Steph and I just got back from an 11-day trip to England. We went with her mom to visit Steph's sister Stacy, her husband Roger, and their daughters Annabelle (almost 2 1/2) and Penelope (7 months). They live in the small town of Upwell, which is about 25 miles outside of Cambridge. We spent eight days there and a day and a half in London. We stayed in the most wonderful little B&B in the small town of Little Downham called Bury House; it was in a house that dates from the 1700s, and it was beautiful. The bed was very comfortable, the breakfasts were incredible, and everything smelled good. Also, they had five chickens in the yard who supplied eggs for breakfast.
Among the things we saw were the town of Ely, the city of Cambridge (complete with punting down the river), the Queen's country estate at Sandringham, Bircham Windmill, the Norfolk lavender farm, the beach town of Hunstanton (on the North Sea), the Church Farm Stow Bardolph rare animals farm, and Castle Rising. In London, we saw the British Museum, took a double-decker bus tour, and stopped by the Charles Dickens museum (in a house where he once lived) briefly as they were closing.
My favorite thing that we saw (other than Stacy, Roger, Annabelle, Penny, and their adorable off-white miniature poodle who is sometimes known as Goya and sometimes known as Puppy) was Castle Rising. The stonework was fascinating, and it was interesting to me that on a warm afternoon, some rooms were quite warm and some were very cool. We could learn a lot about passive solar heating from this structure. I also liked the spiral staircase and the layout of the rooms. We did not get to see Westminster Abbey because they weren't open when we were in London.
I enjoyed all the little differences between England and the US. (Roger asked us what things annoyed us about England, and we couldn't come up with any.) Some things I noticed:
* About 95% of the cars are stick shift. Almost no one parks their car in gear. (Why is this?)
* Diet Coke tastes different. Not enough for me to think it's a different soda, but slightly different.
* "Are you all right?" there means the same as "How are you?" here. I only figured this out after I saw a cashier ask it of the guy in front of me in line; I was relieved because I thought we somehow looked awful every day at breakfast -- our B&B proprietor asked us that every morning.
* When people asked, we would tell them we were from Indiana. Everyone knew that that was in the Midwest. I was surprised; I didn't know that much about the geography of England.
* Tea is everywhere. So is ice cream.
* England smells good. That may be partly because we were there when the lilacs were blooming -- I felt very lucky to experience an extra lilac season this year -- but in general, there are lots of pleasant smells.
* There is nothing cuter than a toddler with a British accent.
* The city of Ely has no actual movie theater but manages to support three small yarn shops. We visited them all.
We're still recovering from jet lag (though it wasn't as bad for me this time). All the flights were good except that I had terrible ear pain on the last leg of the flight home. We were fortunate to have a good friend petsitting for us, and all the creatures and the house were very well taken care of while we were gone. Lucy has been a little extra affectionate this week, which is nice because I missed her.