When we realized that 2017 would have two holidays within the school brake of our daughter, we thought "well, that would be a good opportunity to go for a short trip". And that is why we came up with the idea of taking a trip to the UK.
The base plan was to do a road trip to Rugby, Bath, Stonehenge and London, with a highlight at the end: Barbarians vs. All Blacks at Twickenham! (besides the pictures within this post, the trip's album can be found by clicking here)
I had been to the UK a couple of times before, but always visited only London. I thought it was time to see a bit more of the country.
Our trip started at the Weeze Airport (Germany) on the 29th of October, where we took our Ryanair flight to London Stansted. The flight itself went well, with almost no delay. The only problem is that we expected to take our kids' car seats on-board, which should be fine according to Ryanair's own regulations, but we were not allowed to do it and had to check them in (at no cost, at least). Even worse, one of the seats suffered a bit from the flight and was bent in a direction that, well, it was not supposed to. But fortunately I was able to put it back to position and we were not able to detect any serious damage.
After solving the car seat issue, it was time to get the car. We rented a Seat Alhambra, very good car with lots of space! After about an hour trip, we arrived at the house of my friend Carolina Beal. She lives in London and let us stay at her place for a night before we start travelling around. We took advantage of the weather and went for a walk in central London.
On the next day, we started our trip to Rugby. On the way from London to Rugby you can drive through Milton Keynes. When I saw the signs indicating that we were getting close, it struck me that the Red Bull Formula 1 team has its headquarters there! After a quick check for the address, we found it.
There was no museum or something like that, just a shop and a display of (some?) trophies. But there was also an actual car on display, that was enough to give wings to our imagination...
Later we arrived at our actual target: the city where it all began! But that was basically all I knew about the Rugby and did not know what else to do there. To solve the problem we purchased a Treasure Trail. That is a great way to get to know a new city while doing a treasure hunt with the kids.
During the day we visited, among others, the Rugby Museum, the Rugby School - which celebrates 450 years in 2017 - and the World Rugby Hall of Fame. All in all, even though it is not a big city, it has a charming city center and is well worth a short visit for rugby fans.
We stayed at the nice Inkeeper's Lodge in Dunchurch, in the surroundings of Rugby. Free parking, simple but well decorated rooms and common areas, and good food. We recommend it!
Next stop: Bath. The city famous for its Roman Baths, for having the only hot spring in England (or was it UK?) and for being the only English city to have its whole city center declared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site.
We stayed there for 2 days and 3 nights. Upon arrival we went for one of our favorite travel habits: random wandering. And again it proved to be worth its while. We were looking for a place to eat and found a nice place called The Scallop Shell. We had never heard of it before, but now we'll not forget it! There you can eat good quality seafood and relax to the good ambient music. At first we thought it belonged to a restaurant chain, until we found out that it doesn't. It's won several awards and, if my opinion is worth anything, I believe it deserves. If you go to Bath and like seafood, it is definitely worth a visit.
Close by is the Royal Victoria Park, with a large playground area for the kids. Ours had fun there after our late lunch!
After spending the first night at the Holiday Inn Express, we went out to discover the city. First stop was, of course, the Roman Baths. If you like history and are in the region, it is a must. But the whole city center has its charm. After further wandering, we arrived at the Pulteney Bridge, where we stopped for coffee and cake at The Bridge Coffee Shop. Good ambient with nice view to the steps of the Avon river.
Further walking back to the hotel led us to the Royal Crescent and again to the Royal Victoria Park. When time for dinner came, we went to the close-by pub The Hop Pole, which serves local beer from Bath Ales. Once again we were not disappointed by our random choice!
On the way from Bath to London, we stopped at Stonehenge. I have already been there in 2005, but my wife and kids haven't, so it just made sense to go there. Especially after visiting the Roman Baths, which were "only" 2000 years old, it was interesting to see a construction that goes back more than 4000 years!
In the newly built visitor center you can see how people lived at the time of construction of Stonehenge, how they ate, etc. It is well worth a visit if you are in South England anyway, but I would not go out of my way just to visit it, especially with kids.
On the 3rd of November we made a loooong walk through London. I've been there for a couple of times, so there was not much new for me to see, but I am very proud of my children: we walked for app. 12km (according to Google Maps), but they never complained of being tired. Well done!
And then came the big day: 4th of November, the day the New Zealand All Blacks faced the Barbarians at Twickenham! My wife and daughter did not want to come to the game and made a further day trip to London, but my son and I were very much looking forward to it.
Great atmosphere at Twickers, as usual. This was the third time I've been to the stadium, after England vs. Barbarians in 2010 and France vs. Italy for the 2015 World Cup.
Most of the crowd was rooting for the Baa-Baas, and for a moment it looked like they were going to win after being in front 17-5. But the Maoris showed why they won the last World Cup and came back to win the game 22-31.
And that was it, the highlight and final station of our short trip to the UK. Looking forward to the next one!