On this post, our trip to Oxford and the Cotswolds, the cutest totes, plus White Company Favorites, and the full trip itinerary.
It’s the weekend collection of cool things with Juliet and Elizabeth!
Oxford and the Cotswolds
When we left London, we decided to take a train ride to Oxford to rent the car for the driving leg of the trip. Renting a car and driving out of London can be very stressful, as we did it once..and this was a nice way to see some of the countryside. The train trip took less than an hour from Paddington station.
Note: It’s super important to pack as light as you can. After leaving London we dragged our suitcases through the streets of Oxford to get to the car rental, and up onto trains, and also up the steep stairs of all three hotels between London and Scotland. There were no elevators and especially out in the country, there are cobblestones and uneven streets. Cars are smaller. Pack less and repeat outfits and you can buy anything you need. You will thank yourself. ( Next week my full list of what I packed and wore.)
We booked the train to Oxford through the Great Western Rail ahead of time and did one of the early direct trips. I think we paid an extra $10 or so to have a reserved seat in first class and that was nice not to have to run for a seat. ( You also get free snacks.)
Even though we were set to head to Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds, I told Max we had to stop in Oxford just for a bit as I have always wanted to see it.
Oxford University was founded in the 12th century and you will marvel at the beautiful architecture of the 38 colleges, and numerous libraries, halls, and museums, many which are from the 1700’s or older. We had an hour, so we walked through the main street and saw Trinity, the Bodelian Library and cafe, Radcliffe Camera, and many more beautiful buildings. It was especially cool seeing Oxford while school was in session as students and professors were all over town on bikes, having discussions on steps, and you could feel the young vibe of this town.
The University is part of the town, and so little places to eat and shops are all built around it.
I would recommend a walking tour that so you can get more about the history and the stories! This tour given by students is highly rated and looks fun. I will be back and so glad we went, even if it was for an hour.
About an hour away on a pretty drive through country lanes was the tiny and super charming Stow-on-the-Wold. This is an old market town that begin trading in sheep and horses in 1300. There are still tiny lanes that lead off from the square that sheep could fit in for counting.
There are so many pretty Cotswolds towns and you really need a car for seeing this part of England. Some photos of Stow..
The Cotswolds have been designated as an AONB or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and encompass around 787 square miles. It begins above Bath and goes up to Stratford. I feel like one night here was not enough. If you were planning a trip spend at least two nights and plan a walk. Many come here to hike the Cotswolds Way, but there are paths all over.
We stopped in the tiny village of Lower Slaughter, which is a lot prettier than its name and did a short walk over the stream here and through a tiny tidy town that has won awards for best kept village! The cottages with their sweet flowers and the mill and lambs made you feel like you could be in the 18th century.
Truly magical. The churchyard looked like something from a Jane Austen film. Many people were parking and taking off on a path here.. You can see the markers. You can take the one mile path to Upper Slaughter or beyond.
We checked into our hotel called Sheep on Sheep Street, which was on the main street in Stow and cute as a button. Our room was spacious and beds so good. We had dinner there and they have wood-fired pizzas and a full bar. If it was warmer we could have eaten on the back patio or the front tables.
We set off to explore the town on foot and I took too many photos of adorable doors. We just missed having tea at Lucy’s Tea Room , but there were many cute spots…
I did get to Cutter-Brooks, which I had heard so much about. I follow American Amanda Brooks and her adventures living in the English countryside and her store was on my list and it did not disappoint. I even saw a supermodel – Claudia Schiffer!
Just as I was walking up and snapping photos of the pumpkins and vines front of the shop, she walked out the door to a dark van that whisked her away.. I slowed down the video of the storefront and you can see her waiting patiently for me to finish. I didn’t realize until I was home she was in the photo.
She gave me a nice smile, looks like she hasn’t aged much, and had tan jacket, plaid scarf, and a Birkin bag I am pretty sure.. Oh and dark glasses she donned as soon as she was out. My paparazzi shot..
Anyhow, the store was a dream and after looking at everything.. I bought myself a cute small Rue de Verneuil bag from France. This bag had an English Country feel in a green tweed. It was the perfect size to hold my phone, wallet, glasses and even a small water bottle.. It has a crossbody strap too. I loved using it all through the rest of this trip!
I am now obsessed with these bags and want a larger one… You can’t find them many places, but they are here in a few styles.
The next morning after a breakfast at the hotel, we set off to visit my friend Rosie who lives in the beautiful town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, which I wrote more about on this post. We walked through her historic town of Shakespeare’s birth situated on the River Avon, had the best lunch (on that post), and shopped a bit.
Rosie took me to The White Company, which I get catalogues from and had never been to. I loved the store and I went back to the branch of it in York, and bought a few gifts and a sweater. ( Read on to this week’s On My Radar.)
Next week, I will share our night in the Peak District town of Bakewell and our visit to the historic Chatsworth House where Pride & Prejudice was filmed and the Cavendish family has lived in since 1549. Then we stayed in the medieval walled town of York, which was a real gem and the location of my favorite hotel on this trip.
Driving in the UK
It’s not bad, but it’s also not what we expected. We had driven from London to the Cotswolds about 20 years ago with small kids and hadn’t done it since.
Max had envisioned us toodling between small villages and through picturesque lanes. In the Cotswolds and up to Stratford it was much like this..
However, the remainder of the trip was spent largely on the M1, which is like a big interstate. You have to have all you wits about you driving on the left. Max had no problem, but I was helping navigate as there are huge roundabouts even on the M1.
On the leg from Derbyshire( Bakewell), to York, the longest drive, we were sideswiped by a young van driver who missed his exit and decided to try and go over three lanes! Max swerved so he just took out part of the rear bumper.. It could have been so much worse.
Fortunately, Max bought the extra insurance and we just showed the guy’s license photo and car pics and walked away from it all the rental place. I’m not saying this to deter anyone from driving, but maybe choose the places where you need to drive and take the excellent and relaxing trains when you can! We adored the train legs of this trip.
Someone asked if I would share the whole trip including the hotels so she could plan. Even though I’ll keep sharing details in the next two weekend posts, this may be helpful for planning:
Day 1 -4 Leave San Francisco…late afternoon United flight. Arrive London next day early afternoon. Stay in London 3 nights.. Hamyard Hotel in Soho. See museums, shop, travel by the Tube and by foot.
Day 4-Take train (linked above) to Oxford a.m. Arrive Oxford, rent car, stop for a walk and lunch at the University. 1-2 hours. Drive (about 1 hour), to the town of Stow-on-the Wold. Hotel: Sheep on Sheep Street. Explore town on foot. Drive to check out sweet town of Lower Slaughter. Dinner at hotel.
Day 5- Drive to Stratford-Upon-Avon ( about 1 hour), for lunch and to explore town on walking path and see the Avon and some of Shakespeare spots. Nice shops and lunch in town at Lambs of Sheep Street (excellent). Drive on to the Peak District ( about 2 hours.) Stay at Rutland Arms in Bakewell. Dinner at the cozy hotel restaurant.
Day 6- Chatsworth House (about 15 minute drive). Tour the house and have lunch at the restaurant and see the garden/ gift shop. Drive to York (an hour 45), drop off car and check into Grays’s Court Hotel in York. See town, wonderful tasting menu at dinner at Bow Room Restaurant at the hotel.
Day 7- Explore more of York, including York Minster and tea at Betty’s. Leave on train for Scotland (approx 2.5 hrs). Check into Balmoral Hotel Edinburgh.
Day 7-9, Explore Edinburgh -Holyrood Palace, Calton Hill, walk the Royal Mile, lunch at The Dome. Edinburgh Castle, National Museum of Scotland, afternoon tea at The Palm Court, shopping and walking the town.
Day 10- Breakfast and shop at Prince St Mall and fly to London. Stay at Hotel Sofitel in Heathrow. Dinner and breakfast at hotel.
Day 11- Fly back to San Francisco.
On My Radar- White Company picks
The White Company that I shopped with Rosie has some dream sweaters and I ended up taking this one home and loved the contrasting black stitching.
I also took home these adorable heart napkins! So pretty with white dinnerware.
A friend also told me she buys their cashmere bed socks for gifts and keeps them on hand for unexpected gifts for friends! What a lovely treat for someone.
Other Cool Stuff..
If your planning outings for 2024, don’t miss special exhibit, Fashioning San Francisco: A Century of Style, at the De Young Museum beginning January 20- August 11. It will be the first presentation of their fashion collection in over 35 years! I can’t wait to make plans with friends for a day out to see this.. These 1949 Dior gowns are in the collection…
There’s a new Serena & Lily Store that opened in Palo Alto’s cute Town & Country Village on Friday! I can’t wait to check it out and this is one of my favorite shopping spots. It is exciting for all of us in the South Bay area. Don’t forget their biggest Sale of the Year, is on if you’ve been eyeing something!
My Thanksgiving planning is behind this year. I blame it on my trip, and jet lag and having a cold. That said we plan on doing a more minimal dinner this year. I am letting everyone vote on what dishes they really like… Max and I are not making 12 dishes for 5 people this year and we are also doing just a turkey breast for a change.
Next week, I’ll have more about my table, but I had to share Annie’s gorgeous slab apple pie! I was listening to NPR cooking talk and someone mentioned slab pies are the new thing and of course Annie is already on it…
If you missed it, on Thursday I joined four others on the blog to share ideas for making a cozy bedroom for guests or for your main bedroom, as I did with objects I had on hand and a few holiday bits..
Last week on the weekend post– the London leg of my trip, the boots I wore so much, the Chanel show at the V&A, and a great book for a trip to the UK, and a few things I bought.
I’ll be back on Tuesday for November’s Signature Style post with Cindy.. We are talking outerwear!
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