Well, my family arrived on Sunday, April 1st. It was an appropriate because their presence in England felt surreal for all of us. I was just thrilled to see them. They kept saying how much bigger our flat looked over the internet, which completely bemused me, but a friend of ours who used to work in real estate told us it is true. Apparently if you take a picture from the corner of a room, it looks bigger. Lies, damned lies, and photos of homes.
Brian rode the train to Gatwick to greet them and they all rode down to Brighton in a 7 person "people carrier". I cooked up a big lunch and we all sat around catching up and eating. That is a really hard trip because of the time difference. By the time they got our flat it was 6am Fort Lauderdale time.
After lunch they felt like stretching their legs, so we took a tour of campus and strolled on over to the village of Falmer. We rode the bus up the hill, which was a big hit with everyone since it was a double decker and they got to ride on the top in the very front. You can really see a lot from up there.
This is my fab brother Matt. He is 17, funny, and very tall. Look out, ladies. I don't think he really wanted to pose with this random house, but he's just cool like that. What a nice guy.
Here's the whole family: my Mom, my Stepdad, Scott, Matt, and my sister, Juliet. They also graciously indulged my random picture taking. I was so excited to see them that they could barely breathe without my trying to taking a picture of it. I was so happy to see them that I felt I needed to document it all. :) I did settle down by the end of the week. A funny note about cameras: They had 3 starting out, by slowly over the week they died. With some creative thinking they were able to keep at least one operational at all times, but it was a bit funny.
Here is Jules making friends with one of the horses up at Falmer. I love this picture.
After checking out the quaint houses, the horses, and the sheep, we headed across the highway that tragically bisects the village to see the old church and the pond.
After that, we headed back to the flat for some tea and biscuits. Brian and I wanted to be good British hosts, so we had laid in a stock of McVittie's, Bourbon Creams, and Shortbread. Mom decided to come to evening church so that she could meet some or our church family here, and the rest of the crew headed back up to the hotel for some much needed rest.
Mom brought Iain some clothes, including this adorable pony outfit.
On Monday Brian made the real breakfast of champions: a full English breakfast. It consists of egg, bacon, baked beans, toast, sauteed mushrooms, and a fried plum tomato. It is mighty, let me tell you. After you eat an English breakfast, you'll know why they once had an empire on which the sun never set.
After breakfast we drove down the beautiful coastal road to Seven Sisters Country Park. The Seven Sisters are 7 gorgeous white chalk cliffs right on the coast.
To get to the cliffs and the sea you walk across rolling downland. I took the low road which was paved with the buggy, while 3 daring adventurers climbed one of the hills. Apparently they saw tons of rabbit tunnels up there.
Here they all are, enjoying an exceptionally warm spring day at the park. Last time we visited, it was November and quite cold with a stiff wind coming off the ocean. It was great then, but it is even better when you aren't freezing to death.
Resting by the stream that rolls out to the sea.
Brian brought the kite, which again thrilled Iain. Unfortunately, it got lost at sea. RIP, kite.
After wandering around the park for awhile, we headed to the farmhouse to enjoy another English masterpiece: a cream tea. I'm going to cry when we move back home and I can't have cream tea anymore. (For the deprived, cream tea consists of two scones, some jam, clotted cream, and your own little pot of tea.)
After restoring our strength with the proper quantity of jam and cream, we drove up to Beachy Head. Brian and I hadn't been there before, and it was absolutely breath taking. Pictures can't do it justice. The cliffs overlooking the lighthouse are dizzingly high and there isn't a fence or guard rail. Just you and open space. The afternoon sun reflecting off of the chalky cliffs, contrasted against the deep grey sea was so lovely.
There's my brother as we often saw him on the trip. He is really getting quite the interest in photography.
Poor Juliet! The wind up there was so strong that we were afraid that it might literally sweep her off the edge. So when we finally got her picture near the edge, she was clinging to Mom for dear life! Hey, better safe than sorry.
Yeah, life's been different ever since my husband was convicted of murder.
After an awesome day outside enjoying God's amazing creative power, we headed over to the Fry's house for dinner. Katy and Chris go to our church and thought my family would like to spend some time in a real British home. We had great fun chatting about cultural differences over dinner and playing games afterwards. It was so nice for our family to get a taste of the warm hospitality that we have been so blessed with here.
On Tuesday we caught the train to London. The weather was chilly and rainy, which is so very typical of the strange weather patterns you get here sometimes. It was beautiful and warm the rest of the week, thank heavens.
Our first stop was Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. After waiting for awhile for the guards to show up, we decided to ask the Bobby where the guards were. "Redeployed" he said. So that was disappointing. Hoping to redeem our trip, and thinking my sister with like the horses, I suggested the Royal Mews. Tip: Don't waste your time. It is only slightly interesting and not worth the money. Two strikes!
Here is the State Carriage at the Royal Mews. It was cool, but like I said, not really worth the price.
Riding the Tube.
After the Mews, we headed over to Westminister Abbye, which never disappoints. We saw the graves of Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Henry V, and many others. You aren't allowed to take pictures inside, so I guess you will have to come and visit us and see it yourself!
We grabbed a quick lunch at the Abbey and headed off to see the Tower of London. Brian and I visited there not long ago, so my family took Iain with them and Brian and I toured the HMS Belfast. The Belfast is awesome, but not a baby friendly attraction, so we were glad to have the chance to see it. The buggy wouldn't have handled clambering up and down ladders and balancing on narrow catwalks. The spaces were so tiny! It seems unbelievable that she was capable of housing 1,000 sailors. Some of them slept in the gun turrents or in the hallways it was so crowded. Even the Admiral's and Captain's quarters were smaller than our bedroom!
Tired and cold, we snapped this shot in front of the Tower Bridge and headed to Victoria to catch the train back home. Once we got home we ordered Indian take away for the first time. It was awesome! We had a feast and everybody tried a lot of this and a little of that. There is nothing like some good food and a warm place to rest after a long day.
On Thursday we drove to Stonehenge. On the way, we saw some awesome looking castle ruins and decided to take a break and check them out. You can see that Iain is ready to go!
It was another gorgeous day and it was nice to get out and stretch our legs. The castle was called Cowbray House, and Elizabeth I once stayed there. It burnt down and has been in ruins ever since.
After continuing on our way, we made to Stonehenge a bit later than we expected. We hit some major traffic on the way that slowed us down, but we still had plenty of time to see it. Iain enjoyed his travels as always.