We have been in Europe nearly a month already! Our timing was chosen specifically to join our nephew Matthew in celebrating a very important event in his life: his ordination into Dominican priesthood. A major milestone for him, a great occasion for family to get together and a proud moment for his parents and grandparents.
For the past 4 weeks, we have been criss-crossing the UK to visit family. Our second important family event took place in London: it was very special to be able to watch Anthony’s niece Fenella perform in her end of year dance show. And a very proud moment for her mum, Anthony’s sister Tansy. Sadly, no photos were allowed, but we did all get in between the afternoon and evening shows for celebratory refreshments and dinner. The last big event is this Saturday, our nephew Sebastian’s christening, which Father Matthew will be officiating.
We have seen my mum, attended one of her amazing 2 hour guided tours of Canterbury cathedral which she gave to a group of French students, played many games of scrabble, seen my dad and niece Marion for the ordination, seen my sister Diane and most of her family, celebrated my niece Camilla’s birthday, enjoyed an impromptu home concert, seen Anthony’s sister Tansy and family in Dorset, visited cousins Celia and Richard in Scotland where we did a spot of sightseeing in Kirckubright and single malt tasting and also visited my nephew Timothy and Bex and their 2 gorgeous boys. We also spent 5 days zooming from Amsterdam to Antwerp to visit Anthony’s cousin Lesley and family. So great to catch up with family who have also been faithful followers of our blog. Wherever we have been, we have been totally spoilt and fed so many amazing meals. It is time we get back on the road and work all those treats off!!!…
In between the family visits, sightseeing and lovely walks, we also managed to catch up with our old friend Eugene – it was on the 14th July, the day Marianne, France’s symbol for Liberté, Égalité et Fraternité, cried for France and the whole world following the attrocities in Nice. We visited Antwerp on Belgium’s national day – a little unnerving after Nice but we were not going to be deterred. We also caught up with close friends Pat and Andy from Brisbane who happened to be staying 5 miles from a motorcycle shop we had planned to go to.
After Belgium, we nipped down to Lille, in northern France to go down memory lane and revisit old haunts. This is where I went to uni and Anthony used to come over every three weeks to see his French girlfriend back in 1977! Time does play tricks on the mind. Sometimes it feels like no time has passed between visits to family/friends or places and it oddly seems normal to be where you are and other times, you know a place should be familiar but you cannot remember until suddenly, out of nowhere, a glimpse of clarity followed by exhilaration. I loved seeing where I used to live – there was one door bell for all the student rooms back then. As I was in room 5, my visitors used to have to ring the doorbell 5 times – you had to start counting as soon as the door bell rang to find out if it was for you or not. I was glad I wasn’t in room 8!! I loved the modern Lille cathedral with it’s wall of Portugese mable. Thanks to our friends Jan and Ineke for telling us about Roubaix and especially the renovated art deco swimming pool – stunning!! On the way back to Amsterdam where we had hoped to catch up with other friends, we made the most of the time to see the Cuyperspassage at Amsterdam Central station with 80,000 blue Delft tiles.
We have been lucky with the weather – we are after all in the UK so have to talk about the weather! It started absolutely freezing, was mostly grey, often wet, we didn’t get to see any of the Peak District on our way to Scotland but we did see this year’s British summer and it was amazing.
As we’ve gone from place to place, we pick our route based on either new places we want to see or good hotel deals. And so we ended up going through Sheffield and Blackpool. Both places have seen better days but they also each have their story and therefore are interesting. I remember the coach trips I used to make with my grandparents when I was little – I have happy memories of fun, treats, unusual Blackpool rock (teeth breaking sugar stick), delicious bright pink fairy floss, loud game arcades, carousel rides. Fifty years on, I could decide whether Blackpool is sad and tacky or nostalgic. I chose the latter. Which reminded us of a question we were asked recently: how much had we sugar coated our blog of our recent round the world trip as we hadn’t described any bad experiences. We described our feelings of what we experienced, good, bad, tough, frustrating but nothing bad happened to us. But of course, what we have recounted is our perception of what we experienced – our attitude to life automatically ‘taints’ or reflects our perceptions. Going back to Blackpool, I enjoyed the memories, watched young families building their own, decided to leave the old faded pink fairy floss but couldn’t resist this magnificent carousel – I had a full ride all to myself and enjoyed every second.
What about Streak and Storm?!?! You’ll have to wait a day or two for this update…