Today was a whirlwind day! We opted to do a tour with the Golden Tour Company in the UK to visit Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford because it was fairly cheap, and included lunch. (These are important things to consider when traveling with your inner-city high school students!) We left the hotel at 7am and headed to the heart of London to catch our tour bus. Our tour guide, James, was a brilliant Blue Badge tour guide who had a knack for talking without breathing. The plus side to this was the vast quantity of information he was able to convey during our tour. The downside to this was the vast quantity of information he was able to convey during our tour. I think the kids were a bit overwhelmed at points.
First stop of the day was Warwick Castle, a beautiful historic site on the river Avon just northwest of London. Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, the castle has undergone many changes in both form and function over the years, from fortress to regal home, to tourist attraction.
This was a perfect place for kids of all ages! Our high school students had a fantastic time exploring the grounds, posing with the wax figures, looking at the armory exhibit, checking out the massive trebuchet, and learning about medieval life in England. With Addison on my back, Kendra and I climbed to the towers. My legs were burning, especially because the spiral staircases were so narrow and short that I had to crouch as I climbed! Despite the pain, the view was worth it!
The two hours we spent at the castle were just enough to get a taste of everything. Another plus was the spacious family bathroom – nothing is worse than changing a poopy diaper in a bathroom with no changing facilities. The family loo at Warwick was clean, and had plenty of room for all three of us. (Yes, my life has now come to getting psyched about great baby-changing facilities.)
Next stop was the birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon. We visited his childhood home, and explored a bit of this small, bustling town. As an English teacher, Kendra was particularly excited about this stop on the tour. The teens were interested in seeing the house, but breezed through it quickly and spent the rest of their time exploring the shops lining the streets. They particularly loved the magic shop that had a Harry Potter sorting hat!
Addison also was not overly interested in Shakespeare’s house, so we also headed out to the street and we met a dog and a cat, which made her very excited. We also stopped at Moo-Moo’s, a milkshake shop, and I bought Addie a chocolate Aero bar shake, which she drank in all of 30 seconds. They had an impressive selection of flavors, as well as a wide variety of hot chocolates.
I wanted to spend more time exploring the town, but we were not given enough time to walk down to the river Avon, or visit the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre.
Lunch at the Duke of Marlborough
We stopped at a small restaurant, the Duke of Marlborough Country Inn, in Woodstock, England. I had the fish & chips, which was a big mistake because the fish looked and tasted like the fried fish patties they fed us in elementary school. None of the food looked particularly appetizing, the service was slow, and it was in the middle of nowhere.
Last stop of the day was Addie’s future university, Oxford! (Okay, well, I can dream…) We visited Christchurch College and visited the dining hall that was used as the inspiration for the one in the Harry Potter films. We also had a short tour of the school, and then the kids did their favorite thing – shopping!
Again, I felt there was so much more to see in Oxford, but we just did not have enough time to explore the college on our own. I realize the logistics of planning a group tour must be quite difficult, but I think this one could have been a bit better organized. It would have been nice to get more time in Stratford, including time to grab our own lunches, rather than spend over and hour sitting down to eat at a restaurant that wasn’t even in town. Alas, tis the drawback of having to rely on a tour company when traveling with a big group – it limits your options and restricts your pace.
When we arrived back in London, we had an amazing dinner of Indian food. All of the kids were brave and tried it, which made me quite proud. I think Addie may have inspired them – after all, if a toddler can eat Indian food, why can’t a teenager?