the scenes of “The Real Downton Abbey”. Home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon since 1679, the private estate opens its doors on a very few occasions offering fans the opportunity to explore the rooms seen on the show; the grand salon where the Dowager Countess held forth, the 5000-book library where the Earl of Grantham conducts business, and the splendid dining room.

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Upon arrival we are treated to a display of a working sheep farm as the dogs herded a flock of sheep from one field to another. It’s obvious it was a good year at Highclere with many spring lambs.

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We toured the outside of the expansive grounds, with acres of rolling hills dotted with sheep.  The house is magnificent outside and in. Unfortunately we were not aloud to take photos in the house but it was certainly worth the visit.  The antiques are impressive and there are many photos of the Carnarvon family as well as photos of the Downtown Abbey crew at work. After touring the house we went to the cellar to view the artifacts that Lord Canarvon collected when he discovered King Tuts tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. We drove through the countryside to Needham House, home of William Morris, owner and creator of Morris Minor Car company. His home was fairly simple and full of a collection of antiques from all over the world.  One of the items on display are the cloaks that the Morris’ wore at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in the 1953. The gardens are magnificent and at this time of the year the blue bells and wisteria are in full bloom

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We drove back along the narrow country roads, past the Themes river to the main highway back to London.  It’s the May 1st long weekend so the traffic was a bit slow.

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Tonight’s dinner was at Village East Restaurant, a short walk from our hotel. The food and service were excellent.  Another great day on our Great Houses tour.

Overnight: Bermondsey Square Hotel, London