The most exciting aspect of moving to England is having visitors! (with college binge drinking in second place of course!)
And the best visitors are the family you miss the most!
Last week my mom and Grandma Hatt came to visit. While mom had been to visit the last time I was here, it was Grandma’s first trip out of the country. She was very excited that had to get a passport and everything. Aww!
I took off last Friday to travel down to Oxford to meet them for a road trip through the countryside! It was lovely. I hopped on a 6:40 am train (did you know it’s still dark here at 6am?) The train was, thankfully, on time and without incident. I arrived in the am desperate for a walk – a walk that took three times as long b/c I hadn’t a clue where I was going. I saw the bus driver who told me “its only ten minutes down that road” pass me twice.
All worth it – I met them at their cute B&B; and we took off to explore Oxford. It’s not very big so it didn’t take more than the morning. And my opinion, I need to return in the spring when there are leaves on the trees. The stone buildings felt very cold and desolate but I see it’s potential.
So after a quick run through we hopped in the car and I took upon the role of ‘the navigator.’ I have become familiar enough with the British road system and manoeuvring through roundabouts so I thought ‘piece of cake!’ Ha! There is one thing this country is lacking – ROAD SIGNS! HELLO??? It had taken my mother 4 hours to make the trip from Heathrow to Oxford the previous day… and my mother happens to be an ace driver.
I got cosy in the front seat and studied the maps. Our first stop was Bourton-on-the-water in the Cotswolds. I had visited this town before and knew my mother would just adore it. She did, as did Grandma, and I put her into shock by ordering a jacket potato with baked beans on top for lunch. It was sunny and the town was bustling we even bought some tea from a quaint little shop that was run by a Californian. (damn American tourists!)
From there we hopped back in the car and with only two trips to the right side of the road, we meandered our way up to Broadway – another Cotswold village. This trip was quicker, with a quick walk up and down the main road. I limited my shopping to some overpriced scented candles that I must say do rather lighten the air in the house. Ha
Anyway, mom spent her time searching for some walls that are supposed to surround the town. Got me – I don’t read tour guides.
Our next destination was Stratford. This was rather effortless, as it didn’t require more than one or two roads. We not only found Stratford, but we found the guesthouse without difficulty. The guesthouse was run by a little old man who doubled as a comedian. Out room was nice and he gave my mom lots of maps and recommendations of what to see and where to eat. We ended up at ‘The Dirty Duck’ – a pub where Shakespeare supposedly used to hang out – which the little old man claimed to have excellent food. He was right – little old men tend to be right about these things. With dinner and couple pints of beer down, we moved on. What is a trip to England without a bit of a pub crawl? The place we stopped at was down the road from the guesthouse and upon running into a large group of loud drunk boys my grandma informed my mom that ‘if I wanted to take someone home, I could, they knew how to get back.’ I know she was kidding – she better have been. She knows I would never settle for drunken scumbags.
We all crashed, absolutely exhausted, and in preparation for our early rise in order to catch breakfast. The little old man showed us to the table for our traditional cooked breakfast and proceeded to introduce us to all the other guests. It was cute until he did it another three times as more people arrived. We’re in England! English people aren’t social enough to chat with strangers – come on!
Stuffed and recharged we set out for a ‘brief tour’, which included pretty much all the city. I wish I had thought about it sooner; we didn’t get to see a show. That’s the thing to do in Stratford. I do love theatre but I think I’m more of a ‘Chicago’ girl then Shakespeare. I prefer filth dancing.
The weather was, again, amazing and we took lots of pics. We even forced Grandma into a telephone booth. It’s part of the initiation process – you must return home with a photo of you in a red telephone booth.
On the road again, we were going home… my home! I promised to not make my mother have to drive through the centre of Nottingham. I tried to lead us towards Beeston so we could drive through the Nottingham Uni campus and grandma could see where I had gone to school last time I was here. Didn’t work out as well, as I was referring to the wrong little dot. I brought us in through West Bridgeford and straight up Maid Marian way. Mom huffed at me, but I got to show them BZR – my wkend home.
Mom parallel parked on the WRONG SIDE OF THE CAR first try – very impressive and I gave them the grand tour of ‘Hotel Cromwell.’ They thought it was adorable yet Grandma was a bit shaken at my ability to run up and down the stairs. (I live in the tower)
First stop in Notts, Junktion 7 to watch the second half of the Man U game. This was our goal when we left earlier – to catch at least half of the game at the pub. My mom has a small football (soccer) obsession and has been waiting to watch a Man U game in a pub, with a beer, for years now. I believe she enjoyed it but we were all appalled at the two woman who walked in with stroller size kids and then proceeded to smoke cigarettes in their faces. Such classy people in this city.
I took them to their hotel, they settled in and mom and I went off to East Midlands airport to drop off the rental car. We returned two hours later with a house full of hungry people as I had offered to cook for the crowd! I put my culinary skills to work and whipped up some fresh pasta and sauce (yes, that IS the extent of my culinary skills!) for mom, grandma, Azzy, Cat, James and Ciaran. James and Ciaran managed to keep the banter clean – for grandma’s sake, not mom’s – and I proved to my family that I indeed had made friends.
Now, I am a fast walker. I get this from my day. So Sunday came and after yet another cooked breakfast I dragged them around Nottingham. Azzy joined us and we saw it all. The campus, the city centre, the malls, the castle and attempted to eat at Ye Olde Trip. Didn’t look promising and that place tends to make me claustrophobic, so we hopped on a tram and went to a pub on campus – the Orange Tree. There I introduced them to Sunday Roast and we got drunk and warmed up.
It was a nice way to end a wonderful visit. We spent the evening lounging around my place and Azzy was nice enough to walk them back to their hotel when she left. (On a side note: they didn’t enjoy my house location at the top of the long hill)
Monday morning came and I willingly skipped class to bring them to the train station, get their bags on the train and wave them off. It was sad to see them go, but knowing they were going to ride the ‘big red bus’ around London for a while was exciting. Mom loves London!
It was definitely too quick of a visit but Grandma did say her favourite part of England was seeing me! 😀 Isn’t she a doll?
So who else wants to come visit? I offer a one-day tour of Notts and can even read a map or two!