Maybe it was all that Mr. Rogers I watched as a kid, with his soothing voice and his magic picture frame that showed where everything in the world came from. Crayons. Macaroni. Candles. He knew it all. And now I’m more than a little addicted to finding out where and how everything is made and I want to see it all in REAL LIFE. This usually inspires some kind of travel adventure and thankfully my family is usually game.
So when we went to England with our kids recently, I read about Cadbury World, a giant chocolate factory and learned that we could tour and see where some of my favorite chocolates are born. I love mini eggs and cream eggs and pretty much all chocolates that come in the iconic purple Cadbury packaging. But when you decide you want to go to a factory in a faraway locale and it is a be-all end-all kind of destination, let me remind you that it is important to check fine details and reviews before you go. The night before we arrived I read we could do a ‘guaranteed’ entry ticket and decided we didn’t want to be locked into a set visiting time and did not buy tickets.
“Who else is going to be silly enough to go to some chocolate factory in the middle of England anyways???”
When we arrived we realized that EVERYONE in England decided to visit on the very same day we did. There were multiple hour waits for the tour and my family does not do well in crowds. Even people with tickets were waiting. So it was decided for us that we would not be going on the chocolate tour on this England visit and I spent what I would have paid on admission in the factory gift shop.
But every travel story seems to have a silver lining. Since we didn’t do the tour at the chocolate factory, we now had time to visit another location nearby that I was intrigued about that we probably would have missed if we had taken more time at the chocolate factory. We had just come from Stratford-Upon-Avon and I was so awed by seeing William Shakespeare’s birthplace that I looked up other notable locations for other authors in the area and found Sarhole Mill.
Sarhole Mill is only a short drive away from Cadbury World and if you have read or watched the Lord of the Rings series this should be a must-stop in your life.
We toured the mill and some docents told us stories about JRR Tolkien and we watched a video that gave us a really neat history of the mill. Apparently this area is where Tokien grew up after his family moved from South Africa and Sarhole was where he got the idea for Bilbo Baggins‘s home in the Hobbit.
Wandering through the mill and the surrounding area you can definitely imagine the author exploring this magical area as a child and how this would make such an impression on the writer.
So although I was disappointed that we didn’t see how chocolate was made, we did get to see how some of the ideas in the Lord of the Rings series came to be. I know my kids will read these books one day soon and I wonder how much they’ll remember. And next time we visit, I’ll definitely remember to book our tickets in advance. (This probably should be the rule for most tourist attractions and often you get a discount for booking in advance too.)