Day around the Cotswolds
Bibury Travel Blog› entry 2 of 18 › view all entries
I didn't get very good sleep that night - partly due to the jetlag and partly due to the snoring. But then again, the arrival nights are always like this. More than myself, I felt for Prashanth who couldn't sleep either. This was his first time in a hostel, thanks to my persistence that he'll have a "lovely time meeting like minded travellers from all over the world", and all he got was a stinky room in the basement with no bedlights, heavy snoring and had to drag his duffelbag to the corridor to pull out and rearrange his stuff! Plus either the walls are thin or we talk too loudly, but someone would bang the wall from the inside if we spoke up a bit in the corridor!
Meanwhile, I woke up around 5am and went to the 24hour newsagent to buy my usual UK breakfast fare: eggs, bread, Swiss cheese and Onken's Mango flavour biopot (or as I call it, Ambrosia).
We finished b'fast around 730a, and we went for a walk around Earl's Court. I'd never seen much of the area other than the road that leads from the Tube station to Bolton Gardens (where the YHA is located), so it was kinda nice to walk around. It didn't strike me until I started walking in London, that autumn is here! I never thought of the UK, or any part of the world barring New England for that matter as a "autumn foliage" kind of place, and was pleasantly surprised to see the white posh Londoney buildings and streets draped with trees and their wide range of colours.
We caught the train from Old Brompton Station to Watford to meet a good friend of mine, Adam. I met Adam through other travel websites about 3 years ago, and he's not only a dear friend but also a very good UK travel resource. Not just in terms of telling you which bus or route to take, but also to explain the history behind things. He took me and Prashanth in his car around the Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds - I had no clue about this place all these years, and couldn't care less even when we drove through the Cotswolds on our visit to Stratford Upon Avon in 2005.
The problem with the Cotswolds is also its greatest strength. Some of the villages, most of which feature in the "most picturesque villages of England" are not easily accessible by bus, let alone tourist coaches. And then there ARE tourist coaches that take you on a day's trip to the Cotswolds, but those are to the generic big market towns which don't look that appealing. The other thing about the Cotswolds that all travel books tell you is to avoid going during the summer due to the crowds. May or October are supposed to be the best times for visiting. Lucky for me, I was visiting England in May and booked with a tour company for their "Cotswolds + Blenheim Palace" tour for a day, and was all excited.
So here I was - around August when I started planning for this UK trip and I knew that I had to visit the Cotswolds. Adam suggested that we guys go together, sounded like a great idea. Great company, and a car to take us to the most inaccessible (and the most beautiful) of places. Couldn't have asked for a sweeter deal. I just kept counting days, looking at that Frommer's picture thinking I'll be there, soon enough!
All this history came sweeping past me as we drove out of Watford, through Oxford and the rolling green hills came to view. I noticed that autumn had well and truly set in. Really, I did choose a perfect time to come to England, didn't I?! I have to say though, the colours didn't seem that striking as I saw on my trip to New England last year, but it's apples and oranges comparison, and I'm not complaining about it either.
Our first stop was Burford - perfect entry into Cotswolds. You could see houses built of the classic Cotswolds stone. We parked by the river and walked to a nearby church. This is where the beauty started to hit me. It was autumn leaves scattered on the ground, a mild chilly breeze blowing and your standard Church, leaves lined up on the greens leading up to the tombs in the churchyard. We went inside for a little peek before heading up the main street of the town for a brisk walk. It's a very nice little town, and it was a good taster of what's to come.
From here, we went to Fairford as Adam said the church here boasted of the largest medieval stain glass paintings found in English Parish churches. The church was the same in terms of design to the Burford one, and the paintings inside were killers.
The crowning jewel, my Frommer's moment was soon to arrive as Adam announced our next stop was Bibury, voted one of England's most beautiful villages. We parked outside what looked like a cheaper version of the picture in the Frommer's book, and I was slightly disappointed. We nearly thought of going back but we thought we'd go for a quick walk by the river before we leave Bibury and my disappointment. And as we were approaching the river, we could see THE STREET! The whole setup is so non-touristy - no signs pointing us to it, it just sits there, quietly like an old dog lying down on the floor after a heavy afternoon lunch - peaceful, still, brimming with inner confidence and beauty.
We were all hungry, as in, starving. So we headed to Bourton on the Water. Adam warned us that this place is a bit touristy but I found it delightful. It was full of life, wasn't too crowded and for me, it was all about the water, the buildings with the Cotswolds stone and the autumn leaves on the trees and the grass.
Upper and Lower Slaughters - Again, not much to be said, but this was one of the BEST places I've seen. Very tranquil, every house has a little stream running through it, the autumn leaves, everything was how you'd read it in a picture book. Think of a poem you read when you were young - think of the trees, the houses, the road, the pavement, the stream, the weather, the leaves... it's all here!
It was nearing 4pm so we headed back, driving through Stow on the Wold and onto London. We saw Prince Charles en route! (at least his bald patch), and Adam dropped the 2 of us in Ruislip Park to catch the Central Line to Oxford Street.
I really enjoyed my day in the Cotswolds. I'll have to be honest, unlike other parts of the UK I've visited, I didn't for a minute think "oh I should've been here longer", but it 's enough to fill a day of wonderful scenery, simplistic and yet very strong. I'm still amazed at how, such a beautiful location which can promote the shit out of itself has instead decided to go low key, and attracting people through word of mouth. Personally, I felt thrilled. After years of wanting to go there, I finally made it, and in the best possible way - our own car and wonderful company. And the photo of me in Arlington Row, park that next to my kissing the Blarney, pointing to the Pyramids or standing in front of Buckingham Palace in terms of "Been there done that" Kodak moments.
Anyway back to London - headed to Oxford Street and spent some time in Topman, they had a 1/2 Off sale, not that I bought anything. From here, I went to the Euston station to pick up my train tickets to the Lake District but unfortunately, due to a mixup with my old and new credit cards, they weren't available. I had to call up 3 to 4 support lines (Virgin Trains - National Express web support - National Express East Coast) and all for nought - it turns out my tickets were available when the lady at the counter swiped my credit card for verification.
With that confusion sorted out, we then headed to the Holborn Tube station to meet at Princess Louise pub. turns out they don't serve dinner after 9pm (it was about 915pm). I ended up missing meeting a dear friend of mine from New Jersey who had also flown into the UK as the same time as me, but I did meet MB, another very dear friend of mine from Vancouver whom I met on a travel forum and who's been of immense help to me through the years in planning my travels.
We left around 10pm after saying bye to MB, came back to the hostel and started packing as we had a 545am cab to Euston station headed to the Lake District. I actually felt very proud as well of the friends I've met and kept through the years. The Internet is such a blessing, we meet like minded individuals from around the world, and I was finally glad that I started meeting the people I've become so pally with over the Net.