As I have mentioned, my parents stayed with us for two weeks earlier this month. We had a wonderful time seeing London and travelling north together.
Many of you have never met my folks. They live I Florida these days so they don’t make it to Idaho often. They are both 78, very active and travel frequently. But when they travel these days it’s by car, hotel, and small guided elder hostel tours. Despite being a Girl Scout and leader, my Mom is not into camping and roughing it. My dad is game for most things, but hates the cold and wind. Even so, they have gone yurt camping with us on the beach in Oregon in December, and tent camping in the Bitterroots on the Lewis & Clark trail in the heat of summer. So it did not seem like a stretch for the four of us to bunk in our two room flat for a couple of weeks. In my mind it was the lap of luxury. Our landlords loaned us a great double air mattress and we gave our bed to Mom & Dad. My sisters both told my parents they were crazy and probably were taking bets on how many days the four of us would last together before mom and dad bailed to a hotel – well we showed them!
The two weeks they visited were the worst sustained bad weather we have had since arriving in London in January. I don’t think the temperature rose above 40 degrees the entire time. It rained almost every day. And the wind was brutal. (And as I mentioned my poor dad just hates the cold and wind!) Still the four of us tromped all over the City with my Mom and I charging ahead and Dad and Tom trying to keep up. We visited all the museums and maritime sights in Greenwich, went to the Portobello and Greenwich Markets, visited Parliament and watched the House of Commons and the House of Lords in session, and walked around Kew Gardens in the pouring rain. Mom and Dad spent a day at Westminster Abbey and had a tour by one of the vergers (although they did not get our wonderful gymnastic verger). I though Kew would be the highlight of the trip for my Mom. Not. It was so hard to enjoy in 35 degree, rainy and windy weather.
For me the two highlights of the trip were driving north to visit friends in Whitley Bay and visiting Hampton Court Palace.
As many of you know, my mother’s parents and my dad’s father were all born in England. My maternal grandparents were from the Newcastle-upon-Tyne area and immigrated to the US in 1925. On their own they would likely have stayed in Newcastle, but my two great uncles and my great grandparents had decided to emigrate to the US. So my grandparents followed the family. For both of my grandparents, England was always a special place where life was happy, the world was green, the hills were yellow with gorse, the buildings were ancient and beautiful, the sea was lovely, and the food was luscious! And I have to add that anyone who thinks British food is bland or boring has not eaten true British food. My grandmother was a fabulous cook and spent her days serving up the most wonderful food to her family – along with much love and a good dose of English lore. She was one of the most important figures in my life and I think of her most when I am making pastry, gravy and Yorkshire pudding. Every time I make these traditional English foods I do so in her honor!
My grandmother’s best friend and the maid of honor at her wedding was Gerald. Even after moving to the US, grandma maintained a frequent sustained correspondence with Gerald. My mother was named Geraldine after her. On a trip with my grandmother in the 1970’s my mom met Gerald’s daughter Marjorie and her husband Bill. Of course my mom knew all about the details of Marjorie’s life through Gerald letters to my grandmother – which were always described, discussed and repeated for the entire family. Even I remember hearing about letters from Gerald as a young girl. After the visit mom and Marjorie began to correspond, Marjorie and Bill visited my parents in the US and over the years a good friendship arose. Marjorie and Bill are now 86 and the main purpose of our trip north to Whitley Bay (an old beachside resort on the North Sea just east of Newcastle) was to visit them. It was wonderful to see them both. We had tea and biscuits, Marjorie fixed us a wonderful salmon diner with a Trifle for desert on the first night we were there, and they treated us to a very posh dinner out the second night. Dad got a chance to sit and talk with Bill while Tom rested (he did all the driving which was hair raising) while Mom, Marjorie and I went shopping. We walked on the waterfront and just enjoyed the place which also had figured large in my grandmother’s memories and stories of her girlhood.
On the way back to London mom and I conned Dad and Tom into detouring to Stoke-on-Trent where we could shop for discount china. For various reasons this part of the trip was ill fated. The detour made the drive home very long. Although my mom got what she was looking for (can’t mention it here as it’s a surprise for another family member), we did not have good directions and visited only one shop. The traffic was intense through the midlands and to cap off the long day it poured for the whole second half of the trip back to London. Still the trip north was fun and visiting Marjorie and Bill was lovely.
The last day of my parents visit was coincidentally the best weather. We went to Hampton Court. My mom had visited once in the 70’s with my grandmother but did not remember much. The rest of us had not been there. Henry VIII’s pleasure palace did not disappoint. It was extravagant and loaded with interesting history that appealed to each of us. The visit was a great conclusion to a wonderful time with my parents.
I’ve posted lots of pictures of my parent’s visit here: Mom & Dad in London
We only have six more days in London and will be busy getting re-packed and organized to take off on our Camino. I hope the next post I make is from the walk.