Being with my family for the past week was one of the best trips I have ever had. On Saturday we went to Chatsworth House, a gorgeous manor, home of the Dukes of Devonshire, with amazing artwork, and travelled to York. Chatsworth House was beautiful inside, and for those of you who like Pride and Prejudice, it is where they based the home of Mr. Darby. My mom was thrilled to see it. There was an amazing Christmas fair going on outside the house, with stalls of butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers; plus the occasional churro tent. But my favorite part of the house was outside, in the back. Acres and acres of green, sunlit forest, with waterfalls and ponds where the sun seemed to dance over the water. I felt like I had entered a magical realm, and I did not want to leave. I climbed the rocks to a top of a waterfall, traversed a maze, and was simply exhilarated by it all. I could have stayed there for hours and I know that if I had lived at Chatsworth I would have been that girl that would have been found outside, either riding her pony or in the forest, where everyday something new would be discovered.
Too soon we were all back in the car with our wonderful tour guide Jeremy. We arrived at York, had a fantastic (to use Jeremy's favorite word) dinner at a local pub called "The Hole in the Wall" and we were all asleep by 8 p.m. Sunday found me ravenous. My little brother and I were the first down to breakfast in the hotel, and I can tell you that there is nothing more relaxing than breakfast with the sun shining on your face, a good cup of coffee, and good company. Or a newspaper if you are alone. I don't think I have ever eaten so much for breakfast! We then all went on a tour of York, my dad fell in love with it instantly, and I must say, York is a special place. It can be said that the history of Britain can be found in York. From the Roman soldiers, all the way up to today, there are artifacts and ruins and treasures from every era that can be found. We saw stone coffins, lids ajar simply laying in someone's back yard because they were too heavy to move; a roman fort that had been buried for centuries but was recently dug up. I personally loved seeing the ruins of St. Mary's abbey and all of the amazing pedestrian streets with their historic shops. I even found a street named after me! Colliergate!
Of course York minster was impressive, and as the Jewel of York it was a must see for our family. I loved the stained glass windows, the architecture and the feel of being so close with God. My dad and I ended up simply sitting on one of the benches and just soaking it all in while my brother led my little brother on a whirlwind tour of the minster. It was a funny sight! My mom loves to read the brochure and go on the tour it lays out but I'm more like my dad in that I prefer to wander on my own, to find my own surprises and not be distracted by the brochure...I'll read it later. After eating two whole pizzas we all went shopping for a bit then piled into the car and headed for Lumley Castle, where we would be staying the night.
Looming on a hill in grandeur Lumley Castle has sat there for nearly 600 years. Every girl wants to be a princess and stay in a castle so my wish came true. It was very baronial but that made it all the warmer and cozier inside. With rich hues of red, blue, gold, purple and brown it was my favorite place to stay. I especially loved the library, that had been transformed into a bar/library. I could have curled up by the live fireplace and read a good book whilst having a drink for a few days. My mom introduced me to my new favorite drink there as well, which makes this place even more special, if that makes sense. I really love Bailey's on the rocks now. It tastes like chocolate milk!
Too soon we were gone and off we went to Durham Cathedral, which went I beheld the stained glass windows near the back of the church and the sun glinted through them and the colors poured onto me, I had tears in my eyes. This was surely a place that was close to God. My dad and I even spoke to the Chaplin a bit and he even blessed us. But my dad was in a bit of a hurry to get going because the highlight of the tour for him was our next stop: Hadrian's Wall.
Now not even half its size and covered in spongy green grass, Hadrian's Wall is still an impressive site. We went to the most well preserved fort on the wall, I fell in the mud, Jeremy chased the graffiti sheep, dad wanted to hike a good five miles on the wall (to which we all said no) and mom took pictures. It was a stunning view from the fort, which is situated on top of a hill, so I could see both the beauty of the land from a civilian's view and it's military advantage from the Roman's view.
Too soon we were off driving, taking those country road turns at 50 miles per hour, and we were in Edinburgh by nightfall. This was my second trip to Edinburgh, and I was determined to see more than I had when I was last there. We ate at a fantastic Indian restaurant and my cousin Stuart joined us. Poor guy got bombarded with questions from my mom. Jeremy even joined us for dinner , so it really felt like the whole family was there with us that night. I was a little dubious about Indian food, but I must say that I was proven wrong about me not liking it. I thoroughly enjoyed it! And fell asleep with my stomach full and content.
Tuesday morning brought the Wimmer family to the grand entryway of Edinburgh Castle. Mom said we could do it in an hour to which I looked at her and chuckled. We entered around 10 a.m. and did not leave until 1:30 p.m. On the way back down the Royal Mile (the street leading down from Edinburgh Castle) we stopped for a bit of shopping. I got a kilted skirt, although not in my clan tartan (Kilgore) and I met my Scotsman. He was working in a shop we entered, and my jaw literally dropped a bit. In the movies you see the strong, handsome Scott with that amazing accent, but in reality most of them are just tall and skinny. He was not. Tall, built, was dark hair and a good smile he was handsome but to top it off...he was wearing a kilt. Flirty eyes were thrown from both parties and then my mom had to go and humiliate me. She grabbed him and said, "My daughter wants a picture with you." We both turned beet red. Sadly I never got his name, nor anything else, and I was too shy to ask but on the way out of the store he did say, "Take care." in that mind-blowing beautiful Scottish accent.
Leaving Scotland was a bit hard, I really have fallen in love with that place and I want to back and explore more; especially the highlands. But we were on a schedule and by nightfall we were in the lake-district, on lake Windermere. I think I fell asleep that night around 8 p.m. and Wednesday found us once again in the car heading back for Oxford. We did stop however in Stratford, home of Shakespeare. We saw his birthplace and grave, and wandered around for a bit in the charming town, but I had to get back for class. When we got back, I said goodbye to Jeremy, gave him a hug and off I went to class, promising to meet up with my parents for dinner. My good British friends Jess, Simon, and Libby met my parents at the white horse pub for dinner so they could meet each other and it was a really good night.
Thursday was take my dad to class day! I took him to my business class, where he spoke for a bit and I had people come up to tell me how much they enjoyed him (including my professors), he met my friends, including George, and it was fun to have him there. Albeit it was a little nerve racking in my seminar, I felt that I had to be on my A-game with my dad there! As it was Thursday it was also Thanksgiving, so that night the entire HPU family came together to have a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, complete with the NFL game on the big screen! I missed my Thanksgiving meal at home but I was happy to have this meal, with both my friends, and family.
Friday I yet again had to wake up at the crack of dawn for my family and I were going into london. Disembarking from the bus to see the Pagani high-end cars was a great start to the day. We went antique shopping (much to my dad and my little brother's dismay) had an amazing dinner st one of my new favorite restaurants in London, Rules, and went to see Wicked that night. I loved all of it. London has always been one of my favorite places to go and that night made it all the better. The icing on tha cake was where we were staying: The Grosvenor House on park lane. Superb employees, beds that feel like heaven, and a warm bath. I even met a girl who worked that who was on tour with Riverdance. A fellow Irish dancer! Small world.
Saturday morning my parents came in the room to say goodbye as they had to head to the airport at 7 a.m. I stayed in bed till about 8:30, took a wonderfully hot shower, and went down to have a relaxing breakfast. That was thwarted. I got there while breakfast was in full swing. People rushing around, so I sighed inwardly and just thanked my lucky stars I was eating a decent breakfast at all. Breakfast itself was fine, however they sat me in the middle of the room with my back to half of it. Call me paranoid or whatever but I like to see the whole room, to see everything that is going on, preferably with my back to the wall. I texted my good friend Simon telling him of this, and he responded, "Just drop kick anyone that tries to sneak up on you."
I spent that day mostly shopping at Covent Gardens and the highlight of it was going to see the matinee performance of my favorite play: Phantom of the Opera. This is how much of a sap I am for this play: the chandelier went up and I had tears in my eyes, and at the end I was sobbing. But then, the best came. I went to the stage door and I got to meet the Christine Daae, the conductor, and the Phantom himself! I was over the moon. Everyone was so sweet, and I got autographs and pictures. And to top the night off, while I was waiting for the bus that would take me back to Oxford, I sat at the bar at the Grosvenor House and had a Bailey's. Perfect.
PICTURES TO COME LATER