English Homes and Gardens

September 18 through 25, 2019

This September, join P&P and a group of like-minded travelers in exploring the castles, estates, and gardens in the Southeast of England. We’ll be touring famed gardens and historic towns, as well as several sites overseen by the National Trust, which is a charitable organization with a mission to protect many of Britain’s most culturally and historically important landmarks. Our base will be the popular Georgian spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent, which has been an attraction for visitors since a mineral water spring was discovered there more than 400 years ago, bringing royal visitors looking for eternal health.


The Southeast of England has one of the country’s richest concentrations of historic homes and gardens. We’ll visit homes in counties Kent, Sussex and Surrey, ranging from castles to manor houses, and gardens that illustrate the highly-coveted fame of English gardens. These estates are extremely difficult to reach except by driving on narrow roads, so this is a perfect way to see places you might otherwise not be able to visit.

Most of the homes and gardens we’ll visit are National Trust properties, which means that these sites are well preserved and maintained, and staffed with knowledgeable guides to enhance your experience. And you’ll receive a year-long membership in the Royal Oak Society, the National Trust’s sister organization for people who don’t live in Britain.

Our home for the week will be the historic Spa Hotel located on several acres at the edge of Royal Tunbridge Wells. You’ll enjoy its two restaurants, indoor pool, gym and spa if you wish. And, of course, there’s always the option of afternoon tea in the well-appointed lobby.

Each day we’ll depart by mini-van or small bus to visit some of the noted houses and gardens nearby. For Henry James fans, a highlight of the trip will be visiting his home in the charming town of Rye. Each evening, we’ll get together before dinner to talk about our days, have a bit of book talk, and sip a glass of wine. Afterwards, we’ll break into small groups to walk or taxi to restaurants, or take advantage of eating in the hotel. You’ll have a restaurant list to help you decide where to eat.

As with all our trips, you’ll have two experienced trip leaders with you at all times. The trip is limited to no more than 18 people, so you’ll never walk around in a huge group, or be driven in a big tourist bus. We’ll generally eat most of our lunches at National Trust properties.

September is a wonderful month to visit Southeast England. Temperatures are warm, days are long, gardens are in bloom, children are back in school, and tourists are no longer out in full force. It’s a great opportunity to take yourself back in time as you walk through medieval homes or make your way through lush gardens.


Who should come on this trip?
Do I have to pay a single supplement?
I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
How many people will be on the trip?
When is the trip?
What flight should I take?
Why do you call this a “trip” and not a “tour”?
Tell me about the trip leaders.
What is the Spa hotel like?
Is there internet access at the hotel?
What will the weather be like?
What to wear?
Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?
Do you require us to buy travel insurance?


Q. Who should come on this trip?
Anglophiles, of course. This is a perfect trip to take by yourself; you’ll make new friends and will always have people to do things with. Or come with a friend or spouse or partner. The trip is also perfect for any small group that wants to travel together but doesn’t want the hassle of planning it all in advance.


Q. Do I have to pay a single supplement?
No. This trip is priced based on each person having his or her own hotel room.


Q. I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
For people who share a room, we offer a discount of $150 each. We’ve priced the trip primarily for people to have their own rooms, because English hotel rooms just aren’t as large as those in the U.S. Of course, you can share a room if you prefer.


Q. How many people will be on the trip?
The maximum number of people is 18, so you won’t feel like you’re part of a huge group. Our groups are typically 12 – 16 people, and we have two trip leaders.


Q. When is the trip?
The trip begins on Wednesday, September 18, and ends on Wednesday, September 25. Since most flights to England are overnight, you’ll probably fly out from your home city on Tuesday, September 17, to arrive Wednesday morning in London. We’ll provide you information about how to get to Royal Tunbridge Wells from the airport.


Q. What flight should I take?
At this writing, a number of airlines fly nonstop from Washington Dulles to London Heathrow: American, British, Delta, United, Virgin Atlantic, Austrian, Lufthansa and Iberia, among others. We particularly like the flights on United/Lufthansa or British that arrive around 10:30am. If you take a flight that arrives very early in the morning, your hotel room will probably not be ready when you arrive.


Q. Why do you call this a “trip” and not a “tour”?
We’ve included the things we like best about group travel, including the convenience of having someone plan daily itineraries. But there are lots of things we dislike about tours, so here’s how this trip is different:
- You’ll never board a big tour bus.
- You won’t be seated at long tables for big group meals at “We accept bus tours” restaurants.
- You won’t have early morning calls to leave the hotel.
- You only unpack and pack once – we’re not touring, but staying in one hotel where we can really get to know the area well.


Q. Tell me about the trip leaders.

Sheila Campbell of Wild Blue Yonder has been organizing informal groups of travelers for years – often on hiking trips in France, England, Italy and Spain. She’s managed trips for Politics & Prose for six years. She lives in Washington, DC, where she has been a volunteer at the National Gallery of Art for many years. She spends a couple of months a year in Europe, mostly in England, France and Italy.

Barbara Wendell has also traveled extensively and worked and traveled as part of her job as a focus group facilitator.  She is very experienced in working with groups. She lives in Annapolis, MD, where she is involved with tourism as a docent and volunteer with Historic Annapolis. 


Q. What is the Spa hotel like?

It’s a beautiful 70-room “grand hotel” that first opened in 1880. It still has its graceful dining room – and of course you can have afternoon tea in the lobby. There’s a new bistro for casual dining. The comfortable sleeping rooms have been recently upgraded. Do note, however, that some rooms are not air conditioned, though this should not be an issue in September. It does have a spa, in case you need a massage or facial.

The hotel is located on the edge of Royal Tunbridge Wells. You can walk to nearby restaurants, or take a bus or taxi to the city’s famous Pantiles shopping and restaurant area.


Q. Is there internet access at the hotel?
Yes, free wifi comes with your room.


Q. What will the weather be like?
It’s hard to tell. September could be cool and sunny, or cool and rainy. Or maybe hot. Our advice is to come prepared for just about anything. Bring clothes suitable for summer or fall weather, an umbrella, a light jacket and – most important of all – very comfortable walking shoes.


Q. What to wear?
You needn’t dress up for this trip. Wear your most comfortable clothes for walking. Just about every place we go will be casual.


Q. Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?
Restaurants that accept tour groups are usually the last places we want to eat. On many days, we’ll be at a property with a National Trust café that features local favorites. They’re quite affordable, and you can decide when you want to break for lunch

In Tunbridge Wells, you’ll be able to choose from both casual and nicer dinner places.

We often make lunch the biggest meal of the day and eat lighter at night. But you’ll choose where you’ll eat, when and with whom.


Q. Do you require us to buy travel insurance?
We strongly encourage you to buy travel insurance, both for trip cancellation and medical coverage and evacuation. Please read our Terms and Conditions carefully to see our cancellation policy. Also be aware that trip insurance companies are very strict about what they will and won’t reimburse you for, so read their policies closely. You generally have to purchase trip insurance at the time you pay your deposit.

Please read this information carefully, as payment of a deposit represents your acceptance of the following Terms and Conditions.

Trip Prices

Trip prices include hotel accommodations on a single or double occupancy basis, breakfast at the hotel, daily transportation to locations as outlined in the itinerary, entrance fees to museums and houses with the group as listed in the itinerary, evening social events to plan the next day’s activities, and the services of the trip leaders as outlined in the trip description.

Not included in the trip price are entrance fees to museums and other attractions not expressly included in the itinerary; taxis or other forms of city transportation, public transportation in Royal Tunbridge Wells; airfare and airline baggage fees; lunches and dinners; hotel, restaurant or airport tips; costs of passports and visas; personal expenses such as beverages, laundry or room service; internet wifi except as established in the trip description; airport transfers or any other services not specified in the trip description.

Please note that we cannot guarantee any special requests for hotel rooms.


Registration and Payment

The payment of your deposit confirms your reservation. Deposits may be paid by check made out to Wild Blue Yonder, Inc., or credit card via PayPal. There is a 3% surcharge for PayPal.

Your deposit is refundable for two weeks from the date it is received by Wild Blue Yonder, except for deposits made less than 60 days before a trip departs; those deposits are completely nonrefundable. Two weeks after the receipt of the deposit by Wild Blue Yonder, deposits are not refundable for any reason and will be forfeited if you cancel your trip reservation. Cancellations must be made in writing by either letter to Wild Blue Yonder or email to scampbell@wildblueyonder.biz. Cancellations become effective on the date they are received by Wild Blue Yonder.

Once your reservation deposit has been paid, you will receive a confirmation email and further information to help you plan your trip.

We reserve the right to cancel any reservations that are not paid in full at any time after the final payment is due. If you make your reservation after the final payment due date, payment in full will be required immediately.


Full final payment is due June 10, 2019.

Cancellations and Refunds

For any cancellations made before June 10, you will forfeit your deposit but will be refunded any other payments you have made. If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your notification, which must be made in writing either by email or letter. No refunds are possible after June 10, 2019.

We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance when you pay your deposit for this trip.

Changes to Your Reservation

If you would like to stay on for longer than the official days of the trip, we will make reservations for you at the hotel. We will not charge you for any changes to your reservation before June 10. After that date, if you make any changes to your reservation, a $100 per person administrative fee will apply. Changes are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. If your reservation changes from double occupancy to single occupancy, you will be charged the single occupancy rate.

Travel Documents

You are responsible for securing your own passport, valid for at least six months after the completion of your trip. Your passport must also have at least two blank pages for entry and exit stamps.


Health and Medical Issues

We welcome all travelers, but you must be in good health to participate in our trips. This trip requires a reasonable amount of walking – up to a mile, possibly uphill or on uneven pavements or cobblestone streets and streets without curb cuts. You must be able to climb several flights of stairs and board buses on your own. We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance if you require the use of a wheelchair or have other personal needs; in such cases you must be accompanied by a companion who will assist you, and you will have to incur the costs of taxis or other special transport you might need.

If you are unable to navigate this amount of walking, you will not be able to participate fully in the trip, and we suggest you choose another type of trip. We cannot provide individual alternatives to the planned group activities. If your fitness level does not allow you to keep up with the group and/or travel on public transportation, you will be responsible for planning your own activities and for any additional costs incurred (for instance, but not limited to, personal taxis, train tickets, and entrance fees).


Trip Insurance

We strongly recommend that you purchase both trip cancellation insurance and traveler’s medical and evacuation insurance for your trip. Should you have to cancel your trip after you have paid in full, we cannot offer refunds other than specified above, because we will have already paid the costs of your trip to our vendors.

Please note: Medicare is not valid outside of the United States.


Arrival and Departure Dates

It is your responsibility to make sure you arrive on the specified trip start date. We cannot refund part of your trip if you arrive late or leave early, unless you have notified us of your different start or end date by June 10, 2019.



The liability of Wild Blue Yonder and Politics & Prose, individually or jointly (referred to hereafter as Trip Planners), is strictly limited. In no event will the Trip Planners be liable for amounts in excess of the amounts payable to the Trip Planners in accordance with the terms hereunder, nor will Trip Planners be liable for any consequential indirect or incidental damages arising from this agreement. Trip Planners purchase accommodations, transportation and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing trip arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility and liability for wrongful, negligent or arbitrary acts or omissions of these independent contractors, their employees, agents or representatives.

Trip Planners are not liable for injury, damage, death, loss, accident, or delay that may be caused by events not within our control, including but not limited to, without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, defects of any vehicle, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters or the negligence or default of any third party, nor for personal accidents.

In consideration of, and as part payment for, the right to participate in the trip, the undersigned, on behalf of himself, his dependents, heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, agrees to release Politics & Prose, Wild Blue Yonder and their officers, employees, representatives or agents, and the tour operator and its officers, employees and agents, from liability for personal injury, death, property damage or loss suffered by any person in connection with this tour, even if caused by the negligence (but not the reckless, willful, or fraudulent conduct) of tour staff or other related persons or entities. In addition, by registering for this trip, the applicant certifies that he or she is mentally and physically capable of full participation in this tour. By registering for this trip, the participant agrees to all of the Terms and Conditions herein.

Trip Planners reserve the right to correct errors in advertised prices. We reserve the right to cancel an advertised trip, decline to accept a reservation or remove a person from a trip if it is determined by us to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general well-being of other trip participants. Should you be removed, you will not be entitled to any refund for unused or missed services or costs incurred as a result of termination of your travel arrangements, including, without limitation, return travel, accommodations, meals and incidentals.

We will make every effort to conduct our trip as planned, but we reserve the right to make itinerary and other changes as necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require us to change a hotel, we will make every effort to select alternative accommodations of the same quality. The forgoing terms and conditions and all aspects of the relationship between Trip Planners and you shall be governed by the laws of the State of Maryland.