Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cotswolds & Wales {England Trip Part 1}

The beginning of our trip to England was a bit stressful, but also pretty freaking amazing. 

We were racing against time - trying to get out of Houston before Hurricane Harvey hit. 

We got to do this from the United Lounge! Since we were flying Business Class, we had access to the lounge in Houston before our flight, so we had a few glasses of champagne and light snacks before boarding.

Once on board, we were treated to lie-flat seats, delicious food and more champagne! It was honestly amazing to eat dinner (and sundae bar!!), go to sleep for 6 hours and then wake up for breakfast and landing. Yay for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card that got us the points to fly Business Class on this trip! 

Harvey completely shut down Houston for DAYS, so while we were obviously grateful that we got out, we were WAY happier that my parents and friends were safe.

We landed in the early AM in London and went straight to the United Arrivals Lounge to shower and have a snack. Afterwards, we picked up our rental car and went to Harry Potter Studios in Leavesden. I'll cover this later though when we talk about the "London" section of our trip. 

For now, I'll skip ahead to the Cotswolds. We stayed at a cute little place called The Wild Rabbit in Kingham. The food was spectacular - from the bar food, to the breakfast, to the dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant. We had a few issues with the noise level here, but overall, we really enjoyed our stay!

We got the chance to meet up with some friends for lunch at Daylesford Organic on our second day there and it was so great to catch up and explore the area! We checked out the Cotswolds Distillery and popped over to a nearby festival to have some delicious gin and tonics.

After that, we walked around Stow on the Wold and relaxed with a drink at a local pub. We even swug by Bourton on the Water (which was probably our favorite town). We had big dinner plans that evening to eat at the Wild Rabbit's restaurant...made slightly more interesting by the fact that a local festival knocked out all the power to our entire village! We waited it out for about 30 minutes and the generator kicked in, saving the night!

The next morning, Jason and I went back to Daylesford Organic's spa - Bamford - to have some deep tissue massages and relax! We picked up a quick meal from their deli and went out to explore Bibury (Arlington Row) and meander through small villages enroute to Sapperton. That night, we returned to Bourton on the Water to have a picnic dinner at sunset along the water. 

The next morning was a bit dreary, but we were headed to moody Wales, so it seemed appropriate. Our destination was Wye Valley to see Tintern Abbey and Chepstow Castle. Walking around the grounds of the abbey, it wasn't hard to imagine why it became a magnet for romanticists and poets (Wordsworth most famously). It is a beautifully preserved medieval abbey and definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.

Chepstow Castle was constructed by William the Conquerer in the 1060s and when we were arriving, they were cleaning up from a rock concert the night before. Now THAT would have been a fun venue! Luckily the rain held out and we were able to explore before tucking into a pub for some pies and cider.

We had a great 4 days exploring this area of the country. We really loved Wales as well, but just didn't have enough time! We'll be back!

Up Next: Stonehenge and Dorset!

Friday, August 25, 2017

We're Off To: England & Austria!

Today we're starting our vacation to England & Austria. This trip has been in the books since last fall because we booked with credit card points. I'm so excited to explore both countries again but ALSO to fly Business Class for the first time!

We'll start with a leisurely exploration of the Cotswolds, moving south through Stonehenge to Dorset, around Cornwall and into London for a few days. We'll then jump on a flight to Innsbruck, Austria thanks to United's Excursionist Perk (for international travel, you get a free stopover in a city of your choosing!).

I'll post plenty about our trip when we return. So looking forward to our OVER two week trip - it is much needed. Wow, we haven't taken a trip this long in ages. See you guys in a few weeks!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

6th Year: In Review

Six years? Is that right? 

Well, we've had a pretty fantastic year! We've kept good on our goal to do more international travel. We've also tried to do longer trips to maximize time in our favorite places instead of jumping on flights for just the weekend. We've been really watching airfare deals (i.e. Hong Kong) as well, so not all of this travel was free. Here's our breakdown, month by month.

July: I went to visit my cousins in Portland, OR! We had a great time catching up and exploring here.

August: Quick trip to Austin to visit friends/attend a work conference & weekend in Oklahoma City with friends

September: Road trip to New Orleans with Indy! This was SO fun and I'm glad we got to include our pup.

October: Weekend trip to St. Louis to see my grandpa and family. 

November: Broken Bow for our anniversary trip, Fredericksberg for a Bachelorette Weekend & our 4 day whirlwind in London! November was BUSY!

December: Comfort, TX for a beautiful wedding!

February: Quick trip for me to visit my grandpa in Albuquerque.

March: San Juan Islands & Seattle. SUCH a fun trip. This will definitely be repeated in the future.

April: Austin wedding weekend!

May: Hong Kong trip & Atlanta for a work conference.

June: Austin for a weekend with friends & Portland for a celebration and family reunion.

In the next year, we have plans to:

Roadtrip through England - London, Cotswolds, Cornwall, Dorset and Stonehenge, ending with a few days Innsbruck, Austria
Rent a place in Russian River Valley with our favorite people
Have a long weekend in Barcelona, Spain over Thanksgiving
Return to Tulum for my birthday celebration
Visit my grandpa in Albuquerque, NM
Make an epic return to Japan - Tokyo, Osaka and a road trip through Kyushu

As you can see, we're taking longer trips but less of them. We know our favorite places now and just want to keep returning and exploring them more! Jason's perks from Southwest are definitely still coming into play, but we're using the points he earns (and wins!) to book our travel instead of flying non-rev all the time. We're also playing the credit card game and intentionally organizing our expenses to be able to use points for business class award travel - we've been so spoiled lately!

As always, THANK YOU Southwest!