Well, we've been home for 3 days now and today is our last day off before we have to return to work. Today is also the first day we've managed to get out of bed before midday! Obviously a little jet lag had set in.
So I'm thinking I might just use this last blog as an opportunity to reflect on the past couple of months.
First of all I can't believe it's all over. It doesn't seem that long ago we were waiting, waiting, waiting for our holiday to arrive. I guess that's another sign of getting older - months go past in a blink of an eye.
I've been trying to think of what I would consider to be "highlights" of our trip and it's proving more difficult than I thought. There were so many wonderful and special moments. The whole trip was a highlight, we had such a fantastic time, saw so many beautiful places and shared times with family and friends that were special.
Rather than try and figure out a "top 10" for the trip I'm going to run through it chronologically.
Our first week was spent in London. My first thought about this is "what were we thinking of, only booking one week in London?!!" You can't even scratch the surface of this magnificent city in a week. We did a fraction of the things we wanted to do (which to be fair is true of most places we visited) Over the years I have spoken to people about London, some love it, some hate it, some couldn't care less either way, but to me it's the most magical place on earth. I can't pin point why, I can't summarise neatly and concisely for you why I feel this way. All I can say is that's it's something on an emotional level. There are many places that are more picturesque, cleaner, warmer, cheaper, bigger, smaller, prettier and every other "er" you can think of, but when it comes to matters of the heart, you don't always fall in love with the most beautiful, you fall in love with the one that touches you inside, that one that makes your heart soar, the one who you connect with - and in your eyes that's what makes them the most beautiful. I look at London and I see beauty where others see ugliness. I see beauty in the numerous small parks, full of greenery and flowers, I'm amazed at the oasis's of tranquillity to be found in such a busy city just by walking down an unassuming alleyway into a concealed courtyard. I'm inspired by it's mix of ancient and modern and how they blend so easily. I love it's stories and it's history. I admire how it stands up to everything that is thrown at it, invasions, wars, the blitz, terrorist attacks, pollution, riots, and yet it continues, albeit sometimes a little battered (A little like the Black Knight in Monty Pythons Holy Grail - "Tis but a scratch") and evolves. I realise it's not perfect. I also see the pollution, the homelessness, the poverty, the crime, but again like all love affairs, you continue to love in spite of faults and sometimes even because of them.
In our second week we spent 5 days in Paris. Before the start of our trip, I think this was one of the places Susan was most looking forward to. After the 5 days I think she may have been a little disappointed (I could be wrong) Not because there was anything wrong with Paris, but because
a) it rained every day and
b) it was so ridiculously busy.
It was great to meet up with Sarah and Lynne, that was a definite bonus.
However we spent 5 days running around like headless chickens trying to fit as much in as possible and for those of you who read the previous blogs you'll know that our visit to Versailles was a really awful experience.
Paris and Versailles are both really beautiful, it was just the crowds that spoilt it. It wasn't just that there were loads of people, it was the fact that a large portion of those crowds were aggressively pushing, shoving and elbowing people out of their way. It really demonstrated the selfish and inconsiderate side to people. On the positive side we had a great time exploring Paris and some of it's impressive architecture. Notre Dame, Montmartre, Eiffel Tower, Louvre and wandering the lanes of the Latin Quarter were all highlights for me. I didn't even mind the rain, after all you expect it to rain in Paris and it kind of adds to the romanticism. Did I mention Paris was hectic?
After Paris we spent 8 days in Ireland. Neither of us had been to Ireland before and Susan had the added interest of it being home to her maternal ancestors. The country was stunning and the people very friendly and welcoming. The Cliffs of Moher were just breathtaking. Of course the biggest highlight and probably the biggest story of our whole trip was the serendipitous event of meeting Susan's relatives in Athlone/Drumraney. We started the day simply seeking some connection and in one short afternoon fate had set into place the events that would see us visiting the old family home and meet family Susan didn't know she had, turning a "trip" into a "journey" not just in a literal, practical way but in a real personal, emotional and spiritual sense.
Next on our agenda was a trip back to my home town of Eastbourne. I was excited to show Susan my old haunts. My old homes, schools and of course pubs. I was also excited to introduce Susan to my friends - and how they got on! We spent a lot of our week here in pubs and drinking and catching up with friends, but also had time to visit the places I grew up and some of the surrounding area. We even had some nice weather! We had a great time and most telling was Susan commenting on the last day - "I really like all your friends, they are lovely. I'd like to live here." It meant a lot that Susan felt like that about my friends and my home town.
Reluctantly leaving Eastbourne we headed to Cornwall for week 5 of our holiday. On route we took a diversion and went via Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Salisbury. All three were awe inspiring and beautiful in their very different ways.
Cornwall was wonderful. Dramatic coastlines, quaint fishing villages, stark moors and tales of smugglers and wreckers (fascinating, intriguing and romantic with the safe distance of time, but horrific and terrifying at the time) There was so much to see in Cornwall, but some of the stand outs were Tintagel, Minack Theatre, Lost Gardens of Heligan, the Eden Project and the lovely fishing villages, all of which I'd heartily recommend if you ever pass that way. We also got to spend the weekend with my family when they came down to join us. It was wonderful to see them again after 4 years. The kids grow so fast, one of the big downfalls of living so far away is that you miss seeing them grow up. One minute they are little children the next they are young adults.
Week 6 saw us in the Cotswolds. Again we stopped off on the way, this time in the Devonshire village of Clovelly. Our week in the Cotswolds was even better than we had imagined. Our accommodation exceeding all expectations and if anyone ever visit Bourton - on - the - Water, if you can stay at a place called The Perfumery. It was fantastic and the owner, John is helpful and welcoming. We can't recommend it enough! Bourton is also the most picture postcard perfect Cotswold village you can imagine. We used our week here as a base to visit some of the other surrounding towns and cities - Oxford, Stratford - Upon - Avon, Windsor, Bath and Tewkesbury as well as the smaller Cotswolds villages. If you haven't already, you can read the blogs for all those places in the previous entries.
The final week in the UK was spent with family in Empingham, Rutland. Spending the week with the family was lovely. We didn't do as much together as we probably would have liked. We took a day out to York and drove back down to Eastbourne to see Centre Excuse win Battle of the Bands. We were so proud to watch Teddy, Jamie and Alex win and to see how talented and hard working they are. Also great to see how the crowd reacted to them. I was also proud to see how the kids have grown up, they are so different from each other, such individual personalities but equally wonderful in their own ways. Teddy - 16, doing well with the band, the "cool dude" Danny - 13, such a lovely boy, introspective and thoughtful (reminds me of myself) and Summer - 4, discerning, independent, imaginative and an obvious heart breaker when she's older. We did have a couple of days to relax, something we hadn't done much of.
It was sad to leave, but week 8 saw us travelling to Dubai for a couple of days then home for a few days rest before returning to work.
The whole idea of having a stopover rather than go straight home was to have a rest. However after the hectic 7 weeks in the UK we'd just had, 2 days was never going to be enough. What we needed was a week on a remote beach somewhere, with nothing to do but sit, read, swim and drink cocktails. Instead we had two days in Dubai, where we rushed around trying to fit as much in as possible again. There is so much to see and do in Dubai that it was never going to be a restful break. So by the time we arrived back in Adelaide we were exhausted. Now we need another holiday to recover!
It was great to have been home again. I was last there 6 years ago and had been getting homesick.
I know I've been waxing lyrical about England and I wouldn't want any of you to think that I do not appreciate the life I have here in Adelaide. For in fact I do. The lifestyle here is wonderful, as are my friends, job and of course my gorgeous girlfriend. The weather is great (except in summer when it hits over 30 and I start to melt) but I guess home is always home - at least it is for me. I love my life here but I also love my homeland.
As this is our last blog I'd like to thank all of you who have followed our journey here on travellerspoint and I hope you have enjoyed some of it. For those of you that haven't enjoyed it, I apologise if I have bored you along the way. I'm going to leave you with part of a poem I found during our stay in England. It was written by a man called Maxwell Dunlop and published in a local newspaper for St Georges Day (April 11)
I have but one thing on my mind
A passion burning bright,
Crossed by my heart a fiery red,
On a field of the purest white.
The light shall not fade on England now,
The fields be forever green,
The Character, charm that is England now,
In my heart means everything.