Brodsworth Hall and Gardens

We’ve had some fabulous weather lately, and there is nothing like sun and blue skies to get us to venture to new places. A few weeks back on a particularly beautiful day, we decided to take advantage of our English Heritage membership and visit Brodsworth Hall and Gardens in Doncaster.

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I am by no means a gardener – that’s become a hobby of Richard’s – but I can definitely appreciate a beautiful garden when I see one and Brodsworth Hall boasts a number of unique gardens. Each of the gardens has its own style and is home to a variety of flowers without much repetition in flower types amongst the gardens.

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The hall is set on 15 acres, and it is an easy walk around the grounds. There is also a nice playground on the grounds, which our girl was keen to find. Some of the play equipment was a bit too big for her, but she always manages to have fun and that day was no different.

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After some play time, we walked up to the house for some lunch. With the weather as it was, we enjoyed our food al fresco in the outdoor dining area just off the tearoom. There was a range of hot and cold food on offer, and we all found our sandwiches to be delicious.

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We decided to walk around the grounds a bit more and allow our girl to stretch her legs. She also had a fun time playing hide-and-seek with us amongst the trees and bushes. The West Lawns are a great place for kids to run. On that day, they had an area set up for croquet complete with mallets and balls.

It was great to visit a new place and to see so many families spending the day together in the sunshine!

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Our Quick Visit to Lake Windermere

This summer, we attended a wedding that I was told was in the Lake District. Yet, when I mentioned to a friend that we were going to this wedding in “The Lakes,” she asked where in the Lakes, and I replied with, “Carlisle.” It was then, after months of thinking I was finally going to visit this beautiful part of the country, that I realized I had been had. Carlisle is not in the Lakes. (I should mention though that the wedding, although not in the Lakes, was stunning and romantic. We stayed in a log cabin along the River Lyne with some of our best friends and had an incredible weekend!)

Lucky for me though, we decided to do an overnight visit to the Lake District over the Christmas break. We booked into the Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa on Lake Windermere for the night of our anniversary.

In the month or so leading up to our stay, there was a lot of flooding in the Lake District. It was devastating for the area. I half wondered if the flooding was going to reoccur because of the incredible amount of rain we had around Christmas and Boxing Day, but the weather report for the 29th of December was clear so we headed north on the day.

Funnily enough, my former boss and mentor from college was returning from the Lakes as we were heading there, so we met her, her husband, and two of their friends at Low Sizergh Barn, a farm shop and tea room not far from Lake Windermere. It was so great to see them again and to have them finally meet Richard! (The girl and I took the train to Liverpool in July 2014 during one of their visits to see family, so they loved seeing how much our girl had grown since then.) It always makes me happy when my life in the US collides with my life in the UK, and this meet up was wonderful. It didn’t hurt that we had a lovely lunch to go with the conversation. I only wish we had more time with them – next time!

We parted with lots of hugs and ‘see you soons’ and continued on our way for another 20 minutes until we reached the town of Bowness-on-Windermere. As we drove in, we could not get over just how many tourists there were in the town. The temperature was mild yet getting colder and there was no sun to be seen, but the town was certainly bustling.

After we checked into the hotel, we put our girl in the backpack and ventured out for a walk. We walked along the lake for a bit and then turned back to head into the town for a little nosey in the shops. I love towns and villages like Bowness with their narrow streets and range of shops. There were a few Beatrix Potter-themed places (as she penned her stories in the area), independent shops, chain stores like Joules and Fat Face as well as a mix of restaurants and cafes. We enjoyed our wander, even treating ourselves with a few items from the after Christmas sales.

We had booked into the restaurant in the Old England for dinner that night. Being that we had our girl with us, we chose to book for as soon as they began serving the evening meal, which was 6:30 PM. We arrived and were the first guests there. Our arrival was followed shortly by an older couple who appeared to be regulars at the hotel and restaurant. Our table was great as we were against the windows and in the corner. (Too bad it was dark out or we would have had a spectacular view of the lake!)

The regular menu had some excellent options for us and the children’s menu had macaroni and cheese, which made our sweet girl happy. Our food was delicious. All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our food choices. However, the service was lacking. I was really disappointed to see a place with so much staff seem to forget that we even existed. Our starters came within a reasonable amount of time, but once those plates were cleared, there was no sign of more food coming our way. After I noticed that the older couple who came in after us was leaving after eating a two-course meal, I managed to get the attention of a server and ask if our mains were ready. A couple of apologies later and our mains were delivered to our table. Our girl was getting tired at this point, so we finished our food and chose to return to the room to order dessert from the room service menu.

The room we were in was very nice and spacious and looked out onto Lake Windermere. The bed was comfortable and the shower had excellent water pressure. (A huge plus in my book.)

After a good night of sleep, we woke up to driving wind and rain. Over a delicious breakfast in the hotel, we discussed our plans for the day. A walk was just not on the cards because of the weather, so we decided that we would check out and head north to drive the full loop of the lake making stops as and when we pleased. We soon set off to be encountered by puddles the size of ponds across the road in a couple of places. We had visions of more flooding as this rain was not letting up and chose to make the drive home instead. Our trip was cut short, but it was still nice for the three of us to get away and see a different part of the country.

As we drove away, I found myself thinking about the chapter in Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. Not only did I have a good chuckle thinking about him walking into the residents’ lounge of the Old England Hotel to find it “casually strewn with ageing colonels and their wives,” but also about the conversation that followed when one of the said wives took it upon herself to discuss all of the shortcomings of America only once she realized that he hailed from the U.S.

There was one especially poignant part that struck me, even after such a quick visit to the region. It was when Mr. Bryson discussed the relatively small budget that the Lake District National Park has to function on each year. He wrote, “That the Lakes are so generally wonderful, so scrupulously maintained, so seldom troubling to mind and spirit is a ringing testament to the people who work in them, the people who live in them and the people who use them.” 

And even after the area had experienced such extreme flooding, this statement hit me especially hard to witness this beautiful area thriving and recovering because of the people who love it so.

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(I only wish I had some photos to show that do it justice. However, the measly 4 pictures that I took are quite depressing. I’m not sure what I was doing with the camera that day, but it clearly wasn’t working!)

 

 

Lantern Magic at Chester Zoo

Yep, it’s February, and I’m about to talk about Christmas. Lantern Magic was too good to not write about though!

I had never been to Chester Zoo before, but Richard had taken our girl when I was in the States for a friend’s wedding over the summer. You don’t actually see any real animals during Lantern Magic as it takes place at dark yet I was still very much looking forward to seeing the large animal lanterns.

We had pre-booked tickets months in advance, and as the day drew nearer, it was calling for rain. It did rain most of that day and a little bit whilst we were there, but it didn’t spoil the fun for us. We just layered up and wore raincoats. A certain little girl was particularly excited to be wearing her Peppa Pig wellies to splash through the mammoth puddles!

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When we arrived and entered the zoo, each child was given their own little lantern to carry around the path. (Our girl would not let go of hers and ended up holding it in the car seat for most of the drive home. It was quite cute!) Then, each family was given a large lantern to be used and returned. These lanterns were heavy as they were a bit wet, but the various colors added to the atmosphere of the night. Richard and I took turns carrying around our lantern.

There was a path that everyone followed around the zoo in the same direction through various themed areas, such as an enchanted forest and a butterfly garden. Each area had its own lanterns that pertained to the theme.

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Our favorites (and I think this went for most people there) were the large animal lanterns. They were quite spectacular! A few of them were even animated by people, which was a unique touch. There was a giraffe whose head and neck was operated by a person to move in an extremely life-like manner. There were also two people wearing flamingo lanterns, who walked and carried out flamingo-esque mannerisms. We were very impressed!

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Around the path, there was at least one place to stop to purchase a snack and hot chocolate, but we chose to keep moving and head to the cafe at the entrance that was serving a few winter meal options for adults and kids.

I would definitely recommend Lantern Magic as a fun and unique Christmas event. It was well organized and reasonably priced. It has been added to our list of must-do’s for Christmases spent in the UK. Next year, I’m hoping for a dusting of snow because the lanterns would look even more stunning on a bed of the white stuff!

Tips for Applying for a UK Visa

After posting my recent visa update, I thought it might be useful (maybe?) to someone going through a similar visa process if they happen to stumble upon my blog to offer some tips. These are things I picked up from going through a number of visa application processes of my own as well as from advising on visas when I was study abroad advisor back in the day. So, I hope these come in handy for someone.

In no particular order, my visa tips…

  1. Be on top of when you need to apply and how much time it will realistically take you to complete your application. You don’t want to have to rush everything as the applications are quite in-depth and require a number of additional documents be included. For us, this meant passports, marriage certificate, birth certificate for our daughter, bank statements, pay stubs…you get the point.
  2. Save random things. Basically, be aware of what sort of supplemental materials you’ll need to include in your application. For us, the hardest things were bills or other official correspondence addressed to both of us. These cannot be bills printed from your online account, which is difficult when most bills are sent and paid online now. We needed 6 pieces spread over the course of 2 years from 3 different sources. It’s helpful that my husband saves pretty much everything!
  3. Photocopy everything before you send it to the Home Office. This is so important. Most of what you will send off will be originals. What if something gets lost in the post? It will make your life so much easier if you have copies of everything in case something does happen to your application. Another reason for photocopying? Ease in completing future applications. The applications I submitted for my first leave to remain and for my second were essentially the same. It saved me loads of time by being able to flip through page-by-page and use my previous application as a guide to how I worded things, etc.
  4. Check, double check, then check it forty more times. I’m not exaggerating. The applications have to be perfect. You don’t want to spell something wrong or enter a date wrong. Small things can delay applications, so it is worth it to review your application a lot before sending it off. I even recommend having someone that you trust look over it for you. A fresh pair of eyes can often spot errors that might not jump out at you as you’ve been the one filling in all of those small blocks that have made your eyes cross.
  5. Just because the application is the same, doesn’t mean the requirements are the same. This time around I was required to pay an NHS fee. (Talk about a shock to the system when the price of my visa nearly doubled with that addition!) The application isn’t complete until every piece is submitted, so be sure you know exactly what is required.
  6. Post it securely. The Royal Mail has something called Special Delivery, which keeps whatever you are sending under lock and key until the postman collects it from the post office. This service can also be tracked online, and when it arrives at its destination, a signature is required from the recipient. It cost me less than 9 quid and was completely worth my peace of mind.
  7. Don’t book any international travel until you are certain your visa has been approved. The Home Office has your original passport and, in some cases like mine, your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) and you cannot travel abroad without those documents. Okay, this one is a good idea, but I totally didn’t listen to my own advice. Months ago, we booked flights back to the US for Thanksgiving at the end of November. I was fairly certain it wouldn’t be an issue, but I half wondered if I hadn’t jinxed myself with those flights.
  8. Call the Home Office if you have any questions. Although you might know others who have gone through a similar process and their experiences are helpful to hear, they cannot ultimately give you an official answer on specific questions you have about the application. I’ve called the Home Office a few times, and they have always been helpful. It doesn’t hurt to be certain, so give them a ring and yourself some peace of mind.

I do hope this might be helpful to any newbie visa appliers out there! And, please feel free to get in touch with me if you need to vent or chat about the application process. It always helps to have someone on your side who has been there before.

Would anyone else like to add any tips of their own?

Please don’t go!

Well, don’t worry, United Kingdom, you’ve got me for another 2 and a half years.

I found out last week that I was approved for my second leave to remain as a spouse – hooray! Having been approved once before in this same visa category, I wanted to believe that I would definitely be approved this time as I am even more settled now with Richard and our daughter. However, as I sent off that 2-inch thick envelope containing every detail of our life my application, I still left the post office feeling a bit anxious.

This time, I received my letter requesting me to submit my biometrics just over a week from posting my application. This is compared to when I applied in 2013 using the FLR(M) application and it took close to a month to receive that letter. Receipt of that letter left me feeling hopeful that things were moving quickly and I might receive word soon. I actually went to the post office the day after receiving the letter and had my digital fingerprints, photograph, and signature captured. I wanted to be on top of it, especially as we have flights booked to the US for late November.

After submitting my biometrics, it was once again a waiting game. I knew I should receive a reply from the Home Office within 8 weeks of submitting my application, so I marked each week on the calendar and silently wished for super smooth sailing.

It was a surprise when last Friday there was a knock on our front door, and it was a courier with a small envelope addressed to me. This envelope carried my Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), which resembles a driver’s license and which I must have with me when traveling abroad. The rest of my documents were sent under separate cover and arrived via Royal Mail that afternoon with a signature required upon delivery. What a relief!

When my BRP arrived, it was just me and my girl at home, and I showed the card to her and kept saying, “Yay! Mommy can stay!” She thought this was hilarious and would hold up the BRP then say, “Mummy! Yay!” It was so sweet. (Yes, I say ‘mommy’ and she totally says ‘mummy.’ I’m holding onto my little American-isms as long as I can yet it is adorable to hear her say ‘mummy’!)

So, what does all of this mean? It means that in 2018, we have to reapply again, but for indefinite leave to remain. That will be a huge deal for us!

 

Celebrating the 4th of July in the UK

I logged into my WordPress account and saw that I had started this blog post right after the 4th. I had completely forgotten about it, but I still wanted to share it, even if it is a bit late.

The week of the 4th of July brought absolutely beautiful weather to us in England. It was glorious! The sun lover in me was in heaven. I actually felt like we were on holiday sitting out in our garden, enjoying juicy watermelon, and taking in the view. It was absolutely wonderful and my mood got a much needed boost from the sun.Abersoch1

With the weather as good as it was, we expected it would carry on through the weekend, so we made plans to go to Abersoch for some family time and to have our own little 4th of July celebration. The weather unfortunately cooled off, which for me was disappointing, but I am sure for the rest of the UK was a dream come true.

However, we still managed to enjoy our weekend by the sea, even if the weather wasn’t as great as we were hoping it would be. We filled our weekend by walking to the village and to the beach, watching our girl explore the beach and collect every seashell she could, and eating delicious burgers and sausages hot off the grill. If we couldn’t be in the U.S., then this was the next best thing, and it was honestly a perfect way to spend the 4th of July. As I told Richard, “It just doesn’t feel like the 4th without a barbecue by the beach or a pool.”

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Oddly, the 4th of July is one of the U.S. holidays I miss the most. I’m not sure if it is because it was always about spending time with friends and family or that it was the one day a year when everyone would come together to celebrate our country no matter their political affiliation. For me, it is a day about being proud of where you come from and celebrating that with those you love the most. Although we didn’t have any U.S. flags waving here in the UK, I definitely felt a sense of pride for my home country. I was glad I shared a relaxing 4th of July weekend with my little family, and I hope that in the not-so-distant future I can show both Richard and our girl what it’s like to celebrate the 4th in the U.S.

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A Magnificent Day in Malham

This past weekend was Richard’s birthday, so we decided to have a family day out since the weather was to be nice. We brainstormed, and I did some Google searches when I stumbled upon a walk to a waterfall in Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. I mentioned it to Richard and he said, “I was going to suggest Malham!” He had been before on a school trip when he was 17 and I have never been, so we were both looking forward to a family hike and enjoying the sunshine.

We set off on Saturday morning and decided to keep an eye out for a place that sells sandwiches that we could take on our hike for a picnic. We were getting close to Malham when Richard spotted Town End Farm Shop, so we swung in and ordered some simple sandwiches to go. It was such a cute little place with a tea room that was packed to the brim with cyclists stopping for a quick refuel. The three of us shared some delicious homemade granola bars whilst we waited. As you can tell from the photo below, our girl particularly enjoyed the one with walnuts with chocolate.

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Arriving in Malham we came across a line of cars already parked on the roadside, so we pulled in behind them. There is a sign stating that parking in the village is free however they ask for a £1 donation into the giant milk jug. We were happy to oblige for a prime parking spot. If there is no roadside parking available, there are a couple of car parks in the village although I’m unsure if they charge for parking.

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Whilst at the farm shop, Richard picked up a brochure with a few walks around Malham. We found one that went to Malham Cove as well as Janet’s Foss, the waterfall that I had seen online. It was roughly 4.5 miles long, which was perfect for us. We set off toward Malham Cove and it’s quite an impressive limestone wall as you approach it. The cove along with the cows in the vibrant green field and the beautiful stream make it truly an idyllic site.

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The walk then took us up the hillside to the top of the cove into a field of limestone flags. From there, we could see for miles – some of the best views in Yorkshire for sure! The directions on the map were a bit mysterious, so we ended up needing to backtrack a bit and managed to get back on course. It was all fine though as we were so enjoying the weather and being together. Our sweet girl is a connoisseur of animal noises at the moment, so the theme tune to our walk was compromised of her humming, moo-ing, and baa-ing. It kept us laughing and smiling the entire way!

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Once we got to the bottom near Gordale Scar, we grabbed a seat in the grass and enjoyed our sandwiches. They were the simplest sandwiches, but they tasted so good after all of that walking. Our girl finished her lunch and decided she would set off on her own adventure. We sat and watched her wander around as other walkers gave us little smiles when they spotted her enjoying her walk. I love that she brings joy to nearly everyone who sees her.

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Once we rounded her up, we decided not to go further into Gordale Scar and instead turned around to grab ice creams from the refreshment van parked along the roadside. It was the perfect treat to continue the birthday celebrations of our favorite guy.

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We then set off again in search of the waterfall, Janet’s Foss. I thought we still had a bit further to walk, but it was more or less across the road and through the trees! It was beautiful and there was quite a crowd gathered around the waterfall soaking up the day in the shade of the trees. We enjoyed the rest of the walk through the beautifully lush forest before it ended on a trail through some fields leading us back into the village.

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I’d love to go back and check out the village as well because it looks adorably quaint. We really enjoyed our family day celebrating Richard’s birthday walking around Malham. I’d definitely recommend a visit to the area as it truly is stunning!

Conquering the Art of Driving in the UK

A long, long time ago, I wrote about taking driving lessons in preparation for my UK driver’s licence exam. (That is not a typo rather that is how licence is spelled here.) For my first couple of years living here, I walked, took the bus or train, hired taxis, and relied on friends and family to get me where I needed to go. I didn’t mind any of that, and, truthfully, I didn’t miss driving. However, with a baby on the way, passing my driving exam would present me with more independence here in England.

I had many months (from July 2013 to March 2014, to be precise) of driving lessons with a brief hiatus for the birth of our daughter. I studied hard for my theory exam using the recommended dvd and taking multiple practice exams. The exam has 50 multiple questions as well as a hazard perception test in which you have to click the computer mouse every time you see a potential hazard. It was not easy and nothing like the test I took in the US. It was much more intensive and I invested so much time into making sure I passed. Thankfully, I did pass with flying colors in October 2013 and continued on with my driving lessons. I booked my practical exam for two weeks after my due date because I was convinced she would be early…hahahahaha! She ended up being born two weeks late, so I rescheduled my exam for January 2014.

My instructor felt I was ready, and, more importantly, I felt ready too. We even looked at a few cars the weekend before my exam…maybe that jinxed me! You can probably gather that I failed. It was all going so well until I was about 5 minutes from returning to the test centre with the examiner. I got a little too much speed and things got messy. I didn’t crash or anything, just had a weird sort of stall thing happen that caused me to hold up traffic. It was not my finest moment. So, I failed. I’m a perfectionist and that fail was not easy to take.

Test number two was scheduled for some time in February. I failed that, too. Again, I was doing so well and was about 10 minutes from returning to the test centre. The examiner and I were chatting away about how I liked living in the UK. I came to a roundabout and my driver’s side tires (which are on the left side remember) went onto the white dotted line separating the two lanes in the roundabout. I knew at that moment that I failed again. I could have burst into tears, and I’m quite sure that I did later in the day. Talk about gutting! It is the worst to tell people that you’ve failed once, but to tell people you failed again is really not fun.

There was no way I was giving up though as we had invested a lot of money into my driving lessons and my (ahem…multiple) exams. I got home from that second failed exam and immediately booked on for my third attempt.

At this point I should explain that the driving practical exam is done in your driving instructor’s car with you and the examiner (who carries a dauntingly thick clipboard and makes notes randomly whilst you are driving, which leaves you constantly questioning how many marks you are receiving). The exam lasts approximately 35-45 minutes and includes driving on the roads as well as at least one parking maneuver.

This is compared to my US practical exam which lasted all of 10 minutes in which I drove around a neighborhood and parallel parked within four parking cones set up in the car park of the exam center. If I remember correctly, I ran a stop sign and still managed to pass on my first go. Honestly, there is no comparison. A good friend sent me this article and I can completely relate to the author’s experience. He puts it perfectly with, “A UK license is basically a PhD in driving.” I wish I could say this was an exaggeration. It is not. At all.

Test day number three rolls around and I awoke to absolute pouring rain. Great! The day was starting off differently from the other two already, so as much as I didn’t want to say that this time felt different, it really did. I sat anxiously with my instructor in the waiting room anticipating my name being called. I met the examiner and we headed out to the car. I had to defog the front windscreen and it took ages, so we sat in silence. It was awkward. And then, I realized I didn’t have the key turned the whole way, so only the electrics were working. I attempted to play it cool by slyly turning the ignition on, but obviously he knew. The windscreen cleared rapidly then and we were off.

I was more cautious driving than I was with the other two tests, but I felt calmer this time. I also felt confident that this was the last exam I would have to take, but I didn’t want to get too cocky. About 20 minutes into the exam, the examiner started to ask me questions about why I moved to the UK and if I like it. (Everyone wants to know!) I picked up on his Cockney accent, so I asked him similar questions about being a Londoner living in Yorkshire. The chatting made me feel even more relaxed and I just continued driving as if I was driving with someone I knew.

We pulled into the car park for the exam centre and the examiner usually waits for your instructor to come to the car before telling you if you have passed or failed. My instructor was walking towards us when the examiner told me I passed, so I literally yelled my instructor’s name and “I passed!” Way to keep your cool, Becky – ha! I was so excited!

As soon as I had a chance, I called Richard and could hear the hesitation in his voice as he waited to hear the result. Needless to say, he was thrilled, particularly because that meant the end of dishing out money for lessons and exams!

So, the UK driving exam was definitely a challenge. And, despite the fact that I now drive an automatic here (yep!), I am so glad I went through the process of obtaining the full licence in a manual.

A couple of months after I passed and after not driving a manual during that time, Richard left me in Edinburgh city centre to park his car as he was running late for the start of the Edinburgh Marathon. I spent the first 5 minutes trying to figure out why the car was making a weird noise every time I tried to drive. Yea, the parking brake was on. Oh well, at least I could still drive the manual. I knew it would come in handy at some point!

Scenes from the Yorkshire Countryside

The landscape and the views that make up the English countryside are truly beautiful. I’m partial to the Yorkshire countryside in particular and 2015 has brought some of Mother Nature’s best work to our area. We’ve had all sorts of weather since the year began and that weather has left us with some gorgeous scenes that I wanted to share here. I hope you enjoy these photos!

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To Londontown We Went

Last year, during the last weekend in October, Richard and I went to London for our last getaway before our baby was due. This year, unknowingly, we booked the same weekend for the three of us to travel down south for a couple of days in our favorite city. In 2013, we had no idea what we were in for with a baby on the way, but I do know we hoped she would be an easy traveler and that she would just go with the flow. So far, she has proved to be an awesome addition to our travels – both near and far!

We had no real plans for our time in London aside from taking her to Hamley’s and Harrods to check out the toys. She is extremely curious about everything around her, so we were both excited to see how she would react to these two places full of sensory overload. If we had to do it again, we would skip Hamley’s. It was just too crowded.

Harrods toy department, on the other hand, was really enjoyable and just the right amount of hectic. It probably also helped that we got there just as it opened on Sunday, so we avoided a lot of the normal tourist onslaught. Our little lady loved looking around at everything there was to see, and we loved gawking at some of the crazy (expensive) gifts on offer. We actually found her Christmas gift there, which we think she will really enjoy.

After we left the toy shop, we wandered around the children’s clothing department and happened to notice The Disney Café. It was lunch time, so we thought we would give it a go. We really enjoyed it! The food was top notch, which we had expected from a restaurant in Harrods. The girl had a ham and cheese toastie cut into the shape of Mickey Mouse, Richard had a savoury crepe, and I had the mini cheeseburgers (and I was pleasantly surprised when the server asked how I would like them to be cooked). And, imagine my surprise when Richard ordered us a bottle of wine! It was such a nice lunch, and we loved watching our girl (wearing Minnie Mouse ears!) chomp away at her toastie whilst looking around at all of the older kids. She was in her element for sure!

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After leaving Harrods we walked towards Hyde Park Corner to Buckingham Palace and on to St James’s Park. We stopped in St James’s Park because it was time for the girl to be fed. (Yes, she had just eaten, but sister needed her milk!) I plopped down to feed her underneath some fabulous towering trees. When she finished I sat her next to me in the leaves and she was amazed by them. She examined them and played for awhile, and it was fun to just see her taking in the textures and the colors of the leaves. Richard would pick up bunches of leaves and throw them up in the air, which absolutely amused her!

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After leaving the park, we headed to Westminster and crossed the Thames at Westminster Bridge to the Southbank. There is a carousel on the Southbank, so Richard took the girl for a ride. She was unsure when they first sat down on the horse, but after a thorough inspection, she smiled big whilst pointing directly at me stood along the side. (Someone had to look after the pram and our shopping!) She seemed to absolutely love the ride, and Richard laughed the entire way around. And me? I could not stop smiling! I love those unexpected moments that we share when we are all together.

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After the carousel ride, we decided it was time to call it a day (plus we had to get back to watch the Strictly Come Dancing results), so we set off walking back to Islington. Once we were near the hotel, I happened to spot an advertisement for Chipotle, and it was all I could think about since it has been ages since I’ve had anything remotely resembling decent Mexican food. We located said restaurant and grabbed takeaway to enjoy in the comforts of our hotel room. The day ended with us plopped on the bed in comfy clothes chowing down on delicious burritos and chips and salsa.

That weekend was made up of so many little moments that were completely unplanned. We smiled a lot and laughed hard and introduced our daughter to a number of new places and experiences. I don’t think either of us could have anticipated how much joy we would get from observing our daughter absorb the world around her. It was great to slow down and really watch her take everything in. This trip allowed us to look back on where we were a year ago – full of wonder about what our daughter would be like and what we would be like as parents – and realize that we are living our life as a family of three in the best way that we know how. And, in my mind, that is a great way to be.

I’m hopeful that we now potentially have a new family tradition of spending an October weekend in London! (What do you think, Richard?)

lon7

 

lon8