Tag Archives: Travel

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.

A Change in Direction

Life changes, and in surprising directions sometimes.

Writing about writing, book sales and promotions wasn’t my cup of tea as evidenced by my lack of posts. I’ve all but abandoned my blog in the last several months but as I sit in a formal dining room in Warwick, England looking out on a cobblestone street, instead of gazing across my snow covered field in Alberta, Canada I’ve found a new reason to blog.

My husband and I decided to expand our definition of family and one of our newest family members is a middle-aged Englishman who after experiencing Canadian hospitality with us, asked to return the favour by inviting us to his home in England once he returned from a stint working in Fort McMurray. It took some creative solutioning but after deciding to homeschool my daughter, and finding a house/dog sitter, I find myself living abroad. I never dreamed such an opportunity would ever come my way or that I would ever have the courage to make such a move.

It was hard to leave. I had been buoyed by the excitement of planning and preparation for weeks but when I backed my truck out of my garage for the last time for four months, leaving my wonderful home and almost everyone I care about wasn’t as easy as it seemed. I had tears in my eyes and I reminded my daughter and myself that this wasn’t permanent. We would be coming back.  We both looked back at our house with a new appreciation and longing. We glanced at our field as we drove by, in a way we never had before. We had only just begun our journey and already we were different.

My husband is the adventurous one. He worked for nine months in Africa several years ago. In July of this year he returned again to Gabon, this time working offshore on a platform. Now instead of my youngest daughter and I being left behind while he globe trots, we are off having our own adventure. We are making new friends and expanding our definitions of home. We have been very welcomed, and made to feel comfortable.

In the airport waiting to fly.

In the airport waiting to fly.

I spent the first four days recovering from jet lag which knocked me off my feet pretty hard. My daughter and I did a little bit of exploring and then we had to get back into some learning before Christmas preparations began. It has been a whirlwind of activity here which makes me feel very much like I am still at home. There hasn’t been much time to sight see. We’ve done a bit of exploring with plenty more to come.

Shopping in Leamington Spa.

Shopping in Leamington Spa.

It’s Christmas Eve and I am thousands of miles away from most of my family and friends. While there is sadness and loneliness, my daughter and I are also enamored with all that is new and so very, very old. We are enjoying our trip tremendously. Every time we step out the front door we see and learn and experience something new.

Its hard not to like a place that lets kids and Pugs into pubs.

Its hard not to like a place that lets kids and pugs into pubs and was built long before Canada was even a country. The Punch Bowl was built in 1806.

I am surrounded by history and a whole new country and culture to explore. My head is filled with ideas of things i want to experience and write about. that is encouraging. The home of Shakespeare is just down the road from me. If I can’t find something to write about here… there’s no hope for me.