Tag Archive: England

My last visit was in 2003 but that was on official business so it shouldn’t count. In 1986 and 2000, I was there. First as a student, the next as a tourist. Most things remained the same, but for the price of West End tickets. As a newbie watching musicals for the first time, I was very lucky to be there when Les Miserables first showed some 3 months before my arrival in 1986. With my student discount, it was a steal watching it and quite frankly, I was beyond awed. I’ve never seen the likes of it till then. I’ve watched it several times since, both in West End and Broadway, and even back in my home country. This Cameron Mackintosh was my new hero. Fast forward 2019. Ticket prices have spiralled. Lowest-priced musicals still hovered from £30 upwards. Some at £200 and up. And I mean really upwards. If you’re aiming to watch only one or 2, sure you can splurge. But not if you’re meaning to watch more. And so, rather than stay longer in London, we moved to stay nearly a week in Amsterdam and then another week in Brussels before heading back to London and onwards for 8 nights in Bath and The Cotswolds. We made many day trips from our chosen city base using trains, buses and vans. This is our Trip Summary from May 19 to June 12, 2019.




Day Trip from London: Stonehenge




DayTrips from Amsterdam


Zaanse Schans

Volendam & Marken

Delft & The Hague



Day Trips from Brussels




Back to UK


The Cotswolds

Day Trip to Cardiff, Wales

The Cotswolds

Always in my mind. Always in my list. Been to Stratford-upon-Avon on its north side, and south of it, Bath, but never stepped into the real Cotswolds territory. Until now. Time well spent in the English Countryside. In some places, time stood still. The honey-coloured stone cottages, the centuries-old market halls, “wool churches” and biscuit-hued houses with dry stone wall fences. So lovely!

Castle Combe




Arlington Row in Bibury


Tetbury and Cirencester

And finally, Chippenham, where the wedding was held. The reason why we’re here. The Lost Orangery in Euridge Manor was the perfect venue for such a fairytale wedding.


We came here for this wedding. So did the rest of the family and friends. Like six continents represented. Yes, only Antarctica wasn’t represented. It was a gathering of treasured friends over many years. For 2 lovely souls who swiped right and found each other. Destiny happened and we were all called in as witnesses to this ceremony that held so much meaning for everyone.

The weather forecast was WET and COLD. But the warmth from families and friends reuniting for this joyous occasion likely reversed that warning. The sun shone and there was not a drop of rain. It still grew terribly cold towards evening but by that time, everyone has warmed to the epic speeches, enjoyed the cocktails and sumptuous dinner, and later swayed to the beat as the dancing (and more drinking) began. Two nights in a row in this pre-wedding and wedding venue. Even the dog was invited!

This wedding has set the bar for truly meaningful, intimate and elegant weddings. Not just because of an excellent wedding venue and reception. More because of the chemistry among the wedding guests (you’d never guess some were meeting for the first time!), the hilarious and good natured banter between the fathers of the bride and groom, the sweet message from the bride’s mom, the groom’s speech which spoke volumes of love and friendship, and the epic speech of the best man who has known the groom since they were children and who shared many funny anecdotes that drew the most laughs and cheers from everyone.

The Euridge Manor, Chippenham looks out to a vast green field where you’d spot cattle and sheep grazing. Too bad we failed to watch the sunset at 10pm at this time of the year. Too busy watching the newlyweds’ nice moves on the dance floor! Must have been truly breathtaking, especially when viewed from the backyard of the nearby cottage where the bride and her family stayed on the eve of the wedding events. It may have grown quite uncomfortable as the temps dipped, but this is one wedding affair for the books. We do not wish to forget it. To the bride and groom, all our best wishes for a happy life together!

The “capital” of the Cotswold is Cirencester, but a Prince lives and runs a business store in Tetbury. Cirencester is the biggest town in the Cotswolds area and its skyline is dominated by the Saint John the Baptist Parish Church, one of the finest “wool” churches in England. Wandering around, you get a feel of a “big city” yet marvel at the stone buildings which used to be the 16th century manors of wool merchants now turned into hotels, boutiques, pubs, bistros, bed & breakfast inns.

The St. John Baptist Church in Cirencester is Gothic in architectural style with pillars bearing the crest of the wool merchants who financed its construction. Its glass stained windows and fan vaulting invite you inside the parish church that feels more like a Cathedral in grandeur and style. Behind is the Abbey Grounds where once stood an Augustinian monastery. A bit further down and through a Norman archway is your Cotswolds “countryside” beyond the city. Not too far from here is the more popular and more photographed Bibury, just 8 miles and 12 minute drive away. And don’t forget the very first college of agriculture in the English-speaking world. Founded in 1845, the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester has no less than HRH Prince Charles as University President.

In 2008, Prince Charles opened Highgrove Store in Tetbury, named after Highgrove House where the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall has a family residence. Prince Charles’ environmentalist philosophy echoes in the running of his private residence and gardens. Just as well, he sells his organic products in Highgrove Store here in Tetbury and the sales proceeds donated to the Prince’s Charitable Fund. It’s a lovely boutique where one finds anything from teas, jams to ceramic products and toys.

Along the main road – Church Street – and right in the center of town is the popular 17th century Market House. Its bright mustard hue stands out and is a favorite spot among photography buffs. An important part of Tetbury’s history, this stone building used to house a wool and yarn market in medieval times. It is still used as a market hall for various crafts fairs and other functions. Because of its alleged “royal connections” and much “wool history”, Tetbury has claimed fame and in fact, an architectural gem with many listed merchant houses and weavers’ cottages. If you’re in the area, drop by the Prince’s creatively inspired Highgrove Gardens and buy something from the Highgrove Store. Walk the streets and marvel at the many historic stone buildings. Who knows? You may even bump into Tony, Tetbury’s resident town crier, dressed in full regalia!

This is one of my favorites among the market towns and villages we visited in the Cotswolds. Many promotion materials such as brochures feature these cottages. Easily, one of Cotswolds’ most photographed sites. In fact, UK passports carry that image on its inside covers. There isn’t much to do though so visitors tend to congregate around the narrow street past the footbridge for a good photo op with the row of old stone cottages in the background. Poor residents! I can imagine how young families putting babies to sleep cope with all the noise of tourists. And we saw many coaches offloading tourists!

Arlington Row, Bibury

The Footbridge

The row of cottages have been there since the 14th century. Built initially as monastic wool stores and barns, they were converted to weavers’ cottages in the 17th century. The weavers then supplied cloth for fulling to the nearby Arlington Mill, now a museum. Fulling is a process in woollen cloth making where the cloth is cleansed of all oils and impurities to make it thicker. Within the same area is Saint Mary’s Church. The dry stone walls are everywhere and it must be a chore trying to maintain them — what with almost every tourist touching and feeling them. Remember, these walls have no cement 😱

A young family’s cottage?

The Road To Bibury

At the time we visited, we found a group of Japanese tourists in the Arlington Row. No chance I can snap a photo without the crowd going up and down the row of weavers’ cottages, UNLESS you climb a steep incline for a solo shot 😜 The place is particularly popular with the Japanese because of its association with Emperor Hirohito. The story goes that the Emperor stayed in this village while still a Prince on a European holiday. He has been a big fan of Bibury since then. Why am I not surprised? The village looks like it was peeled off some historical novel. I am no Prince or Princess, but I’m a big fan too. Kudos to the National Trust for preserving this heritage site.

Arlington Row, Bibury

Arlington Row, Bibury

Getting here is fairly easy. But parking is a major concern. Think of those humongous vans and coaches ferrying selfie stick-wielding tourists. And if you’re driving, pray you don’t get stuck behind a tractor transporting some fresh manure to nearby farms. Yes, Victoria, ain’t easy to overtake around the bends and on the wrong side of the road at that! But hey, this quaint village with a cluster of honey-coloured stone cottages is so postcard-pretty that you won’t feel sorry visiting it. The stream that runs through it attracts many wildlife and while busy with tourists, the swans and ducks seem oblivious to hooo-mans. They go about their business and certainly act like it’s their territory and we are intruders. Well, we are. 🙄

Arlington Row, Bibury

Arlington Row, Bibury

After this visit, I now feel like watching “Stardust” and “Bridget Jones Diary” again. Both movies used Bibury as location setting. And maybe next visit, I’d stay in the biggest stone building in the area. The ivy-clad Swan Hotel only has 4 stars but I’d give it a 5 star for its location alone — right along the banks of the River Coln in Bibury. Price-wise, it’s a steal. Last I checked, it is even cheaper than the overrated London hotels we stayed in. Yes, the best lesson I picked up from this trip is to stay in London only if I have to, like if I’m watching a West End play or musical. Otherwise, off to the countryside like this market town. 🌿🍃🌱🍂💐🌺🥀

Considered a “big village” among the tiny market towns in the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water lies in a valley populated by no more than 4,000. You’d find crowds here though, as busloads of tourists visit this charming village that’s also fondly called “Venice of Cotswolds”. The 5 low bridges, all constructed with local stones, spanning over the River Windrush is a charmer. All have very descriptive names: the Mill Bridge (built 1654), the High Bridge (1756), Payne’s Bridge (1776), New Bridge (1911) and the Coronation Bridge to replace a wooden footbridge built in 1750. The river cutting through town used to be wider until it was rechanneled to power the 3 mills.

Unlike the more bucolic Castle Combe and Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water is more modern and vibrant with its antique and souvenir shops, tearooms and restaurants lining the riverbank. The whole place is actually “prettied-up” for the tourists and it’s no brainer to think the tourism industry is making good money here. If you like shopping, you’d get busy here. And most restaurants offer good views of the river flowing through the entire town, complete with swans, ducks, even pigeons. There is a Museum of Vintage Cars as well as a “model village” showing a miniature Bourton-on-the-Water complete with bridges and stone houses. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit any. Just as well as I don’t fancy a car museum nor a village scale model. But I found a bench by the riverbank. And the time to sit still even for just a moment. It was a pleasant day. Not sunny, but at least it didn’t rain. Not too cold too.

The name Bourton-on-the-Water derives from a Saxon phrase meaning village or settlement by the fort or camp. Except that that settlement has been fully commercialised. Funny but every time I see shops selling gemstones like one would find in cruise liners, it hits a panic button. Instant alert that it is a tourist trap. Definitely not your idea of “countryside” but the stone houses, some ivy covered, still hits a spot. And yes, the low bridges over the River Windrush add charm. Like Venice? No gondolas for sure as they can’t pass under those low footbridges. But still a charmer. No wonder it’s one of the more popular towns in the Cotswolds area.

Not too many have been to the Cotswolds. And when visiting Cotswolds, Corsham isn’t exactly top of mind. But we’re happy to have decided to stay here since it’s very near to the 3 wedding events we were attending one weekend. Euridge Manor in Wiltshire and Castle Combe aren’t too far away, just 15-20 minutes drive. And Lacock is just some 10-15 minutes drive away. Besides, Corsham has its own charm too, without being soooo isolated. The latter is important since we didn’t want to drive and therefore considered the hotel’s proximity to shops, number of dining outlets, attractions and facility in hailing cabs. Alright, staying above a pub is a plus too.

But really, how often do you walk the town’s streets along with peacocks and peahens? They’re officially Corsham residents and have grown used to people. We stayed in one of those pubs in the area. Yeah, like getting your room and a beer too. And I bet these peacocks watch out for those who’ve had one too many beers. Methuen Arms can be noisy at night especially on weekends. But their restaurant serves very good food and has a good wine selection. Breakfasts here were just heavenly. One breakfast, I had a squirrel staring me down from a window. Must be jealous of the toasted bagel and smoked trout with mashed avocado I had for brekkie.

Full English Brekkie? Bagel with Salmon or Trout? Toasties?

The 17th century schoolroom and almshouses, Town Hall, Post Office, Elephant Bums, Corsham Court, Flemish Cottages, are all walking distance from the hotel. And they stand right next to more pubs, tiny offices, craft shops, convenience stores, coffee joints and restaurants. We even spotted an Indian and a Chinese restaurant which seem to be popular among the locals. (You guessed right, one of us ordered some noodles and another dish to takeaway — for midnight snacks!)

Only a parking lot and a backyard separates Methuen Arms from the Corsham Court and Saint Bart’s Church. There are paved and cobblestoned paths, but it was an easy, short walk across Corsham Park. Saint Bart is short for St Bartholomew, a church which dates back to Saxon times. A marker on its wall honours the Corsham men who perished during the First World War. The graveyard is right next to the Church, looking real pretty for an old cemetery. On the other hand, Corsham Court used to house a Saxon royal manor and belongs to the Methuen family since 1745. It was perfect as location setting for the movie “Remains of the Day” starring two of my favourites: Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

Corsham Court

They do look like Elephant Bums, right?

The Saint Bart and the adjacent cemetery may look too pretty. In my book, I like the experience of seeing peacocks roam High Street where one finds 17th century Flemish cottages then built for the Flemish weavers who revived the wooden industry in this town. The days we spent in this area, we were extremely busy for the wedding events. But it only took a few hours of leisurely walking to reach these tourist spots. We found Corsham very orderly and clean — despite the pub noise! And amidst that pub noise, I overheard 2 authors discussing a book they are writing together. Either that or one is an editor. With that lovely erudite-ish British accent, i was drawn to their exchange, eavesdropping and finding delight in it. My bad!

Saint Bart’s

The Graveyard beside St. Bart’s

Next time I visit the Cotswolds, I’d likely go back to this former coaching inn with Georgian-style architecture – Methuen Arms – but time the visit in spring. Either to stay or enjoy a good meal and a beer. Or both. Still won’t drive, but biking can be an option. Also learned there’s a hiking trail in the Cotswolds. Now, that even makes it more interesting. Why not?

Trivia: Camilla And Andrew Parker-Bowles lived here in Corsham until they divorced in 1995. Their house was then sold to former Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason who still lives in the Corsham estate with his wife.

Also, the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip, married to Queen Elizabeth) spent time in Corsham teaching cadets in the HMS Royal Arthur at the time he was engaged to marry the then future Queen.

It is the oldest borough in England. I didn’t know that. And I’m sure addicted to anything old. 🙄 So I promptly bought a brochure at the Abbey to brush up on Malmesbury. If it’s old, it’s bound to be so rich in history and I’m a sucker for good old tales. Apart from being old, it is also pretty. We meandered in a winding footpath leading up to the Old Bell Hotel — reputed to be the oldest hotel in England, built to accommodate scholars then studying at the Abbey. The hotel is right beside the Abbey of Malmesbury, both structures standing on foundations dating back to the 12th century. The Abbey holds the tomb of King Athelstan, reputedly the first “King of All England”. There is an Athelstan Museum inside the Town Hall telling the history of the town built on the site of a 4,500 year old hill fort. Outside and surrounding the Abbey are tombstones including that of 33 year old Hannah Twynnoy who was killed by a tiger that escaped from a traveling circus. And there’s the story of a “flying monk” who crafted wings and jumped out of a window to land in broken legs. But he survived the crash 🙄 Such impressive architecture, fascinating history and interesting stories and tales!




The old lady manning the desk inside the Abbey was so charming with her soft voice explaining some features of the Abbey in a most unhurried style. She explained how the centuries- old Abbey is now missing its tower. She further explained she doesn’t know why it’s missing. She was so cute in all her honesty, and actually sounded sorrowful she doesn’t have all the answers. You can tell they’re all volunteers. Even the one serving coffee and pastries INSIDE (yes, inside) the Abbey, complete with tables just behind the pews. If you have the time, take your coffee cuppa outside to linger in the Abbey House Gardens where King Athelstan was actually buried with “2 saints thrown down the well”. The garden can be very soothing to your nerves — a tranquil haven.



We found our way strolling the cobblestone paths past the 15th century Market Cross which used to be an 11th century graveyard. The path leads to the main square and Town Hall where a kindly lady handed me a Malmesbury map. I wanted to tell her I really don’t need a map just walking around the square and the Abbey grounds. But she was all smiles and so friendly. On the way back to our van, we passed the same Old Bell Hotel and the grassy path along a brook with mini-falls that hosts a few swans and ducks. Lovely!



No matter how many times you visit Bath, you will always be delighted to see Pulteney Bridge, the Roman Baths and the Bath Abbey. This heritage city lives up to its name, and best of all, it is so compact yet offers many activities. I skipped the Roman Baths this time, having visited it before and quite frankly, discouraged by the long line and crowd. But if you’re visiting for the first time, do make sure you book before arriving. My friends visited the baths and I joined them after to visit the Abbey to linger around. This 15th century Abbey used to be a Benedictine Monastery and forms the center of this town. It took 120 years to build this gothic masterpiece and has since been the place where some kings and queens of England were crowned. The facade is adorned with ladders where angels seem to be either going up or down, the stained glass windows beautifully streaming light onto the Abbey floors, and the ceiling such a fine example of fan vaulting.

We’re lucky to have joined a free walking tour of Bath organised by the Mayor’s Office. The very knowledgeable volunteer guides toured us for all of 2 hrs giving us valuable history lessons, and obviously made known how much they love their town. After all, Bath is one of only 2 European cities ever inscribed as a World Heritage Site in its entirety. (The other is Venice in Italy). The tour was free and no tips solicited. It’s 100% gratis for a very good tour! We walked from the Bath Abbey and Roman Baths area, around the Pump Rooms and Cross Baths towards the Theater, the Queen Square, the Royal Crescent and the Circus. It was a very pleasant walk despite some rain showers and the guide made sure we were all brought back to where we started, now equipped with more history lessons and a few legends.

The honey coloured stone buildings, the cobblestones, the lovely Pultney Bridge are enough to make it a worthwhile trip. We did the boat tour too but honestly speaking, I think one can skip that and instead spend that hour enjoying some of Sally Lunn’s buns. This is the oldest house in this heritage city made famous by its “Bath buns” spread with cinnamon butter. It may seem like a touristy thing to do but I dare say Sally Lunn’s breads are truly delicious. We had them with homemade vegetable soup and steak with mushrooms. We bought more buns to take back to our hotel too!

After a few visits, I am still fascinated and charmed by how the city has preserved its low-rise centuries-old structures. Some buildings have been repurposed like the former residence of local celebrity Beau Nash which is now a Theater, and the house of his mistress Popjoy right next to the Theater which is now an Italian restaurant. Right across it is a magnificent building which has been converted into an Asian bistro called “Giggling Squid”. Sans reservation, we luckily dined here and enjoyed one of our best meals (with rice!) in Bath. We were not as lucky in The Scallop Shell who flatly rejected us 🙄 yet accepted another group who similarly had no reservation. What gives?

On our last night in Bath, I toyed with the idea of joining the 8pm “Bizarre Tour” which claims to be a fun, comedy walk. A pity we ran out of energy and decided to stay in. For all of you visiting Bath, do tell me about this irreverent, hilarious walking tour. I missed it and would love to hear from you!

Or make that 6 in a million tourists who visit Stonehenge annually. Most definitely one of UK’s iconic sites. Its UNESCO World Heritage status attracts tourists from all over the world eager to tick it off a bucket list yet allowing only a quick photo opportunity of this ancient world wonder. I am just as guilty as many. Stonehenge is one big, mysterious circle of stones that likely fails to fully satisfy one’s curiosity. Who built them 5,000 years ago? What and how was the entire stone formation used for? Why was it built here in an open field in Wiltshire, England? Speculations abound, ranging from a religious ceremony site to some (alien) spacecraft landing pad. Whoa!

So many theories. But what’s for certain is where those stones in the inner circle come from. Scientific studies point to the Preseli Mountains in Wales. I know…. you’re curious too who moved these stones from 240 kilometres away or who orchestrated such a major project. Whatever. I’m attracted to prehistoric stuff — anything ancient — and curious over sites and architectural wonders whose purpose remains a mystery. And hey, the vast field surrounding this Neolithic structure is dotted now with blooming canola flowers and really stout sheep who looked soooo cute running across the field. Just beautiful!