English Odyssey (May 28-June 8, 2017)
Join us as we tour the Queen’s Royal residence, explore the mysteries of Stonehenge and visit Highclere Castle, the setting of Downton Abbey! Discover some of Shakespeare’s haunts, the famed Cotswolds and the skill of the Wedgwood potters before heading to London to tour this historic city!
- Round Trip Flight to London From Des Moines
- Private Motorcoach Transportation
- 10 Nights’ Accommodations
- 16 Meals (10 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 5 Dinners)
- Admission to Attractions and Activities as Stated in Itinerary
- Professional Tour Manager
- Gratuities for Driver/Guides
- Porter Service of One Bag Per Person at Hotel
- Taxes and Gratuities for Included Services
Flight to London – We depart from the Des Moines International Airport bound for London Heathrow Airport. Sit back, relax and enjoy the journey!
Windsor – We arrive at Heathrow Airport in London, England, where we will be greeted by our favorite English guide and driver. We will begin our tour by traveling into the beautiful English countryside, stopping to explore the mysteries of Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument dating back to around 3100 BC. This unique ring of standing stones, as well as its surroundings, were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986. We will then continue on to Salisbury, known as ‘the City in the Countryside,’ surrounded by beautiful landscapes and named one of the world’s Top 10 Cities to visit in 2015. We will pause on the edge of the water-meadows to take in the breathtaking sight of the Cathedral rising from the lush green fields, so quintessentially English it’s almost too good to be true.
Within the Chapter House at Salisbury Cathedral, we will find the best preserved of the four original Magna Carta manuscripts dating from 1215 AD. We will continue on to Windsor where we will check into our 4 Star accommodations for the next three nights. Take time to relax before joining the group for a Welcome Dinner.
Windsor – Today is one of the many highlights of this tour! Following breakfast at the hotel, we’ll head to Highclere Castle. Set amidst 1,000 acres of spectacular parkland, Highclere is one of England’s most beautiful Victorian Castles and the setting for one of the most riveting dramas on television, Downton Abbey. We will take a tour of the home of the Carnavon family that highlights all of the filming locations we have come to know so well. We will also have the opportunity to walk in the gardens and, of course, there will be plenty of time for the gift shop! Afterwards, we will continue to the High Street of a neighboring town for an afternoon at our leisure. Take an opportunity to browse the unique shops and seek out one of the delightful restaurants for a late lunch on your own. We will then return to Windsor for dinner.
Windsor – Across the road from our hotel is the Queen’s favorite weekend home, Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. Built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror after the Norman Invasion of England, the castle sits atop a steep hill that offers an impressive view of much of the castle grounds from along the visitor route. We will visit the State Apartments, where thirty-nine monarchs have resided, as well as the Drawings Gallery, in which ever-changing exhibits of valuable treasures are on display. Our complimentary Windsor Castle audio tour will also include Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, known as the largest and most famous dolls’ house in the world, as well as St. George’s Chapel. Upon leaving Windsor Castle, our final afternoon and evening in Windsor is ours to explore on our own. From quaint cafes to Michelin-starred restaurants, and small boutiques to high street brands, Windsor offers plenty in the way of exploration.
Stratford-Upon-Avon – After breakfast we will continue our tour of the English countryside by traveling to Oxford. An established town since the 9th century, this ‘City of Dreaming Spires’ is famous throughout the world for its University and place in history. For over 800 years, Oxford has been a home to royalty, scholars, and writers, and is a bustling cosmopolitan town today. We will visit Christ Church College, one of the largest at the University of Oxford. This beautiful location served as inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and was more recently used in filming of scenes from Harry Potter. We’ll visit the iconic dining hall which is immediately recognizable as the dining hall at Hogwarts! We will also peek into the Eagle & Child Pub where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis regularly met to read passages from their books. After browsing and lunch on our own, we continue on to Stratford-upon-Avon where we will visit Shakespeare’s birthplace. This 16th century half-timbered home of glove maker John Shakespeare on Henley Street is where William was born and raised, and now houses a museum of the life of the world’s greatest playwright. The group will gather for dinner on our first of three nights at a historic 4-Star hotel in the heart of the town.
Stratford-Upon-Avon – Our first stop this morning is Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, a thatched farmhouse containing many original pieces of family furniture, including the Hathaway bed. It is nestled within stunning grounds and gardens overflowing with fragrant blooms and traditional shrubs. We will then spend the rest of the day exploring the Cotswolds in the English countryside. Marvel at the gentle hills and rolling green landscapes interrupted only by picturesque villages and unspoiled market towns. We will stop in a few favorite villages and enjoy a special stop for an English afternoon tea! Afterwards we’ll return to Stratford for an evening at leisure to stroll the streets and find a charming restaurant or pub for dinner.
Stratford-Upon-Avon – Today we head north from Stratford to the Wedgwood Factory. Founded in 1759, Wedgwood is one of England’s premier makers of fine china, porcelain, and luxury items. We will marvel at the demonstration of the process of creating this beautiful and delicate work and have lunch at the new Visitors Center before returning to Stratford for an afternoon and evening at leisure.
London – We depart for London and our perfectly located 4-Star hotel. Following check-in, our guide will lead us on a panoramic tour of the city to see famous sites such as the Bank of England and St. Paul’s Cathedral. After lunch on our own in the area, we will cross the River Thames over the Millennium Footbridge to visit Tate Modern and take a leisurely walk along the South Bank to see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a faithful reconstruction of the original. Dinner will be enjoyed as a group this evening.
London – Taking advantage of our hotel’s close proximity to the Royal Residence, we will take a gentle half-day walking tour of the Westminster area, including the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace or Horse Guard’s Parade, and famous sights such as the House of Parliament, Big Ben and Trafalgar Square. The afternoon and evening are ours to do as we please. Options will be available for an evening at a London theatre or the Thames River Dinner Cruise.
London – Following breakfast, the entire day is at our leisure to explore all that London has to offer!
London – This morning we’re off to see the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London. From medieval torture to grim executions and infamous royal prisoners, the Tower of London has long found itself at the center of the city’s dark history. Built by William the Conqueror in 1066, the historic castle has served as a royal menagerie, Her Majesty’s prison, an execution site, a royal observatory, a royal mint, and a military storehouse. Today, the Tower still famously houses the Crown Jewels and is guarded by members of the Royal Bodyguards known as Beefeaters. Our group will meet in late afternoon for a final view of London on the London Eye, and then enjoy a Farewell Dinner together as we reminisce about our wonderful experiences.
Home – After breakfast, the group will transfer to London Heathrow Airport for the trip home, with lifelong memories in tow.