After our epic holiday in Canada, enjoying plenty of snow action, we were definitely acclimatised to northern hemisphere temperatures by the time we landed in England on the 18th December. It was the first time – in nearly twenty years – that we’d be in England for Christmas and the first time, ever, for our three New Zealand born daughters – aged 15, 12 and 8. All their Christmases past had been celebrated in the New Zealand summertime (with one exception, the year we lived in Santa Barbara, California – a northern hemisphere Christmas, but a warm one all the same!). It was very exciting to anticipate celebrating Christmas in England with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, for a traditional Christmas with all the sparkling lights and trimmings.
The build up to Christmas felt so magical. We weren’t even bothered by the short days and cold – what with all the lovely fairy lights in every village, town and city we went to (and the centrally heated homes in England – something that’s not common place in New Zealand homes – made for a very cosy experience!). We were blessed with some crystal clear, dry days and visits from ‘Jack Frost’.
The first few days of our visit to England were spent at my parent’s home in north Hampshire. I spent a lot of time with my folks, whilst hubby took our girls out to a few fun places, such as the trampoline park in Basingstoke.
My dear Mum has Alzheimer’s disease and has declined quite a lot in the past year, so much so that she didn’t really know who any of us were. A couple of times she said to me, ‘I know you, you are one of my very special friends,’ and I tried to hold back tears in my response of, ‘Yes Mum, I am one of your very, very special friends and I love you so much.’. It was so sad to see her decline, but I was also focused on giving my Dad a little cheer and supporting him in any little way I could.
My sister joined us for a couple of days too and we enjoyed a nice afternoon in Winchester, visiting the Christmas market and the Cathedral. My Dad treated me to some of my favourite – roasted sweet chestnuts (scrumptious!).
I joined my folks on a U3A pre-Christmas walk on Winter Solstice – thankfully the weather was so kind to us (though there was a lot of mud and some large puddles to navigate our way through!). My poor Dad was so focused on getting my Mum dressed and prepared for the walk that he forgot to put his own hiking boots in the car and had to do the walk in his street shoes (so ended up with very soggy feet!). Still, despite the soggy feet we had fun and all wore silly Christmas hats (not a chance of losing anyone).
We had a lovely visit to Windsor together, where the lights made it feel so festive.
We had planned a walk around Virginia Waters, but the threat of rain put a little damper on that plan (but we did enjoy a lovely lunch there and admired a traditional merry-go-round – which my youngest daughter and I just had to have a ride on – of course!).
Dan and I took the girls to visit the WB Harry Potter Studio ‘in the snow’ (though the only tickets we could get were in the evening and they were quite tired with jet lag!).
Our youngest daughter enjoyed it the most – especially as there was fake ‘bubble’ snow outside around in the courtyard area!
Of course they had a ‘Butter Beer’ and my hubby had a go on a broom stick (experiencing the way the actors ‘flew’ and the magic of the green screen).
After a few days getting over jet lag and enjoying the home comforts of my parents house in the south of England, we all headed up north (my parents too) to spend a week of fun with my husband’s parents, as well as his brother and sister and their families – and my dear sister and her partner too! It was a week of sharing so much love, laughter, hugs, good food, games and fun together.
We stayed at The Old Stone Trough, where we enjoyed a scrumptious Christmas dinner together, after a morning spent opening presents with the grandparents.
The following day we celebrated our daughter turning 13 (she was born Boxing Day morning in New Zealand – so whilst in England she actually turned 13 on Christmas Day evening – and we made a special point of singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her!). We all enjoyed a lovely meal together at The Four Elephants Indian (she loves curry!). She spent the afternoon with her Dad, Uncles and cousins watching Burnley football club play a Boxing Day match at Turf Moor (a very different kind of Birthday!).
On Boxing Day morning, before our Birthday girl headed off to watch the football, I went on a lovely walk with my Mum, Dad and sister, across some local fields and alongside the canal.
I always love the public rights of way in England, making the land so accessible to all. We laughed at some very friendly sheep, covered in an assortment of colours (there must have recently been a ram in the field doing his business!). They were very friendly and came up to us as we strolled through their field on the way to the canal tow path.
In the afternoon, whilst the football was on, my sister, my other two daughters and I took my Mum for a little stroll around the delightful market town of Skipton.
On another day we headed out to Howarth, home of the Bronte sisters. We rode on a steam train (visit KWVR – Keighley & Worth Valley Railway) and talked about the wonderful story of ‘The Railway Children’. My dear Mum was quite happy on the train – it was quite of romantic with all the steam billowing alongside the window as we chugged along admiring the countryside.
A memorable day for me was spent walking the Ingleton Falls Trail with my Mum, Dad, sister and her partner.
On our last day in Lancashire we drove into Manchester. Charlotte and Sophie joined their Daddy and cousins for an exciting time at ‘The Crystal Maze‘, whilst I took Alice to the wonderful Science and Industry Museum next door.
The rest of the day we walked around Manchester, taking in the sights, before heading back to Colne and spending a fun evening at my sister-in-laws house with family, taking part in an epic quiz my nephew had created! We all split into teams and had quite a laugh trying to answer all the questions (he must have spent a few quiet afternoons doing all the research!).
On the day before New Year’s Eve we said sad farewells to all our family up north and heading back on the motorway to the south of England.
We saw in the New Year with my folks, marvelling at the London fireworks on T.V., from the comfort of my parents house.
On New Year’s Day we went for a stroll around historic Winchester (and ended up in a pub for lunch showing ‘The Railway Children’ – of course we reminisced on our recent visit to Howard and ride on the steam train!).
We had an exciting couple of nights staying in London, seeing Hamilton the Musical in the West End! We’ve all been listening to the musical Hamilton for a couple of years and all the children know the lyrics off by heart. It was a real treat to see the musical and we loved every minute of it.
We managed to meet up with a University friend whilst in London too – she took this wonderful photograph of us before we watched Hamilton.
During the day time we spent hours walking the streets of London taking in all the classic sights.
One evening Charlotte and I went to see ‘Kinky Boots’ – it was hilarious and brilliant; a story of love and acceptance.
On our last day in London we spent time with my dear sister. Aunty Claire treated us all to a ride on The London Eye, as the sunset over London. It was a gorgeous day and the colours were beautiful.
During the day we’d had a lovely walk through Camden Market and St James Park with Claire.
It was very hard to say goodbye at the end of the day – as it was the last time we’d see her on our trip to England.
After a magic few days in London we headed back to my parents home and spent our last two nights with them, before heading off to Japan!