Mystery Trip: Destination Revealed

After months of wondering, worrying, planning and packing the big day had finally arrived. Waking up early at 5:30 am, a few last minute packing adjustments and then the drive to O’Hare we were fiat the moment of truth. I have to say, walking into O’Hare with your suitcase and absolutely no idea where you are going is an odd feeling. But one white envelope held all the answers….now all we had to do was open it up.

Location, Location, Location

Once deep inside the airport (unable to hail a cab easily), Kelly handed each of us an envelope with our page-protected itinerary. Imagine our surprise when we realized we wouldn’t need the google translate app we downloaded on our phones.

We were headed for ten days to explore the United Kingdom. Our first stop was London for two full days. After that, we would pick up a rental car at the airport (the only hiccup on our trip) and explore the Cotswolds for three days. During this time we would take a day trip to Bath and spend the morning at the spa. The final leg of our vacation would include a stop at Stonehenge, a short ferry ride and then three days on the Isle of Wight. Here is a quick recap of our ten days abroad!

London

Day One: Traveling to London started early with arriving at O’Hare just after 7 am. Having only traveled overseas via overnight flights, I was excited to see how leaving in the morning in Chicago and arriving after 10 pm local time in London would feel. Honestly, it worked out quite well and would easily pick an early flight again! Three movies and reading through the itinerary kept me awake and was able to fall asleep once settled at the hotel. This made for a full, well-rested day once we went to explore London.

Day Two: Waking up at technically midnight-thirty Chicago time but bright and early 6:30 am London time was the start to our first full day in London. Our hotel location was just north of Kensington Park and was an easy walk to the Bayswater Tube Station. This was our launching point for our adventures over the next two days. We had a quick breakfast at a local eatery (nothing fancy and not memorable). Looking outside the rain had started and during a break in the clouds decided to quickly run back to our hotel to grab raincoats and umbrellas. So glad we did – the rest of the day it was dry, sunny and beautiful. Our first destination was the Tower of London and it did not disappoint. We then traveled further into London, having lunch at a local pub (first fish & chips of the trip), then over to the National Museum and then a long walk back to the hotel via a stroll through Kensington Park.

Day Three: The next morning was more sightseeing – starting with the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. It also happened to be the weekend of the London marathon, so there were quite a few people hoping to catch a glimpse. After that, I walked around St James Park, Westminster Abbey, and Parliament before heading back to the hotel to change. We planned an afternoon tea at Kensington Palace Pavilion and it did not disappoint. A stroll through the garden helped work off the scones, sandwiches and tea cakes. We had to burn those calories as we had dinner planned at Darwin Brasserie at the Sky Garden. The view from the 36th floor overlooking London was breathtaking. We packed quite a bit into our last full day in London.

Cotswolds

Day Four: Our next leg of the vacation took us to the Cotswolds. This is an area in south central England that has been classified as “Area of Outstanding Beauty”. That’s an understatement. The rolling hills and storybook towns are exactly how I pictured driving through the English countryside. After we picked up our rental car back at the airport, we started the journey from the Dockey Wood at the Ashridge Estate in Herfordshire, to meander along the paths through the beechwood forest. It was peak season for the bluebells in bloom and the hike was magical. We then continued to the next town of Winchcombe where we would stay three nights in a renovated millhouse on the grounds of Sudeley Castle.

Day Five: A day of exploration for us in the Cotswolds. We started the day with homemade breakfast of scones, porridge, and tea at the cottage. Our morning walk consisted of an exploration of the grounds and estate of Sudeley Castle. We then drove towards Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare, and explored the town. A quiet evening back in Winchcombe with a pub dinner finished our day.

Day Six: We woke early, had tea and scones at the cottage and then hit the road to Bath. This town did not disappoint – in both architecture or relaxation. We had four hours at the Thermae Bath Spa to enjoy the open-air roof-top pool, minerva thermal bath and the wellness suite. This suite consisted of a roman steam room, a georgian steam room, infrared room, ice chamber (my favorite!), celestial relaxation room and experience showers. This was then followed by our scheduled massage and then lunch. On our drive home we explored the town of Castle Combe. Homemade dinner at the cottage ended this relaxing day.

Isle of Wight

Day Seven: We had to leave our little cottage and start our drive south. On the way towards the Isle of Wight we detoured and stopped to visit Stonehenge. The size of the stones is not captured in photos – how were they able to place them all and where did the stones come from??? So much mystery in the middle of an open field. After a quick lunch and shopping at the gift shop, we were on our way to the ferry crossing at Lymington. The crossing, thankfully, was short, smooth and uneventful – and I could see land at all times so no panic set in.

Day Eight: We now awoke in Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight with the Engligh Channel in front of us. In the far distance, France was a three-hour ferry away…maybe next adventure! Our first breakfast was at a little cafe overlooking the water. The rest of the day included walking over seven miles…the lower costal path and then exploring a bit further east up the coast. This lead us to the Devil’s Chimney – a spot on the map and once found easily understand the name. A steep tower of stairs emerged from a small opening in the rock. Luckily, at the top just off the path was the best tea and scones afternoon break awaiting us at the Smugglers Haven Tea Gardens. Dinner was on the water at the Spyglass Inn with fresh prawns on the menu.

View from our balcony

Day Nine: Our last full day was all about relaxation and downtime. We had breakfast at the apartment. Then explored the coastal path west and hiked over seven miles (yep, that’s us, taking it easy). We had a late lunch in town, watching two chefs make everything to order. We then finished wandering through town, buying out scones at a local bakery, enjoying the best local ice cream and returning to the apartment for a lazy evening overlooking the water as the sun set on our vacation.

Day Ten: All good things must come to an end. Our end started early, 6am local time (midnight Chicago time) with an early departed from Ventnor to catch the ferry via Portsmouth. We drove back to London and actually had a bit of driving through London fog. Since we had to eat, we took a chance and stopped for breakfast at Dabbling Duck. The perfect setting to end our vacation. We then dropped off the car, explored London Heathrow Terminal Five (best chair massage ever) and climbed aboard a very large plane (upper deck of a super jumbo via British Airways). Our flight left London at 445 pm local time and arrived in Chicago just after 7 pm local time. While this made for an extremely long day, once home it was late enough to just go to bed.

This doesn’t even scratch the surface on what we did during our time in England. There is SO much more to gush about this adventure that one little post isn’t enough. Over the next few weeks, you’ll read more on our trip. The accommodations! The food! The adventures! Stay tuned!

Bluebells in the Cotswolds

30 thoughts on “Mystery Trip: Destination Revealed

  • May 23, 2019 at 08:29
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    Terrific post and great photos! Definitely on my list of places to visit next time I’m in Europe.

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  • May 23, 2019 at 08:34
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    I’m glad that y’all we able to explore so many different areas! That’s bold to participate in a mystery destination!

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  • May 23, 2019 at 10:01
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    Oh, my! Just wonderful. You described so much and I’m sure you have many more memories and pictures! What a great idea! Thanks.

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  • May 23, 2019 at 10:19
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    those photos are awesome!!! Thx for the info. Looks like a great trip!!

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  • May 23, 2019 at 10:36
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    I have decided to add “mystery trip” to my bucket list! This looks fun!

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    • May 27, 2019 at 13:13
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      A mystery trip sounds like so much fun to do! But since I’m usually the one planning our trips, I don’t know if I would be brave enough to let someone else do it completely hah! You got to see some cool places for sure! I’d love to go there one day!

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  • May 23, 2019 at 11:25
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    Can you steal me away with you next time! What a lovely trip. I love a good pub meal too.

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    • May 24, 2019 at 17:44
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      My favorite place to stay!

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    • May 24, 2019 at 19:29
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      Definitely a place that is on our family’s bucket list. How fun is this mystery trip stuff, I will have to look into it!! Great pics.

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  • May 23, 2019 at 12:04
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    Everything about your trip looks absolutely amazing, and I love how you laid out all the photos in your blog post. Nicely done! Very excited to see more of your photos and hear more about your adventure!

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  • May 23, 2019 at 13:51
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    What a fabulous mystery location! My husband and myself finally got to visit London last year and to this day we talk about getting back ASAP! Love all your pictures!

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  • May 23, 2019 at 15:41
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    Such a cool trip! I’d love to go to England someday. You did all the things I’d like to do. Great pictures!

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  • May 23, 2019 at 18:27
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    This trip looks amazing!! And how fun that it was a surprise…looks like you hit all my favorite parts of vacation: a little history, a spa, some good scenery. How great!

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  • May 23, 2019 at 20:56
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    Absolutely love this article. Stonehenge and Tower of London have always been on the top of my Bucket List. I can’t wait to go!!! Looks like such a wonderful trip!

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  • May 23, 2019 at 21:27
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    This sounds like the perfect surprise trip! I can’t wait to read more about your adventures.

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  • May 24, 2019 at 10:37
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    I think I would like to go with you on your next trip LOL

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  • May 24, 2019 at 16:51
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    What an incredible surprise! I’d love to not know where I was going and have it be London!

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  • May 24, 2019 at 19:07
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    What a great trip! I would be eaten up with angst not knowing where I would be going.

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  • May 25, 2019 at 09:21
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    What a cool surprise! My aunt did a similar trip last year and I’ve been dying to go!

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  • May 25, 2019 at 12:48
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    Oh, my gosh – soooo jealous! The landscapes and food look stupendous!! What an amazing mystery revealed!

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  • May 26, 2019 at 00:07
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    What a fun trip! Ive only spent time in London however I loved every moment. Look forward to reading more about your adventures.

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  • May 27, 2019 at 05:32
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    Another amazing trip filled with great photos! I love following along, looks like you all had an amazing time, thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

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  • May 27, 2019 at 08:03
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    So worth the wait I bet. I love the UK and it looks like you had an amazing trip. Stonehenge is one of my favorite places.

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  • May 29, 2019 at 14:42
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    WOW!!! What a fabulous “mystery” trip!! Sign me up!!! I can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip. I’ll be looking for some future posts. I’ve never been to England, but it is on my bucket list. Question – “upper deck” on the plane? Does this mean there are people sitting on on the upper part, lower part? Where is the cargo??

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    • May 30, 2019 at 20:12
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      Cargo was below the middle deck! When you walked on there were two ramps – one leading upstairs and another for the main level. The flight attendants had a staircase in the back to go up and down between the levels!

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  • May 29, 2019 at 17:55
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    THIS is on my bucket list!!! Such a great post you have here to share your experience!!!

    Reply

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