Jake and I recently had the most amazing opportunity to travel to England with his family. The main reason for the trip was to celebrate our dear family friend’s wedding on the Saturday, but we decided to also extend the trip into the week after to do some exploring together. It was a jam-packed, adventurous, exciting, tiring and wonderful experience that I miss dearly already!
Now that I’ve recovered (mostly) from my bit of jet lag and vacation withdrawal, here is a brief overview of what our trip entailed while across the pond!
Day 01/Friday June 29
We boarded our flight from Toronto’s Pearson Airport at 8:50pm on Thursday, June 28 and landed in the London-Gatwick Airport on Friday, June 29 at 4:00am Toronto time, or 9:00am England time.
We had some lovely people, who are friends with Michaela and Jack (the wedded couple to be) through their church, pick us up from the airport! We were so grateful because the journey to where we were staying would have been a confusing one after a long flight. We all dozed in and out of sleep during the hour and a half car ride to Bosham (pronounced Bozzum).
In Bosham, we were staying at the absolutely beautiful Critchfield House. This house is owned by a couple also from Michaela and Jack’s church who opened their home to us for the full week for a ridiculously discounted rate and were the friendliest people I’ve ever met.
Upon arriving, we all chatted for a bit and got settled in our rooms but were all quick to duck away for a few hours of sleep to refresh ourselves after the long trip.
Once everyone was awake and a bit more chipper, we took a stroll down to the waterfront in Bosham where we had a reservation for dinner at The Anchor Bleu, a harbourside pub. This is where I had my first (of many) fish and chips dishes!
Day 02/Saturday June 30
We were all up bright and early and were so excited for the day ahead – Michaela and Jack’s wedding! We all got ourselves ready, had some sandwiches that our lovely hosts had brought to the house for us and took some photos of ourselves all dressed up.
We were then off to New Life Christian Church in Emsworth for the ceremony! Safron (Michaela’s mum) toured our little group around the building beside the church where she lived while going to Bible College before the festivities began.
The funny thing about the whole time we were in England was that the average temperature was about 26 degrees and humid, without a single day of rain in our 8 days there – unheard of for England! Of course, buildings in England don’t usually have air conditioning either because they don’t usually need it… So this made for a hot wedding ceremony inside of a church! Luckily, Michaela was the super bride of all super brides and had paper fans being handed out for everyone to fan themselves during the proceedings. Genius! So genius that we actually used these fans during our whole trip for the following 7 days and they were life savers!
The ceremony was absolutely breathtaking and Michaela’s dress looked like it was made specifically for her. The whole ceremony was energetic, lively, romantic and fun with lots of worship songs and lovely verses.
After the couple walked out (to the cutest song, by the way!) we all gathered outside of the church for some cookies, ice cream and drinks while photos were taken. Shortly after, we were on our way to the reception location via bus!
The reception was stunning – complete with a floral wall, donut wall, candy bar, greenery wall, photobooth and more! Speeches were made, food was devoured, dancing skills were shown off and drinks were had. An absolutely perfect day for a pretty perfect couple!
Day 03/Sunday July 1
Happy Canada Day!
I think this was my first ever Canada Day spent out of the country actually! How weird to think about.
Equipped with our fake Canadian tattoos and red clothes, we started our day off by heading to the late service at New Life Christian Church in Emsworth (the same church as the wedding ceremony the day previous). One of the biggest things I miss about the England trip is that church! The energy and friendly vibes were contagious there and the holy spirit was felt the whole time. We need more churches like this in Canada!
From there, we did a little walking tour around Emsworth before heading to Safron’s brother Derek’s (Michaela’s Uncle), who was hosting a big barbecue for all the Canadian’s! We got to mingle with some amazing people and have some delicious foods including wings, burgers, sausages, spanakopita and more.
When we got back to Bosham after the barbecue, some of us went for a walk down by the water and found crabs and saw the harbour in low tide. We also saw 2 cats on our walk there which myself and Sidney and Mikaela (my fellow crazy cat ladies) were all extremely excited about!
Day 04/Monday July 2
After some croissants and tea for breakfast, we all walked our way to the bus station to head to Portsmouth (pronounced Portsmuth) to visit the Historic Dockyard.
Of the whole trip, this day I kept thinking about how much my Dad would have loved the history that England has to offer, especially in these old ships.
We took some pictures from outside of the HMS Warrior 1860 ship, but all went inside to tour the HMS Victory ship, the Royal Navy’s most famous warship best known for its role in the Battle of Trafalgar. This was actually a really interesting tour because of the hand-held audio guides that were handed out at the beginning of the ship, which allowed you to go around to different parts of the ship and play the audio for that section and hear the history. Some of the parts even had different voices acting out the scenes through the audio so you could visualize it happening right in front of you!
From the dockyard, we headed over to the Cascades Shopping Centre where some people broke off to go shopping and others went to grab some lunch and a coffee.
We headed back to Bosham for the night, had a light dinner and some of us went for another stroll by the harbour and on our way saw a wild hedgehog! Apparently wild hedgehogs are very common in England and they are much bigger than the pet size people in Canada sometimes have.
Day 05/Tuesday July 3
London’s calling to the faraway towns…
That’s right – Tuesday was London day! We got up bright and early to catch our train into the city and got there around noon. Our first stop was Buckingham Palace! I won’t lie, I was very underwhelmed with Buckingham Palace. It has the word “palace” in the name so I was expecting some lavish, exciting, huge castle! But no. It just sort of looked like a big stone old building. Nothing too exciting! Not even a guard in a big red uniform outside.
After that minor let down, we took a walk to go down by the Thames to see the London Eye and the beautiful buildings and Big Ben. Now, unfortunately, Big Ben was under construction while we were there… But we still got to see the clock face which was pretty cool! We took a break for some lunch where some of the group went to McDonald’s while Jake and I found the adorable Tokyo Bakery where we got pastries from and another spot, Ned’s Noodles Bar, to get a delicious beef noodle dish from!
We all hopped on the water taxi after our meals to head down the River Thames to the Tower of London. We got to tour the Tower for a bit before they closed, including getting to see the Crown Jewels! No pictures were allowed during this part, unfortunately, but it was so neat to see the jewels and crowns and serving dishes displayed while they also played videos on the screens of the Queen’s coronation where the items were actually being used.
We also got to see the Tower Bridge and snap some photos with it.
To finish off the day we took the tube to Piccadilly and walked up to Soho to enjoy a delicious dinner at Bill’s. We then grabbed the train back to Bosham and while on the train, met a (slightly intoxicated) British man who taught us all the proper British terms and had a nice chat with!
Day 06/Wednesday July 4
Wednesday was supposed to be the day where we all went to Arundel Castle and Thursday was our free day, but we all agreed we were too pooped from our day in London so decided to switch the days and have our free day Wednesday instead!
For the free day, we all went to Chichester via the bus as Jake wanted to check out a couple of record shops in the town and the rest wanted to visit the markets and vendors and do some shopping!
Unfortunately, only one of the two record shops Jake was interested in were open, but he explored the one anyways and then the two of us found a hidden pub on one of the side streets and had a nice lunch date together.
We all met back up to take the bus back to Bosham to get ready because that night we were going to George’s (Jack’s parent’s) house for a dinner! So nice of them to invite all of these people they don’t really know into their home and cook for us – we were so lucky with all of the amazing, generous people we met.
Now, we weren’t going to just any old dinner at George’s, we were going to a wood fired pizza dinner! George built his own wood fire oven in their backyard! He was the most amazing host, bring us appetizers and wine and letting us put our own toppings on our pizzas and cooking them for us. It was all so delicious and surreal – a truly amazing night.
That day was also Mike’s (Michaela’s sister, Alex’s, boyfriend) birthday, so we got to celebrate him in all of his upbeat, hilarious glory!
Day 07/Thursday July 5
This day was by far my absolute favourite day of the whole trip. We went to Arundel Castle. This castle was absolutely breathtaking.
One of the longest inhabited country houses in England. Many of the original features such as the crenellated Norman keep, gatehouse and barbican and the lower part of Bevis Tower survive. Between the 1870s and 1890s the house was almost completely rebuilt and the magnificent architecture in Gothic style is considered to be one of the great works of Victorian England.
The history and extraordinary craftsmanship that can be seen in this castle is incredible. The stained glass in the Fitzalan Chapel is so detailed and beautiful, the various gardens around the property are magical, The Keep offered gorgeous views of the land around the castle and inside the castle, the rooms were incredible and thick with history.
As you can probably tell, I was spellbound with this place. I could barely pull myself away from each room to get to the next.
We had a delicious lunch at the castle and climbed many steep, narrow steps to the top parts of The Keep to get the best views.
We headed back home to Bosham for one more night! Because Thursday is usually mine and Jake’s weekly date night, we decided to break off from the group and stop at the Berkeley Arms Pub on our way home for a date to connect and have some alone time on the trip. Later on the rest of the group joined us at the pub for some drinks to cheers the final night in England.
Day 08/Friday July 6
The day we had all been dreading – the day we had to travel home and leave this amazing vacation behind. We all got up bright and early to make sure we were all packed and ready to get to the train station. Once we got to the train station, though, we were told no trains were leaving from Bosham that day because of an accident on the rails.
We luckily got a ride to the next train station, but on the way we were stuck in traffic behind a car accident as well – it seemed like England didn’t want us to leave as much as we didn’t want to leave England!
We finally made it to the London-Gatwick Airport with lots of time to spare. We did some duty free shopping, got some lunch and boarded our plane home.
We arrived at Toronto’s Pearson Airport at 5:15pm Toronto time, feeling like 10:15pm England time.
Luckily Jake and I only had just over an hour of a drive back home to Kitchener, while the rest of his family had just over two hours to complete.
Once we got back to the apartment, we were greeted with lots of purrs and meows from our Freddy cat and were surprised to find a completely spotless apartment with little gifts left on the counter for us! My amazing sister had been apartment and cat-sitting for us while we were on our trip and left it in an amazing condition with some gifts left behind.
For Jake and I, our jet lag didn’t set in until the work week started and we were back to reality. But we will forever remember this trip as our first big trip together and look back fondly on all of the amazing experiences we were able to have while in England.
I think there will always be a special place in our hearts for the South of England.
Until next time,