...was the subject of an email my mom sent me on August 29, 2012, 27 days after we arrived in Derby ourselves. They had booked their travel using credit card points 6.5 months ahead of time. It seemed so far away when they first booked their travel, it's hard to think now that they've come and gone! This post is out of order, as my parents visited from March 19-25, two days after their 32nd anniversary (St. Patrick's Day).
Having booked through reward points, their itinerary was less than ideal. Also my parents, being their stubbornly independent selves, did not consult me in the slightest with logistics. Their only request was that I pick them up from the Derby train station. I see now where I get my reluctance to ask for help or impose on others. I have limitless respect for my parents as they are raising four of my nephews, essentially hitting "reset" on parenthood. Needless to say, their lives are hectic and noisy with very little time to themselves. When they tell me they enjoyed the train rides from Manchester, I don't think they're just being nice. I truly think they are savoring the time to themselves, as precious as it is. For the time being, this is something that Kerry and I still take for granted.
Even when I asked what my parents wanted to do - they were just happy relaxing around the bungalow and doing British things. So the theme of the visit was rest and relaxation, not high gear tourism and sightseeing. My parents are seasoned travelers having been to the UK multiple times, so we could skip all the "must-see" activities for first timers. We even reflected on the ex-pat experience, as my parents lived in Okinawa Japan for a short time while my dad was a Navy dentist. Still, being the planner that I am, I tried to chamber a few day trip ideas that could be set into motion in a moment's notice. Nothing fancy, but I knew we'd need to get some fresh air at some point.
I even planned for what I thought would be March weather - cold, grey, maybe a bit of wind and rain. But WOW did I underestimate how uncooperative the weather would be - the snow just kept coming!
|My parents braving the snowstorm at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham (aka Wayne Manor from Dark Night Rises)|
My parents did a great job recovering from jet lag. The trick is to sleep as much as possible on the overnight flight - using sleep aids are helpful. After you land, caffinate a bit, and then you gotta keep yourself up until 10 pm - that would feel like 3 am for someone on the east coast. You'll be tired but it's doable. This way you'll sleep through most of the night. I was able to pick them up without a hitch, except their luggage never arrived and British Airways would deliver it to the house the next day. I took them to the Victoria Inn in Beeston. A very nice British pub experience that came recommended by my neighbors. We arrived early to get a table (it is very popular) and hung out for a few hours catching up over pints and decent pub food. I hadn't seen my parents since last July, and phone conversations are short, so there was a lot to catch up on!
Kerry and I lent my folks some pyjamas and we did a round of laundry since we'd have to wait for their bags for another 20 hours. Luckily, they had trip insurance which covered cost of clothing and supplies until luggage arrived, so we decided to take advantage of that at the Derby Westfield mall. It was a simple day trip, but it was fun walking around commenting on all the small differences from the US. It reminded us of our first week here when everything felt so different. Oh - by the way - the supplies we picked up conveniently benefited Kerry and I more than my parents, since they had no room to fly back with extra things. (I won't complain, contact cleaning solution is pricy!). We also hit up the nearby CostCo, since my parents are members and the card works internationally. I kept meaning to look into a membership (I can apply through my employer) but I still just can't seem to be bothered. The flank steak I picked up, however, was phenomenal - and I've never seen flank steak in the Sainsburys, so that alone might make it worthwhile!
|I'm flabbergasted at the size of the parking spaces at CostCo, I can't even get my car door to touch the next car over! It's like a slice of Americana in my backyard.|
|Peanut butter M&M's: Kerry demands an entry fee to stay at our bungalow (technically available here, but overpriced)|
|Quick stop in the Derby cathedral as we showed my parents around town.|
We ate and drank well, played games, chatted, and thoroughly enjoyed our time through their stay. From here I'll just highlight some of the day trips we were able to take.
Before the big snow fall, we made a trip to Matlock Bath in the Derbyshire dales for a walk amongst some pleasant views of rolling hills and a bit of birdwatching. I mentioned in a previous post that Kerry and I have a mild enthusiasm for birdwatching. Well, my parents packed their own binoculars; I'll let you be the judge.
|Matlock Bath in the Derbyshire Dales|
We made a pit stop at the Rolls-Royce Learning and Development center near my office so I could take my parents through the Heritige Trust exhibit, which is like a mini museum onsite which takes you through the history of the company. After making sure I saw no familiar faces who might try to pull me into work, we ducked in and I got everyone some visitor passes.
|The exhibit kept it simple for the sake of my visitors|
|Here I'm pointing at a part of the engine I work on. Doesn't look like much? How about a close up!|
|Oooh! Ahhh! Who's excited?|
|My wife attempting to look interested as I ramble on about the acoustic properties of perforated metal sheeting while admiring a Trent 800.|
|Everyone loved the Lego engine!|
I found a nice hiking route on the internet for Matlock Bath - it worked out very well. The Walking Englishman shares my affinity for free parking.
|Candid shot - you'll notice there are not many pictures of my dad because he wouldn't give up the camera unless I demanded he let me take a picture of him|
|A nice picture of my mom taking a short rest after climbing High Tor|
|More candid photos from my dad lead me to believe Kerry puts up with a lot of my blabbering.|
|Cloudy day but still nice views|
|Descending the hill into town|
|Neat building - an old church turned private residence built up along the road.|
|Keep your dog away from the hot coals (known as fouling) - animal cruelty is taken very seriously here|
|We were in the cold long enough and worked up a bit of an appetite, so it was time for another British essential.|
The snow hit hard the next day,and with the proximity to Easter, I made a snow bunny.
The roads were a bit too treacherous to attempt a long day trip (especially off the beaten path). So we kept it mainly indoors. We did have my neighbors over for dinner but we forgot to take pictures. These are my [in]famous retired neighbors who when we visit them we end up stumbling back home. I tried my darndest to keep up with them and I think I was successful. My meal was Mexican-themed with pork carnitas with real authentic 100% corn tortillas - a gift from my mother. I also made margaritas, which were a hit. There was not much tequila left at the end. Kerry also made a killer lime pie. The conversation went late and was a lot of fun for everyone. My dad wasted no time to bring up politics and religion after two glasses of wine (hahaha - sorry Dad).
We braved the snow to visit Wollaton hall, which ended up being a lot more fascinating than I was planning for. The big attraction now is that it was used on the set of The Dark Knight Rises as Wayne Manor. We talked to one of the security guards who told us all about her starstruck experiences chatting it up with all the actors. I guess that's the key - keep the expectation low and prepare to be pleasantly surprised. There was a fun science exhibit ongoing at the hall that day, meant for kids, but we managed to make the most of it.
|Fossils and taxidermy was a big hit in the hall|
|Sledging was popular on the hill at the back of the hall - I'm so out of place without a blue jacket|
|A herd of deer in the park not minding the cold as much as we did; there were also some bambis sprinting around|
|One of my favorite pictures, the trees seem to go on forever, my mom is like little blue riding hood|
The next day I dropped my parents off at Nottingham Castle while I went off to get a workout in - I mentioned before how we were in the middle of the CrossFit Open and I HAD to get the workout scored and submitted before the deadline. I would have invited my parents but since the gym wasn't heated, I didn't think it would be terribly fun for them (sorry, Andy). However, my best intentions failed, as the castle did not open (as the sign said it would). So my parents ventured off into Nottingham seeking warmth. They had my phone so we met up later.
|Smart idea - find a pub. That's what a local would do|
|Enjoying some European style coffee|
We hit up a meal at Wagamama but couldn't hang longer than that. The wind would whip through the streets and just made sightseeing unbearable. We retreated to the bungalow for tea and (later) wine.
It was a great visit, and I felt homesick for the first time after dropping them off at the train station for their return trip back home. Kerry's parents are next, coming up in a few months! That will be a different kind of experience - can't wait!