London-Day 11

The eleventh day of our trip to London required us to get up the earliest of all of our days. We had to get up at 5:30 in the morning to make sure that we were able to make our 8:00 departure time for that day’s destination. Getting up so early would have been tough no matter what but the fact that we both sick made it more difficult. Starting on the eleventh day of our trip our attitudes about our colds began to shift. It changed from being bummed about being sick to hoping that we could be better before our long plane ride back to Los Angeles which was just three days away at that point.

After eating breakfast and showering we once again headed out of the day. Since we were getting a much earlier start than on previous days we had to contend with London rush hour for the first time. Thankfully, it the tube wasn’t as crowded as we thought it would be.

On the eleventh day of our trip we were taking a tour so we had to catch a bus at the Victoria Coach station. We were both a little confused between the difference between the Victoria Underground Station and the Victoria Coach station. Thankfully, we were able to figure it out. It just involved a short walk from the Victoria Underground Station to the Victoria Coach station. We got to the Victoria Coach Station way ahead of schedule. On one hand I’m glad that we got there so early so we didn’t have to worry about missing our bus. On the other hand it was a little annoying when our tour left late because we ended up waiting for well over an hour. The system for finding your tour bus at Victoria Coach Station wasn’t very well organized. There were lots of crowds leaving for lots of different tours.

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It was so crazy that there were moments that we thought we might have missed our bus. Thankfully, everything worked out and a little before 8:30 we boarded our bus for our tour.

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Once we were on the bus I listened to my music and tried to stay present and take it all in. Since our vacation was nearing its end I wanted to ingrain as much of England into my memory as possible. It took us a little while to get out of London because it was still the tail end of morning rush hour.

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Once we were out of the city my husband fell asleep briefly but I didn’t. I continued to try to take it all in.

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Our tour had several stops that day. Our first stop was Oxford.

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I was very excited to see a smaller city in the United Kingdom and, of course, Oxford University. It’s was a party sunny day which meant that it was rather cold during those moments when the sun was not out. The sun barely came out the entire time we were in Oxford. It wasn’t super cold but since we were both sick this did make our time in Oxford less enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. Before we did our quick walk through of the University we took note of a monument to the Martyrs that were killed during the Reign of Bloody Mary Tudor.

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Our time in Oxford was very brief. We could have gone off on our own but we decided to stick with our tour guide, so we could learn from her descriptions of everything.

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Oxford University was absolutely stunning.

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We didn’t have time to visit any of the individual colleges but it was still pretty cool to look at them. It was absolutely amazing to walk around and think about all of the incredible thinkers over the centuries that have gone to Oxford.

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We, of course, took lots and lots of pictures.

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Naturally Christ Church Meadow was a highlight of the things we saw.

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I would have loved to have gone onto Christ Church College grounds.

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However, by the time our tour was over we only had about forty five minutes before we needed to be back at our bus. So instead we stopped off at a little tourist shop and purchased some souvenirs. We then found a little coffee shop that also served sandwiches and bought food and drinks so that we could eat back on the bus.

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As much as we would have liked more time in Oxford we were actually happy to get back on the bus because it was so much warmer than being outside. Once the bus departed Oxford we ate our sandwiches and eagerly awaited our arrival at our next stop.

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Our next stop was the small English village of Bampton. The reason for our stop in Bampton was actually the same reason for our entire day trip and that was to see the filming locations of the Emmy Award winning “Downton Abbey”. Our stop in Oxford was just an added bonus. During the six seasons of “Downton Abbey” the village of Bampton served as the filming location for Downton Village. The main attraction was the church.

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My husband and I were both very excited to see the church where so many of our favorite characters had their hearts broken (poor Edith), or dreams come true with their weddings (yay for Matthew and Mary) or were laid to rest (R.I.P. Sybil).

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Although we have seen many churches in our travels this one was special because of the emotional ties we have to it from the show. We were also able to see the house that Isobel Crawley lived in, at least from the outside.

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Unfortunately, the building that was used for the Downton Hospital, which is actually the Bampton library, was under renovations so it literally just looked like a bunch of scaffolding.

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When we were done checking out the church and the little gift shop inside the library we had a couple minutes to spare so we took a short little walk around the Bampton.

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It was a cute little village and even though our time there was brief it certainly gave us a good idea of the very big difference between the massive city that is London and the little villages that make up the English countryside.

When we boarded the bus once again it was time to finally make our way to Highclere Castle a.k.a. Downton Abbey. During our ride from Bampton to Highclere Castle we were informed that all the beautiful fields of yellow we had been seeing were actually canola flowers.

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This was amusing since I thought they were wildflowers rather than a flower that was being grown for cooking oil. Our tour guide also informed us of some of the problems with the canola flowers such as the fact that it gives people really bad allergies. Also that it robs the soil of all of its nutrients and that makes it virtually impossible to grow anything else for years to come.

As we neared Highclere Castle was in awe of the how beautiful the English Countryside was.

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I have been fortunate to drive through the Spanish countryside, and ride trains across Spain and busses across Spain and trains across France but by far I found the English countryside the most beautiful of all of the Europeans landscapes I have seen. The rolling green hills were truly stunning.

When we all got our first glimpse of Highclere Castle everybody on the bus nearly gasped because we were all so excited. It was just as beautiful as I imagined it would be.

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We had a couple of hours on our own to see the castle and explore the grounds on our own. My husband and I were both so elated to be visiting Downton Abbey. We decided to explore the grounds a bit before going inside the castle. What was interesting is that on the show you never given the impression that the castle is on a hill. It always seemed flat. But the castle is very much on a hill and that works to its advantage because the view behind Highclere Castle is absolutely amazing.

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One of the highlights outside was visiting the location where poor Edith fell in love with the Canadian burn victim in season two.

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We were not allowed to take pictures inside of the castle, unfortunately.

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Still, just like when we couldn’t take pictures inside of Westminster Abbey the prohibition on photography did force us to be more present. The house was beautiful. It was really exciting to see the rooms where so much drama had unfolded on screen. It was also very interesting to see how the house is both similar in layout to what was portrayed on the show and how it was different. It was also fascinating to learn a little bit of the history about Highclere Castle and the family that now lives there. I enjoyed learning about how the family made some much needed money by allowing the show to be filmed there and how they lived on the upper levels of the castle and allowed the first two floors to be used for filming. Not to mention how they continue to mostly live on the upper flowers so they can continue to make money by keeping the bottom two floors similar to how they looked on the show for tourists like us.

When we were done touring the inside of the castle we stopped into their little gift shop. We then went to the restaurant for a snack.

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Then it was time to get back on the bus and return to London. On the bus they played the first episode and a half of the first season of “Downton Abbey”. I tried to watch it by the sound was a little too low for me so I just listened to my music.

As we arrived back in London it was appalled with the traffic. I would someday like to drive a car in England so I can experience driving on the other side of the road but I’m glad my husband talked me out of it for this trip. I would not want to drive in the gridlock that is London during rush hour.

Thankfully, our bus dropped us off right by our regular tube station instead of by the Victoria Underground Station. That saved us time and the money that would have been deducted off of our oyster cars (which we had been forced to add another 15 pounds to the day before). When we were back at our hotel we relaxed briefly and then headed out for dinner.

We went to a new restaurant in the neighborhood of our hotel. I had a fancy looking Shepard’s Pie.

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I also had a yummy virgin ginger cocktail.

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Meanwhile my husband had a Fish Pie.

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For dessert my husband had an Apple Crumble.

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My dessert was an English Trifle,

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A dessert I have wanted to have ever since Rachel made a mess of it on “Friends”.

After dinner we were both tired and sad. We were tired because we had been up for so long. We were even more tired because we were both still sick and not really getting better yet. We were sad because our colds clearly were going to be the cloud that hung over the entire second half of our trip. We were also sad because we only had two days left on our trip. We went to sleep exhausted and hoping against hope that the next day we would wake up and feel better.

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Here is a description:

Justin Gomez and his sister, Terri, have never been close. Separated by nine years and distant in adulthood, Justin and Terri have little in common, except for the love of her three children. In the days before they embark on a road trip to visit the father that once abandoned them and their now deceased mother, both Terri and Justin are dealing with unexpected changes in their lives. Justin surprisingly realizes he might want more than a series of one night stands after a first date goes unexpectedly well. After a lifetime of being a strong type A personality, Terri is forced to confront the reality of the end of her marriage. As they hit the road, with Terri’s children in tow, they find themselves forced to rely on and confide in each other following a devastating event. Confronted with memories from the past and challenges from the present, Terri and Justin must dig deep and unearth the truth about themselves and their parents in order to build a new family based on their love for each other.

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