Summer, summertime! This summer has been one of my favourites in a long time, not only have we had some lovely weather, but if you follow us on our social media, you’ll know that we surprised our mom on Mother’s Day with a trip to England; something she has dreamed about doing for decades. One of the great things about this trip is the fact that all of us siblings joined in together to make it happen, which made it all the more special. As we’ve had so many highlights from the trip we figured we’d make it a blog post and share it with you all as you’ve also been on this journey with us, but also because we want to reminisce about it all! Can we go back?!
Day 1: Airport Pick-Up
After much anticipation (so excited, we couldn’t manage filming our reunion) and a longer than usual wait at the baggage claim, we were finally reunited!!!
Considering this was R2’s first time on a plane, it definitely went very smoothly. Some white knuckles were had, particularly around landing and take off, but overall it’s an experience which will be repeated. As we were already in Manchester, we decided to take advantage and take in the city (driving around), we had planned to go to The Trafford Centre, but somehow took a wrong turn in the midst of all the Manchester construction maze and ended up in the city centre on an unexpected tour. Our 1st real stop though, was none other than Tim Hortons for lunch- this is a running Canadian joke, every Canadian loves Timmies and it’s always been our go to when it came to airport pick ups or drop offs- so we needed to make a stop. It was 100% worth it. There have been more and more Timmies in the UK, so R1 is going to make it a habit to nip in to them when she’s feeling homesick. We then made our hour long drive home, taking in the scenery and stopping to show off Barnoldswick’s centre. Once we got back to R1’s place, got a tour of her house, the grandmas spontaneously started making a puzzle with Neveah, which just had to be captured. It was such a lovely thing to witness her with both her grandmas, as it’s something so special for her. That evening the rest of the family came over to R1’s house, we just relaxed and got to have a proper introduction of the whole famjam, especially as this was the 1st time R1 and Ben’s mom’s met each other (it only took 13 years), but like they say better late than never!
Day 2: Local Drive & Lunch With Uz
We went on a mini girls day out to Skipton and visited R1’s work and checked out the town, we stopped and bought some flowers from R1’s fave local flower stall (Rose Cottage Barn) and then made our way back to Barnoldswick to meet up with Ben to have lunch with a friend at a lovely restaurant in Langho (The Sanctuary). We had a lovely time and even got ourselves some crystals and Mama was gifted a beautiful scarf from R1’s friend Uzma (she is like a superhero, therefore her identity will never be revealed). The scenery was so beautiful, we made sure to get some snaps! As the weather was co-operating, we decided to take advantage and drive around the Pendle HIll area, showing off the landscape. This drive took us to a town called Whalley, where we took a pit stop to visit the ruins of the Abbey and then headed home.
Day 3: Shopping Till We Drop
Girly days out always include shopping, so today was going to be no different, other than Ben joined us- lol. We had a lovely day shopping in Blackburn and you know our 1st stop was going to be none other than Primark! And boy did we shop! This was R2 and mom’s 1st time in Primark and though they had heard a lot about it from R1, they were not prepared for the extent of clothes, fashion and PRICES!!! The Mall in Blackburn is one of R1’s favourites, because it’s not too big, has the stores you really need, the food is full of variety and it’s not going to make your wallet bleed. Because Neveah was so patient throughout our shopping we decided to take her to a park as a reward and ended up at Corporation Park, which was having a fair on! As we didn’t want to pay for the fair, we just took advantage of the park as it was very quiet. Neveah had a blast climbing up on the jungle gym and trying out the zip line! It looked like they had recently done up the park in the trendy woodsy, rustic theme- we were very impressed. The only thing that put a damper on the day was the wasps! They were everywhere, so we didn’t end up spending as much time outside as we had planned!
Day 4: Howarth & The Lion King
We didn’t get up to too much, as we knew we’d be embarking on our big road trip the next day, but us girls still went out to Howarth to see the Bronte Parsonage. The drive over to Howarth is so spectacular and even if you don’t do anything specific, it’s definitely worth the drive for the views. We even found some really cute shops and R1 snapped up a locally handmade soap (Raspberry Quince & Vanilla scent) from a shop called Waves of Nostaliga; see our Instagram post re. Neveah had a birthday party to attend, so she went to that with her dad and we met up with them later and our in-laws for a meal at Ballaro in Burnley, eventually making our way to the movies to see the new Lion King. Best.Movie.Ever. Even if it was tempered by Neveah needing the toilet 2 times throughout.
Day 5: Stratford-Upon-Avon
We had a really lovely drive down to Stratford-Upon-Avon, I don’t even think it rained! Our 1st stop was to the
Butterfly Farm; because travelling with a child can be tough so we wanted to make sure we had events that would keep Neveah interested and also have fun; because it is her holiday as well!
The Butterfly Farm wasn’t the biggest, but I felt like it was just right to stretch our legs after being cooped up in the car. It was very beautiful and had such an array of butterflies! Neveah was brave and even got to hold a millipede, which she loved! But all the while creeping R2 out! Near the Butterfly Farm was a Ferris wheel, so we decided it would be fun to hop on and see the city from a different vantage point. Also, knowing that we were going to go on the London Eye, we figured we would ease Momma Bear into it. We fully admit that we weren’t all over thrilled with the Ferris Wheel, because when it would get to the top spot, it would wobble a little bit and that feeling wasn’t the best when you’re scared of heights…and we were scared of heights! I think the only person who fully enjoyed it was Ben, who could not stop laughing. Surviving that; we treated ourselves to some ice cream and then had a lovely walk over the canal and around the town centre, making sure to stop at Shakespeare‘s birthplace and Shakespeare’s New Place. We opted not to buy tickets to go inside as we found it expensive to visit just one site, but also didn’t believe Neveah would survive going through 5 museums, so we merely took pictures outside. We also went into the Guild Chapel, which was so mesmerizing especially finding out it dates back to the 13th century! We capped the day off with a lovely meal at The Harvester near our hotel and called it a night after playing and being beaten by Neveah at card games!
Day 6: Londontown
London, London; how much I love you…but not so much this trip- the construction was something out of this world and I just wasn’t feeling it this time around. We had an early start today, catching the 10 am train from Epsom to London Waterloo. As we didn’t’ want to drive into London (traffic, construction, congestion charge and all round not wanting to drive in London) we opted to use; Name and park, to safely park our car in a rented parking spot. Though the lady who we rented the spot from was a little odd and didn’t greet us very warmly, we left the car and caught the train into London. It was very easy to get to the London Eye from the train (literally 2 min walk), but we were a bit taken aback by the sheer number of people waiting in line. Grateful that we had bought our tickets ahead, but equally annoyed that this didn’t allow us to queue jump. But, saying that the wait wasn’t too long and we got into the eye without losing anyone (it never stops moving so Mamma wBear was worried it would be tricky for the little one and her to get into a moving pod, but no one fell into the Thames!). Before our bus tour we decided to get something “cheap” for lunch, knowing we would be having a big supper later, we went to Subways nearby but cheap it wasn’t because…well…London. Bus Tour time! We opted for the 2 hour bus tour because it was more thorough and because we only had a day in London we knew we wouldn’t be able to cover anywhere near as much ground on our own. In hindsight, maybe 2 hours was a bit long, but it allowed Neveah a little nap, so that can’t be a bad thing! Walking across the Golden Jubilee Bridge, we made our way to the other side of the the Thames, but because of all the traffic and construction we were running a little bit late for our check- in for the tour of Buckingham Palace, so we caught a famous London Black cab to it and had time to spare! We knew ahead of time the security for the Palace was tight, but we didn’t have any issues, other than Neveah crying because Elmo had to go through the scanner. We soon recovered though, because walking through the palace was something beyond spectacular! We weren’t allowed to take any photos or videos and as much as it disappointed us, especially Mamma RnR, because she’s a huge royals enthusiast and an even bigger Diana fan; we had no choice but to respect the wishes of none other than the Queen herself! Making our way after getting a bit confused at the Underground, we took it to The O2 (which isn’t named that and they should consider renaming it), we had supper at Frankie & Benny’s and then made our way to the Emirates Air Line, we pre-booked this so in theory could have gone at any point in the day, but Ben wanted to go after 7 pm, because the cable cars would be lit up at that time. We’ll give him full credit for this because despite R1’s full on fear and actual internal tears (compared to her real tears in Stratford), the sunset views were spectacular! So it is defo recommended. All of the London leg of our trip was pre-booked, which saved us time but it also allowed us to budget easier, knowing all we needed to spend was on food and souvenirs, because well- London isn’t cheap.
Day 7: Vimy, France & Mechelen, Belgium
After surviving the London M25 traffic, we made our way (on time!) to the Euro Tunnel and took the train to Calais; it was a very easy and simple experience leaving the country (more on this upon our return). Our 1st stop on French soil (trying not to get dizzy by the speed at which they drove on their highways) was to head straight to Vimy Ridge. R2 and Ben being history buffs, were looking forward to this part of the trip, while R1 was more concerned by how Neveah would take it being a memorial for the dead. But, it was such an important journey and necessary, for all of us to give thanks and take a moment to appreciate the sacrifices afforded to us and how lucky we were to be living in safe/free countries. The Museum is run by Canadians who come over to France for the summer as part of an exchange with Veterans Affairs Canada; they were so warm, welcoming and knowledgeable! There was something about walking the grounds that actually made us feel like we were back home in Canada, it was a very humbling and surreal experience. We opted for a tour of the centre and the trenches which was so informative and well explained it even captivated Neveah, although being down in the trenches did make her uncomfortable as it was dark and cold, but from an adults perspective it gave you a better appreciation of just how uncomfortable it was for the soldiers to do their job and just the more remarkable. We even found the name of a fallen soldier who had the exact initials of Ben’s dad (Neveah’s grandfather), which seemed to resonate with her so much!
Leaving Vimy, we decided to take a stop for something to eat before making our way to our hotel in Belgium, but unbeknownst to us the French have odd eating times. So, it was a little tricky finding a place open and still serving food at 4 pm. We landed at a spot in a small French (town), figured out the parking metres and found something to eat among their very different array of food (it very much helped that we were mostly all bilingual); but we topped up and hit the road to our Holiday Inn Express hotel in Mechelen, Belguim. The hotel was such a welcomed sight, right in the centre of the town, beautiful and yet so modern, the service and the food! Delish! Fully recommend this hotel and I would go there again!
Day 8: Brussels, Belgium
We had a relaxing stroll through Mechelen town centre, then we quickly realized that we needed to rush to catch our train! Insert cardio. We bolted to the train station, with R2 carrying Neveah piggyback style (becasue this child does not like walking and she somehow becomes even slower when you need her to pick-up her speed, hmm I wonder why?) to find a board written entirely in Flemish and completely unsure of what platform we were to board our train on! Thankfully, it’s not a big train station so, we waited for the 1st train to arrive and then asked a conductor about the platform and was lucky to find out we had picked correctly, but that the train to Brussels City Centre was delayed by 10 minutes. We got to the city to be greeted by grey clouds and eventually rain, but we took the risk and walked to find the Grand Platz, because it’s 100% worth seeing, even in the rain. This was so so worth it! R1 remembers the 1st time she visited, it was so beautiful and awe striking just how pretty and detailed the buildings were. It wasn’t any different this time around!
On a whim we spotted a bubble tea shop and decided to give it a try, this was R1’s 1st time trying bubble tea, but R2 is a pro at it! Thankfully the rain cleared and we were met with amazing blue skies, which made our stroll into town even better, as we found the main shopping area and got our shopping on! We bought Neveah new school shoes from Geox, the store assistant even threw in some free shoe/hair clips (#winning), we then stumbled across a wonderfully modern, but cool thrift store where R1 snapped up a lovely vintage Italian leathr book bag for 20 euros (cue the photo shoot)! After having a quick lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling and taking in our environment, eventually stumbling across a music event and being captivated by a saxophonist. He was so talented! We eventually had supper at a restaurant that tickled Neveah because it had a mini statue of the peeing boy. Making our way back to the highly massive and confusing train station, we found the Belgian waffle stand near our platform and decided we couldn’t leave without sampling. Both of us had it traditional and didn’t add all the extras as they looked too sweet. It was so worth it!
Day 9: Derby
Leaving Belgium and getting on the Euro Tunnel back to the UK was again seamless until we met British Customs upon exiting the train. The agent was so passive aggressive and somewhat condescending; when he took our “attendance”, R1 replied on our behalf, he wasn’t happy with this and insisted that everyone reply for themselves. He then asked for R2 and Mom’s return ticket to Canada (which they obvs didn’t have on them physically because they still had another week to their stay in the UK and can’t check in till 24 hours before) he then insisted we find the email confirmation to prove the return was booked. R1 had run out of data on her phone, but was also struggling to get the email to show the booking as her emails only keeps the last 50 emails, this didn’t impress him. Eventually R2 bit the roaming bullet and turned on her data in order to find the email and this satisfied him. Making it back on UK soil, our 1st detour on our long day was to Quebec House in Westerham to see the childhood home of James Wolf. Our tour guide was very thorough, almost too much so, that he dragged a 30 minute tour into well over an hour, so by this point, we were well and truly ready for food. We had a wonderful pub lunch at The Grasshopper On The Green, if you’re ever in the area, we 100% recommend it. We then took a “shortcut” back to the parking lot, got a bit lost, but in the process- we stopped to have a nosy into a cute looking church, much to the surprise of the caretaker. We then made the LOOONNNG drive from London to our hotel Derby.
Day 10: Rained out Of The Lavender Fields
We had planned to go to Castle Howard and see York Lavender, but unfortunately the weather was horrible, it literally poured the whole drive, so we scrapped that idea and used the extra time to have a “sleep in” (whatever that means), have a good breakfast and headed home to rest instead. Luckily our in-laws had planned to cook supper for us, so we got to arrive home to a lovely cooked meal and used the break to do laundry and re-coup for round 2 of our travels. Our in-laws also surprised mom with not 1, but 5 varieties of cakes for her birthday, she was well and truly surprised and touched!
Whew! That legit was a trip! Don’t know how we managed to squeeze it all in, but we did and we had fun in the process which at the end of the day is all that matters. Check out next week’s post the 2nd leg of our travels! We totally can’t wait to do it again!