The first time I went to England for work, we worked in Bournemouth but stayed in Basingstoke. The second time, we both worked and stayed in Basingstoke. This time, we stayed in Bournemouth and worked in both Basingstoke and Bournemouth. It made for a longer day than normal, but it was even longer by all the celebratory pints my coworkers kept throwing back afterwards. And it did guarantee that we got to eat at our favorite restaurant, the Portsmouth Arms in Basingstoke. I was quite sad to learn that it was a chain, though.
The hotel we stayed at, the Royal Norfolk, had to be the prettiest hotel I'd ever seen. Every little detail was gorgeous. It made me feel like a princess and a complete mess at the same time. I definitely was not put together enough to fit in.
The walls were a little thin and there was no air conditioning, or even a fan, so I didn't sleep that great. However, everything else was spot on.
Including the location. The hotel sits on top of a hill, surrounded by beautiful old churches. At the base of this hill, a two minute walk, was a beautifully manicured park and the midpoint of the shopping district.
On the other side of the park was the beach. A traditional English beach with a pier, rows of rentable cabanas, and families taking in the last of the sunny summer days.
Once we had finished working, we had a free day to sight-see. We leave an extra day in case there were any unforeseen problems, but we've fortunately never needed to use it. On our last two visits to England, my boss wanted to see Stonehenge and Bathe. This time he wanted to see the ruins at Glastonbury. It sounded like a nice day, but I wanted to spend some more time in contemporary England. In a move that made me incredibly nervous, I asked him to leave me behind so I could explore Bournemouth and do some shopping. It probably wasn't the greatest move for my career, but it couldn't hurt more than any other ridiculous decision I make.
And I don't regret it at all now. I had the best day. I sat in the park, watching tourists pay for the overpriced balloon ride. I found an aviary full of adorable birds that I can only assume chirp with a British accent. I explored the old churches that were still intact.
My favorite part of the day was afternoon tea. Sitting on the veranda of the gorgeous hotel, people watching on the street below. And since I was alone (which I think scared the waitress a bit), I didn't have to share any of my delicious treats with anyone else. I'm not a big fan of tea, but it was probably the best tea I've ever had.
However, most of my day was spent shopping. I brought back a good assortment of goodies and souvenirs. I went into just about every store. I made a list of the things I wanted to buy as I went. And in traditional British blogger fashion, I'm trying to make a haul video. If everything goes according to plan, it should be up on Wednesday.