The Lakes District - Keswick, England

Keswick, Lakes DistrictAhhh, the Lakes District. After a recent visit, I fell in love like I knew I would - stunning natural beauty, clean air, beautiful lakes, great people (both locals and tons of visitors from all corners of England), hikes, and best of all...DOGS EVERYWHERE!

So much is written about southern England - London, Oxford, Cambridge, the Cotswolds, Bath, etc.. I had a tough time finding great intel about the Lakes District so I hope this helps you as you're planning.

We based ourselves in Keswick, which was the best choice after seeing all the other towns. I loved them but they can get very crowded. In Keswick, we were further from the main lures of the district like Beatrix Potter & William Wordsworth sites but it felt much more like an authentic, only in England feel. We met so many wonderful people here.

If you have very limited time, I'd recommend staying in Grasmere (The Red Lion has great deals) to be closer to all the sites. But I think 3-4 nights is really ideal to get a good handle on all the lakes and to feel the local rhythm.

In Keswick, Howe Keld is a dream B&B - great owners, fab breakfast (smoked salmon & scrambled eggs, local sausage, pancakes, etc), comfortable rooms, cozy beds, great value. I had a single room and my parents shared another room. I saw many of the more expensive hotels and I'd pick Howe Keld hands-down.

My room at Howe KeldOne of my favorite pubs I've found anywhere in the world was The Dog & Gun and we went every night. One couple had five border collies; another from Cambridge brought their dog eight weekends a year. We talked for a long time to Joe & Caroline, who had a white boxer and filled me in on their recent trip to Vietnam. Basically, EVERYONE we met was beyond friendly - exactly what you want in an English pub. Bonus: The food is great too! Nothing on the menu is fried but there are great soups, salads, and roasted deliciousness.

Outside The Dog & GunEvery time the door opened, I'd look to see what dog came inJust chillin' Nothing is very far in Keswick. A five-min walk leads you to the beautiful lake, Derwentwater, which I'm sure looks much different in the summer. There was something wonderfully atmospheric about being here in the off-season though.

With my dad at DerwentwaterThe town itself is cute but not overly so - it hasn't been taken over by shops only for the visiting hordes. I saw kids skipping home from school, moms shopping with their babies, friends strolling around with coffees. 

Keswick's main streetKeswickKeswick town from the park  I'd highly recommend Bel Cibo for dinner one night while you're in town - we couldn't get into the so-called "best" Italian restaurant, Casa Bella, but stumbled upon this place instead. LOVED IT - cozy, great eats, and we met the most wonderful couple at the table over. They warned us about our next destination, Haworth, and I am kicking myself for not listening to them - but more to come on that disastrous night.

Big smiles at Bel Cibo after pizza & pasta - of course! The Lakes District is a good five-hour car ride from London, but it goes by fast. You can take a train but you REALLY need a car when you're there.

If you're doing York, consider renting at Heathrow, driving to Lakes District, dropping car in York, then taking train back to London from there, which is what I did.

You will love it - I can't wait to go back!

A Sweet Argentine Dog

We had one day free during Virtuoso (read the travel trends I discovered during the conference on my National Geographic blog here) in Buenos Aires and got to choose a daytime activity ranging from a city tour, to cooking classes, or sports tour. But I immediately knew which one I wanted to do - visit an estancia, or a large ranch-style estate, outside the city. The place we went, La Bamba de Areco, was truly a South American dream retreat. While others did horseback riding or a carriage ride, I chose to take one of their bikes and go for a ride. The roads were bumpy but I started following the path that made me feel happiest. With the autumn sun shining down and a slight breeze, this beautiful, sweet dog seemed to appear from nowhere. I could see nothing else except for horses and cows. He just wanted a lot of loving and I was happy to give it to him! After about 30 minutes, he had enough and ran away to play. It was a little bit of home so many thousands of miles away from my own dog.