We'd been planning this trip for months and I was so looking forward to it. My first out of country adventure in two years! Time to visit the Grandmotherland and see family! I had done most of the planning myself, incorporating the requests of my traveling companions to put together a rough itinerary. If it is just me and things go wrong, it is easy to go with the flow and find a way out. When you have a sister with two small kids and your older parents coming too, the pressure was on for things to go smoothly. Or at least not to go wrong.
It started out fine. We (my parents and I) arrived at the airport in Baltimore fine, but five hours early meaning we could not check in. We went in search of a bar and found one that was actually pretty good. After checking in, I was pretty happy. Until we got our seats. I've now flown on WOW airlines for two trips to Iceland and loved, loved, loved it. I booked the seats that I remembered from before, paying a premium for them. Only now they were different. So, instead of having three comfy
seats, we had one, with two of our seats shoved up behind the row. I was mad, especially since the first leg of our journey was the long one. But we went and we got good seats for the next flight. We met up with Dana easily enough after customs; she and her kids had come from Toronto. It was a hike to find the car, but getting it was easy enough. Except I had requested a large SUV with fold down seats and we got a van instead. In the end, the interior room space was worth it, but it was a behemoth to navigate the hilly roads of England, let alone park anywhere.
So, we started with some hiccups, but so far so good right? We plugged in our route to our first cottage and were happy to see it should take under three hours. It was Friday, noon, and we were leaving from Gatwick going north. Remind me to fly out of Manchester next time. It took us seven hours, SEVEN, to reach our destination. Emry puked twice, stop and go traffic, rain. Just a miserable journey.
Fortunately, our first cottage was exceptional. I mean,
amazing, complete with homemade cakes waiting for us. We were staying at a cottage at the Newstead Abbey Park. Dad and I went to the store and got some groceries, particularly breakfast items. And much needed alcohol. Most of us crashed pretty easily that night, so the time difference thankfully did not really affect us.
Our first full day in Nottingham, we were supposed to meet our cousins in town near the castle that afternoon. We easily found the Newstead train station and were able to ride into town without having to worry about driving the beast around. It was the last home game of Notts Forest though, so the train was packed and the town was busy. We had lunch at a place called Faraday's which was ok. Nice atmosphere, good beer, blah food. Then we walked towards the castle and met them at the Castle Pub. The guys were off to the game so we hung with Chris and Arlene for the next few hours. It was not our day today either. We absolutely loved the company of our cousins and it was so fun to reminisce. But it was raining and cool, Mortimer's Hole tours at
the castle were done for the day (otherwise the "castle" is kinda boring), we walked to the City Caves whose tours were sold out, so we walked back toward the castle and ended up at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, the oldest pub in England. And it was PACKED. After pushing through for a few minutes, we decided to leave, when I managed to snag a table outside near the heating lamps. Yay! So we hung out there for awhile until Dana took the kids back. The guys, Chris and Steve, returned after the game (nil-nil - at least they didn't lose!) and the evening really got started.
After getting a text from Dana assuring me that they had made it back to the cottage easily enough, walking from the train station, I was able to relax and enjoy the evening. We decided to move on and our next stop was another old pub, The Malt Cross, a former Victorian Music Hall. It was pretty cool - balcony seating and a huge domed skylight allowing in lots of light. We ordered dinner here, with me getting a leek and mushroom pie (yum!). After this we went to get another
drink at the Bell Inn, but that was our last stop. We were able to get a taxi to the train station and were on our way back to Newstead (I tried to get tickets, but the machine was not working and the kindly security guy let us on).
The next day, we got some pastries for breakfast and made our way back to Nottingham City to try the City of Caves again with the kids. It was a nice little tour, going through various types of caves and what they were used for, including tanning areas and a mock up of an air raid shelter. It was eerie to note that my grandmother at one point was probably down in a similar such place, fitted with her gas mask. Nottingham was only bombed once, fortunately. But still, what a scary way to live.
After this, we made our way to our cousin's for a party. Yay! There were a total of 26 of us at one point. These were the child, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of my Aunt Hilda, a half-sister of my grandmother. My grandmother and her brother were full siblings, but their father died in WWI,
about 4 months before my grandmother was born. Her mother remarried and they had Aunt Hilda. Her stepfather was very good to her and her brother and their family was close. My grandmother then married my grandfather in WWII and became a war bride. At one point, she returned to England with my dad and aunt to live awhile, then moved back to the US. My dad spent some time with his cousins while he was growing up, but it had been a while. My uncle's family live in London and in Wales, so they were not nearby. It was such fun to see everyone again. Aside from spouses and children, I had met everyone at some point and while it had been years or even decades since I'd seen them, many hadn't changed one bit. It was truly amazing. And it was an excellent party. I hope we get to see each other again and not as long as this past time.
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