England, Ireland and Paris 2013 - Days 1 to 6


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May 13th 2013
Published: May 13th 2013
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Hello from rainy, sleeting, and freezing cold England!

First of all, we have not dropped off the face of the planet but we are facing communication challenges. We thought we had worked most of these out last trip, but of course we hadn’t taken into account that Sim chips inactivate themselves, so, none of the cell phone numbers that we sent to stateside contacts are working. We tried a work-around and that seemed to be a solution but in the end, we had a cell phone solution with no bars. Funny in a country with so many pubs, don’t you think?

I haven’t been able to access my email account from the laptop, and there has really, really not been time to write the blog until today. Really.

A quick re-cap of our adventure so far:

We left last Tuesday and arrived in Manchester early evening on Wednesday. It was a difficult flight for me and my recovering shoulder made all the more impossible by the short and stout Scots travel agent in the seat in front of me. She was going to recline her seat just as far as she could even if it meant bouncing on my right knee for 10 hours and that is exactly what she proceeded to do. We landed and my knee looked like a black and blue grapefruit—well, maybe an orange. The good news is that travelling to Manchester did make Heathrow much more manageable, we were bussed out of the main terminal and breezed through passport check and security check. I didn’t even get patted down as I had been in SFO (new metal in my shoulder and all) and the almost total lack of sleep for 24 hours sort of solved the whole jet-lag problem. Straight to our rather seedy Marriott hotel room (one of the last of our free nights from John’s years of living mid-week in San Francisco,) some decent fish and chips in the hotel bar and pretty much straight to bed and an early wake up, now on England time.

On Thursday we picked up our rental car and began the trek to Fernilee. We had just arrived at our B&B when I looked up and there were the Miller cousins! Of course that meant it was time for a small glass or two of delicious Hobgoblin bitter ale, a bite to eat and getting to know my new DNA cousins. Our purpose for being in Derbyshire was to meet several new cousins, reconnect with known cousins, tour our ancient stomping grounds and try to suss out the answer to “How in bloody blazes are we related?” We all share significant genetic markers that verify our relationship; we just don’t know our common history. So, after a quick unpacking, we left to go for a walk--threatening skies be damned!-in the brisk British air. It is important that you know this because it sets the stage for many walks, treks, and hikes through downpours, drizzles, deluges, and sheets of sleet and hail as we winded our way to Carsington-on-the-Water , set up house-keeping for five nights at Swier’s Farmhouse, and toured through Derbyshire. Now here is the part where I tell you that I was the only women in a house with 7 males ranging in age from 12 to a bit older than John and I. Some were local Brits, some from Finland, and the most foreign of all from Mississippi (just kidding Ray-Scott!) It also will explain the drenched and bedraggled look of our photos.

Saturday was spent in Castleton hiking up to Peveril Castle and then down into the cave brilliantly named “The Devil’s Arse.” There were also car tours of both possible and known land-holdings of our family branches and of course more hikes through rain, sleet and hail. That night we met with a gentleman from the genetics department of a university for dinner, more theorizing, more brain storming and lots of ale. Sunday was a late start, but we did manage to get to the Dove River Trail for more rain and hail hiking before I gave up and returned to nap in the car. Those who made it to the top had glorious views of the valley but our most intrepid hiker did slip, fall, and have a lovely muddy bottom. Glad I didn’t try it although I was sad that John gave up the chance to go to the top of the hill to see me safely back. He is seeing the results of his hours spent with his personal trainer and I am seeing the results of three surgeries in one year. I like his results better than mine.

Today, Monday, some cousins left and some went with us to Haddon Hall, a glorious Tudor era estate. We then went on to Bakewell for their market day just in time for the daily dose of rain and hail. Now it is Monday evening and John and I are alone here at Swier’s Farmhouse. We just waved good-bye to the Miller cousins and are rattling about in a vacation rental that sleeps up to 16 people. The Farmhouse is quite rustic and charming which has proved to be a challenge for John---all those damned rustic beams and charming low doorways keep smacking him in the head. We will probably both leave here on Wednesday with lower back pain from all the stooping we have done as we maneuvered the three floors of stairs and hallways trying to not knock ourselves silly, but it was the perfect spot for long dinner conversations, theorizing, and general hilarity, while affording the space needed to get away for a quiet thought or two.

Tomorrow we are going to drive to Chesterfield to attempt solving another communications snafu—we left our camera battery charger at home……and to see the famous crooked spire. I think the rest of the day will be spent doing laundry and re-packing to get ready for our Wednesday flight to Dublin.

For now, I am looking forward to a quiet dinner and some down time to recharge both of us…the first week of our adventure has been intense. I had forgotten how exhausting travelling can be. Hopefully we will do better at regular blog entries in the coming days.

Love to all of you!


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