Monday, May 18, 2015

A Little Trip Down Memory Lane in Helmsly, England

After our little stint up in The Lake District we made a slight detour to Helmsly where Jon and Ali had eloped about a year and a half ago.  They wanted to show their family the spot where it all went down.  And Ali wanted a few family pictures there.

 Their wedding was beautiful!

This is the same swing they took pictures on.  Isn't that adorable?!

The same big house in the back.

I think everyone enjoyed Helmsly.  The only sad part was that the exact spot where they were married was under construction and we couldn't get to it.  That was a little bit of a bummer, but it was still really fun to be back there.

Afterwards, we headed over to the same little cafe where Jon and Ali had their wedding lunch.   They have amazing cakes! 
 Everyone enjoying the little cafe.

We took a brief stop at an English Heritage site, Brodsworth Hall.  It was an old world beauty full of vintage glamour from the 1920's.  It fell into disrepair in the past 50 years and is currently being restored, very slowly.  It still was lovely to see.  Can you imagine pulling up to the front doors for a party like in the Great Gatsby, in a classic car wearing your new beads, feathers and a glitzy flapper dress?!  It would be amazing.

A little fountain coming alive in the new spring.
 Just roaming around the gardens.

That night we stayed in an old barn from the 1600's that had been converted to a little cottage.  The original wood was still intact.  The ceilings were pretty low, especially for Jon.  I don't think he could stand up straights except for in the kitchen and the vaulted part of the bedroom.  We watched Superbad and ate awful Chinese take out.  There is something great about watching silly movies and eating bad food with your friends late at night that is just magical.  I love it!

The final part of our friends stay was in London.  They had a family wedding that week.  So we just poked around town for the last few days.   Porter and I picked up a nasty cold in the Lake District so we weren't feeling very good, but we made it through.  It's awful to not feel good when you have guests that you want to show a good time.  London takes a lot of energy to see.  I ate probably a bag of cough drops a day and was basically chugging cough syrup.  But I made it, and we had a fun time. 

 Ali and I braved the tube with the stroller.  She worked that think like a pro.  

I took them to see Camden Market, which they loved.  This doughnut cart was just too much.  I mean, look at it!

We all headed to Big Ben to take in the views.

This is my favorite picture of the London Eye that I have taken.

We also took a stroll through Hyde Park to see the famous Peter Pan statue.

It was so much fun having our friends visit!  I hope they come back soon! ;) 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Lake District

Derwent Water: The lake right by Keswick

On our first trip to England 2 years ago we meant to visit the Lake District.  However due to our lack of knowledge on how long it really takes to get around in the U.K. we opted to save ourselves an 8 hour drive from there to London and skip it.  We said "ah, we'll hit it next time" not realizing that we would actually have an opportunity to have a 'next time.'  So when Ali told me they were going to come visit it was a given that we had to go to the mythical Lake District to see what all the fuss was did not disappoint.

Our fist stop was Lowther Castle.  It had been abandoned for years, so it's a just a shell, but seriously, what an beautiful ruin!  When we looked in, there was a backhoe doing work inside.  All the funds they make from entrance fees are going toward a massive restoration.  The grounds are huge and full of gardens and hidden little coves that they are still uncovering.

 Naturally we had to stop for a little photo shoot action. 

Next on our list was Aira Force, a gorgeous waterfall Ali and I had both pinned.  When we plan trips we make little boards on Pintrest to help us organize our thoughts and give us ideas of what to do.  It's a really fun way to plan a trip.  Aira Force was just as beautiful as we were hoping.  It was a super easy hike up to the falls and then down to the vantage point at the bottom.  If you look about midway down the falls there is a rainbow!

This is a little Slo-Mo video I did of the falls with the good ole iPhone.

We were very excited to visit Castlerigg Stone Circle, it'a neolithic site that is over 4,500 years old!  It's just up on a hill, anyone can visit.  The view from up there is spectacular.  It's also pretty cool to think that you are walking where people walked thousands of years ago and you are touching the same rocks that they lugged up a mountain.  I kept hoping that the circle was magical would transport me back to Medieval times so that I could meet King Arthur.  Then I would show the court my cell phone and they would think I was a wizard!  Which would mean they would probably burn me at the stake so maybe it's best that the stone circle didn't transport me back in time.

The only downside to our trip was that Porter and I both came down with a nasty bug.  He had a fever with violent shakes two of the nights we were there.  We had to take it easy.  Luckily, on the morning that Porter felt the worst, it was pouring outside.  So we stayed inside and played Lords of Waterdeep.

After a few cups of hot tea later, Porter was feeling a lot better, so we ventured out.  We stopped at the World of Beatrix Potter.  It was ADORABLE!  The little kid in me was doing backflips.  We read all her stories as kids.  The center is very similar to Disneyland.  You walk through all the stories with the characters greeting you around every corner.  It's done so well, and was fantastic.  If you visit Windermere, you must promise me that you will visit The World of Beatrix Potter, you will love it.
Jemima Puddleduck was one of my favorites!

Peter Rabbit Garden
Just up the road from Windermere is Grasmere.  Our friend Jon was in a play called "Grasmere" in college and we all saw it and loved it.  The famous, romantic poet, William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy lived in Dove Cottage right by Lake Grasmere.  So we popped in to the museum and then took a tour of Dove cottage (where the play, "Grasmere," is set).

Dove Cottage

Learning to do Calligraphy with a quill and ink.  It was hard!  I wrote a letter to my Grandma.

Inside the sitting room where the Wordsworths would have composed their poetry.

Out in the back garden behind Dove Cottage.

We were told that Grasmere, the town, has the best gingerbread on the planet.  Of course we had to go hunt it down!  

There is a little tiny shop next to the church yard, and it's the only place where they make and sell this delicious biscuit, it's not a cookie, but more of a chewy ginger bar.  We bought a ton of it and pretty much stuffed ourselves for the rest of the trip with it.  Because it's baked fresh, it doesn't last long (at least that's what we told ourselves).   Grasmere Gingerbread is amazing! And I think there is a chance if you follow the link, you might be able to order some online if you want to try it without a road trip.

We headed over to Wray Castle, an 1890's vanity castle, which means that it is a much newer build but was built to look like an old castle.  It was beautiful to look at.  Jon and Ali took a tour inside and we headed down to the lake to check it out.

This is the other side of Lake Windermere.  We really wished that we had a sail boat, the conditions were perfect for day out on the water.

I loved driving and walking around this area.  You literally could not take a bad photograph, it was that beautiful!

This was the B&B we stayed at.  It was fantastic!  Our host, Heather, was lovely, and she made the best breakfasts.  Plus, this view!  I wanted to take her cherry tree home with me.  Bonus points if you can find Porter in this picture :)  Here is the link for the booking site, if you want to stay there.

Little Benny did great on the trip.  He is such a good baby.  And that little mustache, how can you not fall in love with him.  He made so many friends.  He smiled at everyone.  Our host at the B&B said that she though he a had a sweet way of making you feel really special.  Which he does.  He looks right at you and gives you big grin.  This was at a pub while we waited for dinner.  I think all that friend making had tucked him out.

One of William Wordsworth's most famous poems is titled "Daffodils."  His sister Dorothy inspired him when she was describing the beautiful spring flowers to him one day.  There were a ton of Daffodils when we were there.

By: William Wordsworth

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: -
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

The Lake District is a pretty magical place to visit.  I am actually really glad that we didn't make it there on our original trip as we had only set aside one day for it, and it really needs a good three days to experience it.  I hope I make it back there, I need more gingerbread!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ali, Jon and Benny, Oh My!

Our friends Jon and Ali and their little Benedict came to visit London.  We were so excited to have more friends come see London.  They came to London to play with us in the city, and they were also here for a family wedding.  We had a great (almost 3 week) visit.   The first thing we did when they arrived was walk them around Wimbledon and take them to our favorite pub, The Dog and Fox.  We even snagged the fabulous place by the fire.

I kept trying to get a picture with Ben, but the  warm fire crackling next to us was way more exciting.

Porter tried out a pot of steamed mussels.  He said they were not quite what he was expecting but still pretty good.  He is so funny because he will always get random seafood items at restaurants, but he never likes them as much as he thinks he will.  However, the chips (fries) at Dog and Fox are delicious!

I got to do a little baby sitting.  The dogs, especially Puck, were very into Ben.  They LOVED him.  Our animals have never been around tiny humans before.  We were a little nervous about how they would react, but they did great.  They liked Benny almost too much.

Puck just wanted to snuggle all day, all the time.

We all hung out in Wimbledon and London for the first few days before our trip to the Lake District.  We also did some little day trips out of the city.  Our first stop was Leeds Castle.

I loved the moat.  Leeds had more black swans than white swans.  However this next picture has a white swan.

The next day we headed out to Dover Castle, the White Cliffs, and Walmer Castle.  I have some posts from last year from those places so I won't post many pictures of it.  But Dover is so cool!  We love taking friends out there.

This is a musician performing at Dover Castle

The next morning was an early one.  We were driving all the way to the Lake District in one day.  We felt bad that Benny had to be in a car seat for so long that we broke it up wit ha few stops.  The main one being Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's hood.   This church is where he is buried.

His whole family is buried inside.  This carving is thought to be a pretty accurate account of what he looked like as it was done right after his death.  And his family over saw the carving of it.
Prospero: Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air, into thin air: And like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

Shakespeare's Grave and behind it the most beautiful stained glass window.

After viewing some more houses related to Shakespeare and his family we stopped at Hathaway Tea Rooms, aka the best tea time ever!  Seriously, if you visit Stratford-upon-Avon you must promise me that you will go here and get the afternoon tea.

The house that Shakespeare was born in.

The room where Shakespeare was born.

This is one more of the houses associated with the Shakespeare's family.  Stratford-upon-Avon was our final stop before another 3 hour leg of our road trip, so we made the most of it.  We were really happy that we stopped in there, so many cool places to see.

We were trying to look at serious and Elizabethan here.