I came back from England almost four months ago but it feels like it was only yesterday that I was flying for the first time to visit my boyfriend on the other side of the ocean to discover “his world”… We had two perfect weeks exploring England, and just to be together was pure bliss!
I landed in Manchester almost 24 hours after leaving home. I was exhausted, and jet-lagged, but so happy! I literally jumped into Edward’s arms and I was reminded once more that distance is often difficult, but it is all worth it for moments like that one.
We decided to spend a some time in Manchester and explore a bit. Knowing how of a book nerd I am, Edward took me to the John Rylands Library, a gem of architecture and history in the heart of the city. The library holds an impressive collection of printed volumes, manuscripts and archival items. A little paradise for book lovers!
The only thing I knew when we left Manchester was that we were heading to the Peak District…
Edward had booked a room at the Cavendish Hotel, a charming inn located on the grounds of Chatsworth. Our bedroom was absolutely lovely, decorated with vintage furniture and offering a superb view on the surrounding countryside.
After a much-needed shower and a nice afternoon nap, Edward dragged me out of bed – never nap when you’re jet-lagged, it makes it worse – and we made our way to the Garden Room restaurant of the hotel, where I tasted my first English fish & chips… Mmmm!
The following day, we had a bit of a sleep-in before walking down the street to the Café on the Green for a late breakfast of hot chocolate and toasted teacakes. The café was lovely with its countryside charm and warm atmosphere.
After breakfast, we headed to Chatsworth House to visit the gardens. Chatsworth has been one of my favourite place to visit in England… The park surrounding the estate is huge and we didn’t get to visit all of it, but we spent the afternoon admiring the gardens and getting lost in the awesome maze. I’d love to go back during wintertime to see the Christmas décor and visit the farm shop.
After a day-long photowalk around the gardens, we were hungry and decided to drive to the nearby village of Foolow after having seen many great reviews for the Bull’s Head pub on TripAdvisor. The reviews were right, that pub is charming and the food was a delight! It was a very British evening for me with my very first English pub, as well as my first “red telephone box”. A tourist’s classic!
On our third and last day in the Peak District, we went back to Chatsworth to visit the country fair. We have been told that Chatsworth’s fair is the biggest one in England and I have no trouble believing it!
We had a great time walking around the stalls, trying fun hats (we love hats!), tasting local food, browsing the handmade products… We even bought our first “home things” for next year: a set of Mason jar mugs and a cute heart-shaped chalkboard.
We left Baslow mid-afternoon to visit the Padley Gorge on our way to Lincoln, where I would meet Edward’s parents for the first time. I have to admit I was a slightly nervous but Linda and Ben are lovely people and they welcomed me very warmly; I felt home as soon as I entered their house, and Edward’s mum walking straight to me for a hug made me feel like I was already part of the family.
We started our first day in Lincoln by a short run around Hartsholme Park, a beautiful country park with nice woodland paths set all around a lake. I saw swans for the first time and I was very impressed. We do not have swans in Canada so I had only seen photos… They are way bigger than I expected, but what graceful creatures they are!
That afternoon, we had lunch with a couple of Edward’s friends at a pub in Bassingham, called the Five Bells. I had the “Sunday roast” as I was told it was the most British item on the menu. Of course, I also had to taste the traditional Yorkshire pudding! The meal was absolutely delicious, and we had a lovely afternoon in good company.
Lincoln, with its Roman arch, its medieval castle and its thousand years old Cathedral surrounding the landscape, is definitely a city rich in history and it was impossible for us to not visit the major historical landmarks.
Our first visit was at the Cathedral… A very impressive building that has been standing over Lincoln for over a thousand year despite the many wars it has seen. The only word I can think of to describe the Cathedral is “breathtaking”. A perfect example of well-preserved and well-restored Gothic architecture, though it was at first of Norman inspiration. I was particularly fascinated by the stained-glass, which is truly awe-inspiring.
We pursued at the Lincoln Castle. Like the Cathedral, the castle is built on the hill overlooking Lincoln; its towers offer a spectacular view on the city downhill and the beautiful landscape of Lincolnshire. After the walk on the walls, we visited the Victorian Prison, another impressive building full of history. It has also been a filming location for Downton Abbey!
Our last full day in Lincoln was a warm and sunny one, so my prince charming took me for a ride on his metal horse! I had a never been on a motorcycle before so I was a bit nervous at the beginning, but the nervousness flew away as soon as we hit the road. There is a wonderful feeling of freedom when you are on a bike… Sat on the back, I had the chance to look around and just enjoy the ride. I look forward to many more rides next summer; who knows, maybe even little roadtrips around Europe!
We travelled to London by train, and I have to say the transportation system in England is a wonderful… The trains are on time and they are so fast compared to our old, derelict Canadian trains!
We stayed at the Space Apart Hotel in Kensington, a quite posh part of the city, in a small studio on the ground floor. It very quiet and comfortable, though we didn’t spend much time in the room!
The first night, we went out for a drink at the Radio Rooftop Bar. We were a bit surprised to find out it was more a nightclub than a bar, but we still enjoyed the evening and the tasty drinks. And the view on London at night was totally worth it!
We started our second day in London by a walk around the beautiful and quiet Highgate Cemetery before heading to Covent Garden. I wanted to see the Heartbeat installation, and we decided to stop for lunch and some ice cream. We went to Venchi, inside Covent Garden’s Market, and we had there the most wonderful gelato I ever ate; it was delightful!
That evening, we went up the London Eye and enjoyed a breathtaking view of London at twilight. After that, we walked on the Southbank and took some long exposure shots around the London Eye and on the path facing the Elizabeth Tower. I look forward going back next year with a more steady tripod to get better photos of the Big Ben at night.
On our third day in London, we visited of the Natural History Museum – that I mostly wanted to see because some scenes of Harry Potter were filmed there. We also saw their seasonal exhibition where you could walk in a room looking like a mini-jungle and filled with live butterflies. Quite magical! After the museum, we headed to Piccadilly for a bit of shopping on Regent Street. We spent about ten minutes on Regent Street before deciding there was way too much noise and people, and finding our way to smaller streets and loads of vintage camera shops, which is much more our thing!
It was a long day of walking and we decided to go back to our hotel to freshen up before going out for dinner. We tried a prestaurant I had found on TripAdvisor again, the Red Lemon Pub in Nothing Hill. We had a great time there, the food was absolutely fantastic and the staff was very welcoming; certainly one of my favourite places in London… so far! Maybe the memory of that evening is one of the best of the trip for me because it is also the night we took “the decision” of moving in together…
On our fourth and last day in Old London town, we needed a bit of exercise and went for a run in Hyde Park. After that, we rushed back to the hotel for a quick shower before heading out again and making it halfway to the tube station before realizing we didn’t even have a plan for that day! A quick look at the map later, we decided for a photowalk around Tower Bridge – I am a tourist after all – so we spent an hour or two snapping photos on the banks of the Thames before catching the train that would take us back home.
Since we began planning my trip to England, I have wanted to go to the seaside so on our last day together, Edward took me to the beach in Mablethorpe. The day started as grey and stormy but it only made it better; I love the seaside when the clouds on the horizon are heavy with rain and the waves crashing on the shore… We had a quiet walk on the empty beach. I was enchanted to see the wind farm built directly into the water – the wind turbines afar, standing between sky and sea look almost surreal.
The sky got clearer as we made our way to the village to find some tasty treats for an improvised picnic on the beach. We laughed a lot feeding the greedy birds that were after our sandwiches! Mablethorpe is full of quirky charm with its main street boarded with old-fashioned, flashy arcades, odd souvenir shops and food stalls. Edward offered me a “whippy” ice cream – apparently another British classic – before we drove to the nearby town of Louth to find a book store. You see, we have this little tradition that I cherish… On every adventure, we buy a book about our next destination. This time, it was New York!
Next month, I will travel to England again but this time for far more longer than two weeks! Soon I will be calling this beautiful country “home”… I am impatient to build a new life with Edward and for us to explore more of the Old Continent together. Moreover, I certainly look forward sharing all of my adventures here!