Navigating North: A Spontaneous Sojourn

Last week (that’s a lie now – more like 2+ weeks ago…) Derek and I did a little planning for a trip to Wales. We were going to go to Cardiff, find a beach, and maybe do some hiking with an ocean view. We had reserved our car rental, but we (thankfully) hadn’t booked any hotels. On Thursday night we were talking to some friends who had gone up to Chorley to see The British Pageant (if you’re familiar with the Hill Cumorah Pageant: like that but about the Mormon church in England, and, since it was written this past year – more updated). We didn’t have tickets so we hadn’t planned on going, but our friends said that they were told by someone (maybe not the most reliable source!) that no one who showed up for standby tickets had been turned away.  We decided since this is a pretty historic thing that it would be worth it to try to get standby tickets. After a what was supposed to be a 2 hour drive took 4 hours… we made it and we did get tickets!
PageantThe show was excellent. Little L was stellar and played on our laps rather than freaking out (answer to prayer right there) that it was way past her bedtime, seeing as how the show was from 8:30 to 10. If she had gone bonkers…oooh it could have been bad. We were in the middle of a looooong row of folding chairs that were zip-lined together. Anyway. The story was excellent, the dancing made my heart happy, and the spirit was felt. I’m so glad we went.
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Since we were already up north we decided to make it into a weekend trip. From Chorley we kept going north to some of the English Heritage castles and sites. We were basically just googling things on our phones and looking stuff up in an English Heritage membership guide and our Great Britain guidebook. So we didn’t necessarily know where we were going until we got there. Ha!
On Saturday we saw Brougham Castle and some un-inspiring Roman mounds.
IMG_6024IMG_6049IMG_6058The Roman Mounds (i.e. King Arthur’s Round Table) below. I don’t think we would have visited these if we had had a better idea of what they were/looked like. But I guess that’s just part of going on an entirely un-planned trip.IMG_6067We also drove along Ullswater and hiked to Aria Force.
IMG_6093IMG_6114IMG_6131 IMG_6128 IMG_6135Are those mountains not breathtaking?
Then we stopped by Castlerigg Stone Circle at the perfect time of day.
IMG_6194Little L was clearly getting some bad vibes from her first prehistoric stone. The second and third must have been better. : )

Rocks

IMG_6166The situation demanded some jumping pictures. Derek assures me the first rock is higher than it looks…IMG_6179
IMG_6174IMG_6183Saturday evening we hadn’t booked a hotel yet, and were starting to feel a little pressure since all of the B&Bs in Keswick had no vacancy signs. I found a random hotel online that was 20 ish miles away and we headed there, hoping to see dinner on the way. There was nothing by way of food, or much more than farms, really, so the fact that our hotel had a restaurant/pub attached was a blessing. We were put in a room above the pub, and while we tried to have L eat with us, she was out of her mind tired so we put her to bed. We ended up being able to have a date night downstairs thanks to having the foresight to bring our monitor. I love when things fall into place like that.

Sunday we went to church and then started our drive home. On our way we drove past more lakes and stopped at Beeston Castle.
IMG_6215IMG_6247We saw some more medieval enactors on our way up to the Castle.
IMG_6217It was a bit of a climb to get up here, but the views were better than I expected for how short the hike was! We felt like we were on top of the world.
STB_6226And another jumping picture to celebrate our king-of-the-world-ness : )
IMG_6241Dear Lake District,
You have taken my heart.
I can’t wait to return to your misty, glimmering crags and your peaceful, lapping waters.
Hope to see you soon,
Shantal

P.S.
A little more info about the British Pageant here, more about Mormons here.
I would recommend traveling without plans like this only if you really don’t care how much you see. While it’s fun for weekend trips or a few days here and there it may yield a really disappointing trip overall if you’re coming to the UK for a specific amount of time from the States or elsewhere.
Tune in soon for another travelogue, this time to York!

Warwick Castle: A Jack of All Trades

As a day trip, because it’s a short train ride away from Birmingham, we went to Warwick Castle a few weekends ago. The weather was lovely, the rides to and from were easy, we had a 2 for 1 coupon… it was a great day out.IMG_5946My only complaint? That aside from the view from the top of the castle tower, I didn’t feel like we were seeing anything drastically different from what we’ve seen lately. But we’re okay with that!IMG_5944 IMG_5940Warwick Castle highlights its residents from the Medieval era and Victorian Era, so basically this and this with more wax figures. And we got to watch more staged fighting. One thing I liked about Warwick’s fighting over History Live: The narration was waaaaay less dry. And they joked about how fake Hollywood Medieval fighting is while showing us what was probably more correct. (i.e. the sword fighting wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long, they didn’t even use swords that often, rather axes etc).Fighting WarwickI did love how family friendly and tourist friendly Warwick is. It’s perfect for a little history, a little fun, a little sightseeing, a little workout, a little show (the trebuchet – famous because it’s the largest in the world, the mock fighting, and other shows throughout the day) and lots of British heritage. Hence, a Jack-of-all-trades castle.IMG_5961 IMG_5975

Visiting Warwick?
The Castle (during the summer months) is open later than the shops leading from the train station to the castle. Since we let L take a morning nap at home we were worried we wouldn’t see all of the castle before it closed. We were fine, but I do wish we could have explored some of the shops on the main road.

If you have a little one, don’t bother with your stroller. You can’t bring it into the castle with you or up the ramparts.   We brought ours, but folded it during the train ride and parked it in the castle courtyard (near, like, a million other strollers) for the majority of the time we were there. L was in a carrier most of the day.Warwick CollageIMG_5966

Where Would You Go?

Hey guys!
We have a few weeks set aside for travel in the upcoming months. We’ve been talking about our destination possibilities and I thought it would be fun to get your input. Maybe you can travel vicariously through us?
Since we have at least two [separate] weeks blocked off, you get to have input for two separate trips. Hence two separate polls! Let me know what you think we absolutely must see in the first poll and your second suggestion in the… you got it, second poll.


We’re not quite this adventurous (yet!) but I love this blogger’s way of exploring NYC. Such a fun idea!

Thanks for your decision-making help!
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IronBridge Gorge

Lately we’ve been pretty focused day trips that are easy to get to an within an hour’s journey. For next weekend we’re planning on going a little farther (had to look that up just now) and then staying overnight because 2 hours is such a long drive. Ha. Gone are our college days of driving 3 hours one way to go hiking in a National Park for the day. I suppose we’re adopting a more European and child-friendly philosophy. Anyway, last Saturday we drove less than an hour to see a few sites.
IMG_5599We started at Buildwas Abbey, a medieval church that both the English Heritage and Wikipedia pages say is unaltered…except for the insignificant lack of a roof. Because I knew that the building was not too different than it was when in use I tried to fill in the blanks with a little imagination – some pews here, a tapestry there, a thatched roof overhead with Cistersian Monks beneath. Illuminating maybe?
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The old stone of building itself was beautiful, but coupled with lots of grass and England-typical trees around the edges… it was a great site.
IMG_5610Since we had the abby all to ourselves we just left L to hang out while we ran down some steps (like 5, don’t you worry) to see the chapter house and its tiled floor. She was cool with it.IMG_5609From Buildwas we drove just 2 miles to see the Ironbridge Gorge. We started at the Museum of the Gorge then walked over to the bridge itself.IMG_5625The Iron Bridge is a World Heritage Site (along with Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza – no big deal) because it was the first arched bridge to be made from cast iron.IMG_5614Previously cast iron had been too expensive to make to build an entire bridge out of it, but Abraham Darby figured out how to make it with coke, his son, Abraham Darby II assisted by making blast furnaces (bigger furnaces, more output), and Abraham Darby III built the Iron Bridge in 1778. Really though, the Iron Bridge is so famous because it was such an important site for the Industrial Revolution. You know the cliche if you want something done ask a busy person? I think that holds true for this area during the Industrial Revolution. The people who lived here were turning out iron, china, tiles, glass, etc.IMG_5615After seeing the bridge we drove a little ways to Blists Hill – a recreated Victorian town. We saw some performers, bought some sweets, took a funicular up a hill, and just appreciated the Victorian atmosphere. I loved the Outfitters – a clothing/fabric shop while Derek liked seeing the workings of an old steam engine. We also had a little extra appreciation for the time period because we had randomly watched Young Victoria on Netfix the night before.Blists Hill CollageSince it’s so close and since our tickets (like those we bought for the Shakespeare sites in Stratford-upon-Avon) are good for a whole year, we plan on returning to see the museums we missed.

If you find yourself in Shropshire:
The IronBridge website has lots of helpful travel advice and FAQs.
This driving tour looks interesting, though we chose not to follow it.
We didn’t go to all the museums, so when we do I’ll report back on the others, but as it is unless you purchase a passport for all of the museums I don’t think the China Museum or the Museum of the Gorge are worth the price of the individual ticket fare. Blists Hill was fun for us and would probably be especially great for children ages 5-14.
How much you walk is up to you. We wandered around all 52 acres of Blists Hill and walked on some paths around the bridge, but it didn’t seem like much. Do plan for weather. We were grateful for our umbrellas when it started to rain and I wish we’d had more water with us during the heat of the day.
Parking at most of the locations is £1.50 and that’ll cover you all day at most of the museums.  (Not for the Museum of the Gorge and the actual bridge and the Tollhouse). There is local pay and display (only £2.30 I think) or we saw free parking along the road between the Museum of the Gorge and the Iron Bridge, so long as you’re there less than 40 minutes you’re fine. There is some information about parking here, though I didn’t see that until writing this… Typical:)

Happy Birthday Little L!

My baby turned one on Sunday.
Is this a monumental thing for all parents? It makes sense to me that the first few birthdays for each child are more important to the parents than to the child. Especially the first child’s first birthday. I can’t help but sit here and shake my head and marvel at how much she’s grown, learned, and seen in the past year. I think she’s positively amazing, but then, I am admittedly biased.

So, in an effort to not get too sappy here are a bunch of pictures of her instead.
IMG_5769 Continue reading