Friday, November 04, 2011

Mum and aunt's visit! First part, England and Wales. Yummy!

Apologies for my prolonged absence. There's been waaaay too much going on, some good, some not so fun. I just checked and my last post was September 22nd, which was the day the NS Try Out Festival started. I can't believe I even had time to post that! Sometimes I amaze myself. The festival was the not-so-fun part, seeing that I worked almost 24/7 and almost every second of that was high pressure.

But anyway, the fun part was when my mum and aunt visited for two weeks at the end of October!

My mum has posted some photos on Facebook, but I'll post a small selection of the shots I like the most, to accompany my post.

Day 1 (October 19)

They arrived extremely early at Schiphol and I excitedly waited at the Arrivals area for them to come out. There were loads of people there, surprisingly, and I kept an eye out for people who looked Malaysian, but it turns out that there were almost no locals travelling on that flight.

The night before they arrived, I'd slept quite late, getting their airbeds ready and cleaning up the house. Schrobbenmaster and I had gone to IKEA to get some new bed linen and I was excited about making the office look cosy and comfortable enough to sleep in.

Turns out that this is an impossible task. At least the airbeds seemed comfortable enough.

After freshening up, we headed to... where else? Bagels and Beans, of course!

I really love that place. Even though I don't like bagels.

I think after that we just took a walk around the city because my aunt had never been here before. She kept asking if she had to take her bulky bright pink coat that she'd borrowed from my cousin because she didn't think it would be cold enough. Well, my mum and I kept asking her to bring it because you never know with the weather here.

I think I cooked that first night. I had planned to eat home every night to create a cosier atmosphere and save money for shopping (since our kitchen now is so beautiful!), but in the end, we only ate home three times the whole trip. Anyway, my first cooked meal was a success and everyone slept nicely without any bad toilet visits.

Day 2

We girls were flying out to Manchester that evening, so we couldn't go too far. It was a choice between Dordrecht and Utrecht, and Utrecht won in the end.

On the way there, I started telling my mum about Kasteel de Haar, which is a castle just outside Utrecht city centre, and we spontaneously decided to turn off the highway to look at it. It was beautiful, but you could only go in with a tour guide, and guess what? The tour is only in Dutch. The tourist-friendly Netherlands strikes again! Luckily they had audioguides, which were good, but obviously not as extensive as the Dutch guide, so my mum and aunt ended up just wandering around aimlessly while the guide droned on to his Dutch visitors. These kinds of things always annoy me because it's so difficult for international tourists to see so many things in this country and to really enjoy travelling around here.

After the castle, we went into Utrecht. There wasn't much to do or see there, besides it being another city, because neither Schrobbenmaster nor I know the city very well. We just wandered around and looked at the Dom, the only impressive thing we could think of, and then went in search of the hardest place to find in NL - a good dinner place with variety.

I hate eating out in an unknown city because it's so hard to find a place that's good and with a variety of choice. Basically 70% of all restaurants in NL share the same menu. How boring is that?

So, in the end, we had Dutch food, because there was nothing else that didn't look dodgy or overpriced. It turned out to be a good choice of restaurant because the waitress we had was really good and efficient and the food tasted good.

After our early dinner, Schrobbenmaster dropped us off at Schiphol, where we took the Easyjet to Manchester, and where Stella, my mum's friend, picked us up. I've known Stella since I was probably around ten years old and I used to play with her kids, who are my age, regularly. During my annual trips to England over the past seven years, I used to visit her and I enjoy spending time at her place in Chester. Such a lovely and beautiful town!

After some lovely hot tea with raspberry viennese biscuits (my favourite thing about visiting Stella) and cosy chit chat, we headed to bed.

Day 3

First on the agenda was a visit to Chester town. We had lunch at a nice Italian place and we were served by a cute waiter with a most posh accent. I think that was the best part about him, hehe. It was like talking to someone from Downton Abbey in real life.

Of course, we had to visit Marks & Spencer. Also one of my favourite things to do in England. They have such beautiful things at such affordable prices. We ended up buying loads of biscuits in tins because they were so beautiful. As I write now, I've already finished the Scottish shortbread that came in a Scottish patterned tin with a little dog, house and tree on the front. I'm not a huge fan of shortbread, so I actually brought it to the office, where everyone loved it and had 'biscuit time' in the morning just because it was there.

Chester was an old Roman town and you can see the Roman wall encircling it still. While we walked through some garden paths, there was a guy dressed in a Roman outfit, explaining Roman baths to a bunch of 8-year old school kids, all dressed in Roman rubber armour (haha). He was explaining how the men and the women had separate baths, but sometimes they would have to share the bath (here the kids went "Eeeeww!")... but at different times. Hehe.

Onwards around the garden and we encountered some squirrels, who were running around and actually came up to us to see if we had food for them. After waiting a few seconds, they decided we weren't worth waiting for and ran away, so my mum, who's not the quickest photo snapper by far, only managed to get this, the very best of the fifty pictures she took. Still nice though.

We walked back to Stella's place after and had tea and chit chat and lazed about the morning room/conservatory/breakfast area, which turned into a lovely ritual for the next few days.

Day 4

Stella drove us to Chirk Castle in Wales. It was supposed to be a cold day, but it turned out to be amazingly sunny and cheerful. So we spent the first part of the visit in the amazing gardens. I don't know, all that sun and all that beauty just kinda made me turn a little mad...

We are talking about my mother, the fastest snapper in the world, here, so can you imagine how many times I had to jump? I think my aunt and Stella were already finishing their visit of the castle interior by this time.

There is actually another heavy iron head cap that goes under that heavy iron armor head shield. And the chain mail on my shoulders, which didn't feel so heavy when being worn, was actually pretty darn heavy if you hold it with just your hand. Quite amazing how much weight your body can hold without you realising.

After the castle, we walked around nearby Llangollen city and then drove around Horseshoe Pass, with amazing valley views. I love Wales for its green hills and valleys!

Then back to Stella's again for tea, biscuits and chit chat...

Day 5

On Sunday, we headed to the big city of Liverpool. It reminded me very much of Rotterdam, with its industrial history, its boats, its old buildings interspersed with modern architecture. I do like it very much, actually, even though most people look down on it because it doesn't look old or classic. I think that's the appeal it has for me. That you can actually see its history so clearly. Instead of, say, London, where almost everywhere has the same kind of architecture. London is beautiful to look at, but it doesn't tell its story as well as cities like Liverpool and Rotterdam do.

As usual, the first thing we do when we arrive somewhere is to sit down for a coffee and cake/biscuit. I love this kind of life. But thankfully, it's not every day, or I'd be as fat as a pig.

Then some shopping (so cheap!!) and an art museum.

Back to Stella's again for tea, biscuits, chit chat and a lovely dinner.

And of course, being Sunday... we watched Downton Abbey!!! I FINALLY had women to watch it with, and with whom I could talk about how we loved the dresses and the accents and how terrible this person is and how brave this other person is. Ah, joy.

Day 6

We had a flight back to NL that evening, so we didn't head far from Chester. Went to a little place with 5 shops, where my mum had been a few years ago, and where she wanted to buy more fairy pictures. We had a lovely lunch and I enjoyed the little shops we saw. I even bought a cross stitch coaster set. I want to make the home feel more cosy and warm, and I thought this would be really useful. Of course, when I came back and showed my cross stitch project to Schrobbenmaster, he snickered and laughed at me for being such a granny. Well, I only have one life and if I don't spend it doing things I like just because of peer pressure, what's the point, right? :P

Well, my mum said: This is a really nice idea to do cross stitch, but make sure you finish it this time!!!

Because I always start on cross stitch projects and never finish them. Most notably a Welcome picture I had nearly finished and then stopped. Ahem. That was fifteen years ago?

I had such a lovely time in England and hope to go back again next year when the weather improves. It'll be my goal to save money for shopping there. Much bigger variety of pretty things compared to NL.

Well, it's been a terribly long post, but I hope I haven't rambled on too much or too incoherently. Next up will be our adventures back in NL!

No comments: