Spending two weeks in England this summer was definitely not the typical beach holiday, but it was refreshing to escape the Barcelona heat. We went to England for two weeks because our kids were going to sleepover camp for the first time. We thought it might be wise to stay in the same country as them, just in case anything should go awry, but we also thought – why not take advantage of this time and explore the English countryside.
We had a great time and looking back I easily came up with my favorite moments, all 20 of them!
20 BEST moments of two weeks in England
1. Staying in Notting Hill
We rented and AirBnB one block from the famous Portebello Road and it was a great location for our few days in London. We only had two days in London with the kids and we were not doing any major sight seeing, we just wanted to keep it chill. We just wanted to walk to all the cute cafes, cruise the Portobello market, and wander the adorable and very colorful Notting Hill neighborhood. And of course we had to step inside the Notting Hill Bookstore from the movie Notting Hill.
2. London Escape Room
We love doing escape rooms in all the cities we visit! We promised the kids we would do one in London before they headed off to camp. Harris found one of the top rated and best escape rooms in London and it certainly did not disappoint! This might have been our families favorite of all the escape rooms we’ve done! Time Run Escape Room
3. Seeing School Of Rock with the kids
We did not get theatre tickets in advance and seeing a show was not on the agenda at all. Which I regretted once we were in London and I remembered, oh right – we should see a show! While walking around Covent Garden it started to rain heavily, we jumped down in the subway station to head back to Notting Hill and there was a discounted theatre ticket booth. Clearly it was meant to be. I darted across the packed station and said “What cha’ got for tonight!?” School of Rock was a really high energy show and the kids loved it!
4. Drinking from a BBQ grill
Yes, you read that correctly. My (now very good) friend Katja literally just moved to London from Mexico City. As in like five days before we got there. She is originally from England, but has been living abroad with her family for over 10+ years. We had an interesting meal at a the Eclectic Diner in Notting Hill, then we went for a cocktail at Trailer Happiness, a funky little tiki bar. We figured we might as well keep up the hipster theme. We somehow ended up ordering a BBQ grill filled with booze to share. This is why Katja is now a very good friend, you do not share large BBQ grill cocktails with just anyone.
5. Dropping the kids off for summer camp
Dropping the kids off at the St Pancras train station was a top highlight, not because I was getting rid of my kids for two weeks but because this train station is such a beautiful historical landmark! I had never been to St Pancras Station and had no idea it was such a gem. But back to sending my kids away to camp for two weeks, for the FIRST TIME. We spotted the XUK Camp sweatshirts on the counselors with swarms of kids around them right away. We checked them in, hung out for a bit but then hugged and said our goodbyes. It was so bizarre walking away from them. My gut felt like it had been slightly punched.
6. Diana: Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace
In honor of the 20 year anniversary of Princess Diana’s passing there is a special exhibit at Kensington Palace, Diana: Her Fashion Story and it is beyond GORGEOUS. Seeing this was an unexpected surprise. I did not know about this exhibit before we got to London and I still can’t even remember how I saw or heard that this was happening, but it was a MUST for me. I did this solo while Harris got some work done. This is on display until February 2018 so if you are in London I suggest you go!
7. Re-connecting with a friend from South Africa
We met Lole and her husband (who are from South Africa) in Barcelona while on a food tour with friends. We have remained in contact and randomly she was in London! She messaged me and we got together for dinner with her and her lovely daughter. It was so great catching up and talking about life’s twists and turns, but a highlight for me was hearing her and her daughter tell the story of them biking the famous Camino de Santiago through Spain. So funny.
8. Harris being told he’s a “Fool”
While driving from London to Peak District we had been on the highway for about 20 minutes and we were in the far right lane, then Harris moved over into the middle lane and a car zoomed passed us…
Harris: That guy just called me a fool!
Me: What, how do you know!?
Harris: Well he passed me and did this – Harris makes a hand jerking-off motion.
Me: Oh, is that the international sign for a fool!? LOL
Harris: I think so!
9. The Monsal Trail and biking through railroad tunnels
The Monsal Trail was awesome! I am not a biker, I prefer running, but when in Peak District there are a variety of trails and Harris likes biking, so we biked. The Monsal Trail is a trail that used to be an old railroad that has been converted into a gorgeous trail that includes six railroad tunnels that you ride through. I absolutely loved biking through the tunnels, it was very cool. I had so much fun on this bike ride that I may have even agreed to bike with Harris back in Spain… maybe.
10. Pub Dogs & Pints
I had some favorite pubs while in Peak District and some not so favorite;) Two of my favorites were The Bulls Head (near Eyam) and The Anchor. The Bulls head was adorable inside and it came with the cutest pub dog named Jack! Not only was the pub cozy and the waitress friendly, but the fish-n-chips was SO good and it was literally the whole fish! The Anchor was my other favorite because they serve food all day and the staff was really nice and welcoming. This place felt like the being inside the belly of a pirate ship with even a rum room included.
The thing with the pubs in the Peak District is, they are strict about their food serving hours – you better get there between 12-2 if you want lunch and 6-8 if you want dinner. There isn’t much wiggle room and it was a little annoying. However, when we were late or behind the food serving schedule we went to The Anchor and they happily served us. Another pub that took us even though it was 2:30 was The Ashford Arms in Ashford on the Water, this was another stand out pub that had a lovely garden.
11. Tissington Trail
Tissington trail was beautiful but just not as unique as riding through the railroad tunnels on the Monsal trail. However, the real gem of this trail was at the end when you reached the village of Tissington. We parked our bikes and walked around the town wandering into the most adorable vintage candy shop, browsed a beautiful home store and then stopped for some coffee and homemade fudge next to Tissington Hall, which is a gorgeous historical estate. This estate is popular for weddings and since it was a Saturday we saw a large group of dapper groomsmen getting photos taken.
12. Peak District, pretty much ALL of it.
Never heard of the Peak District? Yeah most people haven’t. I actually read about Peak District in an inflight magazine, if you can believe that! Peak District is a national park in northern England and apparently the stepsister to the bigger and more popular Lake District. Some friends of ours recently visited the Lake District on their honeymoon and stayed in a gorgeous Lake District honeymoon hotel. If we had more time, we would have definitely paid it a visit. The Peak District is closer to London so it’s a bit more convenient and it is also a very easy drive from Manchester and Cambridge. It is well known for their hiking and biking trails but just driving around and exploring the the countryside stopping at all the small villages was fun too! I loved it here.
13. The Sir Williams Hotel and Barry the local bar man
We were driving around looking for a place to grab a bite to eat and we suddenly came to The Sir William Grindleford and from the outside it looked adorable! When we drive to the back to park, the views were fantastic and they had a little garden area with picnic tables. I went in to make sure they were serving food and as luck would have it they were! We were met by the nicest staff behind the bar, which included a young college kid from North Dakota of all places, and Barry, who seemed to be the the permanent bar fixture. He was hilarious and kept us entertained while we ate. I also asked to see a room upstairs, because I am totally staying here the next time we are in Peak District. There will be a next time.
14. Our cottage in the Cotswolds
Adorable. I felt like frickin’ goldilocks (with one bear) ha ha ha! This cottage was the cutest and even came with one of those iconic country doors that you can open just the top half, a small detail but one I loved! This stylish little cottage was in the town of Cirencester – one of the largest towns in the Cotswolds, but not in a horrible way. It was nestled behind one of the main streets in town so we could walk out our door and walk to everything. The funny thing was, it was sort of behind a Thai restaurant so when we would leave we would get an intense smell of Thai food. Ahhh, nothing like stepping out your door in the English countryside to smell Thai food!;)
15. Getting my running back in the Cotswolds
I have not been running. My excuses – the end of the school year was crazy per usual, lots of friends have been visiting, traveling and the heat in Barcelona. Lame, I know. So the one good thing about the weather in England was it made for some great running weather. I also found a cute store that sold the coolest workout clothing so I bought myself a few fun pairs of leggings, which may have also inspired me to get my ass up and go running.
16. The Hare Trail
I spotted a couple gorgeous sculptures of painted rabbits, so I googled. It turns out that there are 85 of them throughout the 28 villages in the Cotswolds and this is known as The Hare Trail. They are decorated by different artists and are on display from March – September, then in October they auction them off and the proceeds go to a variety of charities. I of course wanted to find all of them, but probably only spotted ten.
17. Meeting up with a high school friend in the Cotswolds
What are the chances that a friend from high school was visiting her brother that lives in the Cotswolds the same week I was there!? Slim to none, but it totally happened! We met up for a pint at a pub (naturally). I was also able to meet her brother, his beautiful dog and her sweet family. They had already been to Iceland, spending a few days in the Cotswolds, then heading into London and then onto Paris. Catching up with her was such a fun treat!
18. Reading an entire book in a day
This was a first for me. I have never read a book in ONE DAY. I am not the type to sit still for that long, my mind and body just does not do that. However, if you put me in a cozy cottage while it’s raining, apparently my body can be persuaded to lay around all day and my mind can get wrapped up in something other than being productive. Yay!
19. Arguing about eating pistachios while driving
Have you ever eaten pistachios? Well if so, then you know that this is a two hand job. Have you ever driven a manual car with the steering wheel on the right side of the car? Then you know that this is also a two hand job. Therefore, it is not safe to crack open pistachios, navigate the roundabouts while driving on the opposite side of the road and changing gears. Period.
20. Visiting Oxford – Wycliffe hall
The icing on the cake! Oxford is about an hour drive from where we were in the Cotswolds and so on the last day we took a drive to Oxford, so I could relive my youth! 20 years ago I did a study abroad program called EuroSpring and we stayed at Wycliffe Hall on Banbury Street in Oxford. Our walk over to the hall brought back so many memories. We passed by all the pubs we would frequent and the park we would walk pass everyday. Whoa – this took me back, way back. That EuroSpring trip opened my eyes to the world – and I’m pretty sure it was then that I decided I needed to see ALL OF IT.
The place where my wanderlust life began…