Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Brit Bits Part Two: Trimstone Manor and Ilfracombe

I simply can't skip to Day One without talking about Night One. Especially since I was traveling with a two year old on an 8 hour time difference. It's not something you skim over. If you're a parent, you're probably DYING to find out just how much of a nightmare it was.

Ok, so it wasn't great. But like the flight, it wasn't a nightmare. 

Ms. Daisy went down around 10pm after being read several books, and we followed not far behind. Unfortunately, she woke up not two and half hours later. Ouch. Granted, her tired body and mind were telling her it should be 4:30pm, not gone midnight.

In our own desperation and exhaustion, we did something we have never done before: we put Daisy in our bed with us. She rolled around for a good 45-60 minutes, trying to get comfortable (she's not used to running into to people in her bed either) but then finally passed out around 3-ish, I think. (The times are a bit fuzzy at this point.)  Since she was so sleep deprived, the only thing we had to suffer was her fidgeting and whispering to herself about the "Wheels on the bus."

At around 5am, the sun started to make it's journey above the horizon and the birds began chirping. The cows began mooing, The hens began clucking. The geese began squawking. I dozed in and out, just happy not to be on mommy duty, until around 8:30am. When I returned from making a coffee upstairs, this is what I was greeted with. Of course, I had to run back upstairs to grab my camera.


Shortly after this, I played mean-mummy and woke them both up. The only way through jet-lag is to pretend you don't have it, I find.

Our first excursion was to Ilfracombe, the coastal village not five minutes from where we were staying. I had been there probably once or twice before, when I was a kid, but didn't really remember much about it except that it was quaint and reminiscent of almost every seaside town I went to on holiday as a child. Since this whole jaunt to Devon was about recreating the "Great British Summer Holiday" for Daisy and Hubby, it was a great place to start.

Most of the British coastline is lined with cliffs.



The harbor, which completely disappears during low tide. Hubby was astonished about how far out the tides go. It is pretty typical in the UK to have two tides a day (semi-diurnal) and for the water to travel 40 feet or more each time. (Don't fall asleep in your deck-chair at low tide!)

Daisy paddling on the rocky Ilfracombe beach. We were not expecting the weather to be so accommodating, or we would have made a trip up to Woolacombe where the sand dunes are. (Note: the nuclear-looking building in the back is in fact The Landmark Theatre.)

We meandered around the town, popping in and out of stores, taking pics (me) and eventually stopping to rest in the garden of a local Bed and Breakfast for lunch, where Mum enjoyed her very first (of many) sandwich-with-modest-filling.


Many of the stores and pubs displayed Union Jacks and the St. George Flag in preparation for the upcoming Royal Wedding celebrations.

The Union Jack represents the U.K. (Great Britain - England, Wales, and Scotland - and Northern Ireland) and the St.George Flag represents England. You'll also see the Old Glory in there too for good measure. (Unsure why, exactly. Maybe they knew we were coming?)



I am doomed to go back soon because, in all the time I was there, I actually did NOT get one of these. Amazing really, given how much rib-sticking food I consumed.



In case you were wondering, I would have picked the Large Cornish Traditional.

I did, however, revel in having some of these. Man, how I miss the great British potato!


Honestly, I think it's time for the U.S. to embrace the Jacket Potato with topping, you know?

Ilfracombe is a pretty and bustling little town, very typical of a coastal town in England. It brought me right back home, literally and mentally, and brought back wonderful memories of my childhood spent in many a similar place.




It was especially fun to begin Daisy's initiation into the children's coin rides that are EVERYWHERE in England and, on which I gained my first love of rides of all kinds. It put a lump in my throat to realize that she loves them too.


We found them everywhere after this and we never passed one by.

Then it was off on a pony-and-trap ride through town before Daisy literally crashed in the minivan back to Trimstone Manor.

Daisy, riding through Ilfracombe.

Later that afternoon, we explored the grounds of Trimstone Manor, which sits on more than 40 acres and dates back some 400 years. (Those in the U.S. can now understand why I don't get too excited about monuments from the 1800s.)







(Our little self-catering cottage was located right in the middle corner.)

There was also a trampoline in a middle of the gardens, which we all bounced on. Bad backs be damned!


And a converted coach-house, turned game room, which we never got to take advantage of.



But most of all, what I enjoyed - what I had missed and wanted to share - was the gently rolling, green countryside, the moist, clean air, the refreshing breeze, and the sounds of so many birds chirping away from dawn to dusk. Next to my spot on the beach in Negril, Jamaica, this comes a close second as my "happy place".


And so ended day one. Tomorrow... The BIG SHEEP. (All will be revealed.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Brit Bits Part One: The bit about the journey

We are back from our first transatlantic trip with Ms. Daisy and oh what a fabulous trip it was. I can't even begin to tell you how fantastic it was to share my heart-home with Daisy and to see her going to many of the same places and doing many of the same things that I did when I was a kid.

However, I'm going to try.

There will be a series of "Brit Bits" here on the blog, as and when I get time, maybe occasionally interspersed with other Ranty Panting about this-and-that. I want to do this trip justice in my posts and so I'm not just going to knock them out to get it done.

Day One of your trip, obvy, was the travel. Given Ms. Daisy is two, rambunctious and wilfull (to say the least), and not exactly fond of sitting in one spot for more than 3 seconds - let alone 10 hours (plus car rides to-from the airports) - it was the part none of us were looking forward to.

Personally, I just sorta blocked out all thoughts about the plane ride prior to the trip. I just didn't want to obsess about it or project. It was going to be what it was going to be and we were going either way, so not really any point in getting my knickers in a twist.

So, we started in the airport, amusing ourselves by chatting to other kids and riding the escalator up-and-down from the gate to the causeway.


Then my pics sorta stop, sorry to say. I had all these grand plans to take some cool shots in the airplane but the reality was thus:
  1. We got moved from 3 seats by a window to 3 seats in the middle, because the entertainment system was down in our original spots. So, not really a lot to take a pic of, except the back of the seat in front (which seems to be getting closer and closer to the end of my nose with each successive flight.).
  2. It was a night flight. Mum and I spent 90% of it trying to get Daisy to sleep and then the other 10% trying to get her to stay asleep.
  3. All available carry on space in front of the seat was devoted to Daisy entertainment. My camera bag resided firmly in the overhead bins for the duration of the flight.
  4. I was tired.
Regardless, Daisy did remarkably well. Did she like sitting in a plane seat? No, siree! Would she watch movies, wearing a headset? Not a chance. But was she easily occupied with books and constant, devoted attention? Sure.

The one benefit of having been moved to the middle row of seats was that the seat next to us was empty, so we had 4 seats between 3 of us. This meant that Mum and I were able to bookend the row, lift up the arm rest of the seats in the middle, and create a make-shift bed for Daisy (who will not sleep sitting up.) The disadvantage here is that she flails around so much in her sleep that Mum and I spent the entire 3.5 hours she was asleep, trying to stop her from rolling off her seats and into the leg-space between the seats in front of her. Oy!

It's the least amount of sleep I've ever had on a transatlantic flight. I watched no movies and I dozed-off only occasionally (and accidentally) from Daisy duty. However, I was not wrangling a screaming baby.

In summary: It was hard work and tiring but it was not stressful. I'll take that.

Landing at the other end, we had to go pick up the car at Heathrow airport. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, we were all excited to be out of that damn airplane and were ready to zoom down the motorway to Devon, site of many a great British holiday.

Which is when things came to a standstill.

We encountered two day-stopping challenges.
  1. The car we had reserved didn't have enough boot (trunk) space for all our luggage.
  2. The child car seats they provided proved to be all-but impossible to adjust and fit without assistance and, for liability reasons, the staff wouldn't help you fit it.
This is just one picture from the scene that ensued. Let's just say this is the calm picture. You're missing the ones with the parade of 4 unsuccessful estate (station wagon) cars, the in-and-out of suitcases, the three different car seats, and Hubby's expletives.


The car on the right is one of the first cars we tried. The car, k mini-van, on the left eventually became our "London Car", as Daisy likes to call it.

We must have been there for a good 90 minutes sorting all this out, with tempers flaring, until finally someone agreed to help us, presumably to get the angry and demanding Americans off their back. (No critique, Hubby,  it WAS ridiculous)

But then finally we were on the road for the four hour drive down to Ilfracombe, Devon. (That's right, I said 4. I mean, what's another 4 hours after 10 on a plane!?)


And finally we were able to put Daisy's portable DVD player into service, using the car-jack. Whew on that one! Mickey Mouse, Dora, and A Potty Story, seriously saved our jet-lagged asses.

I was also beginning to feel glad that we made the switch to the mini-van. The extra space in the back was so much appreciated for all of us, after being cooped up in a plane for so long. It also meant that we could manage all the various entertainment items that Ms. Daisy required, without twisting ourselves into pretzels to access them, as we would have in a smaller car.

Unfortunately, it meant more money. Doesn't it always?

We eventually arrived at our destination, just outside of Ilfracombe, Devon, in the early evening.



Which is where this particular chapter ends. Until Brit-Bit Part Two: Trimstone Manor and Ilfracombe.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A post about not having posted

Yes, I am back from England.

Yes, I went to the Royal Wedding.

No, I didn't blog while I was gone. (No time.)
No, I haven't had time to edit all my pics from my trip.
No, I haven't had time to blog about my trip.
Yes, life is hectic.

I desperately, desperately want to share all the fun we had (and we had a lot) with everyone, along with some of the great photos I took (loving that wide-angle lens) but the reality is that work (both kinds) is jamming right now. I have two photo shoots to edit and more photo shoots scheduled for the weekends and evenings ahead. And let's not even talk about the piles and piles of laundry. Oy vey, the laundry!

What I will say is that it was one of the best vacations I have ever had, for a multitude of reasons that will be revealed when I finally get back here to post. I wish we could have stayed longer, especially in our little manor in Devon, where we woke every morning to the sound of chirping birds, mooing cows, and quacking ducks. The air was fresh, the countryside green and gently sloping, and the sun illuminated it all in a rare show for an England spring. There was so much to do - especially for Daisy - that we could easily have filled up 2 weeks just there. People don't think about England as a vacation destination for kids but it SO IS, you have no idea (well, you will, but we only scratched the surface.) Anyway, we definitely need to go back.

In the meantime, I'm going to leave you holding your breath. I have to get back to work...
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