Earlier this year in May, I got the opportunity to travel to the home land once again with Paul to visit family and do some extra exploring while we were there. What was really neat about this visit was we were both able to get 2 full weeks off our jobs and planned on spending the first week there visiting his family, catching up with friends, and binge eating all our favorite English foods (cuz why not right?). The 2nd week we planned on taking a road trip to Wales and making some stops along the way. So needless to say, I was eager to get going on this trip!
We flew out of Dayton International Airport and got on a tiny Indiana Jones type plane to connect us over to Washington D.C. where we would board the real plane that took us overseas. I remember that plane being so small that my backpack full of books, camera equipment, and my laptop couldn’t even fit in the overhead compartment. It was quite funny trying to rearrange everything so we could stuff it in and I quickly realized I was “that person”. Never again will that happen.
Once we got to D.C. we had to RUSH to get to our flight in time and to add to the stress of it all, that airport was so strange. To get to our terminal from where our connecting flight landed, we had to run through a maze of hallways, get onto a shuttle bus that looked more like a gigantic trailer on tractor wheels, and rush over to the other side of the airport across all the strip of various gates and platforms. Needless to say we got there just in time for boarding. Funny thing is though, once we got on the plane we waited for about an hour before we took off because there was something to do with the luggage being loaded incorrectly. We all just sat and laughed about it as the stress began to melt away.
When we were finally able to take off, everyone on the plane felt relieved to begin the long flight over. It was a late night flight so we tried our best to sleep as much as we could to help with jet lag but to no one’s surprise, we couldn’t sleep much. But we made the best of what we could.
When we landed, it was so weird because it was like we missed out on a whole night’s sleep. We took off around 7pm and when we landed it was around 8am local time. So we were incredibly tired but had to tough it out and stay up as late as possible! Or jet lag would be even worse to get over.
We got on a shuttle bus that took us to the rental car company, got our adorable Ford Focus, piled all the luggage in, and started on the road toward Sturry where we would be staying. It was about a 2 hour drive and it was a good thing Paul’s mum was traveling with us because she was able to give directions to Paul and navigate him very easily. And when we finally arrived at his Auntie’s house, we were greeted with big hugs and even bigger smiles. It didn’t take me very long at all to feel right at home.
We didn’t really do much the first few days. Jet lag and tiredness really hit us hard and we just took it easy. His auntie’s house was right in the center of the town and most of his family came there to see and visit us. It was really nice to meet a lot of his family, get to know them more, let them get to know me, and in general just relax. It’s amazing that Paul and I have been together for 11 years and still most of his family to this point didn’t know much about it me all. So I made sure I really dedicated a lot of time to them and thus, not very many photos happened through these days.
But, Paul and I did sneak out a few times to have some moments to ourselves, walked to the shops, got sweeties, and just enjoyed the views of small town Sturry where he’s from. I swear, all of Kent is just a dream.
One morning we went over to his Nan’s house where she cooked us a nice, big English breakfast and we spent the entire morning talking, catching up, and looking through old photo albums she had. I got to hear so many stories of Paul and his cousins all growing up, and even some history of their family and her time being a little girl during WWII and how scary it was during the Battle of Britain for her and her brothers and sisters. And for a little while, the weather was even nice enough to sit outside and enjoy her garden where we all shared laughs, talked, and just enjoyed the peacefulness of being alive.
Once the afternoon said hello that day, Paul and I got a little antsy and wanted to take a drive just the two of us where he took me out to the coast. A special little place where he and his cousins spent a lot of their summers. Even though the wind and the drizzly rain made it chilly and completely impossible for me to imagine a summer’s day, it was lovely to see where Paul spent so much of his childhood
Another day was spent going to Canterbury for our usual shopping visit and look through the town. After all my travels up to this point, I still think Canterbury is my favorite city next to London. There is such a charm and history to it that is unlike any other place I’ve visited before. And a wonderful mix of the new and old. Even though I’ve gotten a lot better at this photography thing, I feel my photos still don’t do this place justice.
After spending the morning and early afternoon in town, we drove out to Ashford to go visit Paul’s Granddad and his wife Katie. We actually decided to stay there for a couple nights and they happily hosted us the whole time and it was the first time I really got to talk to them at all. The first time I met them was when I was 17 and hadn’t spoken to them since. I remember visiting them then and them asking me what I was planning to do after high school school and I remember telling them I had plans to become a photographer. And well, fast forward 8 years later and I’m doing that very thing. I remember that conversation in particular making me feel as though I have come completely full circle with my life so far and it made me wonder how many more amazing things await me.
Their house they have lived in together for about 20 years or so is one of the calmest and most peaceful homes I have ever been inside. I wanted to document the way it all looked while we were there. And I just love the way Katie’s eclectic taste decorates the place. When Paul and I slept there, we both had the most fulfilling and relaxing sleep through the trip thus far. And waking up to the smells of Katie’s cooking was a huge bonus.
Well, after our first morning there, they wanted to take a walk into town to visit the local butcher’s. And we got to have a chance to see their little town and it really made me admire and kinda miss small town living. There really is a peace about it you cannot get anywhere else. And well, add that English charm and you’ve got something truly breath taking.
That afternoon, we spent some time chatting away in the living room and the topic of books came up. Me and Katie share a love for fairytales and she excitedly went upstairs to their room and brought down an antique book her mother gave to her as a child called Peter Pan in the Kensington Gardens. I couldn’t believe she shared the book with me and I was in complete awe with how well the book was holding up, the craftsmanship of it, and the true magical quality it had holding it. It might seem weird, but the nerd in me had my eyes glossed up in tears as I deeply admired the beautiful words (written by J.M. Barrie in 1906) and artwork by Arthur Rackham. I really wish books were still made like this.
After all the amazing food Katie made for us, the lovely chats, and the 2 days spent with them I can honestly understand why Paul greatly admires his Granddad and his life with Katie. They are such beautiful, raw, and deep people that have an appreciation for life that seems to be so rare these days. Out of all the amazing things we did during this trip, these 2 days spent with them were some of my favorite moments and ones I will greatly cherish. I’m so happy I was able to get to know them the way I did and I’m eager to return and visit them once again.
After visiting Granddad and Katie, a few more visits with cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents…. we finally looked into the 2nd week of our travels which consisted of a road trip to Wales! Paul and I hit the road just the two of us and began our trek west by driving along the southern part of England. Our first stop was the New Forest where we got to see HUGE oak trees, wild horses, and beautiful land that stretched on for miles and miles. We found a nice little spot for a picnic and even was able to get up close and personal with some wild horses where I channeled my inner horse whisperer. It was pretty neat.
Our next stop was Cheddar Gorge where we’d be staying for the night. It’s a place Paul had been wanting to show me since we first started dating and I was excited to finally get to see it! It was like an English version of Gatlinberg and the rolling, rocky hills made me miss home a little. But that charming, picturesque town made us feel right at home when we finally checked in at the Bath Arms Hotel. I’ll never forget how amazing our room was, how delicious the food was, and I even ordered my first bottle of wine ever. And that French Rosé was the best I ever had. And believe it or not, that B&B was the cheapest out of all our travels and by far the greatest we stayed in. I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to or through Cheddar Gorge.
Next blog post will be Part 2 to this one! So stay tuned for more road trip stories and our adventures through Wales!