I’m currently on a train on my way to Paris. I used to think that packing up the camper trailer before setting off to a new destination was a pain in the butt. But it is nothing compared to packing bags/suitcases and finding our way in the hire car back to London and then making our way around hot and stinky train stations where delays seem to be the norm.
London city is awful to drive around. It took us 37 minutes to drive 3/4 of a mile at one point. I will go into more detail on my final thoughts on London later. I feel I need to catch you all up first.
Yesterday we were up and dressed early ready to go to Sudeley Castle. I donned my new Marks & Spencer dress and hat and was feeling very much like an authentic British rose. We made a slight detour on the way to the castle to stop off and view a piece of Will’s and Kate’s wedding cake. I was able to hold the box and sniff the rich smell of fruit cake through the tissue paper it was delicately wrapped in. I am unable to disclose how I came to view this exquisite, royal wedding memorabilia (British people don’t like to boast about who they know) but lets just say I am 1 degree of separation from the Royal family, which I am very happy to boast about.
Sudeley Castle was MAGNIFICENT!! We had purchased a British National Trust Membership (which meant we got in free at Stonehenge) and it also gave us a huge discount at Sudeley Castle. If anyone is planning a trip to the UK I highly recommend that you do this. Saves a lot of money.
The castle was surrounded by the most beautiful gardens. I was absolutely enchanted. I’m a bit of a podcast junkie and have recently listened to a podcast called “Stuff You Missed In History Class” about Lady Jane Grey (the 9 day Queen) and Katherine Parr, one of King Henry V111 wives. Katherine Parr was the only one that produced King Henry a son and luckily she was spared from being beheaded unlike some of his other unfortunate wives. In the podcast Sudeley Castle was mentioned a lot as it was here that Katherine Parr came to live after King Henry sent her on her merry way. Lady Jane Grey also lived at this castle. I won’t go into the full story but I will say it was magical having the story come to life in front of me. Actual letters, furniture, clothes, relics – all from the Tudor period are in this castle. It is mind blowing to me. One of the rooms has a bed in it belonging to King Charles – and it is currently used as a guest bed!!
The Castle is privately owned and the family still live in parts of it. They kindly open up certain parts for viewing by the public and allow people to relax in the same picturesque garden that Queen Katherine and Lady Jane wandered in. In fact, the church at Sudeley Castle hosts the marble encased coffin of Queen Katherine. She is the only Queen to be buried in a private residence.
I took millions of photos which I will add to the bottom of this blog. Not of the inside of the Castle (you can’t for privacy reasons) but of the spectacular building and gardens, which absolutely enchanted me.
After we left the castle we drove around various Cotswold villages which are beautiful beyond belief. There are flowers EVERYWHERE. Hanging from every street light, planted outside every house – I have no idea who tends to all these flowers but they certainly add to the charm. It isn’t just the Cotswold’s that have flowers everywhere… it seems to be common everywhere we went in the UK. The architecture in each little village never ceased to amaze me. It’s incredibly beautiful and intricate.
My Grandma had told me that part of my family had come from the Cotswold’s so I felt a very special connection. In fact, I felt really connected to the whole of England (not surprisingly as my ancestral DNA came back that I’m 100% European. Mostly from England, Ireland and Scotland with just 2% Scandinavian). I marvelled that perhaps my ancestors lived in some of these homes or helped build some of these amazing buildings. I’m pretty sure the ancestors that came from the Cotswold’s weren’t convicts so they probably had a house and made an honest living building castles for the Tudors, unlike some of my other ancestors who came aboard the convict ships.
I decided to do a bit of grave hunting to see if I could find any of my long forgotten family. Unfortunately the grave yard we selected (which was just one of many) was HUGE!! Ben and I wandered around trying to find tomb stones from the 1700’s or 1800’s with the name Blackwell on them. I had suspicions that Blackwell was an extremely common English name and therefore assumed that finding a tomb with that name would be easy. I could then take a photo of it and claim that it was an ancestor. Unfortunately, not a single tomb with the name Blackwell was sighted. The children stayed in the car having rolled their eyes and telling me that wandering around grave yards was morbid. I could have stayed there all day.
Our afternoon was spent berry picking (a very English thing to do). We loaded up on Gooseberries (which are gross), blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and loganberries. Berries in England are about 50 times tastier than the ones available in Australia. In fact, for comparison, if English Berries are a tasty meal prepared by a world renowned chef then Australian berries would be a Macdonald’s burger that has somehow been forgotten about and ended up all by it’s lonesome in the gap between the freezer and the dryer for 2 months before being discovered (this happened to me once when I returned from Cairns to the Torres Straits with 25 cheeseburgers to freeze). That’s the only comparison I can come up with.
In fact, all fruit and veggies in the UK seem so much fresher than what we have in Australia. Food over here is SO good. Don’t know if they have better soil or if it’s easier to import foods here but regardless, I am now berry obsessed – pun totally intended.
The kids and I ate so many cherries and berries yesterday afternoon that we all became extremely ill. Apparently you can have too much of a good thing. This forced us all to our beds in the afternoon for a few hours of moaning that we are never eating berries again.
Luckily we perked up in time to go out for dinner, which was an Italian restaurant built in an old, disused church. I’m not sure of the age of the church but it was beautiful. It took some convincing to get Rohan in the door. Even though it is no longer a church there are still many stained glass windows and statues that he found offensive to his “religion” (or lack thereof). The food was delicious and sets a very high standard for what I will be expecting when we go to Italy.
The only problem with the restaurant was the lack of ventilation. Actually, this is a common problem all over the UK. They just aren’t equipped to deal with the ‘extreme’ weather that we have had this past week. Their houses and trains become like sauna’s when faced with 25 degree Celsius temperatures, having been built to hold heat in.
I shouldn’t complain. We have been extremely blessed to visit England during a time of gorgeous weather AND during a time when the English “Football” (soccer) team have won two games. Apparently if they had of lost either one of those games (which according to my source is typical) then the mood in England would have been dreadful and glum. I did notice that everyone seemed exceptionally cheery. One bloke even used the phrase “jolly good!!” when speaking to me in a friendly and enchanted manner. I was devastated that no one said “Top of the morning to ya!” though.
Our pack up this morning was okay. Loading the kids and gear into the car and making sure everyone has everything is a nightmare. Luckily for me the new clothes I bought were offset by the amount of clothes Rohan has ruined on this trip so there was no extra bags to be carried. Ben’s “you buy it you carry it” threat turned out to be empty as he begrudgingly carted my 24kg behemoth bag around while I wheeled his 10kg backpack. I think he did that to speed things up, avoid listening to me whinge and also appear chivalrous with the hope that I may repay the favour somehow.
I’m really going to miss England. It’s tiny, narrow, flower filled streets lined with historic buildings, delicious foods, people who speak my mother tongue, (with the exception of the security guard in Harrods who had no idea what a “food court” was when Rohan enquired about it’s whereabouts), the chain stores that make Coles and Woolies seem like junk shops and the clean and free toilets are all memories I will treasure forever. We are returning to England after Italy so it isn’t goodbye forever. Plus, I am already planning my return trip and am only planning on bringing those in my family who are capable of spending hours wandering around museums and castles.
Today we have been practising our French and have mastered hello, thank you and pardon. This is really only two words that we’ve mastered as pardon in English is pardon in France. We have also learned how to say “I am Australian” (although I wouldn’t say mastered) as apparently French people like Ozzie’s much more than they like Brit’s or Yanks. I’m hoping if I say hello and pardon then tell them I’m from Australia they will happily speak English to me.
My friend has kindly offered us her apartment in Paris and given me some awesome tips. The tip I have found the most hilarious so far is ‘not to hang any washing outside on the balcony or you will be yelled at by snooty Parisians for ‘visual pollution’. I love it!! “Visual pollution” is totally going to become a well used phrase of mine.
I am a tad bit nervous. I’m mostly scared of the toilets. I’m not sure if I’ve detailed my public toilet phobia in this blog but I’m sure I went into it in depth in my other blog www.frankieandthetramp.com if you are interested in my many irrational phobias. I’ve been told the toilets in Paris are disgustingly dirty and gross – even the ones you pay to use. I’m also nervous about Rohan’s reactions to the people in Paris and Italy who are sleeping rough. Those of you who are my FB friends will know how he reacted to seeing his first homeless person in Sydney this March. If you aren’t my FB friend then let’s just say it wasn’t well. He became extremely upset, almost hysterical, and insisted on using his spending money to buy them water and food. Although this was very kind of him and I felt very proud, I’m worried about how to handle him when he will be presented with the amount of homeless people in France and Italy. I’ve been told that there are many and that there are people who will approach you trying to sell you things, ask for money or give you something then demand money.
We did have one lady in London who asked us for money to buy a sandwich. At the time we didn’t have any cash on us and said no. Rohan didn’t get too upset by our refusal as she looked well fed, dressed in labelled clothing, was holding a mobile phone and a pack of cigarettes when she asked us.
We only have 5 day’s in France so have a lot to cram in. Kylah needs to achieve the perfect split leap in front of the Eiffel tower, Rohan wants to climb the stairs to the Eiffel tower and is thrilled about the French tradition of dessert after every meal, Isabelle is excited about Disneyland and Jazzy is excited about everything – Versailles, The Lourve and all the museums.
Ben isn’t excited about anything as he hates crowds, big cities and touristy things. I’m hoping that since his expectations are so low he will be pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable and beautiful it is.
I’ve had complaints from my children that my blog this far on our trip hasn’t been funny. I keep telling them that I never try to be funny and that if they want funny then they are going to have to provide me with better material to write about. I’m almost certain that our time in Paris and Italy, will provide me with some entertaining stories. The language barriers itself should not disappoint!!
Thanks for reading.
Me with Will’s and Kate’s wedding cake:
Pizza in a church: