Frightwater!

Growing up, although Halloween was enthusiastically celebrated by my friends, it was never a holiday that excited me. However, as our girl is growing up in England where Halloween is more of an up-and-coming holiday, a certain part of me is keen to make sure she has the opportunity to experience many traditions that I grew up with in the US. She’s still a bit too young to understand exactly what is going on, but this past Saturday, we ventured to Lightwater Valley Theme Park in Ripon for some Halloween festivities.

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The theme park transforms into Frightwater Valley for the Halloween weekend. A lot of the park is decked out in Halloween decor and the staff contribute to the atmosphere by dressing up or painting their faces. There are a number of additional Halloween-themed attractions just for the weekend like the Live Scare Maze and the UV Monster Puppet Show. A few of the attractions didn’t open until after 3 PM and some aren’t suitable for an 11-month old, so we couldn’t check them all out, but we could still enjoy some of the walks and the actors that took their roles seriously as zombies/creepy people.

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Richard and I are major wimps when it comes to scary movies, haunted houses, and the like, so that part of me is glad we weren’t able to ride the haunted train and venture into the haunted forest maze, but I do wish we could have experienced them so I could give a proper review of all of Frightwater. Maybe next year! It was funny to watch our girl look at some of the Halloween decorations and the actors walking aimlessly with blank looks on their faces. You could tell she was trying to process it all, but it just wasn’t making sense!

DSC_0027The Lightwater Wheel

DSC_0003Black Widow’s Web…maybe next time!

We were happy to be able to experience Lightwater Valley as a family and to take the little one on some of the rides. We enjoyed the Lightwater Express train ride around the park, Eagle’s Creek Farm in which you ride in tractors around a little farmyard with a variety of animals in it, and the Lightwater Wheel. We did plan to take her on some more rides, but when Richard went to take her out of her stroller, she was completely zonked out! So, that idea was short-lived and instead we walked around and enjoyed the day. Richard did ride The Ultimate, which is Europe’s longest roller coaster, and thought it was great. We also enjoyed wandering through Lightwater Valley Falconry, which is home to a number of birds of prey and some reptiles, ferrets, and rabbits as well. It was amazing to see some of these gorgeous birds up close.

IMG_5489Enjoying the Lightwater Express!

Of course, my American mind pictured a massive amusement park similar to Six Flags or Busch Gardens right off the motorway, but I was pleasantly surprised at the manageable size of Lightwater Valley and its beautiful rural setting. As a theme park, it is a good blend of rides that has something for everyone from our young daughter to those seeking something more thrilling. Being spread across the gorgeous grounds makes it feel as if you aren’t constantly fighting crowds. We really lucked out with the weather whilst we were there, and it must have made for a great last weekend of their regular season.

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I’d definitely recommend Lightwater Valley for a family day out. I’d also recommend what I saw of Frightwater. Lightwater Valley is closed for the season, but they do have a few special event weekends coming up, such as Meet the Gruffalo and the Santa Experience. It is a place to definitely keep in mind if you are looking for a day out with the family!

Our tickets to the park were kindly provided to us by Lightwater Valley for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Big thanks to Lightwater Valley for a fun day out with my two favorite people!

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IMG_5497She definitely had fun!

 

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel: All of The Food!

Not only did we enjoy the hotel and the property at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, but we were extremely impressed with the food. When you read this post, you will think that all we did was eat…and well, it is sort of true! We were spoiled with afternoon tea, an evening meal, and breakfast the next morning. All of which were delightful.

After a visit to Scarborough, we headed to the hotel as we were booked to have afternoon tea at 3 PM. (Booking is required for afternoon tea.) We weren’t exactly sure where tea was served, so we asked Lynsey at the front desk and she told us we were welcome to be seated in the lounge. The lounge boasts a couple of leather sofas, and we cozied up on the larger of the two as we waited for our tea. We browsed some photo albums of weddings held at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel when Lynsey appeared with two glasses of fizz for us to enjoy! It was a welcome treat after being pounded by the wind on the seafront.

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Next, out came our tray of scones, sandwiches, and miniature desserts. It was presented nicely on the traditional three-tiered tray. We tucked into the sandwiches whilst waiting for our tea to be served. The sandwich selection included roast beef, prawn with Marie Rose sauce, and brie with chutney. Richard raved about the prawn sandwich. We both liked the roast beef sandwiches. However, Richard doesn’t like soft cheeses, so I ate the brie with chutney sandwiches. The selection was a bit different than the traditional choices, but they were nice.

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Our next course had us enjoying scones with absolutely delicious and silky clotted cream with our choice of jam. I’m a clotted cream enthusiast and Richard realized he is as well, so we constantly found ourselves adding more and more to our scones. With the scones demolished, Richard dove right in to the mini desserts whilst I took a little breather. There were two of each of these allowing us to indulge in lemon cheesecake, a fudge-y brownie with pistachios, parkin, and a chocolate cake with icing. I most enjoyed the brownie and the cheesecake. The cake and its icing were a bit too sweet for me. Richard had both his and my slice of parkin, so I’d say that must have been good! All in all, we enjoyed our afternoon tea and having a relaxing afternoon in the lounge at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel.

The second food experience we had was the evening meal. We ended up pushing our booking back from 7:30 to 8:15 for two reasons:  1) the afternoon tea left us feeling quite full and 2) the results show for Strictly Come Dancing finished just before 8. Priorities, people! We were slightly early, so we wandered to the bar in The Bistro. We were both planning to order a drink, but before we knew it, the bartender asked our room number and suggested we take a seat on one of the sofas in front of the fireplace before bringing us two glasses of prosecco whilst we perused the menu. We both commented on how we really like it when restaurants give you an opportunity to sit in the bar and have a drink whilst you leisurely look over the menu and place your order for starters and mains before being seated at your table.

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DSC_0084The Bistro

Although you can eat in The Bistro, we were having our meal in the Courtyard Restaurant. The Courtyard Restaurant has been awarded 2 rosettes for culinary excellence and is listed in the Michelin guide as a recommended restaurant, so we were both very much looking forward to this meal. Once we were seated at our table, the waiter brought us an amuse bouche of a delicious tomato bisque. He also came around with the bread basket, and we both opted for a slice of the fruit and nut loaf that tasted like it was fresh from the oven. And, the best part was the pats of butter on the table that were perfectly room temperature to top the bread.

For our starters I went with the Ham, Egg, Peas, which is a mini ham hock with pea mousse and a slice of a a hard-boiled quail egg. It had pickled vegetables as an accompaniment and the tanginess complemented the ham well. This isn’t a dish I typically would order and I’m not sure I would again, but I did enjoy it. Richard went for the Yorkshire Coast Fish Cake topped with a perfectly gooey poached egg. I tried a bite, and the egg really made the dish.

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Next up, our mains were delivered to our table. Richard went with the pork, which had belly pork, stuffed tenderloin, and homemade black pudding. I ordered the cod, which was perfectly cooked and served atop fondant potatoes, chorizo ratatouille, and a red pepper coulis. We both agreed the main courses were absolutely delicious, and I can say without a doubt that we both would order them again. All of the pieces of our meals meshed extremely well together in terms of flavor.

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Although we were both feeling full after two courses, we can never pass up dessert. After a peek at the menu, I decided on the apple and pear crumble. It was served delightfully warm with vanilla ice cream on the side. Richard chose the Caribbean Cocktail, which was a platter of four tropical desserts. He surprised me with his decision because if sticky toffee pudding (and it was!) is on the menu then he will usually order that, but he was so happy with his choice. I stole a small bite of the piña colada and it was a great blend of tropical flavors without it being too overwhelming on the coconut side as I find tropical-flavored desserts to sometimes be. We returned to our room incredibly impressed with the food and the service.

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When we went to sleep that night, we both wondered how we would manage to eat breakfast the next morning, but we did. Breakfast was served in the Courtyard Restaurant and we had a lovely table beside the windows overlooking the courtyard.

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For breakfast, there is a buffet of cereals, fruit salad, croissants, yogurts, and fruit juices plus you are able to order a cooked meal. We both ordered tea, and toast and jam were soon brought to our table. Richard went with the full breakfast, which was definitely one of the most well-presented full breakfasts both of us have seen. He said it was extremely tasty as well. I am not a fan of the full breakfast, so I ordered the goats cheese and tomato omelette. The fluffy omelette was cooked to perfection with cheese oozing in all of the right places. The breakfast was the perfect end to a great visit at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel.

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Our dining experience at Ox Pasture Hall was impressive. We particularly enjoyed the evening meal and the breakfast. I feel they truly excelled at those two meals, and the evening meal at Ox Pasture Hall is definitely one we would be glad to indulge in again. It was a fabulous 24 hours of food!

Our stay and our meals were kindly provided to us by Ox Pasture Hall Hotel for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own, unless otherwise noted. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Massive thanks to Ox Pasture Hall for the opportunity!

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel: The Hotel

A couple of months ago, Richard and I were talking about how great it would be to have a night away just the two of us. We love our girl something fierce, but I think most parents can agree that it is so good to have child-less time for mom and dad to relax. This past weekend, Richard and I had the pleasure of doing just that thanks to Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in North Yorkshire. We truly enjoyed our stay at the hotel, which is set in the countryside two miles from the seaside town of Scarborough.

We headed there on Sunday morning and the drive took about two hours from our house in West Yorkshire. After a lovely and extremely windy visit to the seaside in Scarborough, we hopped back in the car to make our way to the hotel. I settled into the passenger seat expecting at least a 20-minute drive, but about 5 minutes later, Richard was telling me that the satnav had told us that we had passed the hotel. We drove a bit further and there was the sign indicating we were in the right place. It is amazing that in that short of a distance you can feel like you are in a completely different town altogether. The contrast from the hustle and bustle of the seaside and the tourists enjoying the front in Scarborough to the green and peacefulness of the countryside is remarkable.

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When we turned onto the tree- and lavender-lined drive, we were greeted with a view of the beautiful hotel and grounds. The view made me even more excited for our stay. After checking in and being shown to our room, we both acted a bit like kids and checked out the spacious Hornsea Suite. The bathroom was definitely a favorite for us both with the double sinks and drencher shower head. It was especially nice to have a lounge area to sit and completely relax with our feet up. As we don’t drink coffee and we rarely drink tea in hotel rooms, I was happy to see two large bottles of water placed in the room free of charge.

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After enjoying afternoon tea, we decided to explore the grounds. Despite the wind, it was a lovely autumn day. The rustic grounds are full of wild flowers that add to the charm of the country setting of the hotel. There are gazebos throughout the grounds that are a perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon or, even better, to get married under.

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Ox Pasture Hall would truly be a lovely place to hold a wedding. There are a number of locations both inside and outside of the hotel where you can be married by a registrar, so if you are looking for a countryside wedding, I would definitely recommend Ox Pasture Hall. Had we not gone for a destination wedding, I definitely think we would have chosen somewhere like Ox Pasture Hall. The wedding reception can be held in the Dovecote Suite, which seats 150 for the meal and can accommodate 180 for the night do. The Dovecote Suite has vaulted ceilings and exposed beams that add to the rustic feel of the setting. I was impressed with the size of the bar in the suite as it  definitely would accommodate a large wedding. There is also the option of hiring the entire hotel for exclusive use for you and your wedding guests, if you would like to go that route. If you chose to do this, a great way to take advantage of the entire property would be to host the wedding meal in the Dovecote Suite, to hold the evening do and dancing in the Courtyard Restaurant, and to use the bar in The Bistro.

Ox_Pasture_-7Photo provided by Ox Pasture Hall

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Ox_Pasture_Hall_Spring_WeddingPhoto provided by Ox Pasture Hall

As well as the seventeen acres that the hotel is set on, there are a number of places (with car parking available) to hop on to lovely walking trails through the forest. We chose to walk (instead of drive) down the road (turning right out of the hotel’s drive) and happened to stumble upon a nicely maintained trail. It was such a peaceful afternoon exploring that part of North Yorkshire.

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We headed back to the hotel and decided a nap was in order before our evening meal. The bed was perfect – from the duvet to the mattress – and I honestly could have slept straight through the night, but I’m glad I didn’t as I would have missed a delicious meal (my food review will be posted in a couple of days). That bed left me looking forward to a restful night of sleep.

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Both Richard and I were extremely happy with the entirety of our stay at Ox Pasture Hall. We felt so comfortable there, and it was the ideal place to relax and have a quick getaway full of laughs and conversation. A big thank you to everyone there, especially Lynsey, for making our stay so wonderful.

Our stay and our meals were kindly provided to us by Ox Pasture Hall Hotel for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own, unless otherwise noted. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Massive thanks to Ox Pasture Hall for the opportunity!

To the dungeon….

Yesterday, I took the train to York to visit The York Dungeon. I’ve walked past The London Dungeon before, but even after a few visits to York, I did not know there was a similar experience there. Truthfully, I also had no idea what these dungeon experiences were even about, but now I know!

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When I arrived, I was greeted outside of the entrance by the Ringmaster of Carnivále, which is the current sideshow at The York Dungeon that runs until the 1st September. Before the tour begins, I had my photo taken holding a board declaring the crime I was convicted of (‘Being a Witch’) and another of me looking shocked. In the second photo, they make it out to seem you are looking at a body during an autopsy and you are not aware of that until you see your photos at the end of the tour. (You can purchase these photos in the gift shop.) Well, I looked like I was busting a move above the body – hilarious!

As my group waited for our tour to begin, we sat in a corridor to make us feel like we were in Clifford’s Tower listening to the talking head of Robert Aske, a Yorkshire lawyer during the reign of Henry VIII. He gave an introduction to the dungeon tour and warned us about Henry VIII. It’s quite cool as the ‘talking heads’ are images of the faces of actual actors that are projected on a faceless mannequin.

We were then introduced to a former washer of robes at St Mary’s Abbey in 1541. He lost his job when Henry VIII took over all of the churches. The man was attempting to pillage the room of its valuables before Henry VIII and his men caught us. This first show started off with a scream as the man came flying into the corridor, so I think most of us were on edge for a good portion of the 80ish-minute tour. I’m not a big fan of scary movies or haunted houses, so the prospect of something jumping out at me was slightly unnerving. This did definitely add to the atmosphere of the dungeon. I found some of us never wanted to be the first to enter a room or the last to leave a room. It was during these times when I wished I was there with a friend or Richard (also a scaredy cat like me!).

We then moved through a series of other rooms with the majority of the shows being done by live actors and only a couple being told by the talking heads or a recorded narration. There was actually quite a lot of historical information to absorb throughout the course of the tour. Some of the highlights for me included:  hearing a recording from ‘Guy Fawkes’ of his role in the plot against Westminster on the 5th November 1605 and his subsequent torture once caught, listening to the story of the Ghost of York from 1821 as told by the very animated pub landlord who witnessed the hanging and then the appearance of said person’s ghost in his pub, a demonstration on an unsuspecting tour member by the torturer of his various instruments, and the equivalent to a dark yet comedic stand up show involving the talking head of Eric Bloodaxe as he tells tales of the Vikings bloody invasion against the English complete with heckling by the talking head (on a stick!) of an Englishman he had beheaded.

My favorite of all of the shows was one in which we met the doctor’s assistant during the time of plague in 1551. We heard about the symptoms of the plague and the methods they used to attempt to heal those with the plague. We even played witness to a bit of a ‘live autopsy’! The assistant was just a little mad, which was completely understandable seeing as she would have dealt with such doom each day. This actress played her part extremely well and her dry sense of humor really added to this portion of the tour. She used a member of the tour to really engage us and the moments of pitch black kept us all guessing as to what was going to come next.

From the first live show of the tour, I could tell the actors were knowledgable about their respective times in history and each of them really got into their parts, particularly the pub landlord and the doctor’s assistant. They use humor that appeals to all ages (There were even a few innuendos thrown in for the older crowd!) and great storytelling to provide a synopsis of the darker times in York’s history. There are little surprises along the way, but I don’t want to give too much away because I really do feel it adds to the drama and atmosphere that they set out to create during the dungeon tour.

There are typically 24 people in each tour group, and the group members ranged in age from about 8 to 60ish years old. Everyone, but me, was there with someone else. It wasn’t awkward being there on my own because you tend to chat to others as you connect over your shared desire not to be frightened! The York Dungeon experience is most definitely a tourist attraction, but it is well worth a visit if you don’t know much about the dark history of the city. I think it would be a neat place to take some of our U.S. visitors as York is typically one of the places we tend to take people on our tour of Yorkshire. I really did enjoy my visit to The York Dungeon and would certainly recommend it!

I was provided a ticket by The York Dungeon for purposes of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

Exploring London with Our Girl

A few weeks back, Richard was to be in London for work, so the girl and I tagged along with him. Because we were driving, we decided to stay at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford to allow us a place to park and easy access to the tube. It also was convenient for me because there was a Waitrose just below the hotel, which became our go-to for quick and healthy food for me and our girl.

The two days we were there were boiling hot, so I wanted to be sure to enjoy the summer weather but also make sure that the little one was comfortable. So, on the first day, we walked a 5 minutes or so to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where the London 2012 Olympics were held. We wandered around enjoying the flowers and the buildings until we settled in under the shade of a tree along the river. Our girl and I had a nice little picnic, which resulted in her being covered in strawberry (her favorite food) juice!

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The park was a nice place for us to chill. If you have older kids, there are water fountains that squirt up at various times and it was full of kids running and laughing through the water. There is also a sand and water play area for kids. It was a pleasant surprise to see how much they have transformed the park to cater to families. The thing I wish I had known though is that the Aquatics Centre to open to the public. How cool would it have been for us to swim in the Olympic Pool?! Next time, for sure!

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We walked around the park a few times during our stay and really enjoyed seeing all of the buildings we saw on television. Although we were lucky enough to watch the women’s beach volleyball finals and the women’s marathon during the Olympics, neither of those events took place in the park, so we had never made our way out there until this trip. During our walks though the park, it was always full of people enjoying the weather and the beautiful surroundings. I hope that this area continues to bring people in, and hopefully its proximity to Westfield will help with that.

I definitely recommend checking out Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park if you have some time and are in London. It’s especially great for families. You can access it easily from Stratford Station via the DLR and the Jubilee and Central lines.

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With Westfield having such great access to the tube, our girl and I hopped on the Jubilee line the following day and headed to Green Park, so we could meet up with a friend who works near there. We did a little sightseeing first, and I made sure to take her picture in front of Buckingham Palace. We then headed over to St James Square for a picnic with our friend. It was a great place to get some relief from the heat and escape the busy-ness of the city during the summer.

We had such a lovely time down south that we’re already planning a trip back in autumn over a weekend, so Richard can join us for our jaunts around London.

PalaceSNot impressed with the Palace.

{We Do: Travel} Life as a US Expat in the UK

Hello to all of you who have made your way here from The Charming Blog! I’m Becky, and I’m a U.S. expat living in West Yorkshire, England. I moved here in September 2011 and haven’t left! (There is so much behind-the-scenes in terms of visas and logistics that has allowed me to stay here. I don’t plan to go into that in this post, but if any of you have questions about those details, please don’t hesitate to email me.) I hope you enjoy my post and that you’ll stick around to read more from me!

When I found out from Amy that I would be contributing to the We Do series by writing about life as an expat, I was equal parts excited – because I have the opportunity to share about a topic I know well – and nervous – because there is just so much that can be shared. I really had no idea where to even begin, so on the advice of my husband and my mom, I went through some of my old blog posts for ideas. They are smart ones, those two! I stumbled upon this paragraph from this post I wrote in February 2012:

Sometimes, I feel there is an assumption that when you move abroad your life will immediately be more glamorous and full of adventure. I admit that is an easy trap to fall into; wishing that every day I had some incredibly amazing story to tell. And yes, sometimes my life here is more glamorous than my life in the US (and I love those times too!), but it’s the every day that has become so meaningful to me. The mundane to me is the perfect.

Even after I wrote that post, I had only been living in England for just over five months, so I still found myself feeling as if every day should be full of adventure. One of the great things about being an ex-pat is that you can truly find your own place in whichever country you choose to make your home. So, although you might not think your life abroad as an expat is all that exciting, it actually is pretty great. It’s almost as if you know you have really assimilated when life in your adopted country seems normal to you. It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when the tourist feeling finally went away, but at some point it did. It was then that I truly realized that my life here in England is perfect as it is and that I could call myself an expat without feeling like I was pretending.

BoltonAbbeyExploring Yorkshire landmarks much older than any building in the U.S.

So, what were some of the things that made me realize I was no longer a tourist? Although I honestly could write so much more on this topic, I have chosen to share some of my favorites today.

Shall I just swing by the chippy? My husband, Richard, will sometimes ring on his drive home from work and ask me that question. The chippy is the fish and chip shop. Oh, the fish and chips of northern England are most definitely done right and so delicious! They are often served with mushy peas, which are essentially mashed peas. I have texture issues when it comes to food, so I wasn’t sure if I would like them, but I definitely do. This simple side dish is the perfect accompaniment to the fish and chips. When we return to England from a trip abroad, Richard always likes to have fish and chips for our first dinner back. I used to poke fun at him for it, but now I actually look forward to it!

Fancy a cuppa? After much practice and instruction from my husband, I am able to make a mean cuppa the proper way – milk and sugar (if you like), but always milk. Previously, I found it so strange to put milk in my tea, but now I find it odd to drink my tea without milk. Also, I look forward to a cuppa before bed with my husband while we’re winding down from the day. In fact, we’re watching MasterChef (a BBC classic) and enjoying our teas as I type!

IMG_3272What’s better than tea and cake in the afternoon?!

The pub. Most people know that the British love their pubs. They are everywhere making them an easy meeting place when you want to catch up with friends. Even in our tiny village, I can count four without even thinking about it. The best part about the pub though is that many of them are family establishments, which is not something you would find with bars and pubs in the U.S. Yes, everyone loves a night out just the adults, but we have a little one now so it’s nice to know you won’t get the side eye from the other patrons if you bring a baby with you. In fact, she is usually the star of the show when we take her with us! Also, this was the first Christmas since we’ve been together that we have actually stayed in England as we usually spend the holidays in the U.S. We went to the pub before dinner on Christmas Day and I didn’t think twice about it. My parents were visiting at the time, and they thought it was the funniest thing!

Hiya! You okay? This is a common greeting when you see someone you know. To be honest, it got on my nerves when I first arrived, but now I often catch myself saying it to friends as we’re greeting each other with a quick kiss on the cheek. I find that it just fits into the flow of conversation here.

The ‘x’. With close friends in the U.S., I would sometimes end emails and text messages with xo. The in the UK is a bit of an institution. With friends and family and even some people you aren’t that close with, every email, text, and greeting card will be signed with at least one x symbolizing a kiss and the end of a thought. At first, it felt forced and I would often find myself asking Richard when it was appropriate to use the x. However, it has become second nature. I’ve even found myself signing professional emails with it (and thankfully catching it before I would click send!).

The ‘wrong’ side of the road. For the first 2 1/2 years that I lived here, I did not drive, which was odd for me because like many others from the U.S., I had become reliant on having my own car. I could have driven legally on my U.S. license for the first year, but in all honesty, as a newbie to Yorkshire living, it was fairly nerve-wracking. We live in the countryside with narrow roads that sometimes are only wide enough for one car and left me holding my breath as a car approaches from the other direction. Because of that, I was content taking public transportation (which thankfully is quite good) and walking everywhere. However, public transportation is not as easy with a baby in tow, so I was keen to pass my test. (It’s funny to me that she spent the first few months of her life taking taxis with me!) I applied for my provisional license in March 2013 and began driving lessons in July. In March 2014, after two failed attempts, I finally passed my UK practical driving exam!

The exam here is nothing like the U.S. exam. Yes, you take a theory and a practical exam, but that is where the similarities end. In fact, I’m fairly certain I ran a stop sign on my U.S. test when I was 16 and still passed while that would be an automatic fail on the UK exam. (If you have a few minutes, I’d highly recommend reading this article written by an American describing his experience with the UK driving exam. My experience was nearly identical!) The fact that I now drive here on the opposite side of the road and from the opposite side of the car has been a massive factor in making me feel more settled. It’s so nice to be able to pop to the shop or catch up with friends as I please. It’s hard to remember what it was like before I drove. (I will be blogging about the entire process in the next few days, if you want to hear more about this, then be sure to check back!)

IMG_2900I’m pretty proud of that certificate!

Shall I just pop round for a quick catch up? Just reviewing this post, I see a number of words and phrases that I either didn’t use or never would have felt comfortable saying or typing prior to settling into life here…a bitring (as in call on the phone), poke fun at (as opposed to make fun of), cuppa, was keen toand pop to the shop. They now just seem to roll off the tongue when I’m speaking and writing. Here are a few more that I catch myself using:  have a thinkpop round, and watching some telly. I’d definitely recommend you read this great post written by another US ex-pat on some common British phrases and how they fit into conversation. She also mentions some words that don’t seem to sound right in an American accent if pronounced the British way, and I wholeheartedly agree with her point of view on tomato and aluminum. I’d like to add basil (pronounced bah-sil) and oregano (pronounced or-a-gan-oh) to that list if I may!

Living Across Two Cultures. Aside from the every day, there are so many things about being an expat that excite me. I enjoy the ease with which we can travel to continental Europe as well as a number of other places that aren’t as accessible from the U.S. I love that our daughter, although she will spend most of her younger years in the UK, will grow up with traditions from both sides of the pond. I find it funny that although the Yorkshire accent is slowly rubbing off on me, I’m still a bit of a novelty when meeting new people. I like to talk about where I’m from, but I also like to see people smile when I say I love living here.

RBParisParis is just a quick plane ride away!

All of this is not to say that I don’t still have moments that leave me frustrated or asking Richard way too many questions about why things happen the way they do. Being an expat is most definitely a continual learning process, and I enjoy being a student in my own life. I feel it is natural to still have moments when I find myself pining for things in the U.S. There are times when I desperately miss my family and friends in the States, despite the fact that my friends and family here are all incredible people. This is my home now though and it is hard to imagine life any other way. Life as an expat is about finding a balance between learning to love your life in your new home whilst still keeping a place in your life and heart for your home country. So, although the adventure isn’t always apparent to me, it is definitely still there!

countrysideIt’s hard to imagine living anywhere else, especially on days like the one pictured above!

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The Charming – Travel Packing Essentials: Carry-on Luggage
Bella Vida – The Most Helpful Travel Apps
Whispering Sweet Nothings – How to Prepare for a Big Trip (like moving to Australia for a year!)
The Charming – Travel Packing Essentials: The Personal Item
Aubrey Zaruba – How to Plan Activities as Your Destination
A Yank in Yorkshire – Life as an Ex-Pat – An American in England
The Charming – How to Pack Your Camera Gear

We Do: Wellness week is June 9 and if you would like to sign up for that series or any other one, click here and fill out the form.

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We Do: Travel!

As I make my way back into blogging, I’m really excited to be part of the We Do:  Travel series hosted by Amy from The Charming Blog and Annie from The Ranting Latina. They have some amazing posts lined up this week from a number of bloggers all speaking on various aspects of travel. I’ll be posting on Thursday about my experience as an ex-pat. So, be sure to tune in to Amy’s blog every day this week to check out the series!

Also, if you want to be part of any of the other We Do series (focusing on topics from fashion to wellness), then be sure to fill out this form. I’ve really enjoyed working with Amy on this and would recommend to anyone to get involved. She’s even convinced me to get started on Twitter! (Thanks, Amy!) I’m still figuring it out, but I’d love if you followed me @BecksInYorks.
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Strolling Around Knaresborough

This past weekend, we experienced a bit of an Indian summer, so Richard and I wanted to make the most of the good weather and road tripped to Knaresborough in North Yorkshire for the afternoon. I had never been before and it had been years since Richard last visited the town, and since it is only about an hour drive from our house, we thought we’d head that way.

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What remains of Knaresborough Castle

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Knaresborough Castle from below

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The Viaduct (photo from my Instagram)

When we arrived we were both hungry and thirsty, so we zoomed around the grounds where the ruins of Knaresborough Castle are located and headed down the steep steps to the River Nidd. We came upon a few tea rooms and cafes along the way until we finally saw The World’s End pub and decided it was the perfect place for us that afternoon. I’m not sure if we were just really hungry or what, but we both really enjoyed our sandwiches and the side of chunky chips that we shared. Bellies full, we set off to explore the town a bit more.

Richard had told me about Mother Shipton’s Cave a few months ago (I have an odd fascination with caves, although this cave isn’t one that you really explore), so when we realized it was a walk across the bridge away, we decided to check it out. We paid our £6 per person (The estate is privately owned, so the admission helps with the maintenance of the park.) and set off on the walk along the River Nidd toward the Petrifying Well and the cave. We paid an extra quid for the guide to the area, so I read that aloud as we went along and we both learned some interesting facts about this supposedly magical place.

Mother Shipton’s Estate is actually the oldest tourist attraction in England and is part of both the Ancient Forest of Knaresborough as well as the Royal Forest. There are two things in particular though that have drawn visitors to the area since the 16th and 17th Centuries. The first being the Petrifying Well, also called the Dripping Well, known for its healing waters and the fact that it ‘petrifies’ items left in its stream of water for 3 months or more. The second being the cave that is the supposed birthplace of Mother Shipton, who was said to have been able to tell the future and apparently prophesied many events in British history. Along the path to the well and cave, there are some great views of the river and the sites along it.

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Weeping Willow along the Nidd

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Up close and personal with the Viaduct

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When we came upon the well, I was expecting it to be small and a slow trickle of water. However, it is rather large with the stream originating from an underground lake that keeps the water flowing over the mineralized wall at a steady rate. (The recording at the site did say the exact amount of water that flows over it per hour, but I cannot remember it. I blame baby brain.) People have been visiting the well since 1538 for it was said to have magical healing powers. No longer can you bathe and drink the waters in the well, but rather you will see items (somewhat eerily) hung in the well’s stream of water for petrification. In the tiny museum/gift shop, you can purchase one of their well known petrified teddy bears for around £35. Also, in the museum, you will find a number of items that celebrities have left to be petrified, including John Wayne’s personal hat that he gave to the family when he visited years back. Richard and I were quite mesmerized by the Petrifying Well and stood and stared at it for quite some time whilst listening to the audio recording about its history.

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The top of the well

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The items being petrified (Isn’t that doll slightly creepy?!)

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Looking at the Petrifying Well from the cave entrance (The Wishing Well is up the stairs to the right in the photo.)

Just a short walk from the well, you will find Mother Shipton’s Cave where she was said to have been born in 1488 and spent most of her life keeping to herself. As I mentioned above, it is a very small cave, almost like a den which would have provided shelter to her and her mother during their time living there. We sort of walked in and walked out as there isn’t much to see. Right across the way, you will find a Wishing Well, so I dug two 20p coins out of my purse and we followed the instructions on the sign for making a wish properly (keep your right hand in the water while making the wish, do not tell anyone what you wish for, and allow the water on your hand to dry naturally) before having a go.

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Excuse the red eye. I am still trying to master red eye reduction on iPhoto.

Wishes made and feeling like kids, we continued on the path to the museum and were impressed by the trees – some of which were originally planted in 1739 – towering above us along Beech Avenue. It is described as ‘the largest collection of oldest and tallest Beeches in the country.’ Not only are they old and tall, but they are extremely straight because their location in the gorge keeps them protected from damaging weather.

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I did mention the museum/gift shop is very tiny, but it is worth a nosey just to see some of the items that have been petrified in the well. It shares more about the legend of Mother Shipton and some information about Sir Edward Slingsby, the man who purchased the land. They also have a cross-section of one of the fallen beech trees from Beech Avenue marked with dates and what happened during those years to show how old the tree actually was, so it was neat to see what the tree had lived through.

After the museum stop, we headed back to the entrance and decided to call it a day. If you find yourself in the area, I do recommend a visit to Knareborough and even to Mother Shipton’s Cave. We both really enjoyed our day out in North Yorkshire (and an added bonus is that parking is cheap in the town car parks)! I definitely could see us going back on a slightly warmer day and having a go in the row boats you can rent to paddle up and down the river.

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I couldn’t resist snapping this photo as we passed a church walking back to the car. I just loved that the door was half open giving you a tiny glimpse into the dark corridor.

Our First Real Visitor from the U.S.

Do you have those friends that you might not see or speak to for months at a time, but you know that they are always there and they know the same about you? The friends that when you do see each other again it’s like no time has passed at all? I feel really lucky that I have a number of friends like this in my life, and at the beginning of May, one of those friends, Jeff, came to visit us! Jeff and I met when we worked at the same study abroad organization as recent college grads. I’m sure he (and the rest of those work friends) would agree that was a funny time because we were still young and figuring out where we wanted to go with our lives, but we all had a great time together – both inside and outside of work.

Jeff was one of the first to leave our office to move on to bigger and better things, like grad school in London! I’ve been pestering him since I moved to England about when his next visit back to the UK would be as he still has friends in the city and has a strong love for this country. Finally, the time had come for him to dish out the cash for a ticket across the pond, and he took the train up from London to spend a few days with us during his trip.

On Sunday, we picked him up from the station then headed to Hebden Bridge and showed him around the funky little village before stopping in for a drink to avoid some of the misty rain that had started. After a quick stop at our house to show him his room for the next three nights, we went to one of our favorite local pubs for a meal. I think Jeff would agree that the fish and chips up north really have something on the fish and chips of other parts of England – not that I am partial or anything!

The next day, we decided to take the train to York as he had never been before. Thankfully, we had pretty good weather to walk around and enjoy the city. First, we checked out York Minster. I had only admired it from the outside, so we paid the admission fee (your ticket is then good for a year) and spent awhile exploring the Minster and the various rooms inside it. There are many areas to explore and discover once inside that make the building so intriguing. It is extremely impressive, and I would definitely recommend paying the admission fee because there is so much more to it than the main cathedral section.

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Next up, we wandered around in search of some lunch, and we took care of making sure Jeff visited one of the restaurants he wanted to be sure he hit at while in the UK, Wagamama. Then, it was down to The Shambles. The Shambles is definitely one of the most unique streets that I have seen here in the UK and is worth a nosey. (Unfortunately, and I don’t claim to be a good photographer at all, my photos of The Shambles came out extremely poor.) We then walked over to the York Museum Gardens. The sun had come out by this point, so there were a lot of people milling around the gardens and lounging on the grass. The gardens are home to the ruins from St Mary’s Abbey, the Abbey Walls and Gateway, St Leonard’s Hospital, and the Roman Fortress as well the Hospitium (They book weddings!). It’s a beautiful area to walk through and snap some photos.

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Earlier in the day, Jeff had spotted the old walls that circle the city, so after our stroll through the gardens, we decided to explore the walls a bit. We got on near the train station and followed them the entire way to Clifford’s Tower. We walked to the top of the hill that is home to the tower, but decided against paying the admission fee to visit it. We took a few photos then headed back to the train station to return home.

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On the way, there was one spot with a great view of the York Minster from a distance, so Jeff asked another tourist to take our photo. That resulted in the most hilarious photo, as seen below. The best part of this is the man then asked Jeff to take a photo for him and he wasn’t happy with the first one, so he had Jeff take a second one yet he had no issue that there was a giant bus directly behind us in the photo he snapped! Ha!

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I just noticed the blur of his finger in the bottom left corner, too! Such a laughable photo!

It was a fab day with a fab friend! Thanks for visiting us, Jeff! I just wish you could have seen the new house, but we’ll save that for next time!