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!