Today we visited the village of Downton – the real life village of Bampton, about 20 miles west of Oxford. This charming town stands in for Downton and the exteriors of the church, the pub, the library, and various houses were used for scenes outside of the Downton Cottage Hospital, the Post Office, and Isobel Crawley’s house. Springtime is lovely here with the many types of shrubs and vines brimming with colourful flowers. We took a stroll through the village, into the church and chatted with the locals about life in Bampton during the filming of Downton. One lady was thrilled to share her experience of being an extra on the set of the Lady Mary’s wedding.
This afternoon we wandered beneath the ‘dreaming spires’ of Oxford, one of the world’s most famous university cities. The group divided into three so we could find places to accommodate us for a quick lunch. Our group ate at Chequers Pub. I had a delicious Mac and Cheese with an Oxford Ale. We toured the elegant Christchurch college buildings and grand quads which date back to the 1100’s. The great hall was the inspiration behind Hogwarts great hall in Harry Potter. It’s one of the nicest cafeteria style dining |’ve ever seen. The church is spectacular. This great hall also inspired Lewis Carrol as he wrote Alice in Wonderland. He created characters from those he found in the stained glass windows and a small doorway became related to the rabbit hole. the buildings and grounds of the college are absolutely stunning!
Dinner was at The Eagle and Child pub. Great food! Delicious split pea and watercress soup and a choice of either fish and chips or tasty chicken and chips.
Overnight: Galaxie Hotel, Oxford
This morning we left London and traveled to Salisbury via Stonehenge, Britain’s most iconic archaeological site dating back to 2500 BC, the stone age. Many people have examined the stones and the surrounding area. There are ancient burial mounds, evidence of central living area and the stones which are like a big calendar. The small blue stones are in the centre and the larger carved stones come from a distance away. They assume they used logs to roll them to the area where they now stand. The compelling ring of monolithic stones is a mystical place and a reminder of Britain’s ancient history.
The scenery of the countryside is stunning, Rolling hills of bright yellow canola, green winter wheat and farms with sheep, cattle and pigs. The sky is bright blue today with light fluffy white clouds. The weather certainly has been on our side.
Salisbury, a walking tour to the Cathedral showcases the architectural timeline from medieval walls to half-timbered Tudor townhouses to Georgian mansions. We visited the stunning Cathedral, one of the finest in Britain. There’s an ancient clock that works on a pulley system, there’s no face or hands. It simply rings the church bells when it’s time for prayer. The Cathedral dates back to the early 1200’s. Salisbury is a charming town with fabulous architecture and beautiful gardens that are blooming with tulips, flowers, scented bushes.
We visited the beautiful 18th century Queen Anne style Mompesson House, the location for the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility. There is a large collection of 18th century furniture that has been donated to the gallery. Unfortunately we weren’t permitted to take photos inside. We ended the day with a nice stroll about town then a pint of beer at the local pub.
This evening we enjoyed dinner at The New Inn, a short stroll from our hotel. The dining room was at the back of the restaurant overlooking the gardens. The service was great and the food excellent.
Overnight: White Hart Mercure Hotel, Salisbury
After a sumptuous English breakfast we began our day with a tour of Kensington Palace, home of the Royals. Then a special visit of “Diana: Her Fashion Story” exhibit at the Palace. What a treat! A quick photo stop at an iconic London telephone booth and the Prince Albert Memorial located on the edge of Hyde Park.
This afternoon we visited the Tower of London. The buildings date back centuries but the most impressive part of the tour was the crown jewels. The bejeweled crowns, swords, ornate cape and much more are only used during the coronation of a king or queen. The last time they were used was for the crowning of Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately there are no photos of the jewels as cameras were not permitted. The Kings chambers were on display as well as the royal Ravens. It is said that when the ravens are gone the dynasty will fall. There was a spectacular river view, and tower bridge from the top of the castle wall.
This evening we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of London’s most majestic buildings where Lady Diana and Prince Charles were wed. We enjoyed the Evensong service. The choir was a treat to the ears and the sounds of the organ filled the great hall.
It’s spring time in the city , the tulips are in full bloom. We took a short stroll from St Pauls to Haz Turkish Restaurant for dinner. The food was fabulous. Starters withe falafel, samosa, tabbouleh, calamari with hummus and tzitziki dips. Then a choice of main course: lamb shank, salmon steak or chicken shish. Delicious! A feast fit for a queen.
After dinner we took a leisurely stroll back along the river to the hotel. It was wonderful to view the city by night.
Overnight: Bermondsey Square Hotel, London
Upon our arrival at London Heathrow airport we were met by our guide Sue and transferred to the Bermondsey Square Hotel. Our home for the next 4 nights. The hotel is quite modern and the rooms a bright and comfy. After freshening up and a quick lunch we headed out for a panoramic tour to see the main sites of London.
This evening we enjoyed a welcome dinner at the hotel. The private room was inviting and the food and service were excellent.
Overnight: Bermondsey Square Hotel, London
Today we’re heading to the land down under. Australia! Our first stop is Sydney where we’ll spend 5 days exploring all the city has to offer and the surrounding area.. We’ll tour the famous opera house, take a stroll through the Rocks area, visit Bondi Beach and enjoy a dinner cruise to view the city lights from the water. We’ll venture outside of the city to explore the Blue Mountains via railway, skyway, cableway and walkway. It’s going to be an amazing adventure. Check the Travel Blog often and follow our journey as we explore Australia and New Zealand.