First Family Vacation

We just got home from Ireland! This was our first vacation as a family of three. We’ve done weekend and day trips, and we visited family last Christmas, but we’ve never really taken our little girl with us on a sightseeing/non-holiday/new part of the world trip.  We learned a lot, but I’d call it a successful trip!

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I asked you where you thought we should go, and for our first two trips we went with the top 2 votes in the “First Choice” poll: Ireland and Italy.  Thanks for your feedback! I was surprised by how many of you said we should see Greece. Don’t think we’re ignoring you! We just decided to put that one on hold until maybe next Spring? We’ll see!

IMG_6525It may be a little while before I write much about Ireland, so I hope these two photos suffice for a bit.  The top picture was taken from the Cliffs of Moher and the bottom picture is from  Blarney Castle (Little L is cozy on Derek’s back, in case you’re wondering).

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Kenilworth Castle

We had some family visitors for the first time! A good amount of our time was spent hanging out and eating food, but isn’t that what visiting with family is all about? We also went and saw Kenilworth Castle together.
IMG_6437Kenilworth is famous for the restoration of the Elizabethan Era garden, based on a detailed description recently found from one of Elizabeths’s entourage. It’s also an important place if you’re interested in The Virgin Queen’s ummm… love affairs. I feel a little strange using the word virgin and the phrase love affairs in the same sentence. haha
Anyway Robert Dudley, Elizabeth’s wanna-be husband (but not a good match politically so not-husband) lived in Kenilworth and Elizabeth visited him there.
IMG_6430In some ways it was just another castle ruin, but there was really more to it. The exhibit in the gate house was helpful to understand the Elizabeth+Dudley backstory, the garden was lovely though small, and the landscaping around the castle was quite different that those we’ve already seen. And it was more entertaining since we had the views of a 9-almost-10-year old and a 6 year old. For example, this open area was perfect for headstand practicing, of course.IMG_6434
We loved having visitors!

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YORK

Our last little weekend trip was to York. We hummed and hawed a bit about going on this trip as L and I had both been sick the week leading up to it, but we’ve wanted to go to York for a while and it was a three-day weekend, so we pushed through. (Conveniently I was the sickest of the family – L just had a mild cold that was basically better by the time we left). No regrets. : )
The first thing we saw was the York Minster – the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. We happened to get there right as one of the tours was starting and I know we got a lot more out of our visit (and admission fee) because of it.
IMG_6425IMG_6285IMG_6423I especially liked the Children’s Chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas where our guide told  us a variation of this story, while Derek really liked the Chapter House.
IMG_6291The next morning we headed off to Fountains Abbey. Not unlike our clandestine arrival at York Minster, once again we arrived right in time to tag along with one of the guided tours. Since it was such a nice day we also spent some extra time walking around the grounds and appreciating the views.
IMG_6362IMG_6340IMG_6343IMG_6318IMG_6313IMG_6306IMG_6355IMG_6344We were so busy appreciating everything Fountains had to offer that we didn’t even realize lunchtime was upon us until we got to the tea room one our way back to the visitors’ center. We stayed and had lunch and L did some people watching.
IMG_6366One our way back to our hotel we stopped the cathedral in Ripon.
IMG_6370We also saw Spofforth Castle (enh), but it was really just an excuse to run around and be out of the car.
IMG_6389The following day was our day to really see York. We started at Jorvik Viking Center; a very interactive, entertaining, and educaitional museum and [literal] ride through history. To be honest the ride reminded me of the Buzz Lightyear ride at Disneyland, but instead of shooting lasers at bullseyes you’re listening to wax figures talk about how the Vikings lived 1,000 years ago. Still fun.
We wandered through The Shambles (which was packed as it was a bank holiday and a nice day), saw one of York’s smallest streets,
IMG_6396ran up Clifford’s Tower for the view,
IMG_6404meandered along some of the medieval city walls,
IMG_6418and toured Micklegate Bar; a gate house for the city walls turned mini-museum.

Frankly, another half day would have been ideally used to see the National Railway Museum and maybe the York Castle Museum, but as it was we got a nice sense of York and saw what we really wanted to see.

Since this little trip I’ve started watching Downton Abbey (I know, I’m so behind) and now I’m excited that I’ve seen Ripon and been to Yorkshire. Sometime soon I’ll have to go visit the abbey itself! (Side note: I now regret googling Downton Abbey for that first link. I’ve just started season 2 and there were some spoilers in just the google search. Argh! : )