Friday, September 23, 2011

It's a....

See you in February, Sweetie.
photo c/o

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day 9: Nottingham and Derbyshire, Day 10 and 11

Day 9: Our first stop this morning? Back to the Crime and Punishment Museum, of course! This place was the old Nottingham courthouse and an actual prison that was shut down after attempting but never quite meeting the prison reform standards. Our tour consisted of only our two families. The Sheriff of Nottingham here began as our guide and made the perfect amount of condescending remarks for one of his status.
In the courtroom, Robin Hood was on trial. I cannot look at this picture without laughing. I have my reasons.
Here, I am reading a statement against Mr. Hood as Maid Marian.
The gallows outside of the jail cells in the small courtyard where prisoners got their exercise:
There were a few great costumed actors/guides that took us through different parts of the museum, representing different ages of the prison and how criminals were handled. Seriously creepy, depressing, and fascinating all at once. The kids did pretty well considering it wasn't a very feel good and pleasant place to be. This prison had an actual oubliette. Shudder.
Tessa is obviously done here:

The kids did leave with a balloon. Because a balloon that says "crime and punishment" on it doesn't seem odd to anyone but me, I suppose. As balloons always do in my house, these later led to child drama, including a window escapee and plenty of tears.
So, we were on to Chatsworth house in Derbyshire. Pride and Prejudice movie lovers, check it out! Part of the outside of the manor/house/mansion estate was under construction, but we got to see everything inside. There was a fair going on nearby, but we stuck to the house.

Honestly, I loved going through this "house", but I don't think I've ever seen a more garish place in my life. Again, I couldn't picture a real person living here, but the Duke and others more than managed it. I haven't included many pictures, but you get the idea.

Cole yelled out that he wanted cake when we went through this dining room.

A study or library? This was a room I wanted to explore a little more. The velvet rope said no.
Ashley took several of the pictures I've been using, like this next one. I just wanted to point out that I really like it. It was taken in the statue room (there were statues all over the house, but this room was dedicated to them.)
The Duke.
Here we are out back before strolling in the gardens.
There were some odd pieces of art around, but overall the grounds were lovely.
My friend. I think the world of this lady.
One of the modern pieces on display. I call it Giant Stuck in the Ground or This Biggie Piggie.
On our way out, because of the fair, I'm sure, there was an air show. And what a cool air show it was! It started out with two stunt planes and then went to one. It was insane. Cole was shouting "Brabo! Airplanes!" And I would lose my breath when the one stunt plane would turn off its engine and free fall for a while before starting again.
We started the drive back to Ashley and John's, and what a pretty drive through Derbyshire. We stopped for dinner and then pushed on. It was a little late when we got back, but the kids were promised a viewing of Robin Hood before bed, so jammies and a movie while the kids crashed.
I've been on a couple really fun road trips, but this one ran right past them. We saw everything we wanted to see and much more but never felt rushed or stressed. The kids were tired and had their moments, but were mostly rockstars. You can't ask for better than that!
Day 10: This rainy day we got up and ready for church and had a nice time there and really had a pretty relaxing Sunday after so much running around. We started rounding up our things, we talked, the boys watched rugby, the kids played and probably watched Robin Hood two more times, Ashley took me to meet her hilarious and sweet neighbors, Hugh and Mary, and we put the boys in charge of dinner. I was determined to still try the expired chocolate trifle in the fridge we'd purchased earlier in the week, which was, yes, sour. It's so painful to throw away chocolate desserts.
Day 11: We had the scramble to pack and get to the airport morning. Good things can't last forever, but it was still hard to leave.
We weren't sure how we were doing on time getting to the airport, but it ended up being perfect. The kids did really great on the flight home and were able to lift up the chair arms, flop legs on each other, and get a little more sleep, which means the mom and dad could watch a couple more lame movies uninterrupted.
Getting through customs at DFW wasn't a big deal that evening, and we heard several "Welcome home"s from airport officials --which was nice.
Home again, home again, jiggity jig.
Not only was it an incredible vacation, but I hadn't been able to spend that kind of time with my wonderful friend for a really long time. Having our families share these memories meant a lot. I'm very thankful. We feel beyond fortunate to have been able to have this opportunity.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 8: Stratford Upon Avon and Nottingham

We arrived in Stratford Friday morning and immediately found our friend "The Fool". So, we do what comes naturally and strike our own foolish pose.
Some are more standard poses than others....
A main shopping street in Stratford. We arrived at a perfect time. By the time we left, this street was packed. I picked up a Tudor Rose Christmas tree ornament in a fun Christmas shop here.
The birthplace of William Shakespeare.
The Tudor style is just so cool.
An old church on our walk:

Ashley and Jake decided to go into the church where Shakespeare is buried to see his final resting place and snap some pictures. I opted to stay out in the gorgeous weather in the graveyard. The girls played hide and seek among the gravestones after handing out heart confetti they found to passersby.
I can't express what a beautiful day this was and what a neat, kind of laid back feeling the city put off. The sparkling River Avon was just a little past the edge of the graveyard.
Here's my Cole exploring. I bought The Graveyard Book to read on the plane and during any down time. This picture reminded me of it.
We then made our way to Nottingham! John and Ash were kind enough to include this in our stop because Jacob really wanted to see the home where his great grandmother was raised. This would be his Grandpa McCune's mother, who worked in the lace factories and whose father was a well established lace maker as well. We mentioned we'd be going to Nottingham to a few people who told us there isn't much there to see, but when you've got a connection, then there is plenty to see. Plus, I actually really enjoyed Nottingham. Maybe it's because I had low expectations, but I enjoyed our time spent there.
Here is the house:

We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and then went to find the Crime and Punishment museum --oooooooh. But it was closed. We were directed to a place where Jake could find more information on possible places to look for family history stuff. The people in Nottingham were incredibly friendly and clearly open to tourism. Ashley told me about a great store called Primark?, so when we saw one, we ran in and told the boys we'd meet up with them soon. Hooray for fun and cheap fashion! That would be where the little girls got their fabulous feather headbands. They were having so much fun trying on jewelry and hair accessories that after they tried these on, Ash swiped them up and bought them for the happy girls.
We bought some Nottingham lace from the tourism info place and then moved along. We made our way over to Nottingham castle, which is a modern castle with a few medieval stones still in place.
Robin Hood in the garden:
Since we were in no hurry, we got a little photo happy on the last night of our road trip. This was next to the castle:Right after, a big group of young men came up and had us take their picture doing the same pose.
And then the kids found THIS statue:

The girls were cracking me up with their loving on Robin Hood.

Ashley took several photos close up while getting the girls giggling, which I'm really happy to have.

On the way back to our hotel:
There was a grocery store close to our hotel, so we grabbed crackers, smoothies, cheese, meats, fruits and veggies, and decided to have a dinner party in our hotel room. The kids were more interested in bouncing around with each other than in in the food, but I loved that they had so much fun with one another.