Everything I knew about England came from what I saw on television or the big screen. I was fascinated by The Crown on Netflix, but aside from watching Peter Pan fly over the Tower Bridge on his way to Neverland or drowning my romantic sorrows in Love Actually, I knew almost nothing about what the UK had to offer. This past November I had the opportunity to travel around London and the southern English countryside with Joanna Heathcote and JH Hotels to take my first trip across the pond to the Queen’s country.
The sole purpose of this educational trip was to experience the many Firmdale and JH represented hotels in England to better understand their personalities and find the best fit for clients. In London alone, I toured 11 different hotels in a 2-day span. I saw colorfully creative hotels, from the Haymarket in Piccadilly Circus to the Soho Hotel in the heart of the entertainment center, to smaller townhouse hotels like the Knightsbridge and the quintessentially British Stafford London. Each hotel has its own personality, own décor, own story to tell, and yet they all fit together to call one city home.
When I wasn’t dashing between lobbies, I was doing what I enjoy most: discovering new places. Walking 21 miles in two days was no problem as this was my one chance to learn as much of London as I could before the next stop. I started at Buckingham Palace and followed the sound of bells to Westminster Abbey. I saw the true beauty of London by taking a ride on the London Eye, and my nose led me to Borough Market for homemade Shepherd’s pie and a cider. I saw the elegance of Kensington Palace and made one final stop at Harrods to explore the food halls.
London is truly a special city and by just beginning my trip, the bar was set higher than Big Ben.
Then we took a complete 180-degree turn to the English countryside. The last five days of my trip were spent touring castles, cathedrals, historical cemeteries, local pubs, sleepy villages, and world-renowned universities. I stayed at Hambleton Hall for two nights, soaking up the picture-perfect view of the lake and indulging on one too many pieces of freshly baked bread from Hambleton Bakery before ending at my favorite accommodation of them all, Lucknam Park.
Lucknam Park Hotel captured my heart from the moment we turned onto the mile-long drive lined with autumnal colored leaves and a stunning view of the house. I felt like true royalty staying in the Camellia Suite and ending the night at either of their two Michelin-star restaurants. There were so many things I could do right on property, from horseback riding to a cooking class, to a 90-minute massage in the spa.
Visiting the English countryside gave me a new perspective on exploring my surroundings and finding comfort in taking a step back to see the bigger picture in traveling.
By then, I was filled with breakfast tea, and I could hear myself begin to say words like “rubbish” and “brilliant” so I knew my trip was coming to a close. With less than 24 hours before catching my flight back to the States, I hiked up to Windsor Castle where the Queen was staying for the weekend, and I felt complete.
In the past, I found myself saying that once I visited a city or country, it would be off my list for good because there are other places to discover. Not anymore. I have been home for only a few weeks and already am making plans to return to London. There’s so much more to see in that vibrant city. Until next time, “Cheerio.”
Caroline Travels the World…And So Can you