Kim’s Travels: History in Penn, Buckinghamshire

Travel with me! Take a virtual tour with me of some of the hidden and not so hidden gems in Europe and beyond. I lived in Europe for 17 years and organized 30-40 trips for family and friends. In these little bite-sized tours, I’ll take you to a place that you may someday want to add to your bucket list! Here we go!

There is a little town called Penn in the area of Buckinghamshire just northwest of London where I used to live. It’s off the M40 not far past the M25 which is the ring road around London. There is an exit called Beaconsfield, and Penn is about 5 miles in. It consists of only a church, a couple of pubs, and a collection of houses…though there are also many impressive estates around. Anyway, it has an outsized history compared to its tiny size.

First of all, Penn was part of the Penn family lands, as in the Penn family from which the state of Pennsylvania is named. During the British civil war, Oliver Cromwell holed up with his armies at the Crown in Penn. The Crown was the first pub I ate at during the warm summer days in August when I first arrived for my job in England.

Kim's Travels | Penn England | Woodstock Inn B&B

We sat outside and my sponsor told me the story I am now telling you, and pointed to the different additions to this 500 year old pub which had served as Cromwell’s Inn in the 1640’s. She pointed to an added building that served as a coffin making facility during the plague of 1665. The Crown is located right across the street from the little church where the Penn family attended, and a tunnel from the coffin makers to the cemetery was created so that the virus would not become airborne.

Next to the little church is a very small one lane road, the kind that England and Ireland are famous for, and the kind that has pull outs to allow oncoming traffic to pass. After lunch we crossed the street and walked along this path. It’s a very old path evident by the fact that the road runs 3-4 feet below the level of the terrain in some spots. One mile down the path and you arrive at the Royal Standard. The Royal Standard is almost 1000 years old. The King holed up here with his troops when fighting Olivier Cromwell. It’s like walking back in time when you enter the Royal Standard. The leaded glass windows, stone walls, and petrified wood speak of its age. It is used in movies, particularly since Pinewood studios is nearby.

On a summer’s eve, it is full of people who are a mix of locals and first-timers who feel pleased with themselves at having found a hidden spot of such historical significance. The food is good too! I love their mushroom risotto, and Eton Mess for dessert (strawberries, meringue cookies, and cream.) Sometimes people order their special brews like strawberry beer. In the back of the menu there are tales of the inn including that of kings and highwaymen, ladies and scoundrels.

I love taking some of my traveling groups to this little spot in England. Its a hidden spot that is just bursting with stories and history underfoot.

What do you think? Is that someplace you would like to go? Let me know what is on your bucket list.

Kim’s Travels: High Tea in Burford

There is nothing quite so cozy as a cup of English tea in a charming setting with some nibbles on the side.

On a day trip from London, you exit the M40 onto the A40 and one of the first sheep towns you come to after Oxford is Burford. I say sheep towns because once upon a time the area of the Cotswolds (meaning sheep on the hills) was famous and prosperous for the sheep trade. Burford is a little town with very old houses leaning together along a main street that slopes gently down to a a valley and bubbling creeks.

In the middle of the main street (called high street in England), is a bakery called Huffkins. Once you peel your eyes from the picturesque windows filled with hot cross buns and rasberry tarts, ask the hostess for a seat. To sit down you pass through a very popular bakery filled with beautifully displayed goods and into the little dining room. The stone walls speak of the age, and the cheerful dining room is filled with wood tables and chairs. We were there in the spring and the sun peeked through the windows, and little wildflowers in tiny vases perched on the windowsills.

We ordered afternoon tea which came with famous English tea in a little white teapot with cream and lumps of raw sugar. On the three-tiered carousel were little egg salad and cucumber sandwiches, multilayered slices of cream cakes, and a variety of shortbread cookies (famous lardy cakes optional). We spent a lovely couple of hours that afternoon cozied into the old bakery, eating the delectable selections, and warming our bodies and hearts with good English tea and company. Cheers to a wonderful little town in England!

What do you think? Is that someplace you would like to go? Let me know what is on your bucket list?

An English Trip I Will Never Forget

When I first went to the world famous “Pudding Club” in Mickleton, England, it was a little tour I arranged with colleagues at work. We were all teachers, and the idea of going to one of the quaintest parts of England, and taking part in a traditional feast of desserts was just the kind of unique and eccentric activity that attracted us.

It was an experience that was more than I could ever have expected. We arrived at Heathrow Airport one morning in late May, rented our cars, and headed up to the Cotswold villages. We had a full day of sightseeing planned before arriving at our destination, and as it turns out we needed every minute of that sunshiny, spring day. After a 1.5 hour drive from Heathrow, we arrived in Burford for lunch. At Huffkins cozy stone bakery/teahouse, we had the most extraordinary High Tea with three tiers of typical English fare including cucumber sandwiches, scones, strawberry jam, clotted cream, cream cakes, and traditional tea that just seems to taste different in England than it does anywhere else.

Our joyride took us through beautiful towns like Burton on the water, Stow on the Wold, Guiting Power, Broadway, and all the way to Mickleton, just ten miles from Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon. Three Ways House Hotel is tucked into the tiny village, and it has been the gathering place for the Pudding Club for more than 30 years, lately becoming famous for inviting non-club members to its charming traditional dinner and dessert feast.

But you have to do it right! That is what the English would say, and after one of the most charming days I have ever had, I absolutely agree. After a full English breakfast the next morning, we headed off for a hike in the Cotswold Hills. Hiking is called rambling in England, and we rambled through old paths, fields of rapeseed, and under trees with a profusion of bluebells growing underneath. We ate lunch at the Ebrington Arms, and continued on toward Hidcote Gardens. In the gorgeous afternoon, we walked from village to village only a half mile from each other, each one filled with beautiful stone cottages, some with thatched roofs, some covered in ivy, most with historical markers, and all with beautiful spring flowers bursting from window boxes and hedges.

When we returned to the little inn, we changed, took a little rest in the garden, and then gathered in the lounge for Elderberry spritzer where we met the MC for the evening. Just like we do at Woodstock Inn every month, the MC gave the rules for the evening, and we entered the dining room. We ate a traditional meal of roast and potatoes, and then were charmed by the parade of desserts, all lavishly described by the MC with hints of personification like “Now, be sure to clap for each one. They all have feelings, you know.” It was a ridiculously charming evening filled with playful scolding for not finishing a bowl of dessert “Think of Oliver and more please?!, for goodness sake,” and a judgement and rating of desserts at the end.

It was a capstone evening following a charming day, and the most memorable part of our little spring journey to England. When I bought Woodstock Inn in 2010 it was my desire to bring my love of international culture to the inn, and I desired to start a dessert club that would bring the same joy to others as it did to me. I’m happy to say that we have begun the dessert club tradition and hope to bring the same kind of love and charm to our guests as I felt tucked in that little village inn in Mickleton, England.

Some English Inspiration…May Dessert Club

Join our England inspired Dessert Club this month, May 21, 2016! Come join us for Bangers & Mash, Harry Potter’s Treakle Tart and more!