So far in My Great British Adventure, you’ve read about the city exploring I got up to in Edinburgh, the catching-up with old friends in Glasgow and the hiking trails I carved out in the Scottish Highlands. It’s hard to image that I could fit anymore in to a 12-day trip abroad, but I did. I was looking forward to every aspect of this trip, but perhaps the one part that I was anticipating the most was visiting my family and my dad’s old stomping grounds in England.
You may recall from my Canada Day post the story about how my dad immigrated from Britain in 1977. Because of that, I grew up identifying with all things British: the food, the culture, the vocabulary, all of it. Being British has been as much a part of who I am as being Canadian. The only downside to this is that I’ve been separated from half of my family by an ocean, which doesn’t make it convenient for visiting. So, once Mike and I decided to travel to the UK, we knew that this was our chance to reunite with my family and for Mike to finally get the change to meet everyone in person.
We left Glasgow for England in the morning, estimating about 3 hours to get to my dad’s hometown of Barrow-in-Furness. Barrow is a small town in England, devoid of the hustle and bustle of London, but filled with charm, character and plenty of sheep. It’s the type of town where everyone knows each other and businesses have been open for decades. When my dad was thinking about whether or not he would leave, he had two options: 1) Stay in Barrow and lead a life that was successful, sure, but familiar and without surprises; or 2) Leave; venture into the unknown and try to make something of himself which could end terribly or be the greatest adventure of his life. We all know now that he chose the second option, but he never forgot where he came from.
Our first stop was to visit my Grandma Marg. Though not actually my real Grandma, Grandma Marg is a really special person in my life. Her daughter, my mom’s best friend and my Aunt Margaret, has been in my life since the day I was born. My sister and I grew up terrorizing her dogs, Winston and Bentley, riding on her boat, playing dress-up with her clothes and getting up to all sorts. The first time I ever got drunk was actually with her, when we all went out for an Italian dinner and the waiter kept filling my glass with wine. I believe I was 13 years old. Mike and I stopped in to visit my Grandma Marg to chat about the adventure we’d been on and reminisce over fond memories of my childhood. It’s amazing to see a 92 year-old woman recall with such detail stories that seem hazy to me. This shouldn’t have surprised me, though, since this is someone who never forgets to send a birthday, anniversary or Christmas card.
After our visit, it was time to stop in to visit my dad’s brother, my Uncle John and Aunt Janet. While there, we took a walk to Roa Island to enjoy the warm weather and spectacular views of Piel Island before we went to dinner. My Uncle John and Aunt Janet used to visit my family every summer when my sister and I were younger. When they were visiting, we’d go on weekend trips to Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. We’d have pool parties where my parents would invite all their friends to party until the wee hours of the morning. I used to love playing tour guide, showing them all around our city and pointing out places to go. Now, we seemed to have come full-circle as Mike and I were the tourists being shown all the sights which included the place where my dad was born.
The next day, Mike and I walked around the town for a bit and grabbed some pies for lunch at a cute bakeshop nearby my Uncle John’s house. We took our pies and went for a walk, enjoying the landscape and the downtime. Then, it was time to say goodbye and head over to my dad’s sister’s house. My Aunty Betty and Uncle Billy had arranged a small party with all of their kids and grandkids to come visit and spend time with Mike and I. It was Mike’s first time to meet all my cousins and the first time I’d seen most since I was a kid, but once we were all together, it was like no time had passed at all. We shared stories and laughter until late into the night. What struck me as interesting that night was how similar we all were despite being separated by time and distance. It wasn’t only in looks, but in mannerisms, phrases and gestures – it was clear to see that certain things ran in the family.
On our final day, we had a nice breakfast and said ‘cheerio’ to my cousins and aunt and uncle before heading off on one last adventure. We decided to spend our last day in the UK in the Lake District, visiting Bowness-on-Windermere, a beautiful lakeside town with quaint store-lined streets, boat rentals and upscale hotels. A trip to England couldn’t be complete without High Tea. One of my cousins recommended we have our afternoon tea service at The Belsfield Hotel. The Belsfield is easily the most lavish hotel in Windermere. The ballroom, hotel and many guestrooms overlook the lake and their outdoor patio provides panoramic views of the whole town. Our High Tea service was a perfectly relaxing way to spend our afternoon. After that, we spent a couple of hours walking up and down the streets, stopping in at a few stores and purchasing some items to remind us of our Great British Adventure.
On the drive back to Glasgow, we reminisced about the past 12 days and how unbelievably lucky and grateful we felt to have been able to take this kind of trip. I got to introduce my family to my best friend and husband, I was able to show Mike where my dad came from, and together we explored new and exciting places. Though we saw amazing places and did amazing things, the best part of it for me was disconnecting from our regular routines, getting out of our comfort zones and figuring out each day together. Travelling is a wonderful experience that everyone should do as often as possible, but if you’re able to do it with someone that fills your life with happiness, that’s even better.