I am continuing the description of my journeys abroad over the holidays – my parents were able to join us in London. If you want to visit my old blog to catch up please click here.
During our second day in London we took our time getting ready and recovering from Thursday’s sightseeing. After all, I guess it is important to relax while you are on vacation. We established that our biggest challenge for the day was going to be to figure out where to eat on a street plastered with fantastic cultural restaurants. Once we woke, Paul jogged around the city and we started the day with a walk through Hyde Park. We strolled by some winter swans and were almost attacked by birds after some mother decided it would be best to feed the masses.
The walk was beautiful and a perfect way to enjoy the fresh air of Hyde Park. We then strolled around Baywater and decided upon a small Indian restaurant for a late lunch. We were all pretty skeptical considering we were the only customers in the whole place. Our waiter would disappear and text some of his buddies and arrive with our food only to text some more buddies. Despite our skepticism the meal was excellent and filling – even Deb’s chicken cubes.
From lunch we decided to make more stop at a pub before making our way to the Liverpool train station. We took a long cab ride and were able to secure great seats on a train that is usually packed to the brim with people. I am glad that we listened to Fred’s advice and tried to commute to her place in the countryside a bit earlier. We were so excited to be able to spend some time with Paul’s relatives. Since we’ve never met each other, it’s always a bit of a gamble, but it remains true that the best way to see a city and experience a culture is to stay with local hosts. Fortunately, Fred opened her house to Curt, Deb, Paul and I on Friday and Saturday.
Once we arrived in Brentwood, the plan was to walk up to Starbucks and use WiFi to try to get in touch with our hosts. As luck would have it, Starbucks had a flood and closed for the evening – and also turned off their WiFi. After a quick stroll down Brentwood’s main street, a car pulled over and the women in the front started waving her arms… it was Fred! What luck! We all tucked into the car with our luggage and went to her house. I guess its pretty easy to spot tourists in a small community!
We were welcomed to her house with coffee, tea, cookies and a wonderful dinner. I am so glad she found us on the street before we ate, because the dinner she prepared was unbelievable! What a chef! I would have never imagined such hospitality from a family upon our first time meeting. It was wonderful.
We woke to fresh coffee, breakfast, and continued hospitality. That afternoon we went out into the countryside to visit a restored rich estate. It was the culmination of my obsession with Downtown Abby. Unfortunately the main house was closed, but we were able to see the living quarters of the servants and tour the sprawling gardens and estate church. In the basement we found Santa hoisting kids onto his lap and they exclaimed their wish lists for the holidays. It was so precious. The walk around the grounds was stunning and brought me back to earlier times where one can imagine the estate buzzing with people.
We warmed up for lunch inside with squash soup, cake and warm lattes; the grand finale to a perfect afternoon away from home. After a minor traffic delay we were back in Fred’s home and greeted once again with tea and coffee. This is one thing I hope to bring to my home – greeting all who welcome with tea, coffee, and shortbread. Fred prepared another fantastic salmon dinner and we were all stuffed to the brim.
Sunday we had the opportunity to join Fred at the choir church service in a very small town outside of Brentwood. The community was welcoming, precious, and was half populated by those singing in the choir. The message was perfect – try to enjoy Christmas for the joy it brings to family and the renewed connection with friends, family and your faith. The women preaching reminded us to try to avoid the stress and unnecessary glitter that falls upon us during the holidays, and it really hit home for me. Although this trip was thought to be overindulgence, the sermon reminded me of what is truly important in life. At that moment, I was so grateful to be sitting in an old English church with my husband, my growing baby, my parents, and a new family friend. It’s what life is all about.
We are so grateful for Fred welcoming us into her home. It was the highlight of our trip, and we hope that we can plan another time to repay the hospitality!