Day 4, Monday April 15. We’re done traipsing around London, for now, time to go join our tour group to get out in the country and see some of the more remote attractions (of course, England isn’t all that big, so ‘remote’ is a relative term).
This Mercedes 16-passenger bus was to be our chariot for the next 5 days. Our immediate destination was to be Oxford, where we’d be taking a river cruise on the Thames (also called the Isis as it flows near Oxford), then we’d be visiting Christ Church in Oxford, one of the Harry Potter filming sites! In successive days we’d be going to Stratford-Upon-Avon, Lacock (another Harry Potter filming site), Bath, Stonehenge, and Windsor Castle. Our driver was to be Charlie Jaques, who turned out to be an absolute gem – very knowledgeable, great sense of humor (or humour, as they do it there) – he was great! Charlie promised us a few interesting side trips along the way, and we were guaranteed to see LOTS of sheep as we drove through the countryside. The wealth and history of the Cotswolds was all built on the wool trade, we learned.
Our touring group turned out to be quite small, as it turned out – there was only one other couple joining us, but it worked out just fine, because they were very personable and pleasant. They were Roger and Lyn Wagland, from near Brisbane, Australia – they were a couple of years older than me, if you can imagine that, so we 3 outnumbered Natalie, age-wise. So, we 3 geezers drooled and fiddled with our hearing aids and walkers while Natalie enjoyed the excursion. Just kidding, folks! We all kept up just fine for the walking, stair climbing, all that stuff. At least *we* thought we did ok – Natalie might remember it differently 🙂
After a short drive we arrived in the Oxford area, where we piled out of the van to take our cruise up the river in a small boat. There was no narration as we went along, so it was just us oooh-ing and ahhh-ing as we put-putted along, pointing out riverside cottages and some finer residences. There were swans sharing the river with us, along with a number of ducks. We saw lots of daffodils every place we went in England, and we saw plenty of them alongside the river. We got to go through one ‘manual-style’ lock gate system on our ride, so that was interesting to see that. You’ll see some of the river sights on the pictures at the end of the blog post. It was a nice, relaxing boat ride.
We left the river and went into the town proper, got out and enjoyed some of the Oxford scenery. Charlie took us on a long hike around the edge of Christ Church just to show us the layout of the grounds, then we went the short distance back into the city streets to round up some lunch. Natalie and I had Cornish pasties from a streetside shop with bistro seating- those pasties were uncommonly good!
After our nourishment, we were ready to tackle the long hallways and galleries of Christ Church. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll recognize the great hall, where in the first movie we saw candles floating high above the long tables, then later there were jack-o-lanterns floating up there. And, I had a small adventure while touring Christ Church. I called it an adventure, you might refer to it as a ‘senior moment’. 😦 After wandering the halls, snapping inumerable photos, I finally re-joined the group back at the van, only to discover that I no longer had my camera with me. Horrors! I could really drag this story out, but I’ll just cut to the chase, as they say. I went back to the postcard and curio shop they had inside the church and asked the nice lady if anyone had turned in a camera. And, she nodded affirmatively, then said, “YES, WE FOUND YOUR CAMERA!!!!” I was tempted to reply, “Hey, lady, I’m not hard of hearing, I’m just hard of understanding!” But, I was gracious, and thanked her profusely 🙂 Whew! Close call there!
After leaving Oxford, we drove through the bucolic countryside, pointing out and admiring all the cottages along the way. The stone buildings in that part of England, including many of the cottages, are made predominantly of a honey-colored (coloured?) stone that has been quarried there for centuries. You’ll notice this coloration when you see the photos. Makes for pretty pictures 🙂
Our destination for the evening was Chipping Campden, where we were booked for two nights. The ‘Chipping’ designation meant that it was a market town, a central point where all the sheep products were brought in by the local farmers. We pulled up at the Kings Hotel there and got our bags up to our rooms. It was a nice, quaint hotel. The number of outlets in the room left something to be desired, but that really was the only deficiency – the rooms were clean, the beds were comfortable! We had plenty of time to stroll the streets before supper, but then we all gathered in the Kings Hotel dining room, and were fed like royalty! Very nice – I had duck and pollock, Natalie had tomato/goat cheese pork belly. Hers sounded kinda odd, but she said it was quite tasty 🙂
That was our first full day in the English countryside, and we were loving every minute of it. We enjoyed sharing our experiences, our history, we had lots of questions for Charlie (pronounced “Chollie”, just like on the “Lost” program), and Natalie and I had questions about Australia. Good times, great memories! Tomorrow, Stratford-Upon-Avon! Enjoy the pictures from Day 4, below: