"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Monday, June 27, 2016

a last day in london

London is just too much to take in with one day.

So we made a second day trip to the city.

One of the most surprisingly kid friendly attractions has got to be the Tower of London. I was so impressed with their capture of the imagination for families of all ages.

We wanted to take one car into the city so we decided to put Celia and Janie on a train from Dursley.

They were pretty excited to "adult" together. 

They were even more thrilled to have made their way by train to Paddington Station and then traveled via Tube and bus across London to the Tower, all before we arrived.

We love a good story and worked our hardest to wrench the details from them.

They did beat our arrival time but not before they missed their train connection in Bath requiring a course correction and struggled with some line changes on the red bus.

I know they weren't super thrilled to reveal their missteps,

But oh man, did we love those girls for figuring that whole thing out! We couldn't have been prouder.

That's the stuff that makes this experience priceless.

We took ourselves for a walk across the London Tower Bridge.

Such beautiful detail there.

Then we toured around the Tower of London.

I've read so many stories centered around figures held prisoner (sometimes executed) there. 

Anne Boleyn, Thomas More, Catherine Howard, Thomas Cranmer, Lady Jane Grey, George Plantagenet, William Wallace, Sir Walter Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth I for a time ... and on and on.

I could imagine their fear as they entered the massive gate to unknown fates.

There's been a recent effort to make it a sunnier place. Less focus on that morbid side and more on the high times.

They used these actors to present the life within the walls with jousting and celebration.

They focused an entire section on the menagerie of animals held there by royalty to show visiting queens and kings.

Of course, we saw the Crown Jewels under lock and key in this building:

We were good and obeyed the "no photography" rules. Security was pretty strict. But those crowns and scepters were spectacular.

So was the display of the armory.

This little boy stopped to help Eliza assist Charlotte. Eliza makes friends so easily. Charlotte, however, asked him, "Why are you talking to us?" with all the candor of a three year old.

;) We sure love that Charlotte.

And my heart melted over the ease of children everywhere.

These cadets were working the guard posts.

We loved getting an up close look at their dedication.

Pretty hard to be enthralled by fear factor in a place that is this pretty.

We thought we had purchased tickets for an early evening tour of the Harry Potter production studio on the other side of town.

We braved heavy London traffic to get there and when we arrived, we were told that they were closing down for a special event and that our tickets were in fact, for a future date long after we would be gone.

No one quite knows where the mix up happened.

Remember that scene in National Lampoon's Vacation where Chevy Chase makes his way all of the way across the United States to Wally World only to find it closed?

I think that's when we broke into our own "Chevy Chase" moment.

It's a good thing we can laugh at ourselves.

And leave hope for a future adventure.

We had heard it is a pretty spectacular exhibit.

If these actual chess pieces from the movie mounted at the entrance are any indication, I'll bet it is.

But these kids are so resilient and settled for dinner at a pub in a small town where Newel had visited as a missionary.

Where we curled in together to listen to funny stories of Newel as a young missionary boy.

And once again reminded ourselves that it's the imperfect moments, thought we wouldn't necessarily choose them, that make our journey remarkable.

Maybe we had traded one memory for another full of warm sunset and velvety companionship laughing together on a local playground.

I'll take it.

The next day, we said goodbye to our England paradise. Those suffering from allergies were more enthusiastic than others to say farewell.

Maybe Christian was a little happy too, since he hit his head about a dozen times on every door jam in our house.

I felt like a pro, having conquered my fear of driving in the UK and feeling rather proficient.

And with that we headed into our next adventure.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

royal three county fair

The buzz in the Cotswolds was all about Her Majesty's Tri-County fair.

Anyone who knows us also knows that we are suckers for a fair.

From the minute we walked through the gates, we had found our people.

It was probably one of the greatest fairs I've ever been too. The British know how to do it right.

Maybe it's just that I adore the simplicity of going back to the basics.

Like these early cars.

There were several logging demonstrations. Wood cutting, stacking, and above all, pole climbing.

Christian pushed Grant into trying it out himself. Grant was pretty good at it.

Those boys took off to do a lot of their own things and sent me a picture.

While the girls and I were wrapped up in this falconing demonstration.

The first performer was this amazing owl.

It would swoop over the spectator heads. Janie was over on the other side from us soaking all that wonder in.

The Queen's Royal Airforce did a sky diving demo. Who knew she had her own ski divers.

Saw some shetland pony racing.

Shooting sports are big in our western US culture but the English give it just a bit more charm.

I've watched my dad and his brothers gander under the hood of a car so many times. These men looking over these sputtering engines just reminded me of little boys.

Kids in a candy shop over these ancient machines.

The booths were so simple. One was selling kits to assemble these go-carts made from pallets. I totally asked for their card to order one in the future. What a perfect gift idea.

We tried out the strawberries and clotted cream booth. Definately different.

More classics of which I could not get enough of the colors.

Farm fresh is my absolute favorite.

We taste tested every honey hive in England, I believe.

Then attended a candle making booth.

At lunch time, we avoided some of the indigenous fare.

In favor of a pulled chicken, cranberry and stuffing sandwich, followed by a pastry, of course.

Charlotte and Eliza could have had me watching the hunting hounds demonstration all day.

And when they were invited into the arena, I think it was probably the best moment of their little lives so far.

Hard not to yell, "Release the Hounds!" ... but trying to refrain from being obnoxious Americans.

A troupe of "players" put on an act with horses. Cinderella and the Ugly Step Sisters.

Here's a step sister now.

And this fine fellow who had no part in the play really, other than to gallop around with his coconuts clip clopping ;) Thank you, Monte Python.

More color in these beautiful tractors.

Oh ... be still my heart! We found the chicken barn.

And it was equipped with double french doors ;)

All of the competitions were pretty similar, except for this one. Trio laying contest.

I thought I had seen every color of egg shell variety. This was fascinating.

We saw the Holy Grail of chickens.

Man what I wouldn't give to be able to take a couple of these back and enter them in our fair. It would send the judges scrambling ;)

They can be yours for a cool $1500 a piece.

And though we never met the Prince of Wales himself, we did meet his prize chicken.

Typical English weather rolled in for a few minutes.

We cowered for a bit and then decided to forge on.

The sheep showmanship kids were being judged in the rain anyway.

I wondered what were the judging criteria for these sheep with the crazy extra horns growing out of their head.

And I loved that this boy about Christian's age was still scrambling to get his show clothing put together before going into the arena. Looks like boys on both sides of the world are the same even if their sheep aren't.

Check out the coats, hats and ties for dress attire.

Toured around the cattle.

And met this beauty.

She gave Eliza and Charlotte such a thorough rundown, it hurt my heart for us to be in the middle of moving from our little country world to our new mountain town.

Janie wanted to stand on the edge of the English riding ring all day long.

I had to admit, it was pretty picturesque.

Then tried her hardest to make me promise that where we are going, I'd let her take up jumping.

But all in all, the feeling that no matter where you stand on this beautiful globe of ours, those with an attachment to the land and it's resources feel a certain kinship to one another too.

It makes it easy to be at home even when you are very far away.