Home to ENGLAND! 2014

Six months ago my Mum invited us all to her wedding in England in mid-July. When I looked at ticket prices for the peak season, I wondered how we would take the whole family over, and “um-ed and ah-ed” over what I was going to do. Then a couple of weeks ago, I was ordering her gift online, and when I wrote in the card: “I am so sorry we couldn’t be there” I realized that no excuse was good enough. This was my MUM, and it would make her happy, and this would be something I would always regret missing out on. I couldn’t take the whole family this time but decided that I, at least, needed to be there, so I booked my ticket with just a couple of days notice.

When I arrived my Dad picked me up from the airport with his wife, Natalie {from the Ukraine} and it was wonderful to see them! Last year in Greece, she spoke very little English, and it was hard to understand her, or get to know her, but now her English was so great– I was blown away! We drove up to Northampton and had dinner with my sister Clare, my bro in law Ben and my sweet nieces and nephews. Later my brothers–one in between traveling from South Africa and Saudi, and the other from a tiny little island off Copenhagen–joined us. It was awesome being together for the first time in four years! We watched the world cup semi final, bundled each other, laughed, reminisced and caught up on each other’s lives.

The next morning was the day of Mum and Pauls wedding. My brothers and I went out for breakfast and did a little shopping, then took a road trip up to Sheffield in South Yorkshire to meet up with my little sister Mel. It was amazing to see her, my brother in law Joe, and my sweet new nephew, Noah, for the first time ever. Another highlight of the trip was getting to be a bridesmaid with ALL my sisters!!! We got our hair done together, did each other’s make up, then headed to the Wortley Hall to meet my Mum!

When I arrived she was all ready, and looked so beautiful! It was really special to see her, not only after so long, but as a beautiful bride.

bride melandbexI followed my gorgeous Mum down the aisle, with my two brothers on either side of her, and as I looked around, the room was full of people I love that I hadn’t seen in years–my Nan, cousins, aunts and uncles, and close family friends! The ceremony proceeded and was short but very sweet! It dawned on me, that my Mum will now be a “Cherry” instead of a “Greaves” and that I now have a new half brother and half sister {Sam is second on the right}.
bridesmaidsHere are a few pics of the wedding day: I got to be my mum’s wedding photographer as well as bridesmaid, which was fun!
theweddinggroupMy bros, sisters and I with the bride and groom! We’re only missing one {my little bro Josh who’s on a mission}.

mumandpauletcMe with my big bro Matt– who I used to be SO close to, but hadn’t seen in FOUR whole years!! I wish he could have brought his wife {who happens to be one of my closest friends} along, and his SIX boys {two who i’ve never met!}
meandmattSome of the inlaws– we’re missing my husband Dean, and our kiddos, Sis in law Megan and her kiddos, and sis in law Heidi and her kiddos, and Josh! One day we’ll ALL be together, and it will be pure chaotic awesomeness.
group1My little sister Mel, with my bro in law Joe, and newest little nephew Noah. joeandmelMy sisters and Mum! <3
girls20I love my Mum!! meandmumBros Matt & James
jamesandmatt matty12mumandjamesMy Twin! Not only are our dresses the same, but we got our hair and make up exactly the same!
meandmel mumandmellieMy Nanny Newick and I. meandnannynewickMy Mum and Paul chose one of the most beautiful, picturesque places in England to have their wedding, which made taking their photos extra fun! Here are a couple of my favorite shots:
mumandpaul01hotelmelandjoemumandpaul003mumpaul032englishcountrygardenMy little sis, Bex and I
meandbex230collagebyrivermumpaulweddingpic1benchwalllaughmelliemeclaridyjoemelBecause it’s so rare having all my bros and sisters in one place, we took a few pics together, and had fun doing it! It made us miss Josh a lot though! :-(
siblings01famThe cute wedding cake 
thecakeIn the evening there was a party with music and dancing–I don’t know the last time I have danced, but it’s been years–so I had a LOT of fun partying with my crazy family!

The next day my family and I got to tour the Peak district together. It is one of the most beautiful, scenic parts of England I have ever seen, {although I have never been north of London until this trip!} We drove along small, windy country roads and looked out amongst green rolling hills full of sheep, moss covered brick walls and old wooden fences, this place was the epitome of England to me, but when we noticed French writing everywhere, we realized that the tour de france had just taken this exact same route the week before!

We all met up at the Blue John mines which was kind of cool. There are 110 steps that lead down to a little underground river, that you can take a little boat ride on. The kids loved it, but would I pay 10pounds to go there ever again? Probably not.

mumpaulbenMy cute nephew Georgecollagegeorgespeedwellcavernenglishcountryside01 A beautiful view of the peak district.
thepeakdistrict001thecaves01It was FREEZING down there. Here’s a pic of little Max all bundled up
boatrideMy sweet little niece, Isabel issyandstairsmumpaulcaves1familiesthegirls032cave39cavescountry01peakdistrict042 At lunch we walked around Castleton village, and found a cute little pub with a back room all to ourselves to hang out in and have some lunch together. paddling01peakdistrict01pub Me cuddling with sweet baby Noah! I love him!! babynoah01My little sister was taking pictures for me, and said: “pick up the piece of fish” and I said “no!” Then Mum and Paul said “yeah, pick it up, it’ll be funny!” So I did it to make them happy, and just as I did the waitress was standing right there! Haha. Typical! I noticed something funny about English people {now I am kind of an “outsider” looking in}. Some of the food is kind of bland, because they don’t salt things very much. When you ask them why, they’ll tell you because salt is SO bad for you–and yet they drink so much alcohol and eat so much chocolate and junk!! I just thought it was funny. pub219englishcottagemeandmum932cottage001jamesmumcollagecountryrdenglishcountryside01In the evening we drove down to Chatsworth house. It’s the one thing I really wanted to see on this trip, {besides friends and family}, as i’m kind of obsessed with Pride and Prejudice — and both the BBC and Keira Knightly versions were filmed here. Without sounding too much like a cheesy travel guide book, I thought this was interesting: Chatsworth house is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down though 16 generations of the Cavendish family. The house architecture and collections have been evolving, and expanding for over 500 years. It has over 120 rooms {although only 30 are open to the public}, and it also has four royal thrones, a sculpture gallery, and paintings by several famous artists including rembrandt, Van Dyck, John Sargent and Rubens. Outside there is a 105 acre garden with a green maze, fountains, ponds, rare trees and flowers and sculptures. I just found out that the money to build Chatsworth came from King Henry 8th, and Queen Elizabeth used Chatsworth to keep Mary Queen of Scots, prisoner! Queen Elizabeth II was there the day before we were! We just missed her and the tour de france! :-(

On friday night, there were very few people at Chatsworth, it was quiet and peaceful, and beautiful–and we set out picnic blankets, got ice creams, and chatted while the kids ran around chasing butterflies and ducks!It was one of my favorite nights of the trip.

house043thefamfamilycollage0021collage12Here’s me trying to get up on the wall to see over it! It wasn’t really working. 
chatsworthgeorgebridegfamfam4439familyfun1duckpark1panoramicI really wanted to go inside, but it closed in an hour–and it wasn’t worth paying 22pounds {a full days rate} with only an hour left, so we all decided to come back in the morning, and spend the day there.

Except, in the morning, no one could coordinate a plan! Clare and Ben went to Bakewell with the kids {5 minutes away from Chatsworth}, while mum, paul and Rebecca went to the mall to drop off his Tux, and james and I went to pick up mel and baby noah in Sheffield. Then James realized he had to be at the airport, and couldn’t drop mel and I off as planned, and mum, paul and Bex came by right as James had to leave… so we were stranded at Mel’s house, while Clare, Ben and the family were up at Chatsworth by themselves. Everyone was grumpy and pretty frustrated, and the morning was kind of wasted! But late afternoon we met back at Chatsworth, and Mum, Paul, Bex and I got to go inside and see Chatsworth and the beautiful gardens and grounds that surrounded it.

We only had a couple of hours left to see it, so I tried to negotiate a better rate–and the lady gave me a family ticket for 50pounds rather than 80 for us all to go in, which was really kind of her! I am SO SO happy I got to see it. Not only was it a highlight of the trip, but one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my life! The attention to architectural and artistic detail is astounding, let alone all the fascinating history of the place. From King Henry 8th to being a halfway house for evacuees during world war two, and a place that President Kennedy often frequented. It’s just a place with so many stories, and SO MUCH beauty! Now every time I see Pride and Prejudice, i’m going to tease my husband: “i’ve been there!” But secretly, I really want to take him and the kids to see this place someday.

statues002chandelierroom1lionmumandpaulcollage1statuesach2statue003diningrmfireplacehouse4thehouseflowers032chats3balconyvignettechats2chats5chats6garden20chat1 collagehouse

On sunday after church, I went to see my Grandparents in Ashford, kent, with my sister Clare and her baby Max.
It had been 4 years since I had seen both of them, and it was definitely another highlight of the trip! I lived next door to them growing up, and visited them every single day, so we’ve always been really close. We were looking through old photos–and they were telling me amazing stories about growing up in war times, stories of travels and careers, and teaching ballroom dancing in Russia, and stories of family, and my Dad growing up. It was fun laughing and reminiscing of old times that I miss! My Granny Greaves made us a wonderful roast lamb dinner with mint sauce, roast potatoes and yorkshires! When I was younger, I loved her cooking, so I would always go and visit around dinner time, sit on my Grandad’s lap, and eat his food! Her cooking is a piece of home to me. It was just a really wonderful visit! I love them so much! Now I just need to take my kiddos to meet their awesome great grandparents!

grannygrandad1grannyThe next morning we had brunch with a couple of my closest English friends–Liane, who i’ve grown up with from 7 or 8 years old, and Catherine, who I spent my teenage years getting into trouble hanging out with! It was awesome to meet their kiddos {some for the first time} and see them as mothers. They haven’t changed much, or aged a day, so it is kind of trippy to see both of them now mothers of THREE! Catherine was so nice to host us at her beautiful house! It was a REALLY fun visit, that was over way too soon. 
thegirls2In the afternoon I went to bluewater {a shopping mall that is probably bigger than my home town here in Washington!} I got to meet up with one of my closest, life long friends Jo– who i’ve been friends with for 25 years! We spent our childhood and youths together, and even though a lot of time has passed since we’ve seen each other last, we were able to pick up right where we left off! I was also really happy to get to see two of my other close school friends, Amy and Becky–and we had so much fun chatting and laughing and catching up! They haven’t changed a bit either! Does no one age in England!? Time with them was way too short too! Next year I would really love to bring the family, and have quality time visiting with everyone, rather than a quick “hi and bye!”

girls1The last stop on “my grand tour of England” was Romford. It was cool to see central London from my Dad’s kitchen window on the 10th floor of his apartment! We chatted until late hours of the night, and it was really wonderful to spend time with him! We look forward to maybe meeting them in Iceland this September! 

The plane ride home was awesome, but they had long lines for customs, and airport security, and when I finally got through them, the final call to board for my connection was made, and I ran onto the plane, with 1 minute to spare… so I got REALLY lucky! I was really sad to leave my family— but I did so with the hope of returning to England again REALLY soon, and talking a few of them into coming to visit us here in Washington! It was such an amazing trip, and made me feel so blessed to have such amazing friends and family!

<3 Sarah