Saturday morning the West family headed back to the states and the four of us continued on to the Cotswold area in England. I love the city, but was anxious to show D&D the quaint English countryside.
Just a few hours from London, the Cotswold is an absolutely charming area with homes with thatched roofs, the epitome of "Englishness".
On our way there we stopped at Oxford University. Oxford is the third oldest University and the first English speaking institution in the world.
The exact date of when it was built is unclear, but there is evidence that teaching at oxford goes back to 1086. Interesting trivia - the University is actually made of of 38 individual, self-governing colleges. There are over 20,000 students. Allen's brother-in-law teaches there. Pretty impressive huh?
On our way our we stopped at Ben's Cookie shop. I had read that it had THE BEST chocolate chip cookies. So we stopped. And yes, we all agreed - Ben's had THE BEST chocolate chip cookies we had ever eaten!
Next stop was Blenheim Palace, home of the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and birthplace of Winston Churchill (Prime Minister of the UK from 1940 - 1945 and again from 1951-1955). He is most famous for his leadership during WWII.
The Palace was built around 1705 - 1724 in the English Baroque style of architecture. Today it is a World Heritage Site.
The 9th Duke made the biggest impact on the Palace where he did many improvements throughout including the creation of the beautiful formal gardens.
Our first B&B was the Mole & Chicken. It was a restaurant with five petite country style rooms out in the countryside of Buckinghamshire. It was build in 1831 and was a worker's cottage, then the village store, next a pub, and now a restaurant with rooms.
Sweet rooms and a SWEET bathtub!
We had a delicious dinner in the restaurant and as we took a little evening walk down the street, an older gentleman popped out of his house (fourth house in the row) and began talking to us.
His name was Jack and he was 76. He invited us into his house to show us his collection of antique articles. It was a priceless experience. But I did not take my camera to dinner so no photos!
The next morning we had a typical British breakfast; eggs, sausage, ham, beans, mushrooms and toast. As seen below in the postcard : )
Our first stop was a very old church. There was nothing notable about it, we just thought it was pretty so we walked through.
An unusual but interesting thing all churches in England have is hand-embroidered cushions to kneel on. I have not seen this in any other country.
In England on Sundays, the entire family goes out for a traditional "roast" lunch. So we went to the Lamb Inn Pub for our Sunday roast.
Check out this cute sign in their parking lot. And D did park prettily.
That night I had a surprise for the group - Gifford's Circus!
I had read about this local circus owned and created by a husband and wife team. It tours the Cotswold every other year in the summer. They base the shows on the circus performances of the 1930's.
This year's show was called Yasmine and was a musical about the legendary female horse trainer, Yasmine Smart. It was a very small venue in a big top tent. Locals we spoke to were surprised that we had even heard about it. All my research!
The show was absolutely delightful! Old fashioned fun with some impressive performances There was a 12 piece band, horses, clowns, and several acts like the woman on the tight rope. Amazing!!
This one was equally impressive.
And the clowns had us all laughing!
We are so used to everything being high tech with flash and electronics.....it was amusing to see how entertained everyone was with the simple act of blowing into plastic flutes.
It was just good old fashioned fun and we all left feeling really happy. Who wouldn't with dancing pigs and all!
Our B&B for the next two nights was the Mole's End. A lovely manor home with three stately rooms you could stay in.
We gave Don and Donna the large room as this three day trip was our anniversary present to them. Not that our room was any less charming.
The next day we visited Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon. Born in 1564 he grew up in this house where his father made gloves in a room adjoining the family home.
I like Shakespeare but am not a huge fan.....yet I was in complete awe when we walked through his house. To think....Shakespeare was born in this house and actually lived here 446 years ago!
As Shakespeare said, "such stuff as dreams are made on".
Why look, Don even got to meet Shakespeare. Isn't Don's sweater cute? We bought it for him in Scotland for Father's Day.
Another event I wanted D& D to experience in England was a proper afternoon tea. Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Ann, the seventh Duchess of Bedford in the year 1840.
A traditional tea would consist of sweets and sandwiches. And you absolutely must have scones with jam and clotted cream.
We skipped the sandwiches and each selected a slice of specialty cake and shared the scones. All were absolutely divine!
Outside of the tea house an old time car caught Don's attention. I love this photo! Don looks like he owns the car and the house behind it!
We spoke to the owner and she said it was a 1933 original Austin and you need to crank it to get it to run. It was a beauty.
Our last stop of the day was a lavender field. I had read that it was in full bloom at this time of year. I was surprised to find a lavender field in the Cotswold.
But to my delight...the color was as intense and as beautiful as any I've seen in Provence France!
The air was fragrant, full of that luscious lavender smell. I wish I had a scratch and sniff function on this blog.
There were thousands of bees busy at work on the lavender and the nearby sunflower field.
The owner was also very busy harvesting. It was peak time for the harvest, in fact if we were a day later, we would have missed seeing the beautiful purple fields.
Our wonderful vacation ended on Donna's birthday. Happy Birthday Donna!
We savored a leisurely breakfast at the B&B. Jane, the host, made really good eggs.
We had a little time before heading to the train station so we walked though a quintessential English neighborhood with thatched-roof houses. How sweet to live in one of these and enjoy it everyday.
We stopped at the local post office/florist/tea house for a spot of tea.
It is always special when you order tea in England. Even in a tiny tea house they will bring your tea in proper china.
Since it was Donna's birthday and we would be traveling most of the day, we would not have time to celebrate with a cake. But what would be even better than cake? BEN'S COOKIES!!! That's right, we went back through Oxford just to buy cookies.
Was it worth it? Oh ABSOLUTELY 100% YES. We splurged and each got two. It was a birthday celebration after all !!!!