This Is How The Brits Do ‘Happy Hour’…….
…..and somehow, we had no problem following their lead. Fancy that?
With the London streets enveloped with the sound of ‘accented’ banter as the cheerful bar goers’ were literally spilling out of the pub with pints in hand, we happily joined them. It seemed LIKE the ONLY right thing to do?
It has been joked upon many a times that I may have not received the ‘shoppers gene’ in my family, but I know a good deal when I see it—and when a pub (in BRITAIN particularly) has a sign that showcases 50% off of EVERYTHING, well—all signs point to ‘GO.’ This was the highlight of one of our many ‘field trips’ outside of Hastings whilst we were here, and we owed this one all to Ray’s lil’ or TALLER rather, brother Kevin. He bought the train tickets, and we brought the trouble.
Not Your Average Every Day Field Trip (Part 2)
*This blog is dedicated to my Uncle Gary…. My childhood ‘Ft. Wayne Field Trips’ will always live strong in my heart.*
Friday, July 22nd- LONDON: Thankfully, we picked the DAY BEFORE Kate’s Wedding Dress was to go on display to make the the hour 1/2 train ride North towards the dazzling city of LONDON with Ray’s brother and his girlfriend Emma. Otherwise, we would have never been able to flit & float about as we did (more like following Ray like puppy dogs as he knows the city like the back of his hair-less hand) and meander down SoHo and all its secret and sultry alley ways. Now, London cabbies may have been rubbing their hands together in geed and grinning like the Grinch who stole all the American ‘pocket book pounds’ over how much money they were going to make on SATURDAY with the showing of ‘Kate’s floating head…..’ (supposedly, the Queen was aghast at how they were showing the dress off as the veil was hovering over the wedding dress like a eery ghostly figure…. I thought it was very ‘Alice in wonderland OFF WITH HER HEAD’ fairy-tale-tastic if you ask me)…. but you could imagine that Ray was quite over the moon that he wouldn’t have to be pushing and shoving his way around Kate and William mega fans. Personally, I think it would have been pretty amusing. *snicker snicker*
But our day in London was brilliant and we couldn’t have been with better company to re-explore such a fabulous city….. (and its sensational Happy Hours, who knew?) From ‘phone booth photo shoots’ to Pub Lunches and 4 pound 99p Chinese Buffets dinners and orange cone entertainment in-between (yes, the creative talents of buskers are incredible in this town)…. it was a colorful field trip indeed. You could imagine with all those twists and turns we were knackered (nothing to do with the glasses of vino in between) but woke up just in time for our train to arrive back in Hastings just after midnight, even through ‘someone sawing some major logs.’ Not naming any names, but he wouldn’t line up to see a royal wedding dress anytime soon…..
Monday, July 18th- CANTERBURY, England: Although it seems like only a ‘hiccup’ of time spent with one of Ray’s very best mates…. (Fast forward to present as I write this blog now in his gorgeous Ikea-tastic’ home in Denmark) let me ‘rewind’ to a special day where we got a bit of a ‘bonus’ and found out that our Phil was going to be just two hours North of Hastings visiting HIS hometown of Canterbury; he now lives in Denmark with his beautiful wife Kristina.
SIDENOTE: Little backstory on our Phil- He was Ray’s best man at our wedding and received his ‘celeb status’ by travelling together when I first met Ray in Australia (NOW we’re going back almost 11 years ago…..) Funny story is, I have known Phil EVEN longer then I have known Ray, as it was because Phil met one of my girlfriends out on the town that ‘fateful night’ that Ray decided to stay behind. Phil then met us up with his ‘mate’ the next day and alas…. that’s when Ray and I first laid eye’s on each other. And the rest is, as they say…. history.
As you can imagine, its pretty magnetic when the two of them are together…. It was also just around this time that I couldn’t have needed a massive squeeze from a friend more, from someone that truly knows you and loves you for all your faults and ‘features.’ With friendships here you often start from ‘fresh.’ They only know you from *now.* They don’t know the person you have been…. the journey…. the experiences…. the blips you’ve had along the way, or even all the adventures you may have shared WITH them. You have only the present and onward. Phil is truly one in a million~ and seeing Phil and his wife Kristina that day and walking around the charming town of Canterbury and having them understand you for YOU was so refreshing. It was a field trip to re-charge and remember that regardless of where you are in the world, there will always be friends that will love you unconditionally and will have been there right from the start. This is so very comforting when you are in a new world, a new home and starting a ‘new beginning.’
Sunday, July 24th- Bath, England: WORKAWAY. This is what is was all about for us. THIS is what we were here for. To travel around Europe volunteering in trade for accommodation and food…. and in turn, we would gain ‘EXPERIENCES.’ (and prolong our saving to = MORE experiences) I guess you could say, workaway was the field-trip of our dreams….. As Diva was “due” to port on August 5th, we needed to fill a week or so in July whilst we played the game of ‘limbo’ that Ray and I have been getting to be almost professional at since the beginning of 2011. Theme of this year? “Hurry up and wait… and then try to make the most of it, while you do.”
So that’s exactly what we did when we headed West towards Bath for our first workaway experience at a Bed and Breakfast called Bloomfield Inn. Little did we know, that just filling in 4 days working at this Inn made the last 6 months of ‘limbo’ all worthwhile.
That Sunday morning I had awoken to some devastating news. My Uncle Gary (my fathers older Brother) had passed away and I wanted to wrap my arms around my family and be there with/for them, as memories of my Uncle were exploding all around me and I wanted nothing more then to be back home and share in the memory of such a warm, loving and courageous man and yet I felt even further away then ever before. I wanted to be able to reach through the phone and take away all their pain and sadness, and yet— here I was just trying to communicate my sadness with my parents for this massive loss to all in our family, to my Uncle Gary’s family…. via the side of the motorway. NOT being there with my family was heart wrenching. I felt miserable not being able to be there for them.
So to walk into a new experience, to say the least, was not ideal that day. But then, as I have said before…. we are always in our rightful place (however sometimes it may not peak ‘its head’ out at that very moment) and that evening when I first met the owner Karen of Bloomfield Inn she came straight up to me and gave me such a warm and welcoming hug that it melted right through to my toes. And my heart was a bit less heavy…. and my home seemed a bit less far away. And I knew that I could be strong for my family in my own way, even if it was what it seemed- a bazillion miles away on that very day…..
Throughout the next few days we became a part of the Bloomfield Inn family with Karen and Rob’s five lovely and very ‘eccentric’ children ages ranging from 12 to 22…. We helped with the breakfast in the morning (full English~ yum yum!) and other bits and bobs around the house as well as catering lunch for one of Rob’s business meetings and then getting out in the afternoons to explore the beautiful town of Bath. And of course… every night, Ray would ‘throw together’ a meal and we would sit down and enjoy each others company around the table. The family had such a special relationship, and it was so wonderful and refreshing to be a part of a house with so much love that was bursting at the seams…. at precisely the right moment when I needed it the most.
SIDENOTE: It is also interesting to note that the Inn is known as an ‘Eco Guest House’ and owner Rob co-founded many ‘farmers markets’ not just IN the town of Bath, but helped to organize and set up many Farmer’s Markets around England. (Both Karen and Rob are co-founders of the U.K. farmers’ market movement) All the guests enjoy English breakfasts cooked using fresh ingredients supplied, wherever possible, by local producers. The hotel car even runs on filtered, used vegetable oil. Vroom Vroom! We definitely were thinking about our experience working on our cousin Paul’s farm in Grass Valley, Cali when we were working here… he would have been proud of what these owners of this Inn have accomplished in and around the UK with their emphasis of local produce/famers markets.
The town of Bath itself was also something of a extraordinary town~ if you like the beautiful-touristy-tastic’-red bus hop on and off kind of Roman-esque towns, that is. The city of Bath is actually nestled in a basin surrounded by seven hills, exactly like Rome. A little history lesson for you all is that it is this reason and the fact that Bath offers the only natural hot springs in England, that the Romans settled here almost 2,000 years ago. The Roman Baths are still here (we didn’t spend the poundage to view them, but Ray did lift me up over the gate and it did look gorgeous…. apart from the *evils* we were getting from the paying tourists.)
Thursday, July 28th-Monday August 1st- Field Trip Extravaganza! Camp Bestival, Dorset: So it seems if you know me, I have a few special favorite ‘holidays’ throughout the year. And it doesn’t include Christmas, my birthday or even groundhogs day…. OH NO. In no particular order it is: Grand Ol Days (the first Sunday in June where everyone gathers in St. Paul to one of my most favorite streets called Grand Avenue for a full out street festival –whoopwhoop-affair) and then comes 4th of July to one of my most favorite small town celebrations in Chetek, WI with my girlfriend Rocky and crew and final favorite ‘holiday’ is Halloween. (with St. Patrick’s just nipping at its heals).
Now imagine all three of these ‘special holiday’s’ rolled into one. The ‘fancy-dress’ of Halloween smooshed in with the massive amounts of the people (37,000 to be exact) and live music of Grand Ol Days sprinkled with the colorful outdoorsy’ celebration of Chetek on the 4th…. and TA DA! Meet my new favorite Holiday. Camp Bestival. It’s part of the European ‘festival’ circuit that goes on throughout the summer…. and I am just trying to figure out how on earth I missed out on this little slice of heaven on all my 32 years of life.
But before I get too ahead of myself in the magical excitement of Renaissance Festival meets Country Jam (but with a REAL live castles and REAL live British accents minus the country music, of course), I suppose I should start with whom we owe this all to; our friends Sarah and Tony Yalden. The festival extraordinaire’s. (And Ray’s dear friend for over 18 years) This is the third year that they packed up their car and 3 year old Charlie and 5 year old Joe (oh yes, this is a family event!) and join the masses (shanty tent town) for the weekend as they rock out on the main stage to Blondie, Primal Scream, House of Pain…. the list goes on and on. (oh, and lets not forget the Zing Zilla’s, too!) Its truly a sensational site to see people of all ages…. of all KINDS…. of all razzle dazzle and fancy dress enjoying the simple pleasures of music and togetherness….
Unfortunately, the only down side to my new ‘fave holiday’ is that its bloody expensive….. about 170 pound each for the weekend to be exact. ($277 dollars) But, in the words of “Blondie” herself…. “One way or another I’m gonna getcha, I’ll getcha, I’ll getcha getcha getcha getcha!” We had to be clever about it and to be a part of this experience and the Yalden family for the weekend, so we volunteered 16 hours behind the bars within the 4 days to pay for our lil’ Field Trip to the Lulworth Castle. It couldn’t have worked out better…. The music itself doesn’t actually start until Friday but the bars open Thursday evening. So we signed up to volunteer 2-11pm on Thursday right when we got there and then 4-11pm on Friday night and then we had Saturday and Sunday (the biggest days) all to devote ALL to the experience. BRILLIANT. The only thing not so brilliant was me… behind the bar…. trying to figure out what a “shandy” was. Just picture me and my nasally American accent shouting back from the bar asking “RAAAAY, WHATS A SHAAAANDYYYYY??” The brits weren’t too impressed, to say the least. (BTW—Its carbonated lemonade and lager, just in case you are ever to be stuck in a similar situation )
Ray and I were then let free from our behind the bar duties just in time to be a part of the fancy dress ‘medieval theme’ that took place all day Saturday. (there was even a parade… do you see where I am going here, this festival was like…. built FOR us!) Upon arrival we were concerned that the Wyatt ‘dress code’ would not be up to par as we couldn’t afford this ‘fancy pants costume.’ But alas.….(like they were dreaming up ways to make everything PERFECT for US) they had a ‘dress up tent’ where you could actually hire (rent) out PRINCESS and KNIGHT dresses! You should have seen my face light up as I swirled around showing off my razzle dazzle and flowy lacy gowns as I got to be a princess for the day….. And you should have seen Ray twirling around all giddy in his STOCK and JEGGINGS and he chose to go more, ah hem, well…. cramped for the day. But he woke up at 8am with the stock on and went to bed at 3am with the stock on and I must admit, this man fully committed to his costume.
I could write an entire blog JUST about this Bestival, but I think the biggest message that I want to get across is not so much that this festival revolved around US (because, surely, they couldn’t have known we were coming….) but that it revolved around families and ….gasp… CHILDREN. And WE still had THE. FIELD. TRIP. OF. OUR. LIVES. It shows you that families can spend a weekend together with their kids…. their wives….. husbands… and and all be a little ‘pleasure-selfish-centered,’ because there is something for everyone. And it was so very magical. There was a moment that I actually sat down on a hill overlooking the oversized overstuffed purple couches and massive Alice and wonderland-esque umbrella’s with the colorful kites billowing in the air and pinching myself. Perhaps I myself had fallen down the rabbit hole?
Monday, August 1st: And if the Yalden family hadn’t done enough for us already by allowing us the pleasure of ‘tagging along’ to Bestival, they then offered us up to housesit for them in Cheese-ham (Chesham) whilst they carried on and continued their holiday on towards France for 10 days. So off we went, towards our final field trip in England to become a part of their ‘close’ (cul-de-sac) and the town and spend BOTH of our birthday’s and we were spoiled rotten by having our own space for ‘oodles’ of days. I can’t say we took OVER the town, but we certainly tried to take over the neighborhood as we befriended the neighbs’, tried to claim ‘squatters rights’ on her house (a silly little English law) and we almost got run out of a music event at a local café for being ‘too loud.’ (The music was fabulous, but if you would have seen the crowd you would have thought they were listening to a speech on quantum physics).
But like this blog, all good Field Trip must come to an end…. And I ‘shot gun’ back seat on the bus! A VW Bus that is, as it was on Monday, August 15th our Diva came back into our lives.
I suppose she thought she would be ‘fashionably late.’
So onwards towards Denmark and CHEERS (SKAL in Danish) to England!
SIDENOTE: WE LOVE YOUR COMMENTS UNDER THIS BLOG! It makes us feel like someone is out there…. Thank you for following our journey!