Thursday, January 21, 2010

Merry Old England

by D'Ann Mateer

I yearned to hop across the pond and visit England for as long as I could remember. When I got married, the dream didn’t change, it just added another person along for the ride. Eighteen years later, we finally made it—with three kids and my parents in tow. My husband had been invited to attend a business seminar and London and we didn’t hesitate to accept. But as much as we wanted to see the city and all its sights, we wanted to see something more. We wanted to see some of the country, to imagine the England of old.

Guess what? We found it! In the Cotswolds.

We arrived a few days before the conference and stayed in a charming hotel in Bath. (I swear Basil Fawlty manned the front desk!) Do you remember Bath? It crops up frequently in Jane Austen books and is especially prominent in her last book, Persuasion. When the Romans arrived in Britain many centuries ago, they did, indeed, build Roman baths in Bath. Thus, the name.

We explored the ancient ruins and the more modern (18th century) meeting rooms, the Jane Austen museum and the cathedral. And then we hopped on a small tour bus and roamed the countryside.

You know how sometimes you imagine a place in your mind, from descriptions in books or even from pictures, but the real thing doesn’t measure up to your expectations? Not the case in this place! Blooming gardens, complete with swans in the ponds. Rolling green hills dotted with sheep. Ancient stone structures still in use. Rows of charming shops in places with quaint names, such as Stow-on-the-Wold.

I keep this picture as my wallpaper on my computer, for it never fails to bring a smile to my face:

I found England on that trip. But I didn’t get to linger long. Maybe someday we’ll get to go back. We’d love to spend some extended time in the Cotswolds—and the Lake District, and Scotland. Lazy days instead of tourist days.

At least I can dream.

So what place have you visited that actually lived up to or exceeded your expectations? What place was the biggest disappointment? I look forward to a whole new list of travel destinations!


  1. Good morning, D'Ann. Bath was the answer to the final jeopardy question last night. And my first thought was, "Oh, I'd love to visit there." And Scotland, too. Your pictures are beautiful. That screensaver would make me smile, too.

    The closest I've ever been to England is about as far away as you can get, but I like to think they capture some of England's charm and flavor: Victoria, British Columbia. It's an adorable, quaint, lovely city on Vancouver Island, which isn't all that far from me. But it's so worth it. High tea, gardens, horse and carriage rides, and an old castle. Sigh...I wish I could be there right now. It's a great place for the writer's muse.

  2. D'Ann, I have been to Merry Old England. I was on a missionary trip in college. We traveled around a lot doing service projects, performances, and outreach. I spent the majority of my time in London, Southampton, and the area around Cambridge. Because it was a mission trip, we spent a lot of time with native British people really getting to know them. That was probably the best part of the trip.

    England lived up to my expectations as did Paris. The Grand Canyon really blew my mind. No one can explain that to you. Pictures don't do it justice. You have to see if for yourself.

    Disappointing, I would say Egypt. The pyramids and the Nile were gorgeous, but it was dirty, stinky, noisy, and the majority of the people were not very nice. They would see Americans and start scheming ways to rip us off. Of course, they had no idea I could understand what they were saying. Sometimes I'd yell at them in Arabic if they got too rude. Plus because of my blonde hair and blue eyes, the men treated me like a loose woman (using very mild terminology here). It was very disturbing. If I stayed another week, I would have invested in a burka and brown contacts. Seriously.


  3. What a wonderful opportunity! The pictures are great, thanks for sharing them.

  4. Hi D'Ann,
    Seeing your pictures and hearing you talk about England makes me want to hop a plane and go live there for a year. I spent the first semester of my senior year of college studying with about 30 others in Oxford. It was awesome. My English professor, Mr. Taylor, led us all over like his little ducklings. We would be in class with him for the first 4 hours of the morning and then used the rest of the day to study and explore.

    We all lived with families in Oxford. My group of 6 lived with a Bobbie's family(the metropolitan police force were originally named Bobbies because of Sir Robert Peel and his ability to convince Parliament that London needed a police force.)

    We had 3 weeks of travel and visited Stonehenge, Bath, York, Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, Caernarfon and Cardiff Castles in Wales, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and Paris.

    So many memories. If I'd only known then that Regency England would become a passion. It does make for a wonderful experience to actually live some place like England. I hope to go back with my hubby someday and stay in the Lake District which I've never seen.

    I think I might have to blog about this sometime. Thanks for taking me back to a time I loved.

  5. Love it. I had the privilege of spending two days in London. Oh it wasn't nearly enough time. I want to explore England and all its parts.

    A place that exceeded expectations: Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean where we served. I didn't really have much in the way of expectations so it was all surprising and gorgeous, and wonderful.

    Something disappointing: We have a replica of the Santa Maria in my hometown of Columbus. It is not only very tiny, but all you can do is basically stand on the deck. It's tucked away and hard to find and, all in all I was underwhelmed.

  6. Suzie, Victoria is on my list of places to visit, just for that reason!

    Thanks D'Ann for taking us away to the Cotswalds. I've never been to Europe. Someday! My dream would be to live there someday, somewhere in the UK, just for six months. Have laptop will travel?

    I enjoy hearing about all our trips.
    I can't remember any serious disappointments for me. I will agree that the Grand Canyon is one place that can never be truly appreciated by photo or on film.

  7. D'Ann, so funny that this would be your favorite place in England! The house we're hoping to buy is in the "Cotswold Cottage" or "storybook cottage" Tudor Revival style found in the Cotswolds, so I've been studying and reading up on the architecture there. Very fun!

  8. Lovely post, D'Ann. What gorgeous pictures.

    Sadly, for being Anglophiles, my husband and I have never visited England. Never. And I write Regencies! I subscribe to Realm and In Britian magazines, and I ooh and ahh over the photos. Can't wait to go someday. Of course, it would take us 6 months to see and do everything on our list, from London to Bath to Iona, so we're saving our pennies.

    Niki, your house sounds so lovely. Can't wait to see pictures.

  9. Hello everyone!

    I apologize profusely for not being here sooner! My interent was supposed to be down Friday afternoon for some changes to our service, but it was down this morning instead--and due to other commitments, I just now made it to the library to use their internet!

    Suzie, Jill, Karen, Lisa, Niki, Dina, Susanne, I've loved your comments! I, too, wish I could just live a few months in England. I'm so jealous, Jill, that you got to go to Oxford! We visited there, too. Amazing!

    Funny thing about the Grand Canyon, though. We went there when I was about 14. Just a quick stop on our way to California. On the way, I'd picked up a copy of Wuthering Heights and was in the middle of it when we stopped. I stepped out of the car, told my parents it looked like the pictures, and returned to Heathcliff and Catherine! What can I say? I love literature!

  10. D'Ann a lovely reminder that there is so much to see and do in England.

    I worked in London on a student visa and saw as much of the country as possible on weekends and at the end of my stay. I loved my time there, taking in shows every week and going to small jazz clubs and visiting museums and exhibitions. I lived in Bayswater, a block off Hyde Park, so spent lots of time there and on Oxford Street. Loved walking down streets and seeing a plaque on an ordinary house that Charles Dickens or so forth had lived there. I loved the bookstores and the enjoyment ordinary people take in the English language. Lots and lots to enjoy about London if you don't mind the soot and in those days, the IRA bomb threats.

    Never got to Bath or the Cotswolds, but we visit England every year or three to see family and friends. We don't really do much touring. Just sort of rush through the same familiar places. We need to add some extra touring into one of our future visits!

    And my daughter has an audition coming up at the University of Victoria. It is lovely city, although we're hoping she gets into a school closer to home.

    Can't think I've ever been somewhere that was a disappointment. Maybe Tofino, on Vancouver Island. It is like driving to another world and then you emerge and there is the ocean, and beaches, and rainforests, and it is all very interesting and nice, but it never really gets above 65 F, even in mid-summer and the sun is pretty stingy about hanging around. But thinking about it, it was still a pretty cool place. So no, I've found something to enjoy about everywhere we've travelled.

  11. Deb, if you ever get to my side of the country, I'll go to Victoria with you!

    Wenda, my island is a lot like Vancouver Island, in fact we're just below it on the map and on a very clear night we can see their lights. Anyway, I just want to say I hear you about the 65 degree summers, because we have the same climate as they do. Although this last summer was pretty warm, which was a very nice change.

  12. Never been to Merry Old England, but starting to get the itch. I'm reading a book about a young woman who went to Oxford in 1938, very interesting, as the war broke out!

    I have been to many countries in Europe and they were all great, especially if I knew a native to take me around.

    Hawaii would have been paradise except for my companionship.

    The West Coast has turned out to be a place where I love to visit, and yet, can feel at home. My little sister lives in Portland, now, and I long to visit her this spring or summer.


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