The highly acclaimed series of Downton Abbey comes alive with visits to the historic estates and scenic villages that have served as the setting for the award-winning series. Visit Basildon Park, Highclere Castle, Bampton, and Bourton on the Water, shrouded in fantasy but fixed in reality as the sprawling estates, extensive collections of art and furnishings are pieces set in the real environs of aristocratic England. This foray into high culture would not be complete without a proper tour of London which bookends this truly unique trip. Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, London Bridge, become characters in your own rendering of the Downton Abbey story. The university town of Cambridge, where great minds like Bertrand Russell lived, will charm you with its idyllic river setting and beautiful Gothic architecture and Oxford will delight.
Slightly Active. May involve some walking and climbing.
Both of our programs – London Theater and Downton Abbey, can take place at any time of the year as London is not a city where fun depends on the weather. While summer is a great time to visit, spring and autumn are also good times, when the crowds are far thinner and sights less crowded. Winters are cold, wet and dark, so outdoor venues are mostly deserted.
Fly overnight to London, where you will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel. Become better acquainted with your fellow travelers at this evening’s welcome dinner. Your home for the next six nights is well located between London’s high fashion houses, financial powerhouses and the West End’s packed theater houses. The intimate hotel offers a warm and friendly atmosphere along with all the modern amenities. DOUBLE TREE BY HILTON ISLINGTON. (Meals Aloft; D)
Arrive in London this morning and en route to your hotel, view all the sites that one should expect to see whilst on a proper tour of this exceptional city. Check your time while observing the giant sweeping hand of Big Ben, visit Westminster Abbey – the historic place of coronation for England’s kings and queens, then move on to Buckingham Palace, home of the sovereign since 1837. For a bit of excitement, see and be seen at the London Eye, “the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel”. Your afternoon is at leisure. Tonight, enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. DOUBLE TREE BY HILTON ISLINGTON, or similar. (D)
Travel a short way to the town of Windsor that despite its 1000-year history, is actually a “new” Windsor, Old Windsor lying two miles downstream on the Thames. This ancient town has been the site of royal residence since William the Conqueror, and the vestiges of succeeding dynastic succession is evident in the multi-faceted architectural flourishes of the sprawling Castle, which a guide will elucidate upon. Enjoy lunch and head out for the National Gallery located on the north end of Trafalgar Square. Though the 1838 William Wilkens design was controversial when first proposed, its façade has withstood the tests of time and continues to act as a gateway to some 2,000 works of priceless art. Here you can find works by Botticelli, da Vinci, Rembrandt, and many others. Explore Trafalgar Square afterward and see Nelson’s Column which commemorates Lord Nelson’s victory over the French at Trafalgar. Scuttle on to Piccadilly Circus, the mercurial intersection of five of London’s main thoroughfares. DOUBLE TREE BY HILTON ISLINGTON, or similar. (B,L)
Downton Abbey comes alive as you visit the special places that have served as back drop and setting for this highly-acclaimed period drama. Your immersion begins at Basildon Park in Berkshire. A short drive from London, this manor is featured in the season five finale and the 2013 Christmas episode of Downton Abbey. This Palladian mansion was built between 1776-63 and meticulously restored by Lord and Lady Iliffe who entrusted the home and all of its exceptional artworks along with the estate’s park to the National Trust in 1978. Move on to Bampton in the Cottswolds which serves at the set for the home of the fictitious Crawley family. Here see Churchgate House, setting for the Crawley family home. Move on to Bourton on the Water with its many canals crossed by low bridges, which has earned it the moniker “Little Venice”. Next day, visit Highclere Castle, much the setting for the series, and delight in the beautiful castle and landscape. You’ll stay in Oxford with its prestigious university which was established in the 12th century. Poet Matthew Arnold nicknamed it the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’ because of the unique architecture of the colleges belonging to the university. OXFORD HOTEL, or similar. (B)
Travel to the erudite city of Cambridge and its vaunted university accented in towering Gothic spires and arches. See the university’s oldest college, Peterhouse, which dates back to 1284 and the chapel of King’s College founded in 1441. Walk through the town and cross the Bridge of Sighs, named for its Venetian inspiration. Stroll across manicured lawns to the shores of the River Cam where you can see students and residents alike punting along the river in the square bowed punts that give the activity its name. Your home is an elegant Victorian terrace hotel beautifully located overlooking the River Cam, close to the city center. ARUNDEL HOUSE. (B)
Your exploration of Cambridge continues at the venerable Anglesey Abbey. This Jacobean styled manor house began as an Augustinian priory then transformed into a residence in the Elizabethan era. Inside you will find a splendid collection of antiques amassed by Lord Fairhaven who restored Anglesey Abbey in the early 20th century. The edifices and its fixtures retain medieval and Elizabethan architectural touches and the sprawling grounds of 98 acres are festooned with established manicured gardens which explode in color year round due to the variety of flowering plants. After your midday respite, travel to the fenland and the village of Ely. Amongst the treasures you will find here is the Ely Cathedral. Built in 1081, it bears the honor of being recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. Also within the village bounds are historic buildings such as the Bishop’s Palace, King’s School, and Saint Michael’s. While here, you will also have the opportunity to visit the town’s terrific stained glass museum. ARUNDEL HOUSE. (B)
Leave Cambridge and return to London to visit the city’s iconic Tower Bridge. Built in the Victorian Gothic style, it spans some 265 meters and is constructed of 11,000 tons of steel. When it was finished in 1894, many did not like its esthetic flourishes, but over time it has come to serve as one of London’s most enduring symbols. Stroll across the gleaming London Millennium Footbridge, the first pedestrian bridge to be built over the Thames in a century, to the Tate Modern which features art from 1900 on, housed within a brilliantly repurposed Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed oil fired power station. Tate Modern features works by Rothko, Matisse, Dali, Cezanne and Picasso, and contemporary works by Matthew Barney, Chris Ofili and Gerhard Richter. Afterward, take to the heights of London when you visit the Saint Paul’s Cathedral atop Ludgate Hill, the city’s highest point. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the current cathedral has hosted services since 1697. Tonight, enjoy a farewell dinner and reminisce about your adventure. DOUBLE TREE BY HILTON ISLINGTON or similar. (B,D)
You will be transferred to the airport today for your return home, as you complete your exploration of London and immersion into the world of Downton Abbey. (B, Meals Aloft).
Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.
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