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Wednesday, October 12
Arriving in London after your overnight flight, you will travel from Heathrow Airport by motor coach to the Langham Hotel, where you will enjoy quintessentially British accommodations at one of the city’s most prestigious hotels. Use your free time to unpack, unwind, enjoy the amenities of the Langham Club Floor, and have lunch on your own either at the hotel or in one of the many nearby restaurants. Enjoy an afternoon exploring London, and in the evening, get to know your fellow travelers at our reception and dinner at the Langham.
Thursday, October 13
Kent and London
Chartwell and Chatham Dockyards
After breakfast at the hotel—all breakfasts are included on this trip—we depart for Chartwell, the family home and gardens of Sir Winston Churchill. Much-loved and the place from which Sir Winston drew inspiration from 1924 until the end of his life, Chartwell is very special.
The rooms remain much as they were when he lived here, with pictures, books, and personal mementoes evoking the career and wide-ranging interests of a great statesman, writer, painter, and family man. The hillside gardens reflect Sir Winston’s love of the landscape and nature. They include the lakes he created, the kitchen garden, and Marycot, a playhouse designed for his youngest daughter Mary.
Beyond the gardens there is an expanse of woodland with looped trails, natural play areas, and swings.
After lunch (provided), we visit the Chatham Historic Dockyards, the setting for Call the Midwife. We will be greeted by our very own “midwife” next to the World War II Destroyer HMS CAVALIER and be taken on a guided one-and-a-half-hour tour of the various filming locations used for the popular television drama series Call the Midwife.
This tour traces the bicycle tracks of Chummy, Jenny, Trixie, and friends along the cobbles. We will hear stories of what it was like to be an extra on the set and learn interesting facts about how the dockyard was magically transformed back into the 1950s.
After our tour we will enjoy a traditional afternoon tea in the Commissioner’s house. We then return to the Langham where you can enjoy dinner on your own at one of the many exciting restaurants in London.
Friday, October 14
Lancaster House and Hampton Court
This morning we take a panoramic tour of the places in London that Downton Abbey has used as location sites—including St. Pancras Station (the meeting place of Michael and Lady Edith) and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which serve as the background to the Ladies Rosamund, Edith, and Rose’s evening strolls.
We then stop at Lancaster House, which is rarely open to groups and therefore a very special opportunity for our guests. Lancaster House (previously known as York House and Stafford House) is a mansion in the St. James’s district in the West End of London. It is close to St. James’s Palace, and much of the site was once part of the palace complex. The house was used for location shooting in the mystery adventure film National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007). Sequences supposedly occurring in Buckingham Palace were filmed in the house. In the historical drama film The Young Victoria (2009), the house was used for filming of scenes that purportedly took place within the ballroom, a passage, and the reception room of Buckingham Palace. The house was used for a similar reason for the historical drama film The King’s Speech (2010). It also appears as the house of Lady Bracknell in the comedy of manners film The Importance of Being Earnest (2002). It was used as the interior of Buckingham Palace in the 2013 Christmas special of the ITV series Downton Abbey.
After touring historic Lancaster House, we walk to Buckingham Palace to view the Changing of the Guard, subject to British Army schedule. Following lunch, we travel to Hampton Court.
Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, in the historic county of Middlesex; it has not been inhabited by the British Royal Family since the eighteenth century. It was originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a favorite of King Henry VIII; however, in 1529, as Wolsey fell from favor, the palace was passed to the King, who enlarged it.
In the century that followed, King William III’s massive rebuilding and expansion project intended to rival Versailles was begun. Work halted in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque. While the palace’s styles are an accident of fate, a unity exists due to the use of pink bricks and a symmetrical balancing of successive low wings.
Apart from the palace itself and its gardens, other points of interest for visitors include the celebrated maze, the historic real tennis court, and the huge grapevine, reputed to be the largest in the world.
Dinner this evening is on your own; however, the Langham Club has a wonderful lounge that serves heavy hors d’oeuvres if you do not feel like venturing out into the city.
Saturday, October 15
London and Berkshire
We leave London for Windsor and a tour of the breathtaking Windsor Castle, the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, as well as a working palace, and where Her Majesty the Queen likes to spend most of her private weekends. Established on the edge of a Saxon hunting ground high above the river Thames in the eleventh century by William the Conqueror, the outer walls of today’s structure are in the same position as those of the original castle. So, too, is the central mound supporting the Round Tower and the Upper Ward, where successive monarchs have had their private apartments since the fourteenth century. Upon arrival, look at the flag flying from the Castle’s Round Tower; if it’s the Royal Standard, the Queen will be there too.
Many parts of the Castle are open to the public, including the precincts, the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s famous dolls’ house, St. George’s Chapel, and the Albert Memorial Chapel. When the Queen is in official residence, Changing the Guard provides a colorful spectacle in the quadrangle.
In honor of the Queen’s 90th birthday on April 21, 2016, Windsor Castle will mark the occasion with a special exhibition from September to December, Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe.
Upon your return to the Langham in the late afternoon, enjoy the remainder of the day and dinner on your own.
Sunday, October 16
London, Oxford, and Bath
Today we say farewell—temporarily—to the Langham and make our way to Bath. On the way, we stop in the university town of Oxford and enjoy a walking tour including a guided tour of Christ Church College (Harry Potter). After lunch in Oxford, we continue on to Cogges Farm (Downton’s Yew Tree Farm) and Bampton village (Downton).
After leaving Oxford we make our way to Bath and check in at the Royal Crescent Hotel—a historic five-star luxury hotel in the middle of the world’s most famous Georgian architectural crescent. We will enjoy dinner at this recently renovated hotel overlooking the beautiful city of Bath, the scene of many of Jane Austen’s books and resulting films.
Monday, October 17
Highgrove House (to be confirmed)
The Cotswolds, Lacock, and Gloucestershire
We depart Bath for Highgrove—residence of HRH Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall—and a guided tour of the spectacular gardens. After lunch (provided) we will have time to visit the very popular Highgrove shop. (Please note that Highgrove cannot be confirmed until April 2016.)
After leaving Highgrove, we drive through the picturesque English Cotswolds villages—Little Rissington (Memphis Belle) and Stow-on-the-Wold (The Mayor of Casterbridge)—before arriving at the wonderful village of Lacock and its Abbey. Featured in The Cranford Chronicles, Pride and Prejudice, Moll Flanders, and three Harry Potter films, the village is owned almost in its entirety by the National Trust and attracts many visitors by virtue of its unspoiled appearance. Set in rural Wiltshire, Lacock village is famous for its picturesque streets, historic buildings, and more recently as a TV and film location. We will enjoy a walking tour of the village and a visit to the Abbey.
The Abbey, located at the heart of the village within its own woodland grounds, is a quirky country house of various architectural styles, built upon the foundation of a former nunnery. Visitors can experience the atmosphere of the medieval rooms and cloister court, giving a sense of the Abbey’s monastic past.
We return to Bath for a free evening and dinner on your own in the city where Jane Austen set so many of her novels.
Tuesday, October 18
Bath and Wiltshire
Stourhead Gardens and Great Chalfield Manor
Today we enjoy a morning at leisure in Bath, where Vanity Fair, Persuasion, The Duchess, Dracula, Northanger Abbey, and Bertie and Elizabeth were filmed.
You might want to take a walking tour of the places where Jane Austen lived and visited, and see her various homes in Bath, the church where her parents were married, and the places made famous in her Bath novels. Persuasion was filmed at the grand Assembly Rooms. The famous Roman Baths and the Georgian Pump Rooms are legendary and well worth a visit.
Just before noon we leave Bath and travel to Stourhead Gardens where we enjoy lunch in an eighteenth-century pub set on the estate. Then we take a stroll in Stourhead Gardens, perhaps the finest example of an eighteenth-century landscape garden in England, complete with classical temples, a tranquil lake, and Gothic follies. The Temple of Apollo was used during Elizabeth and Darcy’s encounter in the rain in the recent film version of Pride and Prejudice. We will also have the opportunity for a self-guided tour of Stourhead House.
Our next stop is Great Chalfield Manor, setting for Persuasion, The Other Boleyn Girl, and Daughters and Wives.
This beautiful medieval manor sits in a peaceful countryside. We will cross the upper moat, passing barns, a gatehouse, and a delightful parish church, and enjoy fine oriel windows and the soldiers, griffons, and monkey adorning the rooftops.
The romantic gardens of Chalfield Manor offer terraces, topiary houses, gazebo, lily pond, roses, and views across the spring-fed fishpond.
We return to Bath and the Royal Crescent Hotel where you can enjoy dinner on your own.
Wednesday, October 19
Bath and London
Highclere Castle and Basildon Park
Today we check out of the Royal Crescent Hotel and make our way to one of the highlights of the tour—Highclere Castle. Highclere has been home to the Carnarvon family since 1679 and is now famous as the setting for the international hit series Downton Abbey. Tea, coffee, and biscuits await our arrival, then on to the tour of the Crawleys’ home, “Downton Abbey.”
The castle was also Totleigh Towers in Jeeves and Wooster and appeared in Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple: What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw. Highclere also has intriguing connections with the mysteries of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
After leaving Highclere Castle and having lunch, we head toward Basildon Park. The finale of Season Four of Downton Abbey was filmed at Basildon Park, which has also been seen in Pride and Prejudice. Starring as Grantham House, the Crawleys’ London residence, Basildon Park is at the heart of the unfolding story as the family and their servants enjoy the social whirl of the summer season.
After our time at Basildon Park, we return to the Langham and enjoy dinner and an evening on your own in London.
Thursday, October 20
With a day at leisure, enjoy the sights and delights of London and return for a farewell evening reception and dinner at the Langham Hotel.
Friday, October 21
We regretfully return to the United States.