This is an album of pictures from my recent trip to England. On Tuesday, July 30, 2013 Dan and I left Charlottesville and flew to London Heathrow; on the following Monday, August 5, we flew back. In between we had five days of travel around England, mostly in the southern part of the country.

The main inspiration for the trip was the Glyndebourne summer opera festival. In the past couple of years I've heard about this opera festival and wanted to attend. Finally, earlier this summer, I decided that I'd been daydreaming long enough and it was time to just do it. I found that there was a baroque opera in this summer's lineup and started sketching travel plans around it. (I am only interested in baroque opera! Plus I'll happily attend anything by Mozart, and of course Carmen, because everybody likes Carmen. But only the baroque inspires me to travel hundreds of miles for a live performance.)

I think I would have made a solitary pilgrimage to Glyndebourne if Dan weren't interested in traveling too, but luckily for me, he was willing to go along on the trip and escort me to the opera. Dan is fascinated by his family history and spends many hours in the evenings and weekends working on his genealogical research and corresponding with distant "cousins" around the globe. He has a lot of ancestral history in England and we had talked in the past about possibly doing a tour of some of the relevant sites in England. We decided on this basic plan for the trip: we would go for about a week, with the schedule revolving around the August 1 performance of Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie at Glyndebourne. Apart from that date, I invited Dan to plan the rest of the itinerary around his family history and general sight-seeing interests.

We were both interested in exploring the southern coast of England, and talked about going as far down the Cornish coast as Penzance, but ultimately worked out a plan to hop through several other areas of interest: Birmingham and Warwickshire; Brighton; the tiny village of Churt; Exeter; Plymouth; and a little bit of time in the London area.

Here are some pictures and stories.

Tuesday, July 30: The Trip Over

The flight over was uneventful, almost pleasant, as transatlantic flights go. At my insistence, we took a daytime flight instead of a redeye. (Yes, you "lose a day traveling" but I'd rather do that than lose a day stumbling around like a zombie after being unable to sleep on the plane and then being expected to start my first day of tourism at what my body thinks is 4:00 a.m.) The passenger load was light enough that we ended up with a row of three seats to ourselves. A little extra elbow room is always nice!

This picture is for those of you who know me as a chronic over-packer. I made an effort to travel light on this trip. Despite carrying clothes for a week including formalwear for the opera (a floor-length evening gown, high heels, a beaded handbag, and an embellished cardigan), I managed to fit everything into my trusty carry-on sized suitcase plus my purple L.L. Bean backpack. And I had room left over!

Dan's suitcase is the big silver one. It was overweight by two pounds when we checked in, so he had to stash some of his stuff in the empty front pocket of my suitcase. (Glad I could help.) To be fair, I carried a backpack as my "personal item" while Dan took a much smaller bag.

After we arrived at Heathrow late in the (British) evening, we checked into an airport hotel and got a pretty decent night's sleep before the next day's adventures.

Wednesday, July 31: Birmingham and Warwickshire

On Wednesday, we got up in the morning and rode the tube from Heathrow Airport in to London Marylebone station, where we got our BritRail passes validated and caught a train to the Warwick Parkway station. We were met at the station by Geri, a distant cousin of Daniel's, and Geri's husband Peter. They were our tour guides for the day.

Geri and Peter live in the village of Claverdon, about halfway between Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon, not far from Birmingham. They drove us around Warwick, Stratford, and parts of Birmingham where Dan wanted to see some houses with connections to his family history.

We started off with a very quick driving tour of Warwick, including this brief photo shoot outside Warwick Castle. It was an intermittently drizzly day but we lucked out and most of the rain happened while we were in the car.

Back at Geri and Peter's house, Dan and I admired the view out their back window while Geri prepared a delicious late lunch for us.

When we set out again, I looked back at the house and noticed that they had a badger weather vane!

In Birmingham, we scouted out some houses of ancestral interest to Dan.

This one had been converted to a business site.

Its conservatory had seen better days but was still handsome, I thought.

This house in a tony neighborhood was brilliant white and hard to photograph in the afternoon light. Plus it was largely hidden behind hedges.

Dan walked down the driveway and rang the doorbell. The current owner was polite but not particularly enthused about the house's history. After a couple minutes' conversation, we skedaddled.

Peter then drove us over to Stratford for a whirlwind tour. I had been to the town before, for an academic conference early in grad school (2002?), but didn't remember much of the town since I'd spent most of my time in the conference.

Peter, who owns a canal boat and sometimes takes it over to Stratford, was especially interested in showing us the canals.

Dan and Peter help close a lock for the green boat pictured above. Sorry about the finger on the lens. I was still learning to use the camera in the older-model iPhone I'd bought off eBay to use on the trip.

The new RSC building.

We stopped in at Geri and Peter's home again for a little while. There we met their nephew Simon and their son Jonny, and we talked with their daughter Nicole by Skype (she lives in Oxford with her husband). I also managed to snap a picture of Geri and Peter's painfully shy labradoodle, Amber, allowing me to pet him. (They also have a more outgoing chocolate lab named Carrie.)

Then Peter, Geri, Jonny, Dan, and I all went out to dinner at a local "gastropub," where we were joined by Geri's cousin (and Dan's distant cousin) Jan. Dan has a picture of the group on Facebook but I just snapped the pub sign and the exterior.

Preston Bagot on Wikipedia: "According to the 2001 census the population was 147." I never found out how to pronounce "Bagot."

Jan finished the dinner by surprising us all with a bottle of champagne to share. So much enjoyment and conversation was had by all that Dan and I missed the last train back to London. Jonny heroically drove us all the way to the door of our Heathrow hotel! What a guy.

Ahead to Thursday, Part 1 > > >