Friday, August 22, 2014

Oh to be in England...

To put it mildly, this summer may have been our best ever. For some reasons you'd expect and others surprisingly unexpected. As I've already mentioned (maybe too many times) for years we've dreamed of taking our children to England and this is the year we made it happen. 

Now that we are home and the kids have started school again, I'm finally going through my pictures (there are a lot) and thought I'd share a few of the good ones. So if you're only here for the fabric and quilts, hang tight, there are a few of those still in this post. Hopefully the rest of the subject matter is pretty enough to sit through. And if not, we'll get back to the fabric stuff next time.
We started our journey in the Northwest in the Lake District. The Lakes are a very popular tourist destination in the UK - and with good reason. They're pretty scenic (understatement). The photo at the beginning of the post is taken from the top of Orrest Head near Lake Windermere.
This is beautiful Avenham park in Preston, England. My husband and I each lived in the northwest of England for a period of time in our early 20's as Mormon missionaries, where we overlapped briefly. In fact the fist time we ever met was in Avenham Park. It was one brief and totally awkward conversation but it was enough that when we met again 18 months later, when I was back in college, that we had a good jumping off point to continue the conversation. And it gives us the chance to say we met in a pretty awesome location. We showed our kids, who I think were mostly impressed, if not a little wary of the mushiness factor.
Our goal for this experience was to introduce our children to people and places that we love, and to spend time with them, but also to get our kids outside their comfort zone. Obviously England is not a drastically different culture from America, but there are subtle differences living in Europe vs the US. 

We also wanted them to see the history in a country with a much older history than our own. I've lived and traveled in Europe on multiple occasions and I'm pretty good and going hard as a tourist, seeing a lot each day. With our kids with us, however, I definitely had to re-calibrate my expectations. There were some days when "seeing another old building" was just not what they wanted to do. 
Liverpool
For most of our time in England, we rented a little cottage outside of Manchester and took day trips from there. I highly recommend a little cottage or flat (apartment) when traveling with kids. There are a wide variety of vacation rentals to be found via TripAdvisor, Bookings.com, etc. We have four kids so it was definitely less expensive than multiple hotel rooms, not to mention having a kitchen meant we could cook our own food and make eating much less expensive. Plus it added to the real living in another country experience. We could walk to the shop (aka grocery store), my boys loved playing "footy" (soccer) with lads at the nearby park, and it just gave them more stability and routine on a long trip away from home.

It also meant my husband had a place he could work from. That's the other thing that made this experience a possibility for us - we are lucky in that my husband (and I) work for ourselves and with a computer with internet access we could work from anywhere. (Minus the sewing machine part.)
Having lived in England a couple of times, we spent some of our time visiting places I'd been before like York - which I'd visited as a college student 21 years ago. I remembered really liking it and going back it exceeded my memories of how much I loved it.
I also loved visiting new-to-me-places. One of which was Lyme Park a "great house" just outside of Manchester. If you're a Jane Austen and/or Colin Firth fan you might recognize it as Pemberley from the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice. Someone recommended this to me right before we left and it turned out to be one of my favorite days of our trip. Such a beautiful spot. We could have spent hours more exploring the extensive grounds if we'd had the time.  
We could not believe what spectacular weather we had while we were there. Our kids got sick of my husband and I saying "And the weather was SO beautiful" every day, but he and I knew that it easily could have rained every day. That said, rain is not all bad. I think if I lived in England, my garden would be so much more lovely. Check out those hydrangeas. They were huge!
Another favorite aspect of the trip for me was visiting towns where my English ancestors came from. I LOVE family history and learning more about where I came from - each of these places were little villages where my grandparents' parents and grandparents came from. Where they'd been born, christened and buried. (The marker in front of the headstone above marks my ancestor John Udall. Good thing too, since the headstone is completely unreadable now.) I have lots of British heritage which is I think another reason I feel like part of me belongs there.
I think some of my favorite (or favourite) parts of the trip were things that we hadn't planned that seemed to magically fall into our path. For example, we drove up through Yorkshire to Haworth one day for an outing. By sheer coincidence we drove along the route that had been used for the opening stages of the Tour de France only a few days earlier. There was bunting lining the route along country and village roads for miles.
Another one of those things that I couldn't have planned was getting to visit a meeting of the Leeds Modern Quilt Guild. Awesome Justine noticed via Instgram that I was not far away and invited me to come. The day could not have worked out better as we were going to be driving through Leeds on the way to York that same day.
So my nice family dropped me off and kept themselves entertained while I got to visit with these lovely ladies. Such a good time! I loved seeing what everyone was working on and I even got introduced to the famous (or infamous?) Greggs pasties thanks to Katy.
Speaking of Katy, I also got to see Issue One of her new baby, the magazine Quilt Now and it's fantastic! This is published in the UK so there are no direct US subscriptions as of right now, but you can order Issue 1 (while supplies last) or subscribe through Pink Castle Fabrics.
Another extra special place we were able to visit is the Isle of Man. I lived here 19 summers ago (also while serving my Mormon mission) for 6 months. This was my first visit back and it was WONDERFUL! It's such a beautiful place.
These are the ruins of Peel Castle (about 1500 years old) outside the town of Peel.
Here are some views of Cregneash Village. So many shades of green. (The Isle of Man sits in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland, so it's not too surprising that it's so green.) And I love the pop of color from those red post boxes and phone booths. I may be slightly obsessed with them.
When we finished our time in the North, we headed south for a few days before we finished in London. (I took the train to London by myself for the Fat Quarterly Retreat the weekend before and returned to Manchester before driving south as a family.)
Oh London. It's the best! Here is Trafalgar Square, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace as seen from the bridge in St. James park. 
I lived in London as a University student for a semester abroad which was one of the best times of my life. I still love to visit London and just wander through the streets. Happy, happy memories. And I'm happy to say that London obliged and provided lots of new memories too. I loved taking my kids on the Tube and the big red buses, walking through the parks, climbing the Lions at Trafalgar square, and touring the Tower of London. They even obliged me in visiting my old digs at Palace Court, not far from Kensington Palace where Will and Kate and baby George live.
I have to say that I was really sad when it was time to come home. Not that I didn't miss people at home, but I really loved our time in England. I would move there - or at least return for another extended stay - in a heart-beat. I am so THANKFUL that we had this opportunity. It has been interesting to see the different ways we have each processed it and been affected by it. I do think it broadened my children's perspective in very healthy ways. 

The thing that has surprised me is how much I have been affected by the experience. As much as I loved the experience of just being in England itself, I am also realizing that I loved the simplicity of our lives while we were there. We brought very little with us and it was so liberating to travel light and not have to keep track of stuff. We lived in much smaller accommodations than our house at home. And we got to spend a lot of time together with out having to worry about getting different kids to different lessons or teams or schools all on a different schedule. 
The whole experience has made me realize how much I want to simplify our lives and to get rid of clutter - both physical and emotional clutter. Since coming home I've been cleaning out our house like crazy and took a big pile to the Good Will last Saturday. I'm also starting to say No to more and to better differentiate between things I need to do and things that are nice to do, but really aren't really that important. I wouldn't have predicted this effect on me and I'm really grateful for it.

I have a few more quilt-inspired pictures to share from our trip, but I'll save those for other posts down the road. Thank you so much to all of you for sharing such generous and genuine excitement and kind words that we could live this dream. (I'm a big believer in abundance mentality. Expect good things to happen to you and be happy for the good things that happen to others.) I truly hope you hold onto your own dreams and do what you can to make them happen. The outcome may be better - and even more slightly unexpected - than you think!

53 comments:

  1. Great post, really enjoyed reading this and seeing your photos.

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  2. What a lovley post filled with beautiful photographs. England is so green. It sounds like you had a fantastic time and a real break from your regular life at home. That's interesting that it's made you see your family routines in a different light. Good luck with simplifying your life a bit.

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  3. Loved this post. A trip to England is moving up on my bucket list. May I suggest two items for you to read? Susan Branch's book, "A Fine Romance, falling in Love with the English Countryside" and a blog by Tsh, The Art of Simple (decluttering and travelling with kids). Thanks for sharing your once in a lifetime trip.

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  4. Beautiful post! We visited London in April but did not get outside the city. I appreciate your pictures of places we did not see! Can't wait for those quilt-inspired pics!

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  6. Thank you for the lovely pictures. I have traveled extensively through the British Isles and love all of it. Planning on going again in two years with a friend. Your pictures brought back lovely memories. Thank you.

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  7. Amy, you are so awesome to share your trip with us all. All of those stunning pictures!! I especially love the collections of doors. Yup, I totally need to go to England. My mother was born there so I totally have a reason to go ;)

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  8. I recognize some of those photos! Have been to Liverpool, Manchester and Chester. I'm hugely jealous that you got to go see "Pemberley"! I constantly kick myself for not doing that! My husband was working in Chester so I had a few days to myself. I went to Llundudno, Wales one day but stayed in Chester the rest--would've been so easy just to hop over there! Dying to go back--I love their climate and all the gardens!

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  9. Great Photos. Thanks for the tour.

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  10. Your pictures and post is fabulous! Very beautiful. We leave for Ireland soon and hope our weather is as good as yours was. What an experience you shared with your children!

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  11. What pretty pictures! My sister served in Manchester England too -- I'll have to share this post with her so she can enjoy them too. I have never been there, but did recognize Pemberly. :) And I appreciate your thoughts on simplifying. I need to get rid of stuff in my house too! Why is it so hard to do sometimes, even if it feels so nice when it's done?

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  12. Fabulous post and photos. I'm so glad that England provided you with lots of happy memories. Liverpool is my home town and my husband works there. You could possibly have met him if you paid a visit to the Hard Days Night shop, known to us as the Beatles shop. My Dad proposed to my Mum at Laxey wheel on the Isle of Man :) And York is one of our favourite places to visit. We go about three times a year, one visit is to be able to go to the St Nicholas Fayre Christmas market

    Look forward to seeing more photos, especially the quilt inspirations

    Margaret xx

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  13. Drool. Oh, Amy, my travel list keeps getting longer and longer. There are too many words and not enough words to describe this post. Love it.

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  14. Have to say, you were REALLY lucky with the weather!
    We're going into our last week of the summer holidays before school starts on 5th September, and it's rained for most of the last week with more to come!
    Lovely to see such great photos of where I live though! (I'm from Yorkshire and was in the Lakes - where I went to Uni and met my husband - last week!)

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  15. Thanks so much for sharing your pictures and details of your trip; it was great to see them. Looks like your family will have wonderful memories for years to come.

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  16. What a marvelous travelogue, Amy. Your photos and narration exhibit the love you feel for this country. I'm so glad you were able to share this with your family (and your blog readers!)

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  17. I'm always up for looking at travel photos, so this was a lovely read. I followed along on Instagram and so glad I did--and so glad you are such a good photographer! When we took our family to Italy one Christmas, we "broke" the Christmas machine and have been happy to have a simpler holiday celebration ever since. I can see that idea has impacted you and I wish you well in your paring down. We live lives of stuff over here in America, don't we? Some I like, but more often than not, everything needs a good cleaning out. (And a resolve to stay out of stores!)

    Thank you again for a love post. Welcome home.
    Elizabeth

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  18. A lovely post and it was a pleasure to meet you and take your star class at fqr :)

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  19. I loved every word and every picture and will read it all again. I love the UK and have some Welsh waaaaay back and even though I've not visited there, I have often felt I would move there in a heartbeat. I noticed such a happy, peaceful tone all the way through your post. I hope you get to live your dream some day! Thanks for sharing and feel free to do that any time!

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  20. I moved from the UK about 19 years ago so loved reading your post and taking a look at the photos. Thanks for sharing.

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  21. I agree with Linda above...loved reading every word. Love seeing Mr. Darcy's pond. ;)
    Yes, please.....let's all simplify. I want to spend time talking over dinner and reading books in the evening by the fire.

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  22. I live in East Yorkshire and really enjoyed reading about your experiences while travelling through my home county and other parts of England :)

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  23. Yep...we sure were lucky on the weather as I see it basically has been cold there since we left!:)

    You know of course our love of the UK through you and our girl so I totally understand how you feel and about decluttering. After living in a garage apt for over 25 years I want no parts of all the stuff we have stored in our basement!:)
    Little and less is very good!

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  24. Keep the photos coming, I love meeting people in the UK. I got to go to Harrogate and have tea at
    Betty's Place ( you never want to leave).

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  25. Stunning! I am so happy for you!

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  26. Phew, I'm so glad the Lakes didn't demonstrate to the kids how it got to have quite so many lakes! You were very lucky with the weather, although it's usually fine until early August and then, well, it's been doing what it does best since then, what with you guys sending over hurricanes and things ;o)

    I totally need to do some decluttering, as I live in a small flat, and frankly, there's too much stuff in it!

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  27. I love the photos! I just finished reading Susan Branch's A FINE ROMANCE, and am seriously longing to go see the land of my ancestors.

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  28. How Wonderful! Love England. Have to get back there soon for a visit!

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  29. Fabulous Photos, thanks for sharing.

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  30. Gosh this is so beautiful, someday....!

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  31. It looks like y'all had such a lovely time. I went to London on vacation in 2009 and absolutely loved it.

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  32. Your post today was so apropos for me. After reading Susan Branch's book last year, a friend and I decided we had to go to England! We invited others to join us and two other friends signed on. We've had our first meeting to plan our itinerary and set the date. One friend has been to England before so she is our resident expert. We will be staying in a rental in London and travelling out from there for a few days before we venture further afield. I will have to see if Lyme Park is on our itinerary; I must see this area as I love the BBC's version of Pride and Prejudice. Thanks so much for posting about your trip. You've made me more excited about visiting England, if that's possible!

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  33. what beautiful views you had everywhere you spent time! I am enjoying hearing of your travels! your children will always remember it!

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  34. What a fantastic post Amy! Both beautiful photos and such lively descriptions. I am so pleased you all had such a wonderful time. I'm not sure if you realized that Howarth is the village where the Bronte sisters lived? (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre etc). They lived in the parsonage behind the church looking out over the churchyard. On the moors above the village you can still visit the house that is thought to be the house that inspired the house in the book Cathy and Heathcliffe lived in. Also know what you mean about decluttering. Funnily enough that's what I am trying to do myself as well, and it seems, quite a lot of people! I suppose it is like when you are pregnant, you suddenly 'see' baby's everywhere! It must be what you are aware of, can't explain it otherwise. I have been reading about the 'tiny house' movement in the US. Beautiful little houses on trailers, with just the essentials. Fascinating reading about what people have in them, what they really really need, and a real eyeopener! I mainly have 2 problems in that case... books and where do I put my fabric stash? ha ha ha .... Thanks for letting us share your journey <3

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  35. Thank you for sharing your wonderful holiday adventure. Loved seeing England through your eyes. I too loved seeing those intricate mail boxes and telephone booths. So happy you had such beautiful weather - an extra special bonus.

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  36. Amy, thanks for sharing your lovely trip (and photos)! I'm sure it felt like so much to see and so little time. Hope you're able to return. It's on my list, too!

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  37. Your pictures are beautiful!! They would make a great wall gallery! I dream of going to England myself. Thank you for sharing highlights of your trip.

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  38. Thank you so much for sharing I miss my home sooo much, I'm English married to US military and but for paperwork snafu (any military will understand that!!) we well at a least me and the children would of been back in the UK since April. Entire house packed and labeled with one week to go here in NC to be informed we were not going.... :( Hubby went of to serve a year alone in Korea. Anyway enough of my rant thank you again especially jealous of your Greggs i would love a sausage roll about now.

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  39. I too lived in England and have an ancestor history there. I have visited once since the 1960's and there is a longing in me for dear ole England as I read your experiences. That longing stays buried until something "Englandy" comes up and then it comes on strongly in my heart. Guess I will always say "Oh to be in England" Enjoyed your pictures and comments. Becky D

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  40. Thank you for kindly sharing your wonderful trip. It is certainly a beautiful country. How nice you could share it with your family.

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  41. Thank you! I enjoyed England through your experiences.

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  42. looks like you had a wonderful time and renting a cottage sounds perfect!! thanks for sharing

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  43. Really enjoyed your post Amy and glad we gave you lovely weather! It's so interesting to see this beautiful country through someone else's eyes.

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  44. What a wonderful post! My husband and I went to England this summer too and I fell in love with it. I wish we could have stayed for a month! We were with a tour group and that was nice but it would have been so fun to have traveled alone so we could just wander where we wanted. blessings, marlene

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  45. Thank you for sharing your wonderful holiday with us

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  46. It is lovely to see photos of England through a "foreigner's" eyes. I sometimes think we don't appreciate the beauty of our country enough. I am so glad you had good weather and enjoyed your trip here.

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  47. I think we take so much of what is around us for granted that it takes a fesh pair of eyes for us to appreciate it. Your visit to Leeds MQG was a lovely surprise for us.

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  48. Thanks for sharing all of your beautiful pictures Amy! It looks like you sure packed a lot into your trip! I'm with you on the decluttering -- I have two problem areas though. The first is family items. It would make life so much easier if I didn't have this or that from this or that parent/grandparent. But, I just can't let go of them. The other thing is fabric and sewing/crafty stuff. I do try really hard to think about things that I make and how I'll use them (which is why I rarely do swaps anymore -- I just don't need all that "stuff" lying around). But how to reconcile the need to make stuff with the desire not to have that very same "stuff" lying around???? Please solve that problem LOL!

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  49. Thank you so much for letting me live vicariously through you. I will echo all the other comments about how lovely your pictures are and what a sweet post this is. I hear ya on trying to simplify life! Howeeeever... I'm also wondering if you won't turn that gorgeous tile floor into a quilt pattern for us??? You know: the one at Lyme Park with the Ohio Stars leading up to the fountain? Pretty please? Just this one last pattern, then simplify away. :)

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  50. I so enjoyed every single word and every photo of your time in England. I hear you on the living simple lifestyle. I'd love to scale down too

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  51. Your trip sounds lovely! I've only been to Italy and would love to see the rest of Europe. You and England sound like a match made in heaven.

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  52. What a wonderful trip! You can tell by your words and photo's your love for England. I have enjoyed following your journey so much and do believe in abundance and the need to simplify.. And truly I would have been happy with just the pictures of Pemberly -awesome!

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