Europe, United Kingdom

How travel addicts celebrate their birthdays – a weekend trip to the Cotswolds, UK!

It was a freezing weekend in January where I was battling through the brutal New England winter; my motivation was looking forward to the next trip in the Spring. I heard a Facebook notification sound from my phone while I was half-sleep in my bed, I reached out my hand to my nightstand to grab my phone. Who was messaging me this early on the weekend morning? Sure enough, it was my other travel addict friend, Sokunna, she said OMG roundtrip to London less than $300 round trip with Norwegian Air from Boston! I asked, we both have been to London, any other place we can go? She said, how about the Cotswolds, the infamous postcard picture of Arlington Row in Bibury? I said, okay! I got out of my bed, ran to my laptop, and both of us worked out a date….early February and we swiped our credit cards! From waking up to booking the trip took less than 10 minutes LOL was I dreaming? We started to plan for the trip and looked at those beautiful mansions and castles that we could stay at. Then, as we did more research, we started to question will it be too cold in Feb? We gave it more thoughts overnight and the next morning….I asked Sokunna again. She sounded hesitant, perhaps, better to wait for warmer weather? Both of our birthdays are in October so let’s go in October as a birthday trip? Perfect!!!

We scrambled to go to Norwegian’s website to try to cancel our plane ticket and nowhere a “cancel” button is found! I searched the FAQ and yikes you need to call to cancel. With the clock ticking with less than 15 minutes for the 24-hour free cancellation policy to expire, I found the phone number, sent it to Sokunna, and both of us called Norwegian. We made it, it was a close call (no pun intended) LOL! PHEW!!! Then, we booked again for Columbus Day weekend, this time for real!!!

That was the story of how we decided, spontaneously, a birthday trip to London! We had 10 months to plan but there were so many choices of mansions and castles that took us a long time to settle. And by then, most of the places were sold out but we managed to find some places that we like. The day has come…our fairytale weekend:

The nonstop flight from Boston to Gatwick was comfortable on Norwegian’s Dreamliner for a mid-range flight without food service. The flight out of Boston was at 9:20 PM so we had our dinner and some quick bites in the Air France Lounge in Terminal E; we can access for free with our Priority Pass from our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. We arrived Gatwick at 8:40 AM and the immigration went very fast unlike the last time we went to London. We got our rental car and started our journey out to UK’s countryside. Sokunna and Brian were sleeping on the back of the car as they are that type of people who hardly can sleep on a plane! Jason was our driver for the trip as he is the only one who had experience driving on the left (in the Cayman Islands and New Zealand). After nearly 2 hours driving, we reached our first Cotswolds village/town in our list – Burford!

The medieval town has a designated parking area for tourists which is convenient. From the parking lot, it requires a 5 minute or so walk into the town center. We passed by a lovely church so we figured to pay a visit……Burford Church:

The first impression the town gave me was all the houses and architectures are built from yellow stone just like what a medieval town should be.

I noticed that in every Cotswolds village/town, there must be a Church Lane or Street!

There is a main road with shops and restaurants where tourists are concentrated. It was October, the off season, but still filled with tourists and locals.

In the UK, pubs are everywhere!

The colorful flowers added colors to the monotone stone houses.

We decided to have lunch at this beautiful building – The Cotswolds Arm.

The wall of the building was covered with vines and some orange-red leaves which reminded me of foliage. Gentlemans, wake up LOL, don’t they looked tired?

We had to wait for a few minutes for a table which was a good sign right?

We were seated, browsed through the one-page menu, and placed our orders. In Europe, it’s either sparkling water or still water (mineral water). Guess what, the mineral water’s brand is Blenheim Palace (where we visited 2 years ago), woahhh it must be expensive! The waitress must know we are from America so she gave us cups with ice haha!

While we were waiting for our food, Sokunna and I went outside for more photos, time is precious that we can’t waste a minute of our trip sitting to wait!

It was cloudy when we reached the Cotswolds (luckily that it didn’t rain as it’s frequent to rain in the UK) but those flowers added colors and charm to the place!

I have never seen such flower before, half white and half red (reminded me of Pokeballs LOL)!

I couldn’t believe that we actually went over the Atlantic to the UK for the long weekend, aren’t we crazy?

Back inside the restaurant…our food here yet?

I ordered a burger which was tasty and fatty with a thick fat bacon!

Jason went for a half rack of barbeque ribs….yummy!

UK cuisine tends to be blend but our lunch was actually pretty good for $89.97 for 4 of us 🙂

After we filled our tummy, we walked around the town and took photos of cute spots and shops. There they are:

This one was selling sheep skin and fur…

The upper section of the main street was more quiet as it’s residental area rather than shops.

It was only this main street as point of interest so we were done within an hour and walked back to the car park. On our way, this building caught my attention with the vines:

Next stop, the famous Arlington Row at Bibury!!!! There were parkings along the main street, I would think it’ll be full during the high season! It was a short walk that you can spot the Arlington Row across the river. Urg…that’s the Alrighton Row? Yep, it looked like the photos online but that’s it, only one row of houses?

We crossed the bridge to get there.

There we are, the famous postcard perfect, one of the most beautiful village in the UK – Arlington Row of Bibury!

We walked that row of houses within 5 minutes…we continued to walk up that hill and there was nothing…that was it!

We turned back to Arlington Row and waited for some tourists to leave so we could take some no-people photos.

I will be honest with you, it was such a big disappointment and all 4 of us agreed!!! We have been to Europe at least once every year to explore charming villages and we never felt so disappointed. Perhaps we were spoiled by other charming and unique European villages that this one row of cute houses wasn’t enough to meet our high expectations.

Jason felt even the houses on the main road were cuter haha!

This beautiful garden of someone’s house…it’s private property so please do not transpass!

The small river separating the main row and Arlington Row has many swans which added more charm to the surrounding.

At the end of the road is the Swan Hotel where we originally wanted to stay at so we can walk over to photograph Arlington Row in the morning and night but it was sold out….thankfully it was sold out!

With disappointment, we left Bibury and headed to Stow-on-the-wold. There is also a car park right inside the town center and it looked much like Burford with the stone houses.

The reason I picked this town is because of this church…..St Edward’s Church. It looked just like any other ordinary church in a small town but don’t judge a book by its cover!

On the back of the church, there’s a door that looked like out of a fairytale book! Doesn’t this look like it’s out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?

Just for this door, it was worth a visit! Afterwards, we went inside the church to check it out too…I noticed that churches in the UK have a sign to inform people how much it costs to maintain and run the church per day so you know where your donations are going! The interior of the church, you will never guess that it has such a door on its back!

More photos of the town:

The folks were having a long day after the red-eye flight so we decided to head to our hotel to get some rest…on our way through more towns and villages. I don’t like how the tall grasses blocked the views of the beautiful hills. Oh look, there is a hot air balloon!

Some roads through the villages are narrow for two way traffic especially when a truck or coach bus passing along!

We reached our amazing hotel for the night – Ellenborough Park in Cheltenham! We decided to splurge and spoiled ourselves for our birthdays at $437.33 for 2 nights after 15% coupon from 🙂

Let’s put it this way, we splurged on the cheapest room hahaha, both of our rooms located up at the top of the building, Jason joked that those were rooms for servants back in the days LOL! The room itself was not palace like but very spacious compared to hotel rooms in London!

Nice modern bathroom:

The hotel provided free mineral waters 🙂 Also note that the hotel uses 100 Acre toiletries and Sokunna said that she loved the shampoo (she has very dry and brittle hair) and wished that she purchased the shampoo at the hotel. She forgot to do so thinking she could order online but unfortunately only UK shops sell this brand which means international shipping fee.

After showing and a quick rest, we checked out the property to scout out for photo spots and saw the swing in its garden. It has been a long time I haven’t been on a swing but warning the swing is very slippery!

Time to head out to town for dinner….and couldn’t believe the sunset was very pretty that day!

The town is huge more city-like unlike the other towns we visited during the day! We searched TripAdvisor and decided to go to KIBOUsushi but it was fully booked. We didn’t think of reservation needed during off-season guess we were wrong, it was even booked the next day too!

We passed by a nicely-lit theater:

We searched TripAdvisor again and headed back to Mayflower, a Chinese restaurant on the street where we parked our car. The portions were super small and the taste was just okay for Westernized Chinese food.

But we rather have rice than burgers haha we are so Asian! Dinner cost $83.93, not bad, thanks to the exchange rate 😀

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