Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Some Insight on our England Visit

I feel like I should add a bit more detail to my whopper picture post, when I was high on cold medicine and jet lagged.

Leading up to the visit we both remarked how we felt like tourists this time, probably because it had been 7 yrs for me and 8 for Craig since our last visit. I was worried about driving on the left and thought there would be loads of changes since I left. I had visions of car crashes and being attacked by mobs of drunk teenagers. Silly really, because after a few days I settled right back in, like putting on an old favourite shoe, and by the time we left I couldn't imagine living anywhere else.

I loved driving in England because it's a challenge but it's also the most courteous place on earth. The roads are narrow and everyone is zipping around in little Peugeots, Fiats and Minis. Everyone swirls around roundabouts, which are everywhere and sometimes even in clusters of 3 or 4. On the first day I actually went round one 3 times, Griswold style, because I had no idea what exit to take (my kids laughed at me till I turned into satan). In many places the roads are only 1-car wide and you can park facing both directions and even half-way up the pavement (sidewalk) because, well there just isn't a lot of room unless you do. You have to be really careful about speeding as there's cameras everywhere and even mobile police units. Also there's no eating, drinking or phone use while driving, so no cup-holders, which is a lot more annoying than it sounds. All this sounds so stressful doesn't it, but it isn't because other drivers are so damn nice. They let you in, they wave you on, they flash their lights "thank you", and they actually smile and wave at you. I think it's so polite because it's so incredibly bonkers.

To give some explanation of where we went, our main base was at my mum's house in Southport on the north-west coast of England, which is a seaside town with a funfair, arcades, water park and beach. Kid heaven in other words. We didn't stray too far from that area until we went to the east coast to Whitby for a few days in the 2nd week. Leanne lives and works in The Lake District. My family is spread over Southport, Manchester and Chorley. Craig's family are in Warrington. I tried to put all this on the picture below but it's a bit small.......
World - United Kingdom - Northern England. Red stars show where we were.

One of the things I love about England is the humour. My favorite story from this time was from a friend, Ronnie. She told me she'd had her gall bladder removed and a couple of years later her younger sister rang to tell her that she needed hers removed too. Ronnie told her "For God's sake, can't I do anything on my own!"When she recanted this to me we both laughed so hard we nearly fell off our bar stools. Other things I miss are more obvious - the red post boxes & phone boxes, hedges and stone walls crammed with flowers, in fact flowers everywhere, quaint pubs, little corner shops, paying for petrol after you've filled up (how trusting!), and the constant smell of sea air.

Things I can do without? Well we had a horrible time getting our credit cards to work anywhere as we don't have chip and pin, there was a lack of wifi, and of course the double taps. What nonsense those damn taps are! One hand's freezing, the other burnt, and you try your best to wave your hands frantically between them as you rinse your hands.

Damn taps
Most importantly, I loved seeing my family and also seeing my boys enjoy time with their cousins and 2nd cousins. They both told me several times they want to live in England with their family. And of course there's Leanne to think about now and the fact that we can't spend time with her like we should.
Saying goodbye to my mum, sister, niece & great niece before we left just about killed me and I cried most of the way to the airport. I'm still glum today. I keep thinking about that quote I saw online about people on their deathbeds looking back at their life and their only regrets are that they didn't spend enough time with people, with no thought to material things. Of course our lives in the USA are amazing and not based purely on "things" because we both have friends that we consider family and we love our jobs. But thinking of my family in England makes my heart ache and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't daydreaming about going home one day.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

England Visit Part 1: Journey & Arrival

On Friday we drove to Toronto Airport, rather than flying from Columbus. It saved us nearly $3,000 and it was a direct flight - score! When we arrived in Southport it was sunny and warm. Of the 14 days we were there it only rained on 2 days, so we were really lucky.
I'm going to do this post in SEVEN parts with captions, since there's so many pictures and I'm currently jet lagged. And who wants to read long-winded stories anyway.  It was a fabulous 2 weeks and I'm beyond sad to be home in Ohio. Saying goodbye to our family was really hard for us all, kids included.
 But anyway, here's lots of pictures of our visit.....
And we're off!

10pm  - Poor boy had leg cramps and only slept for 2 hours

Overnight flights don't mean lots of sleep unfortunately 
8am - First glimpse of England! We were all so excited.

Grandad Tom met us at the airport

A surprise welcome from cousin Luke too!
Arrived safe at my mum & Tom's house in Southport. They had made all our rooms so welcoming and bought us all kinds of goodies - including huge teddy bears! They also gave us a car for 2 weeks, which was amazing. 

England Part 2: Family Reunion & My Mate Mo

First day - After a quick cup of tea with my mum we were off to Warrington for Craig's family reunion. This meant I had to drive on the other side of the road, which was hairy to say the least. The roads are narrow, people drive fast and there are roundabouts galore. I found it hard to gauge how close I was to the left curb and I had Craig give me constant reminders about speed limits and not to pull out into oncoming traffic. I had even forgotten what "Give Way" meant and what the national speed limit was - oh my! Thankfully, British drivers are the best and very courteous, so it wasn't so bad.

Danny, Craig's mum, niece Jenna, NIL Neil, great niece Elsa, and dad

First pint! (he hated it and didn't drink it, but it scored him some browny points back in the USA)

Craig's Family. Back row L-R: Great nephew Sammy, NIL Neil, sister Sandra, nephew Lee, great niece Evelynn, BIL Ian, Craig, me, great niece Isla, NIL James, niece Natalie, Luke's GF Shell, sister Janice, BIL Andy.
Front row L-R: Dad, mum, great niece Elsa, niece Jenna, great nephew Oliver, Jack, Danny & Luke

Back to Southport by sunset so we could show boys the beach
What a packed first day Saturday was!

Sunday morning we got up early and went to meet Maureen and her daughter Erin at the train station. Mo is my mate in Ohio and was visiting England at the same time so we hooked up.

Selfie! Erin, Mo, my mum, Craig & me. BLTs and tea for breakfast!

It's the little things you miss

A quick mooch around Wayfayres Arcade & the shops in Southport

Hot made-to-order donuts!

Queen Victoria on the beach promenade

On the pier

At noon we met Leanne at the train Station too. Such a poignant and happy moment for these two. 

After settling Leanne in at my mums we were off to Chorley to meet with my dad, step-mum,  sister and nieces and nephews. We had another lovely family meal and the kids got along instantly.

Danny, Jack, AJ, Dennon & Summer

Jack & AJ were instant best friends

My family, back row L-R: me, niece Gemma, NIL Anthony, niece Abby, BIL Kev, step-mum Sheila, Leanne, Craig, sister Jen, and dad.
Front Row L-R: great nephew AJ, Jack, great niece Summer, Danny, great niece Dennon.

My sister Jen and the kids

That night we slept at my dad's and then headed back to Southport Monday lunchtime.