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This post is definitely long overdue.. I almost always fall on and off the blogging bandwagon simply because I get distracted by other priorities. Adulting is difficult; trying to maintain an online platform while also adhering to typical adult responsibilities becomes exhausting for me. I’ve always been one to know to prioritize my peace and when something doesn’t sit right with me, I let it go. I take a lot of breaks from creating content and then dive back in headfirst. I often have to remind myself that my twenties are about making mistakes, trying new things, and coming into myself. So that being said, let me tell you about my trip in Spring of 2022 that reconnected me to myself in the best way possible.
Let me start by saying this is not going to be a travel tour guide. I cannot tell you the “BEST THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN LONDON” and quite frankly, I don’t want to. Sources like that are everywhere and I didn’t look at any of them. I wanted to have my own experience and not compare it to anyone elses.
Every day I long for the streets of London or the cobblestone sidwalks of the Cotswolds. It’s been almost a year since my mother and I took our trip overseas and we still talk about it almost every day. To some people, it may not seem like a big deal; I know people who travel to Europe often and it’s just another vacation to them.. but for my mom and myself, it was the best thing we’ve ever done.
My mother had never been overseas before; I had, but only because I took a trip to Ireland to visit my friend just a few months prior (which was my first time overseas and I did it by myself.. a post for another day, perhaps?). Going to England had been a dream of ours for YEARS. This trip we did was long overdue. We were originally planning on going to England when I graduated high school and bringing my nana with us. We learned that our ancestors have a castle type manor in Northamptonshire, so going to see the castle was top priority and the sole purpose of the trip (I do believe it is just a manor, but my mom has always called it “the castle” so I’m going to continue to do so). Unfortunately, life happens and plans change. We could never financially take that leap, but we had been saving for it. My nana unexpectedly passed away and that was incredibly hard on the both of us (and still is). Our UK destination vacation had to be pushed for when I graduated college. Well, then I graduated college and my mother started launching her own business and again we had to put it on hold.
My trip to Ireland in October of 2021 happened suddenly and unplanned. I was dating this guy and living in Vermont and miserable. He was emotionally and mentally abusive. I left him in the summer of 2021 and cancelled our vacation we had planned for Seattle (still on my bucket list, but not with him). I used the cancelled flight credit to book a ticket to Dublin to visit one of my girlfriends who moved over there. That was my first time ever flying alone AND flying overseas. As far as I’m concerned, it was also my first time leaving the USA. I had only ever been to Canada one time to see Bring Me The Horizon live in Montreal, so I don’t even count that. Going to Ireland alone was truly a life-changing experience because it was the first time I was ever fully on my own and I was forced to really focus on what I was doing. What I mean by that is that handling airports is HARD. I thought it was going to be relatively easy, until I realized what a bitch it is to maneuver connecting flights, delayed flights, and dealing with customs. So doing this on my own was so eye-opening for me. I had never even left home for college. I lived in Vermont for some time with a man, not on my own. Anyway, I am babbling, but I felt so independent and free doing that trip solo.
I had one connecting flight in London on my way home from Dublin and that was such a tease. I am not a man, but I think I got a glimpse of what having blue balls is like from that. I was dying to go explore London while waiting for my flight, but I couldn’t. So, when I got home, I told my mom “no more waiting.. we’re going.” She agreed, but she still was not ready to take the plunge.
I was in my final semester of grad school and had the opportunity to study abroad. I took out extra loans to be able to afford it, but there was just two problems: one, the UK tour for the study abroad program did not go to Northamptonshire where my family’s castle is.. and two, my mom couldn’t come with us. So I said to myself, “well I have the money ready in loans and I would so much rather go with my mom.”
I waited and kept checking flights daily to watch the prices. I saw them slowly go higher and higher, and then SKY HIGH UNREASONABLE in the summer. It was January at this point and I was looking at May. eventually I saw the prices drop again and then just booked them. I bought both my mom’s and my own ticket. I called her to tell her and she was shocked and said “Emma, I don’t even have my passport!” and I said, “Well you better go get it” and so she did.
We didn’t know where we wanted to go other than the family castle which is called Lamport Hall. It is about an hour and a half north of London. The last living relative to be there died in the 70s and now it is a museum and open to the public. Yes, I know, why they didn’t contact me and let me take it over is beyond any of my understanding because I very much indeed should be living in a castle in England. But alas, instead I am living at home with my parents, three cats, and a dog in chilly upstate NY..
So the very first thing we did was buy a huge map of the UK and tape it to the television. For a whole week, we sat in front of it every night planning where we wanted to go and how many days we would be in each place. What we settled upon is this exactly:
Day One: arrive in London and pick up a rental car, spend one night in London. We chose a rental car because to go to the places we wanted to go in the country would have been extremely difficult by train. I did look into it, but the fastest and easiest way was for sure by renting a car. Driving on the opposite side of the road was WILD, but we managed. Next time I go, I am going to try all trains for transportation. I feel it would be a lot cheaper, but the car made everything easier. We had the car for the first week and dropped it back off before we went to Paris.
When we arrived in London, we stayed at this Airbnb. It was so clean and very convenient for us as it was close to the airport and car rental place. It was exactly what we needed for a day of rest after the long flight. We took a walk around the neighborhood to stretch our legs and stumbled upon some really interesting graves in a local cemetery. We got plenty of rest and went grocery shopping to stock up for the week which is my number one travel hack. Get your own groceries and book Airbnb’s that have kitchens and meal prep. I cannot stress that enough. We saved so much money by not eating out. I will never get over how cheap groceries are over there compared to the states. I am not sure how it is now after inflation, but when we were there, I was blown away.
Day Two: drive straight to Northamptonshire and visit the castle. Top priority so do it first. One night in Northamptonshire, but we should have stayed two! We stayed at Cobbler’s Cottage in the little villiage of Brixworth with the most darling host named Ruth. We absolutely adored this space and it was exactly what we needed. It was only a seven minute drive to Lamport Hall and there was the most charming sheep right outside our windows!
Lamport Hall was incredible. It was like walking into a fairytale and I felt like a princess by being related to the owners and having that history in my bloodline. Of course, my powerhouse Aries mother had to tell every single person we encountered that we are Isham descendants, while I would just stand there with my cheeks flushed and hand pressed firmly into my forehead.. But she is proud of our heritage and so am I (I just don’t need to tell everyone)!
Day Three: drive up to Derby and stay two nights so we could also visit Castleton, Peak District. Next to my family’s castle, this was one of the greatest two days of my life. We stayed at The Garden Nook hosted by Lisa and Paul and it was our favorite place we stayed on the whole trip. We were able to learn about their lambing farm and we fed the babies with bottles and were able to hold and snuggle them! I LOVE lambs and this was the best experience! I had heard lambs were oiley, but that wasn’t my experience. They didn’t even smell, nor stain my cream colored dress!
We went to Castleton and just walked around the town and hiked to the top of Peveril Castle. We ate at this quaint little restaunt, which was delicious and I highly recommend it. From there, we took a drive through the Peak District Park which left me absolutely speechless at all the stunning rolling hills.
Day five: head to the Cotswolds. We did two nights in the Cotswolds so we could fit in Castle Combe and Bourton-On-The-Water. We did soooo much in these two days alone, it will be difficult to try to remember everything (I should have written this on the plane ride back… oh well, next time).
We visted the beautiful Hidcote Manor which had fairytale-like vines and trees coating the buildings. From there, we went to the Bourton-on-the-water model village where I took the obligatory Alice in Wonderland style photo everyone does! How can you not? It really felt like that. It was so cool to go on a treasure hunt afterwards and find the real life version of the exact spot I was sitting! This was a real treat and I would love to go back. *My particular photo was inspired by A Clothes Horse who I just adore following and getting my travel tips from!
We ate at a charming restaurant called Bourtanical. There is no website it appears, but here is their Tripadvisor link. They were SO accomodating to my dietary needs and delicious of course. I just love UK food because it is so different from America. It tastes more plain, fresh, and natural. The floral atmosphere was darling as well.
We stayed at two different Airbnb’s in the Cotswolds. I won’t link the first one, because it was just not a fabulous experience, but that happens. It didn’t ruin our trip. The space was just not as clean as others that we stayed at. This particular Airbnb, The MiniMack House, was amazing. It was so quaint and darling. The hosts were kind enough to let us do our laundry there as well which was so needed! I will do a different post for this travel hack, but let me just say now to definitely buy these Space Saver bags. Both my mom and I did the small and medium ones with the travel pump and it changed our lives. I even packed a Selkie ballgown in my carry-on. I was able to bring SO many different outfits and fun dresses by doing this!!
Day Seven: We went down to Dorset to see Corfe Castle and stayed in this Airbnb with the sweetest hosts! My timeline might be a bit off, but this is still the order of how things went. After Dorset, we went back to London, dropped off the car, stayed for one night, and caught a train to Paris early the next morning. We stayed at this apartment hotel near the train station. It was perfect for what we needed and I’d stay again for sure. The bathroom wasn’t very clean though, I will say that. I didn’t shower there because of that, but it didn’t dampen our experience.
Day Eight: spend two nights in Paris and then back to London. We stayed at Hotel Emile the first night and did a bit of a splurge on Hotel La Comtesse the second night (insert monkey emoji covering its mouth). Honestly, we were not crazy about Paris. It felt like a french NYC and we felt like we saw everything we needed to see and were not dying to go back.. although now, over a year later, we do miss the beautiful french aesthetic and realized there is so much we didn’t do, but we really did not have the time. We saw the Catacombs and just walked around to different Paris tourist spots. Our hotel room at La Comtesse had a view of the Eiffel Tower. It was very expensive, but so worth it. We have no regrets on that splurge because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we wouldn’t change it for anything. Both hotels were fabulous and very accomodating! The only hiccup we ran into at Emile was that we tried doing the shower steam method for getting the wrinkles out of my Selkie dress aaaaaaand accidentally set off the fire alarm. Oops! (p.s. the method didn’t work)
Day Eleven: Back to London and spend the remaining four days of our trip there. We stayed at this apartment hotel and I would definitely stay here again. It was budget-friendly and we were able to do laundry and cook as needed. The only flaw was some of the pots and pans were not very clean, but they were accomodating when we told them that. Honestly, that was the case with a lot of places we stayed, but it happens. We just cleaned them off and moved on with out trip. None of the Airbnb’s I listed had any dirty dishes though, those were all ten stars!
We did a lot of walking in London mostly. We did a bus tour on the last day of our trip, which we should have done on the first day, but the Queen’s jubilee was going on and the streets were closed. We feel very grateful to have visted England and see her last jubilee before her death. Even in the Cotswolds, they were celebrating the jubilee, which is just such a fun word to say! It was a very neat experience.
I met up with my friend Joe in London who I met on Depop! He runs BoolinTunes which is a great source for music news and reviews. We went to the British museum and he showed us the subway system in London, which my mom and I definitelty would have struggled with on our own! We took Uber’s everywhere otherwise. I don’t recommend that because it cost more, but it was quicker and we were short on time.
We went to a cute little cat cafe, got our nails done, and just went sight-seeing while in London. We took a day trip to the Harry Potter Studio Tour where I cried my eyes out and it was the best moment of my life ok? ok. I LOVE HARRY POTTER!!!! AND I LOVE LONDON!!!!
Day 14/15: spend one night at the airport hotel to catch our early flight home the next day. This was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. I booked a hotel right inside the airport. It was more expensive, but SO worth it. After a long trip, we just wanted to be able to go to sleep and walk downstairs in the morning to board our flight. I will definitely do this again. It was right at our Terminal so only a few minutes from were we needed to be for our early flight the next day.
We were sad to go, but ready to be home after a long trip. I missed Zach and my kitties.
I felt so connected to myself on this trip. Maybe it’s something about my English roots, but I felt so at home. I started researching how to move there, but with my three cats, that looks like more trouble than it’s worth.. so for now, it will be my favorite vacation spot. Before this trip, I had lost touch with reading, writing, and photography. I felt like I had a creative block and all of that went away on this trip. I was reading my book, writing a lot, taking SO many photos, and felt such peace. I am so ready to go back. Lately, I’ve been in a creative rut again, but I am slowly getting through it.
*None of these links are affiliated with anything. This is my own experience. Nothing is an ad, except for the Space Saver bags & the Son de Flor link. I make a wee commission if you use the links. Please use the links so I can go back to London!!
*All photos are mine.