Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Honeymoon Journey in Photos!

Allrighty! The photos finally (read: FINALLY) downloaded. Lol. And I'll warn you now, there's about a gazillion in this post! As you know, this trip was our 10-long-years-delayed honeymoon, taken for our 10th anniversary. Timing is everything, right? Absolutely! This journey was beyond words. We planned only our flights and first two nights hotel. Everything else we left open to the possibilities. And WOW! It was the right decision! So... here's how it went...

Thursday we headed to the airport, with only our carry-ons (lol) and away we flew! Two flights, one layover, and a long day later, we arrived in London at 9:00 am Friday. That's Friday, May 6th - our anniversary! ;-) It didn't take us long to figure out how to get to our hotel (hello, Tube!). Now, navigating from the platform up to the streets... that was a little more tricky, lol. As we (at last!) found our way out and walked toward the sunshine, we were met by a gorgeous, lush, green park. Fountain straight ahead, beautiful grass & flowers - stunning!

We used our trusty google-maps to walk over to our hotel... The Stafford London. They were amazing! I know, I know - I'm using that word a lot. ;-) They got a kick out of our last name :-) The staff was super welcoming & gracious. Our room was wonderful! Just look at that canopy! Once we regrouped, we were off to explore! On our return, we discovered the hotel had delivered a bottle of their own Stafford Claret and a gorgeous flower arrangement - along with monogrammed slippers. So cool!

Is it naptime yet? Lol

Saturday dawned bright and sunny - we're told that's a rarity in London. It was incredible. We decided, after perusing all the "touristy" things to stick with the family heritage sites we wanted to see - and that meant the Tower, and Tower Hill.  BTW - the greatest app we used over and over again, was Rome2Rio. If you're traveling in the UK, it's a lifesaver!

What we didn't know (remember, no planning) is that the Tower isn't just a single Tower -it's a freaking city! Ha! We walked until our feet ached! It was incredible! Hours and hours we spent seeing and experiencing it. We saw Big Ben & the Parliament building (so very impressive!!!). We then wandered until we found a dockside place to have lunch, with a view of the Tower Bridge (so cool!). From there we thought we'd head back, maybe take a nap... what actually happened is that we got a bit lost, inadvertently discovered we were steps away from one of the places we didn't think we'd be able to see - St. Dunstan in the East (a church that was bombed during WWII and left to become a city garden). Unbelievable. It was so peaceful, so... sacred. Back to find our way back, we ended up traveling through Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus... It was amazing! We walked more than 10 miles, according to our fitbits. Lol.


We watched both of the Changing of the Guards... the horsemen and the palace. FYI, if you can only watch one, the horses are more spectacular. Though you can catch them both if you hoof it - the Horses change guards at 11am, then march yourself down to the palace for the guard change at 11:30.  It's pretty cool.







The Tower




Tower Hill, where Bill's ancestors lost, ahem, their heads. 

St. Dunstan's in the East




We were kinda all over the place! Lol! 


Piccadilly Circus

We thought we'd head on up to Stafford to see the castle, but then learned that the Castle is closed on Mondays. Shoot. What to do? Several folks had recommended Bath, so we hit up the Rome2Rio then bought train tickets and away we went!

Bath turned out to be the BEST surprise! What a fantastic place!!! We hopped on a double-decker to tour the town and surrounding area, had amazing pizza with a super-cool view of the Abby, I had an unfortunate encounter with a bathtub (klutz strikes again! tripped over the bathroom threshold and met the tub chin-first... split it open. What a mess!), and ended the day exhausted. We slept most of the next day, lol. Jet lag finally caught up to us.

We toured the Roman Baths (really amazing!), listened to the church bells ring, wandered, ate, did our own pub-crawl (lol!). Then the next day took a tour out to Stonehenge.  Now, there are lots of tours, but we were pointed to a specific one - Mad Max. I highly, highly recommend it!! NOT a commercialized-touristy tour. This was small (about 14 people plus the guide), and we got to Stonehenge just as they opened (and before the tourist busses arrived). We were able to enjoy the stones in peace. Beautiful! From there, we headed to Avebury - one of England's best kept secrets. The stone circle is larger (a lot) than Stonehenge, and you can wander freely, touch the stones (dodge the sheep, lol)... it was... surreal. Quiet. Majestic. Peaceful. Reverent. An awe inspiring experience.





Courtyard dinner with an amazing view! 



The Roman Baths

Yep! We drank the water! Very mineral-y  lol. 

This is officially my favorite fast food! Amazing flavors, FRESH, all natural!
The pole-caught tuna & cucumber baguette is my favorite! 
This church is right by our hotel. Can you read the plaque?
The history here is amazing! 
The park beside the River Avon

 Off to Stonehenge!



From there, the tour took us through the Cotswolds to Lacock - a lovely city where many tv shows and movies have been filmed. Including Harry Potter! It's like a place out of time. If you remove the cars on the streets - you'll think you've stepped back to another age. The  youngest building was built in the 1600's. It's amazing. I also enjoyed the BEST fish & chips there! Yum!


Next stop was Castle Comb - another incredible village that stayed in an era gone by. Beautiful.



It was such a great day! That tour alone, was worth the trip! We're so glad we visited Bath!

End of a great day! And yes, my chin is still swollen. Lol. 

The next day, we hopped back on the train and headed to Staffordshire. We headed to a hotel recommended on Travel Advisor, but they were booked. We ended up booking just down the road, and after checking in, we walked back to the first hotel to book for the following night. Lol. About the only thing going for the hotel we were in was that it had it's own bathroom. Anyway, after perusing the map, we decided to taxi up to the Castle.



The castle & grounds were beyond our expectations. Beautiful and sad. The castle sits at the top of a hill, surrounded by a dense wood where the light is green and the air is filled with bird-song. Magical.



During WWII, it had been used as a military garrison until the Luftwaffe bombed it. Today, only the outer walls and portions of the towers still stand. We were alone there, the only ones wandering the site. Bill's family has traced their lineage back to the castle, so it was one of the "must do" items for our trip. We spent hours there... wandering, touching the walls, imagining what it had been like throughout the ages. The first castle was built there in 913 by the Saxons, then replaced in the 1070's, and again in 1347, and so on. It has an incredible and rich history - and some mystery as well. The Stafford legacy is long and fascinating with villains and heroes alike. I'm pleased to say that when we left the castle, my husband's head was still firmly attached to his body (a little Stafford/Henry VIII humor, lol).





At one time, the floors were covered by those tiles - the Stafford knot and the Stafford Chevron.
Today, these were the only ones we could find as people over the years have scavenged the ruins.
Bill has the Chevron in his tattoo. 


This is the site of the actual castle garden! They're restoring them now.
After touring the castle, we walked back to town (only 3.5 miles, lol) then did more exploring...


This is the street - they drive cars on this! The designs are so pretty. 

That night, we enjoyed dinner at The Bear (fabulous burgers!), then a beer at a pub. We got to chatting with some locals, who asked about our trip and why we were there - we talked a bit about the family history and connection to the castle, and the two men encouraged us to "ring up" Lord Stafford, as he's "really quite a nice chap, a very likeable bloke" who has a love of history and genealogy and would "quite likely speak with you while you're here."  There's no way, we thought, but agreed to try. The next morning, guess who Bill was talking with on the phone! Yep! Not only did he take the call, but turns out, Lord Stafford had commissioned a book done on the history of the Staffords, and would sign a copy and leave it in his office for us. He was leaving shortly, or would have met personally. How freaking awesome is that???

We tried to Rome2Rio the trip out to the Stafford Estates, but it was pretty convoluted so we elected to hire a taxi. Gotta give that driver credit - he took on the trip with only my google map to guide us. Lol! Swynnerton is a gorgeous area, and we hope to go back someday to explore. The book was waiting for us - so cool!!  It was hard to pull Bill out of the book after that, lol. I'm looking forward to reading it, myself.

That night we were booked at The Swan (the hotel we'd tried to get into the first night). What a great place! So much atmosphere, history, and beauty! Plus, it had connections to the castle! We learned all sorts of fun facts, and a few fascinating theories about the Family at the Castle. Very cool :-)

Friday, we hopped back on the train to London and checked back into The Stafford. We spent a fabulous last day out and about, and though we'd had an unbelievably wonderful trip, we were ready to head back home.
Oh yeah! 

Great beer at World's End!

Goodbye, Stafford Hotel! We've loved it!!
We covered some ground!
FYI - if you're taking a trip and want your loved ones to be able to follow along as you travel,
check out the app TrackMyTour. It's amazing! 

I don't think it's possible for the trip to have been any better. We came home renewed & refreshed, inspired & thankful... and already planning the next one! I'm thinking we'll be following more of the family legacy over to Ireland!

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to say Thank you so much for letting your followers(me) to enjoy not only the post but the pictures and some of your family's history. I'm sure Bill was and still is beside himself especially with the book! I have enjoyed this post with all your Wonderful Pictures!!!