Travel | The Cotswolds

There's a distinct genre of grime produced by an international flight. The ghosts of recirculated air, a sleepless night, and microwaved curry dinners always seems to haunt me for days after any length of time on an airplane. After hundreds of flights, I think I've found the cure for the air travel grunge: three days in the Cotswolds. 

A few weeks back I landed at Heathrow and hopped in a car bound for Gloucestshire. I felt a tinge of sacrilege in deferring an immediate visit to beloved London upon arriving in the UK, but I was quickly convinced that the Cotswolds was the place to go. Some friends and I rented a crooked stone cottage in the honey-colored village of Winchcombe, around which I kept expecting to find a Weasley or two. After a cup of tea, we wandered through velvet green fields of wildflowers and grazing sheep, past the local castle, and through the storybook town center. Nothing makes you feel cleaner than cool grass and late summer breezes in the dusky English countryside. 

As the jet leg settled in, I sat on the downy white bed and watched a gentle rain put the village to sleep. I was overcome with an irrepressible, incandescent happiness to be back in my misty, merry England.

We spent the next morning at Hidcote Manor, a National Trust site with one of the Cotswold's most beautiful gardens. We wound through the grounds for hours and basked in the English quintessence of tangled flowers and thatched roofs. Every acre held a distinct little universe – hollows of ferns, fields of billowing wheat, huge hydrangea beds, and stone paths lined with pale roses – all wonderfully alive and just a bit wild. I don't spend enough time in the company of flowers and an afternoon at Hidcote reminded me of what great friends they can be. (If you'll be in the UK for more than a week, look into getting a National Trust membership. You'll get to see a ton of magical sites for one low fee.)

We soon found ourselves in Broadway and, using some type of built-in sweets radar, immediately located Hamilton's Chocolates. After some tea and Victoria sponge, we ambled the winding lanes of the tiny town. 

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Driving through the Cotswolds felt like hopping from oil painting to oil painting. Every twist in the narrow roads brought a new panorama of rolling hills or wildflower fields, grazing sheep or villages built of glowy amber stone. We marveled at every perfect scene en route to the bustling market town of Chipping Campden, where we went full-British with a Sunday roast at the King's Hotel

In the UK businesses close shop fairly early, especially on Sundays. We hurried around Chipping Campden in an attempt to leave no bookstore or antique shop unexplored before the "Closed" signs appeared. The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers and Cherry Press stood out among the cuteness.

As the daylight dimmed and the rainclouds rolled in, we rushed to find one lasat Cotswolds experience for the day. The National Trust index led us to Crickley Hill where we stumbled upon a breathtaking view of the countryside. I've always thought England looked like a perfect patchwork quilt when viewed from above. Crickley Hill let us see the full spread of emerald and jade patches, stitched together by crooked stone walls and dirt roads. We drank in the soul-nourishing scene until the rain finally won and we escaped to the cozy fireplace of our Winchcombe cottage, where a Princess Diana Netflix special and leftover Chinese takeout awaited.

Our final day swept us away in a whirlwind tour of what seemed like every village in the Cotswolds. Our first stop was Burtron-on-the-Water. We walked along the canal and through the residential streets, where we stumbled upon my drug of choice: a locally-made ceramics shop! We then popped over to both Upper and Lower Slaughter and as we walked the public footpaths, we contemplated how such beautiful villages could have such gruesome names. Hilly Burford also made the itinerary and introduced me to my first ever bookstore-hat-shop-combination-platter, The Mad Hatter. I bought a copy of Sense and Sensibility, which I lost within ten minutes.

My very favorite stop of the trip was the Daylesford Farm Shop. Farm shops are universally delightful, but the Daylesford Farm Shop was particularly perfect – bright, airy, and crisp. The shop was filled with delicious local foods, gorgeously understated home goods, and fresh flowers. The store also had a workshop space for beekeeping and flower arranging courses. If I disappear for a while, you know where to find me.

Stow-on-the-Wold is perhaps the Cotswolds' most well known market town, so it seemed like the best place to end our brief but sweet stay. A piece of Pimms cake at the Old Stocks Inn and a lunch of figs and burrata at England's oldest pub (in that order) rounded out our wonderful weekend away.

We made it halfway back to London and decided an hour in Oxford might help ease us back into city life. Now that I've found the cure for international flights, I need to find a cure for leaving the Cotswolds.

Travel | Cornwall

Have you ever carried a backpack so long that you forgot how heavy it was until you took it off? That's what my trip to Cornwall felt like – taking off a really heavy backpack. Six hours of driving in Bank Holiday traffic took us across the little British Isle from Surrey to the coziest stone cottage in Mousehole, Cornwall – a place where proverbial backpacks come off. We turned in for the night and as I sank into the cottage's big white bed, I felt so deeply happy. A kind of happy conceived by early autumn air and sea breeze and oceanside villages and cottages with clawfoot bathtubs. I felt like a cloud – floaty and buoyant and pleased as punch to have the ocean nearby. My theory: one need not be in an ocean to float; one need only be near an ocean.

The adventure began in quaint, cobblestoned Truro where we intended to stop only to pop into an American friend's new deli. The town's friendly people and happy flags and endless alleys of shops quickly beguiled us and we threw out our afternoon plans for a few more hours in Truro. We ducked into chic boutiques, vintage stores, and more than a few coffee shops before grabbing an asparagus risotto at Swell. Truro was friendly and pleasantly bustling and spangled in rainbow banners.

We scooted down to St. Ives in time to sit on a hill and watch the sun sink behind the animated little toy town below us. After making our way down to the harbor (peering into every closed shop and gallery along the way), we popped into Fudge Kyst for a slab of Cornish fudge. We ambled down on the water's edge and tried to name the rowboats that bobbed in the harbor. A wedding party burst from a nearby chapel and we were #blessed enough to witness a barricade of bridesmaids blocking the bride as she changed from her white dress into a flannel shirt and shorts. Then, of course, the bride made her way (barefoot) to the nearest pub with her groom in tow. A little clique of pub-goers gathered in the street for an impromptu Cornish folk sing-along, which provided the soundtrack for the greatest plate of fish and chips on this planet.

St. Michael's Mount is a curious place – sometimes accessible only by foot, sometimes only by boat. We checked the tide schedules and made an low-tide, early morning trek across the drained seafloor to the little green island. St. Michael's Mount is home to a castle and it's accompanying village, where we spent hours exploring the gardens and ancient buildings. We climbed a stony turret and soaked in the expanse of the Atlantic, the sea and sky only marginally different in their shades of steely grey.

We wound our little red car around Cornwall's craggy coast and arrived at the stunning Kynance Cove, which I may consider the most unmissable sight in Cornwall. The narrow rock path from the parking lot twists down a hillside, then drops into a sage green cove, dotted with perfect climbing rocks. We claimed a spot on an especially nice rock and spent the afternoon reading and napping. The rising tide eventually forced our exit, like dinner guests who overstayed their welcome. On our way back to Mousehole we swung by the Minack Theatre, an outdoor theatre with a sweeping view of the turquoise ocean. There was nothing playing at the theatre that particular evening, so we took advantage of the free parking and climbed down to beautiful, chilly Porthcurno Beach.

Apparently dinner reservations get snatched up quickly in Mousehole's three restaurants (we had our hearts set on the Michelin-recommended 2 Fore Street but were laughed out the door), so our spectacular trip closed somewhat unceremoniously in a nondescript pub next to the harbor. The burgers were just okay, but I was happy nonetheless. Cornwall was a feast in itself.

Other noteworthy Cornwall spots:

Land's End | Eden Project | Penzance | Tintagel Castle

Travel | The Lake District

Sometimes I get so focused on checking new countries off the imaginary list in my head that I ignore the very place I call home – beautiful England! An entire planet of landscapes seems to have wrapped itself around these little British Isles and, after a recent weekend in the Lake District, I am newly inspired to see as much of this place as I can.

The UK has these magical things called Bank Holidays. I don't exactly understand why they exist, but they roll around every few months and we all get off work for reasons unknown to me and I LOVE IT. Some friends and I made the most of the late May Bank Holiday and (along with every other licensed driver in England) followed the motorway signs pointing to "The North."

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Despite booking in the eleventh hour, we found a great converted stable Airbnb in the teeniest little village called Renwick, which was just a little cluster of houses in an enormous expanse of pasture. As we drove, I kept imagining what the Lake District must look like from above – a patchwork quilt sewn with every shade of green, intersected by stone wall stitches and dotted with scraps of an old floral-patterned dress.

Our first day was spent village hopping. We began in Grasmere, mostly because the town's famous gingerbread had been recommended by no less than ten friends. The village was precious – shops, galleries, little homes, and a tiny church with a healthy dose of wildflowers. Grasmere Gingerbread lived up to every ounce of hype. It was so good, kind of soft and crumbly and spicy. I still think about it at least once a day. (Writing this blog reminded me of how good the gingerbread was and I just ordered some online because I am a weak person. Help!) We grabbed lunch at a teahouse called Baldry's and I tried the British classic rarebit for the first time, despite being deeply convinced it was a rare piece of rabbit meat. To my delight, rarebit is actually a thick slice of toast swimming in a small lake of melted cheese. The things you learn on holiday!

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Ambleside was our next stop on the Village Tour of Cumbria and offered a bit more hustle and bustle than Grasmere (we are speaking relatively, of course). We browsed all the cute boutiques and wandered up to the village church. We excitedly followed signs to a Craft Fair and began dreaming of all the quirky handmade items we'd buy. The signs led us to the dimly lit gymnasium of a community center. It took us precisely forty seconds to see each and every piece of merchandise available. Empty-handed, we took our exit from Ambleside and headed to Keswick.

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Keswick offered a new slew of shopping opportunities and sweet treats. We wandered the street market, scored some British Tweed mill blankets, and eventually found ourselves in a beautiful public park on the banks of a stunning lake. After grabbing some takeaway, we enjoyed a few hours of soaking in the rare sunbeams and warm air. Photo evidence says I took a nap that I don't remember. With sunset quickly approaching, we hopped in the car and headed to Lake Windermere, which came highly recommended for sunset viewing. After finding a place to park, we ran to a nearby overlook. There, with a small gaggle of wide-eyed strangers, we silently watched pink and violet and orange clouds melt into one another like watercolor.

This show plays nightly. Can you believe we live on a planet that has a sunset every single day.

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A new day began with with bad directions from Alex and great driving by Jana and encouraging words by Liz. After a brake-burning, twisty-turny "shortcut" through the mountains, we arrived at the trailhead to a gorgeous waterfall. (Please listen to me: do not take roads that end in the word "Pass." Tears will be shed by at least one person in your vehicle.) Buoyant with the relief of finishing that awful drive, we took the trail past an ancient church, over a wide brook, and through an absolutely pristine wood. Between the trees, the air was dark and cool and calm. After making it to the waterfall, we hung up hammocks and spread out blankets and allowed ourselves a few hours of simply being.

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In search of food (as always), we decided to drive to the biggest town we could find on the coast – Whitehaven. The place was a bit sad, sort of deserted, but we decided to poke around the marina a bit despite the bum-me-out vibes. To our great surprise, we stumbled on a huge jetty and enjoyed some pretty gorgeous views of sailboats on the glittery English sea.

My brother-in-law Andrew once spoke the words that have made me the woman I am today: "You have a limited number of meals to eat in this life, so you better make sure each one is good." That's some gospel truth, y'all. I want to get it tattooed. With this in mind, we kept driving until we found ourselves back at Keswick and in the booth of a super hip restaurant we'd spotted the day before, Merienda. Avocado fries, halloumi frittatas, corn fritters. Hipster heaven.

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We reluctantly awoke to our departure day and decided to make it to Hadrian's Wall before heading back to London. The morning's drive felt like trespassing into one oil painting after another – endless miles of misty emerald mountains dotted with sheep. We stopped for a scone at Blueberry's Cafe (the cutest name in history) in Alston, then navigated to the Wall, ancient Roman ruins near Scotland that spans the entire width of Great Britain. We walked along it for a while and spotted some of the original sections. We also popped into nearby Lanercost Priory, a beautiful old cathedral that sits half-restored, half in ruins in the north English countryside. After coming to terms that the holiday must draw to a close, we pointed our little red car southwards and waved goodbye to the magical Lake District. Our final stop was the town of Carlisle, where we had lunch and a wander before entering the parade of homecomers that stretched all the way to Surrey.

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