Thursday, 25 August 2016

My Trip to the UK: a Holiday in Three Parts

I'm finally back from spending two weeks in the UK which partly explains why I haven't posted in a while. Aside from WiFi issues (I didn't even have a mobile signal most of the time in the Yorkshire Dales, let alone proper internet) I always feel kind of strange if I blog somewhere other than my room at home - I can't explain it, it just makes me feel oddly uncomfortable and I'm not always able to sit for hours just banging away on my keyboard and fiddling around with photos. Anyway, apart from my trip to Ireland in July this was my main holiday for the summer so I thought I'd chronicle it here.

For the first part of the trip my mum and I stayed with my grandparents in Norfolk for a few days, which we do every summer and some other holidays in between. There's always a shopping trip to the nearest big town involved and this time was no exception, although since I've been living in the UK I've noticed I'm far more able to be restrained in my shopping and just get a few nice bits and bobs instead of having a major spree every time. Having said that I was on a hunt for a few specific things, mostly for my new student house at uni, such as a duvet cover, some kitchen utensils and other homeware items. These few days were also a great opportunity for me to practice on my rollerskates which I haven't been able to do at home since we live on a bit of a hill, whereas my grandparents' road is nice and flat with smooth pavements.

The next stop was Durham where I go to uni, and this was the most exciting part of the trip for me as I was finally going to (sort of) move in to my new house! We brought loads of stuff from home to leave there, as while my dad is going to drive me up for the start of term I thought it would be a good idea to take some stuff - like bed linen and storage boxes - in advance since I had a car to fill anyway. The house comes with a lot of stuff in it already including most kitchen items from saucepans to cutlery so there was very little to buy in that area, although there were a few essential items missing such as a toaster and a colander. I got to work straight away making my room my own with a bright duvet cover and throw and also changing things around a bit like taking the curtains down (I never close curtains and there's a blind anyway) and moving the furniture. Obviously I'd seen the house before when we viewed it back in January but in the intervening months I'd forgotten the detail of how it was and what was already there, so this was also a chance to assess the place and work out if there was anything else I ought to bring when I move in properly in October. For instance, I realised there's a perfect place for my pink fluffy fairy lights now I've taken the curtains down: I'm going to wrap them around the curtain pole. I'm planning to do a whole post about decorating my uni room and possibly a house tour so I won't go into it too much here.

Apart from pottering around the house and crashing out in front of the Olympics we also did a few touristy things, went to my favourite café/restaurant, figured out the buses and did a bit of shopping. It was really nice for my mum to see the city a bit as although she's been before way back in February of last year when we went to look around, at that time I wasn't 100% sure I would be going to Durham as I hadn't yet got my EB results.

From Durham we drove to the Yorkshire Dales, which was where the Grand Family History Tour began. As a bit of an explanation, my mum is very into her genealogy and over the years has traced our family back through various different lines, sometimes as far back as the 16th century. Apparently some of our direct ancestors originally lived on a group of farms in a remote region of the Dales so that was where we were headed, stopping at a grand total of eleven churches and their associated graveyards along the way. Don't get me wrong, I love a good amble through a decaying and ivy-strewn graveyard as much as the next person but after about 5 or 6 different ones I was beginning to lose track of them all and also getting reluctant to risk my ankles trampling over the uneven ground in search of the gravestones of the long dead ancestors my mum was so desperate to find and photograph. Apart from that it was a lovely trip through some beautiful countryside, mostly thanks to the glorious weather which improved the experience no end. The best part was that I discovered that churches often have book sales at the back, so I came away with several stacks of extremely cheap books which I'll show you in a haul soon.

Finally we drove on to Cheshire where a different set of ancestors are apparently from. This part of the holiday involved rather less churches and rather more shopping, for which I was grateful. On the first day we went into Chester in the morning and walked along the city walls, which are the most complete set in Britain and offered a lovely view of the city, before heading to the main shops. Chester is so interesting because a lot of the buildings are really old, with many dating from the Tudor period (aka my most favourite era) and there are long stretches of the high street which have the original double-tiered layout of shops which basically means you can fit a lot more shops into the space. The next day we went to a couple of churches and had dinner in a lovely tapas restaurant in a building that was once owned by our ancestors a few hundred years ago. The decor was absolutely gorgeous and the food was even better so it was a really nice experience all in all: we had nachos, patatas bravas, bruschetta and salad nicoise and it was divine.

Last but not least we went back to my stay with my grandparents for a few more days before heading back home. We didn't really do much else of interest there as we were mostly recovering from the days spent touring the country, but my mum and I made the compulsory trip to our favourite arts, crafts and antiques shop in the next town over where we spent ages wandering through the rooms and admiring the eclectic mix of old and handmade items. We arrived back in Belgium late afternoon and the heat told us it was going to be an extremely hot next few days!


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