My last day in Munich I woke up at the way too early time of 3:30am to get ready, say goodbye to Klara and get the train to the Munich airport. You can actually pay to do a tour of the airport where you can see some of the behind-the-scenes stuff, which is kind of cool. They also have a smoking lounge for those in need. And best of all, they have napcabs!!! Super cool, I totally want to try one!
I had a 5 hour layover in Brussels, so I spent the time eating and walking (had to get my 7 miles in for the competition) and then it was time to board the flight to Birmingham. I landed, made it through customs (I always find the UK customs to be one of the most difficult), got my luggage and went out to meet my friend Helen who was picking me up. It was so amazing to see her again, I hadn’t seen her since we’d said goodbye in Morocco 7 years ago (where we’d met on a tour). We had so much to catch up on!
We went back to her place (she actually lives in the town of Solihull, not Birmingham) so I could drop off my stuff and shower. And it also gave me a chance to finally meet her fiancee Jason! We said goodbye, since he was working (he gets to work from home) and headed off to visit Packwood House which is a Tudor-style house owned by the National Trust. It was really nice and the gardens are really cool.
Then it was back to Helen’s to hang out until dinner time when we headed to Wagamama‘s for dinner, yummy. The next day Helen and I went to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon, a medieval market town better known as the birthplace of Shakespeare.
We walked around for a bit before having lunch at a local pub, then went to visit Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare was baptized and where he is buried. You can get into the church for free, but you have to pay to get into the chancel where Shakespeare is buried.
Then it was back to the house, where Helen and Jason made a lovely home-cooked dinner. It was really delicious and it was nice to have a proper meal instead of always having take-out or sandwiches. Helen had an appointment the following morning, so I went with her into town and browsed around while she was busy. Then we had lunch at this really cute cafe called Cafe Isabella.
After lunch we went to see the Baddesley Clinton House, a manor house with a moat. The house actually has a pretty interesting history as it has several priest holes, used to hide priests after the Reformation. There are volunteers in every room ready to tell you stories about the house and its occupants.
We walked through the gardens afterwards and they were really lovely. They had a really beautiful flower garden. We also had a scone in their restaurant, but it wasn’t quite as good as the one at Packwood House.
Then it was time to go back to Helen’s to get changed, pick up Jason and head over to Walltopia to go climb some walls. Jason is really into wall climbing and Helen has started doing it as well, so they invited me along. I actually really love it but haven’t done in the longest time. It was super fun! I actually did really well (if I say so myself), especially considering I didn’t have the proper shoes to do it.
The next day we got up bright and early and headed to Chatsworth House, a beautiful and massive home in Derbyshire. I had really wanted to visit Lyme Park, the house that was used as Pemberley in the BBC mini-series Pride and Prejudice, but it was fully booked so I was disappointed. But Chatsworth House and the grounds are gorgeous, so it more than made up for it, and it turns out it was used as Pemberley in the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice! Trust me, do yourself a favour and watch the BBC version, it’s longer but sooooo much better and more faithful to the book. And if you like Bridget Jones’ Diary, the character of Mark Darcy (played by Colin Firth) is based on the character of Mr. Darcy in the BBC version (played by none other than….Colin Firth!)
Chatsworth House is a large country home that has been owned by the Cavendish family since 1549. Peregrine Cavendish, the 12th Duke of Devonshire and his wife, the Duchess, live there currently even though part of it is open to the public. Mary, Queen of Scots was housed there several times while in custody in the 16th century, and Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Charles Dickens have all been guests there. The house is huge and is really impressive. They also have a large collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, books and drawings.
After touring the house, we had some lunch then went to check out the grounds. The gardens are really big and you can spend hours walking around the different areas (which we did). There’s a maze; streams; waterfall; fruit, vegetable and flower gardens; a grotto; a fountain and pond; and there’s also a rock garden. It’s so nice!
Helen stayed with me until it was time to board the bus. It was sad to say goodbye, but I’d be seeing her again in a month for her wedding in Cyprus so we’d be together again in no time!
I slept most of the bus ride and arrived at Gatwick at 4am. My flight wasn’t until 9:30am and I had lots of time to kill, so I checked my bags and then went for breakfast at The Nicholas Culpepper. I ended up getting The Complete Works which was a regular breakfast of bacon and eggs but also included something called Bubble & Squeak. I’d never heard of this before but I was intrigued. It turned out to basically be leftover veggies fried with mashed potatoes and it was pretty good.
I went through security and did some walking around (need to get the miles in for the competition!), but I was so tired I decided to take a nap in some chairs because I could barely keep my eyes open.
I managed to wake up when my alarm went off and decided to go get some food for the flight since I still had time before boarding. Or so I thought. I finally managed to pay for my stuff (there was one woman who held up the line forever, trying to pay with all her smallest coins) and I checked the screen to see what gate I needed to get to, only to see that it said it was closing in 7 minutes!!!
Oh crap!!! How did that happen? And of course my gate was literally the furthest gate possible, so I had to run. I got there in the nick of time, just as they were discussing taking my bag off the flight! I got on the plane and EVERYONE else was seated and of course I was all the way in the back so it was super embarassing! And then I felt bad, because the flights attendants had apparently already done the safety demonstration, but then had to do it all over again because of me. Oops. My bad.
The passengers and staff must have totally hated me, most especially because it turned out I had 3 whole seats to myself!!!
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