Earlier this year we spent a week in England, where I finally got to see some things I’d been dreaming about seeing for years.

Our trip started off with a little bit of excitement.

I normally book only nonstop flights, but on this trip we had a connecting flight in Amsterdam.

Just as we were about to land in Amsterdam, the plane suddenly starting climbing again at a very rapid rate.

It was actually a little nerve-wracking because the pilot didn’t tell us what was going on for several minutes.

Turns out the plane had a problem with a wheel or something and the fire brigade was standing by when we landed.

We couldn’t taxi to the terminal until they checked everything out, which caused us to have no time before our next flight instead of 50 minutes between flights.

Luckily everything turned out okay and my cousin Mary and her husband Charlie, who live in England, picked us up at the Bristol airport after we landed.

We drove to the house we’d rented for the week in Bath and immediately went out to the local Waitrose grocery store – which I would shop at every day if I lived in England – for provisions.

After some snacks and adult beverages back at the house, we turned in for the night so we could start our busy touring schedule the next day.

The first thing we did after breakfast was to head over to the city of Winchester.

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I had wanted to see the Winchester Cathedral ever since hearing the Crosby, Stills and Nash song of the same name almost 40 years ago.

Thankfully I did not have to employ any persuasion techniques to get everyone to go with me.

One of the things Winchester Cathedral is famous for is that the author Jane Austen is buried there.

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Now do you see why I said “I did not have to employ any persuasion techniques”?

Jane Austen?

Author of the book Persuasion?

Oh, I crack myself up.

Building on the cathedral was started in the year 1059.

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The stone screen surrounding the high altar shown there is from the 15th century.

Why is there a diving helmet displayed on a pedestal in the cathedral?

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I’m glad you asked.

It’s because way back in 1906, the foundations of the church were under water and the cathedral was sinking.

A deep-sea diver named William Walker ended up working underwater in his diving apparatus for six long years to repair the foundations with concrete.

He’s kind of a big deal in those parts because he saved the church.

After leaving Winchester, we drove over to the Salisbury to see their cathedral.

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This is a place I’d wanted to visit ever since I found out that it was used as a model for Kingsbridge Cathedral in one of my favorite books, The Pillars of the Earth.

The Salisbury Cathedral is known for a few other things as well.

One is that is has the tallest church spire in the entire United Kingdom.

Another is that it houses one of only four remaining copies of the Magna Carta, written in the year 1215.

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It’s the best-preserved of the four and it was quite impressive to see.

We actually had to sort of rush through the cathedral because it was closing for an event.

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There were all kinds of people dressed like this running around and you can see that some of them even smiled for me for this photo, even though I was trying to photograph them surreptitiously.

I’m clearly not as sly as I think I am.

The next day we explored the town of Chipping Sodbury.

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Why?

Because I saw it on a map and thought it sounded so utterly British that I just had to go.

On the way there, we stopped for a photo op for Sean.

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Can anyone guess what U.S. state he is from?

If you said Kansas, you are correct.

Just kidding.

Despite going to Chipping Sodbury as sort of a joke and not knowing a thing about the place before visiting, it turned out to be a great little spot to potter around.

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The town of about 5,000, established in the 12th century, lies at the edge of the Cotswolds.

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You can see the Cotswold Hills in the background there.

Unfortunately it was a gray and rainy day when we were there but I’m sure it’s lovely on a clear day.

Chipping Sodbury actually has a few claims to fame.

The first is that J.K. Rowling was born there in 1965, in the Chipping Sodbury War Memorial Maternity Hospital.

See why I said it was a great little spot to “potter around”?

Seriously, I crack myself up.

The second is that the Hobbs House Bakery is there.

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It is owned by Tom and Henry Herbert, otherwise known as The Fabulous Baker Brothers.

They had a very popular TV show about their careers as a baker and a chef/butcher.

We had lunch at the Hobbs House Bakery and everything was delicious.

Third, Chipping Sodbury was home to Edward Jenner from 1763-1770.

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He is the guy who basically invented the smallpox vaccine.

Jenner discovered that injecting people with pus from blisters caused by cowpox prevented them from getting smallpox.

Kinda gross, but over 180 years later smallpox was declared eradicated and that likely would not have been possible without his work.

And last, the town is home to the famous Mop Fair that is held twice a year.

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The fair was originally a type of job fair for servants.

Those in search of employment would wear or carry something to indicate what their trade was.

Housemaids would carry mops or brooms, so some of the fairs became known as Mop Fairs.

The hiring side of things has been eliminated, but the fair continues to this day.

After leaving Chipping Sodbury, we took a stroll along the canal in Bathhampton before heading back to the house for the evening.

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The following day we rode the bus into the city of Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and took the city’s free walking tour.

The tour is about two hours long and is given every Saturday at 10:30 a.m., and then Sunday through Friday at both 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Christmas Day is the only day the tours are not given.

Guides absolutely will not accept tips so you really won’t find a better tour deal and I highly recommend it.

The tour gives you a great overview of the history of the city while you get to see some of its highlights.

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One of the more well-known sights in Bath is The Royal Crescent shown there.

It’s a row of 30 houses that were built between 1767 and 1774.

When the walking tour was over, we decided to take a little boat tour on the River Avon.

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The boat trip starts and ends near the Pulteney Bridge.

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It is one of only four bridges in the world to have shops on both sides of the span, with the other three being the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the Ponte Rialto in Venice and the Krämerbrücke in Erfurt, Germany.

Once we go to Venice, hopefully in 2016, we will have seen all four of them.

As everybody knows, one can take only so much fresh air and sightseeing before it’s time to head inside for some liquid refreshment.

TIPPLE OF THE TRIP:

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Nothing like a Guinness or six to top off the day, I always say.

I was very much looking forward to the next day’s activities because it involved going somewhere I’d wanted to visit since I was a kid.

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A lot of people will tell you that Stonehenge, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a tourist trap and not worth a visit but I vehemently disagree.

It did not disappoint.

You can really feel the mystical quality of the place and the visitor center spells out quite a fascinating history of it.

The little railing you see behind us is supposed to prevent you from getting any closer to the stones, but it was close enough.

As Stonehenge is a bit of a drive from Bath and we had stayed at the Irish Pub somewhat late the previous evening, that was the only sightseeing we did that day.

Our first stop the next day was the lovely town of Bradford-on-Avon.

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The Town Bridge seen there dates from the 13th century and it’s width was doubled in 1769.

I can’t believe it took us until our 5th full day in England to have a cream tea, but shamefully enough it did.

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We had it at that place in Bradford-on-Avon, and it was elegant and delicious.

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And now for the age-old debate: Which do you put on our scones first?

Jam or cream?

One of the most fascinating sites in Bradford-on-Avon is The Church of St. Laurence, an Anglo-Saxon church dating from about the year 709.

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That’s over 1,300 years ago.

It’s mind-boggling, isn’t it?

What’s even more mind-boggling is that the building was used for other purposes for many years, and it wasn’t until 1871 that it was discovered to have once been an Anglo-Saxon church.

Our next stop was the city of Wells, where we knew there was an impressive cathedral.

Walking into town from where we parked, we could see the cathedral tower.

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Inside, there is an elaborately-decorated paneled ceiling from the 15th century.

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If you look closely, you can see all the angels have painted fingernails, which I found a bit odd.

Here, I’ll save you the trouble.

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The rest of the interior is just as elaborate, including the stained glass windows, the pulpit, and carvings and paintings.

Continuing into town, imagine our surprise when we found out that we had not been in the famous Wells Cathedral at all, but in the Saint Cuthbert’s Parish Church.

Apparently it’s a common mistake.

THIS is the Wells Cathedral.

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Little bit of a difference, eh?

It is absolutely stunning both inside and out.

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If you want to take photos inside, like many churches the Wells Cathedral requires you to purchase a permit.

I actually got asked for mine while taking photos, so they do keep a close eye on it.

Near the cathedral is a street called Vicars Close.

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It is supposedly the oldest street in Europe that has always been a strictly residential street and has all original buildings intact.

Before leaving Wells, we checked out the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace.

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The ramparts and moat were built in the mid-14th century.

The following day was our last full day in England and we headed off to the Caen Hill Locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

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It was pretty fascinating to watch the process as the locks are operated manually and it takes a bit of time for the water levels to change.

If you want a quick mode of transportation, traveling along a canal by boat is not for you.

Sean of course was enthralled by the whole thing and now has a canal boat trip on his list of things to do.

And by that he means that he wants to rent a boat and operate it himself.

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There’s Mary and Charlie helping to open the locks for that boat.

There is a little café at the locks and as it was such a beautiful day, we sat outside for a cream tea.

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Not quite as posh as the one we had in Bradford-on-Avon earlier in the week, but still nice.

From there we headed over to a place called Chew Valley Lake after meeting up with another of my English relatives, Des, and his partner Di.

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(That is neither Des nor Di; it’s just some guy fishing.)

We had a nice little stroll around the lake as well as some cake and coffee at the lakeside café.

After that we drove over to the town of Chew Magna for dinner.

Yes, we had dessert at the lake before dinner.

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There are the three cousins (Des, Mary and me) at the Bear & Swan Village Inn after dinner.

I just love the names of inns and pubs and England.

Sadly, after that we had to leave to go to the Bristol airport, where we stayed in a nearby guesthouse before our very early flight the next morning.

We had a great time during our week in England and hope to make more trips there in the future.

Tell us about your favorite place in England!

 

 

 

 

About the author: Trish

 

Website: http://travelsandtipples.com