"This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,--
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."
William Shakespeare, "King Richard II", Act 2 scene 1
For many of us, Shakespeare's words from "King Richard II" have special meaning. We've been to England, we know what a truly special place it is indeed. And there's a force, an actual attraction, that pulls us back from time to time. Each time we return, we discover another facet of "this England."
The first time that Kathi and I traveled to England was in March of 1998, and we focused all of our attention on London. What a magnificent, storied city: a real treasure trove of history, our history. At every turn, one sees a reference to familiar nursery rhymes, kings and queens, the Elizabethan and Victorian eras - our shared history with the mother country. I knew even before we departed London that we would return.
Our second trip to the United Kingdom was in June of 2001, and we again spent the majority of our time in London. Kathi made arrangements for us to spend our two weeks in a lovely carriage house near Wandsworth Commons, a short walk from the Balham Tube station. The lady of the house even loaned Kathi an incredible ostrich feathered hat to wear to the races at Royal Ascot. We saw Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, and the Queen Mum. And who could resist the temptation to revisit the British Museum, or the Victoria and Albert Museums? This trip included visits to the National Gallery, Covent Garden, an early evening concert at Westminster Abbey, tea in the Crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, antiquing on Oxford Street, picnicking in Hyde Park, and attending a performance of "Miss Saigon" at Theatre Royale Drury Lane - all of these places we hold dear in our hearts. But we also had time to make a day trip out from London to Cambridge. This one venture opened our eyes to the richness of the English countryside and the friendliness of the English people. This was our first shooting trip to London and we used the opportunity to film our "London Waterways Virtual Walk" DVD during that time period.
On our third visit - a fall trip in 2003, we were still using London as our base but focused primarily on the southeastern part of the country. We purchased a Britrail pass which allowed us to take numerous daytrips out by train (this pass, by the way, was one that had to be purchased online before leaving the USA - a very good value and an excellent way to travel and see the countryside from a comfortable seat!) We enjoyed trips to Canterbury, Brighton, Dover, and a number of small villages in County Kent: Shoreham, Eynesford, Otford, and Seven Oaks. Several of those villages are featured in our "The English Countryside Virtual Walk" DVD. We have other Virtual Walks filmed during this trip which we have not yet released.
Our fourth visit, in October of 2006, was, perhaps, the most memorable of all. We began the three week journey with an unforgettable week in the Cotswolds, where we rented a small stone cottage in Stretton-on-Fosse: a tiny hamlet near its better-known neighbor, Chipping Campden. We had rented a car upon arrival at Gatwick Airport, and I drove through the rural areas with great fear and trepidation! For the next several days, we ventured out and filmed our "Cotswold Villages Virtual Walk Part I" which toured the quaint villages of Broadway, Chipping Campden, Lower Slaughter, and Upper Slaughter. We also filmed "Cotswold Villages Virtual Walk Part II which focuses on the picturesque villages of Snowshill, Stanton, Bourton-on-the-Water, Bibury and its famous Arlington Row, and the incredibly inspiring Castle Combe. Each of these villages was a gift to the senses: beautiful flowers in full bloom spreading their fragrance through the streets; the sound of neighborly conversation with the lilting British accent; the feel of afternoon sunshine warming our faces as we gazed over fences while munching delicious local apples and cheeses; and the visual delights which abounded at every turn in the lane!
Leaving the Cotswolds, we took the Eurostar through the Chunnel to Paris for a week and then returned for a final week in London. Again, we revisited some familiar old haunts and discovered some new ones. This time Kathi had booked us into a charming Penthouse Flat in Northern London. For a week we lived like Londoners in a stylish and comfortable flat at the top of a Victorian mansion. While in London, we had the rare opportunity to experience a theatrical treat: a performance at the Old Vic of Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten" starring Kevin Spacey and Eve Best.
Our fifth visit, in November of 2010, was to London just in time for Rememberance Week, something we will never forget. For this trip we flew to London but returned home on the Queen Mary II, a truly memorable trip.
Our sixth visit was in late August to early September of 2014. We spent a week visiting and filming in Devon and Corwall, then onto Paris briefly and then London for another week of filming. We returned to Kent to re-film our English Countryside Walk in High Defintion. Kathi is already planning our next trip!