I recently hosted my first-ever group trip to England. If you read my last post and were praying for us, I really appreciate it. We felt your prayers.
I was asked to lead the trip by a group travel company, who capably managed
all of the details like booking flights, lodging, and activities. One of the travel pros went with us on the trip to keep us organized, and she was awesome and a lot of fun. Actually, the whole group was a lot of fun. Together, there were 39 of us: reader-friends, friends from church, editors, agents, a few other writers, a few spouses, and even the designer who creates my covers. I was already acquainted with many group members, while others I met for the first time at the airport. One of my earliest prayers for the tour was that God would bring together just the right people for the trip, and I think He answered that prayer. I could not have asked for kinder, more easy-going, cheerful, and helpful travel companions.
I could talk about the trip all day, but I will resist and share just a few highlights:
We visited a few places related to my books. For example, we toured Great Chalfield Manor (the manor that inspired The Secret of Pembrooke Park).
We also visited Lacock, the National Trust village that serves as the model for Ivy Hill in the Tales From Ivy Hill series.
And, we journeyed out to the North Devon coast (a setting of The Painter’s Daughter) and hiked to the stunning Valley of the Rocks.
While in Devon, we stayed at Lee Abbey, a Christian Retreat Center right on the coast. The views and the company were outstanding. What a wonderful experience to share meals and conversation with believers from England and other countries as well.
We also visited locations related to Jane Austen like Winchester Cathedral and Bath (home of the UK’s Jane Austen Festival). While in Bath, we had tea at the Jane Austen Centre, and many of us attended a sold-out event called “Mr. Wickham and an Evening With Jane Austen,” featuring actor Adrian Lukis and others. Who did I get to sit by? Benjamin Whitrow, who played Mr. Bennet in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice. What a happy surprise.
I should admit that we had a LOT of rain during our trip. I believe it rained eight out of ten days we were there. So we experienced a few wet walking tours and soggy hikes. But for the most part, people were prepared and spirits were not dampened. In fact more than one person named a long walk through the rain to a picturesque tea house among their favorite moments. It was a highlight for me as well.
We stayed in a mixture of traditional hotels and specialty lodging far nicer than I usually stay in when I travel with my husband. It is going to be hard to go back to our usual economy lodging after staying in stunning country house hotels like this one!
We also visited a few charming towns in the Cotswolds, one of my favorite regions of England. We spent time in a beautiful English garden, and later took a walking tour of Oxford, which highlighted connections to former residents C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.
Lastly, we spent a few days in London. We went up in the London Eye and enjoyed an overview bus tour, followed by free time to go to the theater and/or see sights like Buckingham Palace, etc. We were riding the underground “tube” when another terrorist attack struck, but thankfully not near where we were. Again, I am thankful for your prayers. It was a good reminder to keep praying for our world.
We arrived home last week with a little jet lag, lots of photos, happy memories, and new friendships. Answered prayer indeed.