Friday, August 23, 2013

European Vacation - Part 2 Tips & Places to Visit

Preparing for this post allowed me to dream once again about the wonderful vacation we took just one month ago. Ugh--why is it so difficult to get back into the swing of things?

Summer European Vacation tips and itinerary suggestions

I ended at the third day of our vacation in my last post. You can refresh your memory (or play catch-up) by clicking here. So, picking up where I left off...

Day 4

We wandered through the countryside (like many other days on our trip) and discovered roads not much wider than our car. It was interesting. They don't have ditches over there, so when you are on the edge of the road, you are typically looking at a long line of hedges. Makes you a little nervous because there really is no where to go if you need to make room for a larger vehicle coming the other way! Our destination was Stonehenge. I can tell you that I was not overly excited to go there, but figured since we were staying very close to it, that we probably should go and anyways, it is a popular tourist attraction (for good reason).
Stonehenge Travel Tips

Upon arrival, you pay (they offered a family pass) and receive an audio guide to learn about the stones. I was blown away. I didn't realize the history and the mystery behind these rocks. It's amazing to me that they traveled so far with these stones, dug them so deep and into perfect formation but we have no idea why. It was eerie being there for some reason. I couldn't put my finger on it. I was truly impressed by these stones and encourage anyone to visit to see, learn and hear about what they have discovered so far.

We stopped for a late lunch at a tavern with a old thatched roof, but I couldn't find the picture of it to show you! (horrible blogger etiquette!)

Day 5
In the morning, we decided to head into town (Swindon) and do a little shopping. We visited the town center mall and many, many stores. We even made a purchase at their version of the Dollar Store--Poundland. My son bought a cricket set. (Thanks to the cousin we were staying with for introducing us to that boring sport--no offense, but how can you stay involved in a sport where the game can go on for days?)

The rest of the day was dedicated to my mother-in-law. We visited the town where she was born and spent her childhood. (cool fact: when we landed in London on the first day of our trip, it was 50 years ago to the date that she arrived over in the US!) She grew up in a town called Royal Wootton Bassett. 

This was a neat little town. We found her house she lived in and she commented that it was quite run-down. What a shame. The streets in this town were narrow too--very typical in England.

Royal Wootton Bassett
We went over to her long-time friends house for afternoon tea. It was one of the best homemade meals we ate on the trip. (oh, and her chocolate cake was to die for!)
Day 6
Today we visited Windsor Castle (the oldest and largest occupied Castle in the World). It was so hot that day (actually, we were blessed with very warm weather the entire trip!). We arrived and decided to have lunch first (it was close to lunchtime and well, we have kids and wanted to enjoy the tour of the Castle!). We ate at a cute little cafe on a side street (cobblestone, actually) named Limes. Everyone had a quick sandwich and it was relatively cheap! When we arrived at the Castle, we had to wait quite awhile to enter. Long lines are typical at top tourist attractions. Windsor Castle is one of the main residences of the Queen. It just so happened that she was in residence during our visit! (Still shocked we didn't get invited up for tea, though!)

Windsor Castle

You are not allowed to take pictures inside the residence, but man--it was exquisite. The amount of treasures inside and to know that it is still utilized today. It makes you think about who stepped in those rooms you were in--and how many people have been there, too. Quite amazing. Kids were a little bored visiting the different rooms. This was an audio tour, too, and they did offer a kids version. But, the kids were very good and didn't really bother us to hurry up through the Castle.
We also visited the Queen Mary's Doll House (huge!) which is inside the castle, St. George's Chapel (amazing church) and the Drawings Gallery (which included paintings from Royal Artists--including Prince Charles).
Inside view of Windsor Castle
Because the Queen was in residence, we saw the Guards in several different places. We even got our pictures taken next to them! (my son was afraid the guard was going to get him with his sword on the end of his gun)
Guards of Windsor Castle
The best part of this day was that it was on this day that the world welcomed Prince George into the world. We will always remember that we were with the Queen when she got the news about the birth! How cool is that?

  • Take time to have fun. Don't be rushed to get everything in. 
  • Follow the lead of your children...sometimes. We knew we wouldn't have enjoyed the Castle if the kids were hungry the entire visit--we ate first!
  • Women--carry a comfortable purse. I love my ThirtyOne Shoulder bag. It was comfortable, held everything I needed and didn't weigh me down.
  • Watch out for theives. Keep a hold onto all your belongs--all the time.
  •  Make time for shopping and enjoying the simple pleasures of the places you are visiting.
  • Family vacations are about family, so make sure fit them into your itinerary--for instance--we planned that special day to go to Wooton Bassett. Is it on the "must-see" list for everyone? No, but it was important for our family to visit. So glad we did.

Top Attractions for this portion:
  • Stonehenge
  • Windsor Castle 
    Stop by next week to see the our trip to London! What can't wait to share it with you!

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