The Great UK Tour, day 1: heading to Fawsley Hall

It's my first trip to England, and an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

FAWSLEY HALL, England – Every year, Montreal dealership Decarie Motors, purveyor of prestige automotive brands Bentley, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover, organizes a one-week media trip to the UK. This time around, the itinerary consists of visiting assembly factories, museums, design and research centres as well as soaking up a little English culture.

AutoGO received an invitation to join in on the fun; we paid our plane fare, while Decarie Motors and the aforementioned manufacturers took care of hosting and feeding us. I'm crossing my fingers the accounting department will process my expense report without double-checking it. Probably won't happen.

Upon our arrival at Heathrow Airport, a couple of other journalists and me were shuttled about 90 minutes up to Fawsley Hall in Northamptonshire, a beautiful area with rolling hills and green pastures. Fawsley Hall is an upscale hotel, spa and conference centre that opened its doors in about 1996, but certain wings of the establishment were built back in the 16th century. The hotel's architecture is simply breathtaking.

Near it sits the little Church Charwelton, whose construction amazingly dates back to the 1200s and still serves as a wedding chapel today, as well as fields of sheep and goats who share the road with passing motorists and cyclists. I also encountered some very friendly horses that ran up to greet me as I approached their fence. For me, this first taste of England was fantastic.

I was glad not to have been behind the wheel this first day; I've piloted a right-hand-drive car before, but not on the left side of the road. Unsurprisingly, hatchbacks and wagons pretty much dominate the automotive landscape. Hey, how come we don't get Jaguar XF wagons in Canada? We definitely should, they're drop-dead gorgeous.

What I wasn't expecting, however, were the numerous speed cameras in the little towns we crossed on our way to Fawsley Hall. On the other hand, there are plenty of signs to warn motorists of their existence, and admittedly, the cameras themselves are pretty obvious.

After dinner at the hotel, it's time for bed, as the next step of our great UK tour is starting bright and early tomorrow morning. We're going to visit Aston Martin Works in Newport Pagnell – where the company painstakingly restores vintage cars – and their newer factory in Gaydon where current models are assembled. Nighty-night!

More articles and photos about the Great UK Tour
Aston Martin Works: the fountain of youth
The Aston Martin factory in Gaydon: pursuing the tradition
The Great UK Tour, day 2: getting to know Aston Martin
The British Heritage Museum: automotive history, English style
Jaguar Land Rover's Virtual Innovation Centre in Gaydon
The Great UK Tour, day 3: down and dirty with Land Rover
Jaguar's Castle Bromwich Assembly plant in Birmingham: high tech
Land Rover's assembly plant in Solihull: old and new
The Great UK Tour, day 4: visiting Jaguar and Land Rover

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