I would have thought it impossible that 20 family members ranging from 6 to 69+ could possibly travel together for 10 days without a single hitch, but I was wrong. From the quintessential street scenes of London…
…to every tourist delight, old (Big Ben and Parliament) and new (London Eye), we loved it all. Better yet, we had simply unheard of weather in England, sunny and glorious every day, with skies so beautiful they don’t need Instagram filters.
Staying around the corner from Buckingham Palace in the extraordinary Goring Hotel…
…it was extra special that the Duchess of Cambridge waited for our arrival before giving birth to the royal heir.
We hung out at the Palace and crowded in with the scrum at the gates to see the birth announcement.
Having grandparents around meant that sweet hubbie and I could sneak out at night, which we did late one evening after taking the girls to see Wicked. Incredibly hungry and a bit grumpy we quickly realized that at 11pm, all of London shuts down and it was 10:50. We wandered a few dark blocks before spying what looked like a closed up pub with a lovely red facade. I saw a man in the entry and went to ask his advice on where we might get dinner, knowing full well his place was closed as the front windows were dark. “Table for two madam?” was his reply. I looked at him dumbly and he repeated it, “Table for two madam?” I nodded my head, completely bewildered, as he pushed open a second set of doors and we entered into a dark and bustling restaurant, complete with smoky jazz singer. We felt like we had stepped into a dream, or at the very least a movie set. It was a magical night!
I did split off a bit from the gang as there were no other takers for one of my holy temples, the Victoria & Albert Museum. The V & A has really been working the juxtaposition of old and new, nowhere better expressed than with this massive Dale Chihuly chandelier in the entryway.
Iznik ceramics have been selling for record prices lately and the move to Doha has got me jonesing for them.
There was a bit of work mixed in with the play at the V & A as I researched an upcoming Provenance post on bone inlay. Divine examples from all over the world can be found there. This was a detail from a 15th century Italian trunk.
We left London and headed southwest, after stopping in at Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour (I’ll spare you those photos, but I highly recommend it!), en route to much older monuments. Our only gray morning, the sky mysteriously opened above the circle just as we were viewing it.
We also went to Avebury, which has extraordinary standing stones that are not roped off – in fact the village pub nestles in amongst them. Once again we had picture perfect summer sky.
We stayed at a quintessential Victorian country house called Essebourne Manor where the children played croquet in the evenings as we sat around reading and having a drink. I could move in here and stay!
In traditional English style, there were great window treatments everywhere and I loved these striped and pom pommed curtains in our room.
We had an impressive taste of Medieval architecture at Salisbury Cathedral…
…and a bit of shopping in town afterwards. I stumbled across a great place called The India Shop, which had the most impressive collection of toran I have ever seen. Bought a pair of block printed pillows for the porch here from the bargain bin for just 10 pounds the pair!
Stratford-on-Avon was our final destination for a big family reunion. Our hotels this trip have provided a full tour of the history of architecture in Britain. The 16th century Falcon is very charming when 20th century comforts are added.
Shakespeare was obviously the main thing on the agenda and we took it all in, from an amazing production of All’s Well That Ends Well to the great bed hangings in his childhood home.
A day trip to Blenheim Palace was great too, although my takeaway there was curtains yet again! The British just have such a way with fabric hangings.
We could not resist stopping in at Kings Cross station as we headed out to the airport, where someone has wisely clued in to the public’s desire for Platform 9 3/4. The girls were all for heading to Hogwarts!
And on that final tube ride out to Heathrow it rained for the first time, but no mind, as it brought this double rainbow. A fitting end to a wonderful trip.
All’s well that ends well!