Category Archives: UK

It’s Time To Go

Four and a half months have gone by so fast.

I wanted to take a moment to update my blog before I go. Sadly it’s been weeks since I posted anything, because we have been so busy. Lyric has been a bit behind in her studies so we had to catch up. I have also been helping our host Craig sell his current home and shop for another. Plus we snuck in one last trip to Kingswear and stayed in the cute little coastal village which is just a five minute ferry ride across the river Dart from Dartmouth.

I had hoped to post about my family’s experiences exploring London and Edinburg but I just never got to it. London was a blur! We hit the highlights with the help of the double decker red bus tours. You can get on and off and see just about everything you need to see. Big Ben, Westminster, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, The Globe Theatre, Trafalgar Square… the list goes on and on. We saw “Stomp” In the theatre district, and did a Jack the Ripper walking tour, and had one night in playing cards.

I know everyone enjoyed the Gothic creepiness of Edinburgh. We did a tour of the haunted catacombs, ate at a fabulous restaurant next to the castle, called “The Witchery”, and walked the streets exploring. Then we stopped in York before returning to Warwick. The problem with a great deal of sightseeing is overload. We tried to balance hitting the big sights along with time together relaxing. I sent my family home with a pretty good taste of England but there is still tons to see.

I have barely scratched the surface in the four and a half months. I have seen almost every coast except the far north. I had planned a weekend to Inverness where my ancestors came from, but that will have to wait for the next trip. I have hit the major sights and locals, London, York, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Warwick, and many little towns and villages along the way.

Now it is time to reflect on the past few months, on my experience and the changes within me. I have learned a great deal about myself on this trip. I have always considered myself a country girl from Alberta but I was very comfortable living in an urban environment again. I liked the convenience of having a gym, stores, and top quality cultural activities very close and accessible.

Connecting to the natural world is very important to me and I had plenty of opportunities for that here. We were constantly driving through the beautiful country sides with green rolling hills and sheep and cows everywhere. There are plenty of green spaces and parks. Spring is a long season, and I really enjoyed English spring. Everything is so beautifully landscaped. A walk around the estate is a feast for the eyes and the nose. Everywhere you look there are daffodils, tulips, roses and trees hanging with big blossoms.

We didn’t make loads of new friendships, Lyric especially found it difficult to meet children her own age. The people we did meet, especially Craig’s family and friends, were incredibly warm and welcoming. I can’t wait to return and have a proper visit with Frank and June, and to have another drink with Martin at whatever pub is the new favorite.

Leaving my life behind has helped me develop even more independence and self-reliance than I had before, but it also has taught me the value of my relationships and connections. I have really had to learn to communicate better. Living with someone you have never lived with before can be a challenging experience, and I realized my greatest difficulty is in not speaking up and asking for what I want and need. There are more lessons learned personally than I can catalogue. I knew this was going to be a once in life time experience, and I knew it would change me, but I don’t think I could have guessed how much. I don’t feel like an entirely different person going home, but I am, for certain, not the same.

I am so grateful to so many people, Tania and Stephan for housesitting, Tanya and Real for assisting Tania when things went wrong in the house, and Sara and Jeremy, for helping out too and coming to see us. I am grateful to all of Lyric’s friends for staying connected with her while we were gone. I am grateful to mine as well for staying in touch with me too while I was away, Suzanne, Tanya, Janet, Sandy, John, Cecile and Monique. I didn’t experience homesickness the way I expected and I think it is because my friends didn’t seem so far away.

I am very grateful to Denis for all his support. You are an incredible husband. Thank you so much for allowing me to go adventuring. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I love that we now have the shared the experience of living abroad.

Lyric, my babe, I will never, ever forget what a great little trooper and adventurer you turned out to be. So many children your age would have had such a difficult time and you were astounding. It was a big request to make and you agreed and I will never forget your sacrifice so we could have this experience. I know it was hard leaving your friends, family, home and pooches, but you were a willing spirit, and you kept an open mind. I know not everything here was a brilliant experience but you handled it all graciously, sweetly, and with an open heart and an open mind. You were as much a Viking adventurer as your dad, and your ancestors. I am very proud of you and I am very, very grateful to have had you with me.

Finally, I have to say thank you to Craig. You have changed my life. I will never ever look at the world quite the same way again. I will return home, as you said, with a new found appreciation for all the differences. Your patience, guidance, and hospitality were beautiful gifts. You let two forces of chaos into your house, and with the warmest hospitality, let us take over, and make your home our home. I am certain that is why I never had homesickness.

You know England so well you were the best tour guide anyone could ask for. It was worth sitting through Saturday soccer games just to have the benefit of your expertise. Seriously though, thank you so much for some of the coolest experiences. This is by no means a complete list but some of my favorite moments were getting all dressed up to go to the theatre to see “Momma Mia”, shopping for the ingredients and then enjoying our picnic at Dartmouth, sitting amongst 83,000 people watching England vs Lithuania, and our weekly visits to the Punchbowl Pub to have a drink with Martin. I especially loved helping you house shop… it was like being on House Hunters International. Like you I will also say York is one of my favorite cities. My first sight of York Minster was awesome. I will never forget that moment. Last but not least, I enjoyed every trip to London. I know why it is one of the greatest cities on the planet. I walked around with my mouth hanging open.

So thank you very much Craig, for making a home for me in England, that I can return to again and again, and I can’t wait for you to come back to Canada so we can continue to show you how great life in the colonies can be!

Warwick Castle, Stonehenge and Driving

It’s late Monday morning and for the first time in a little over two weeks, I have a moment to myself. The house is quiet and Lyric is still asleep. My husband Denis along with Sara and Jeremy (my daughter and her husband) left back to Canada on Saturday. Sunday was busy and so this is the first chance I get to reflect back on playing UK tour guide for my family.

It was great to see familiar faces after being lost in a country filled with unfamiliar ones. Sara and Jeremy came a few days ahead of Denis which was smart because they had jet lag to contend with. Denis arrived from Africa, working in almost the time zone as England so we didn’t give him any time to adjust. He landed and hit the ground running.

On the way from the airport Craig drove to Warwick via Oxford so we could stop at a small village called Great Tew.

Denis Checking out the thatched roofs in Great Tew

Denis Checking out the thatched roofs in Great Tew

Having a drink in an honest-to-God English pub, has long been a bucket list item for Denis, and Craig enjoyed buying it for him. The two of them had huge smiles as they walked up to the bar scoped out their selections, placed their orders, and waited to clink glasses and drink deeply. It was a great old pub, with low ceilings, a crackling fireplace, and plenty of ales to choose from but I was suffering from a cold and wasn’t charmed. I tried to not let my fever and runny nose get in the way of their fun.

After a quick pint we picked up the kids and explored Warwick Castle. I’ve seen a few castles now and I have to say the most impressive is Warwick so far. It is massive and the signs of what must have been obscene wealth are still visible.

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We did the dungeon tour so in addition to getting some scary thrills we got a small taste of the history behind the castle. Stories of plague and torture, war and famine were delivered by great actors, who dragged us all into the fun. Lyric stood accused of being a 42 year-old French man in disguise. She denied all charges and she hammed it up by delivering her responses in an authentic French accent. Denis sat in a torture chair as an actor explained to us how the various implements would be used… on him. I got put behind a back lit curtain and had my head bashed in, by a nurse demonstrating how some of the castles occupants would be eliminated. It was a wet and cold day but it was a fun first activity for us to do together.

Our next activity began with picking up a rental car. We had decided to make the nearly three hour drive south of Warwick to the Salisbury Plains home of Stonehenge. Denis drove and I navigated. Upon reflection I am relieved to say the driving could have been worse but it was still a bit stressful for both Denis and I. He was driving a standard, sitting in the opposite side of the vehicle than he was used to, driving on the wrong side of roads he had never seen before. I was negotiating Google maps, an atlas, as well as reading the signs and directing Denis as to the lanes he needed to be in. He is a skilled driver and I am very good at navigating. However Denis would drive faster than my Google maps could catch up. Other times he made executive decisions to turn off instead of circling the roundabouts, resulting in 17 mile extension to our trip of not so scenic motorway. I compounded the stress by pointing for him to turn in directions, instead of telling him which direction to turn. This was not smart considering he needed to keep his eyes on the road. Even worse sometimes my brain and my finger were disjointed and I would point one direction and speak the other.

The sudden bursts of snarling and snapping from the front seat probably made the ride a little stressful for the passengers but they could escape into sleep or Iphones. Denis and I were firmly trapped in our seats. Jeremy did a short stint but he and Sara were prohibited from doing more because of the size of our vehicles and their age. I refrained from driving as well because of the manual transmission. It’s been twenty one years since I drove standard, and I believe England isn’t the place for me to refresh those dusty old skills.

Stonehenge was not as big or as impressive as I thought it would be, but somehow I wasn’t disappointed.

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Erecting those stones after hauling them from Wales, which is 40 plus miles away, and was done thousands of years ago, remains an impressive feat. They make such a stark mark in the middle of the rolling windy plains, surrounded by sheep. For thousands of years people marked the spot Stonehenge rests on, as special and significant.

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Although the meaning of Stonehenge is lost, Stonehenge was a bucket list item for me and I am happy to report it continues to be a place that people travel to, and so it retains significance. That being said, on a cold and windy day, it’s not a place one wants to linger.
We drove on to the nearby smaller Avebury Henge. A town was built among these stones, which used to be the site of human sacrifice. It is strange to learn the dark story behind so many picturesque spots.

We did a quick walk among these stones and returned to Warwick.

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Next installment will be about our days in London.