The Cotswolds! Bibury, to be specific.
When we were planning out our trip, we were trying to figure out the best way to see the English countryside. Ideally, we would have spent a day in The Lakes District living out my Jane Austen dreams. But the more we tried to figure out how we could fit everything in, it didn't make much sense to leave London, when we were there for only a few short days. So we did a day trip from London on a bus tour. We had our doubts and read a mix of reviews- some glowing, some less favorable. But ultimately we decided it would be the most cost effective way to see the beautiful countryside I have dreamt of!
It ended up being perfect for us! We were most definitely the youngest people on the tour by a good 15 years at least. Our first stop was here at the Cotswolds, which is very close to Oxford. When my sisters came to England a few years ago, this was Lizzy's very favorite place. It was a humid, beautiful day to spend in this lush area. The homes in the Cotswolds are very old. They were built by wealthy wool merchants who had more money than they knew what to do with. So they built lots of houses next to each other and would have their own little villages. That way they had space enough for their entire family to live close to them. Which adds to its adorable sentiment.
Next up... Bourton-on-the-Water....
Bourton-on-the-Water was adorable, but much more commercialized than the other towns we went through. This is where the tour stopped for lunch. Luckily, we had gone to Borough Market the day before. So instead of battling the overpriced cafes, we took a little stroll through town and found a little nook on the path near this adorable little pasture. This ended up being one of my favorite meals from the whole trip! All it takes is some nature, good focaccia, and chocolate.
Next up... Bampton! This is the village where they filmed Downton Abbey. You may specifically recognize Lady Crawley's house, the church (where Mary got married), the location of the Downton fair, The Dog & the Duck, Grantham Arms, and the Downton hospital.
Another perk about Bampton was that we were filmed for a local TV station. They were doing a story about American visitors coming to visit and they wanted to know why we loved it so much. So that was pretty fun to feel like a celebrity. Greg is a total charmer on the camera, so he loved it too!
Next up, Blenheim Palace...
This is a beautiful castle-like home that was given to the Duke of Marlborough from the queen for leading the victory of a war back in the day, and it's also the birthplace of Winston Churchill. We chose to not buy entrance tickets because we just wanted to explore the vast gardens.
(I asked Greg to give me his best "Mr. Darcy!" Nailed it.)
This little jaunt around the gardens was one of my very favorite afternoons of the trip. We took photos, joked around, and everything was just open and spacious. It was a great break from being in the big city. We had about 45 min left before we needed to go back to the bus, so we just sat on the grass. I told Greg the plot lines and details of all of my favorite Jane Austen stories. I went into a TON of detail telling him all about Eleanor and her sisters and how she was strong and sensible. I told him all about Mr. Knightley and how both Emma and Harriet had their eye on him. He was so kind and patient to listen to all my stories and let me just experience the Austen-era while on these beautiful grounds. And it was perfect for me because he watched both Pride and Prejudice and Emma with me when we got back to America. Big points for my fabulous husband! I told him that he needed to call me "Mrs. Woolston" throughout the trip because I was "incandescently happy."
Good times, good times.