Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Weekend in the Cotswolds

Brad had Friday and Monday off for holidays here in the UK, so we booked a trip to the Cotswolds for the long Easter weekend. We stayed in a village in the Central Cotswolds called Chipping Campden and it was about a 2 hour drive Northwest from London. 

In order to get there and be able to check out the different villages, we rented a car, which Brad very nicely volunteered to drive - on the wrong side of the road, of course. And for that extra element of fun, Hertz gave us a stick shift! 

So very many things to think about at once while driving. I mainly just tried to be helpful and play navigator. We ordered Charlie a booster seat off of Amazon UK to ride in, so he mainly demanded entertainment and let his opinions be known from the backseat. 

We left late Friday morning and managed to get out of town without getting too lost. About halfway through the trip, just outside of Oxford, Charlie started crying and telling me he had the hiccups. Then he puked twice all over the backseat. And my ipad. Never a dull moment when you travel with a 3 year old! Or any age really. 

Poor guy was so upset, but we got him changed and he actually seemed to feel better afterwards. He had some water and a snack and was a lot more cheerful after that. 

I had planned a stop at this farm, Daylesford Organic, that was on the way to Campden. There is a Daylesford Market near Charlie's preschool that I love and the farm that supplies all the food is located in the Cotswolds. It was really nice, but I would have to use the word "farm" loosely. It was so posh there, groomed courtyards, a gorgeous renovated barn that's a spa and a very chic cafe and shop. It looked like the Hamptons.

After lunch we went and checked in to our hotel and checked out the town. Chipping Campden is a cute village and out of all the Cotswold villages, we stayed there because Rick Steves recommended it in his book. Now that I've been, I wouldn't stay there again. The other villages have a lot more shopping and things to look at. Each time we drove through them, I would have high street envy. 

While Rick Steves was a huge help when we went to Italy, I'm finding his UK recommendations to be so-so. We stayed at one of his highly recommended hotels, too and it was resoundingly meh. Since we were staying less than a week, our choices were limited on accommodations, but still, this place (the Noel Arms) was shabby. I would love to go for a week and rent a cottage with some other people. Would be great fun. Anyone want to join?

Apart from the scenery, the highlight of the trip was the food! I mostly ignored Rick's restaurant recommendations and got some ideas from a friend and used TripAdvisor. There are some incredible places to eat in the Cotswolds that use local ingredients and have really amazing food. 

We had reservations each night and for Easter lunch at a different inn or pub. And I use the word "pub" loosely - pub food in London is generally not that great, but in the Cotswolds is very good. No smelly bars with greasy meat pies in the country! If you find yourself in the Cotswolds, The Old Butchers in Stow and the Fox Inn in Lower Oddington are not to be missed. We also enjoyed the Badgers Hall Tea Room in Campden.

While some parts are prettier and less touristy than others, overall I thought the Cotswolds were very beautiful; so lush and green. It's exactly as you picture it - rolling hills with ancient stone walls, green fields dotted with sheep and old stone buildings and churches. It was nice to just drive around and take in the scenery. There are also gardens to visit, antique shops, palaces, farmer's markets and a bunch of other things I'm sure I don't even know about yet!

A lot of people go to the Cotswolds and take long walks in the country. There are public footpaths you can follow that range from 2 to 20 miles long. The paths go through and in the woods - you just follow the signs! You can stop in each village you go through and have some food or a drink. 

I would love to go back one day and do some of the different walks. Unfortunately, Charlie's too heavy to put in a backpack, wouldn't be able to walk that far and the paths are obviously not stroller friendly, so that was one activity we had to bag. 

Not that we ran out of things to do. We had more to do than we had time for. You could spend two weeks in the Cotswolds and not do everything you want to. When you're only there for a few days, there's all this pressure to hurry up and see stuff! I finally just had to relax and work on the assumption we'll return one day. 

Even though the village we stayed in was a bit slow, it had an amazing park that was about a quarter mile behind our hotel and the high street. It's funny the things you value when you travel with kids! So guess what the park's big draw was? A zip line. Yeah. We went there on both Saturday and Sunday and Charlie rode the zip line over and over. I rarely see zip lines for kids at parks. Is that a UK thing?

The other highlight for Charlie in the Cotswolds was that he got to sleep in a bunk bed at the hotel! We reserved a "family room", which is pretty common around here.  It's basically a regular hotel room with a small room attached that has a twin bed or bunk beds for the kids. That way, everyone can stay in one room. Unlike hotel suites in the U.S., family rooms don't cost that much more than a regular room.

Anyways. Five minutes after we checked in, Charlie was up on the top bunk. There was a rail so he couldn't fall out. He was thrilled and thought it was so neat to sleep up there. When he got bored in the car or out and about, he'd ask to go back to the hotel and get in the bunk beds. This did not translate into naps, though! Brad and I decided that when we get back to the states and transition Charlie to a big boy room, we will have to get him bunk beds. 

This is getting so wordy (shocking) so I think I'll do a separate post on Easter and Warwick Castle, where we spent Saturday. We got back Monday and it rained the entire trip home. We left early after we heard traffic would be bad later in the day as everyone headed back into London after the long weekend. Charlie is exhausted after playing so hard and not napping. We're making up for it today with a long nap. While it rains, of course. :)

Here are a few more pictures from the trip:

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