So far this month has felt like a whirlwind of activity! We arrived in Southampton on May 3rd after a wonderful and relaxing cruise on the Queen Victoria (a separate blog on that later!) The first 2 weeks were in Clacton at Valley Farm Caravan Park. Keith's Mum and Stepdad are just down the street and it gave them space from a very energetic boy running around their place!
As an American, I am not really familiar with the concept of Caravan parks. Apparently it's the thing to do if you want to get away for a weekend or the summer with family, and it's pretty affordable. Keith's parents owned one at Valley Farm when he was a kid and he spent every summer there. It is basically a bunch of mobile homes lined up like you are in a neighborhood. It was great for Patrick to be around kids--the cruise was full of retirees and hardly any children, so he was loving the story and dance time in the mornings and evenings with Sparky the big rabbit!
We went to "A Place in the Sun" trade show in London and gave the grandparents a chance to get worn out by Patrick for a day. It gave us the chance to meet a few realtors who live in France but are British, so we don't have to have the language barrier when trying to buy a property. We met one realtor who was very encouraging, has 4 kids, and says it is a great place for his family. He lives in the Poitou-Charente region of France, and we are now very interested in this area as the summers are longer and the property prices are very good.
Our big project for the 2 weeks in Clacton was trying to find a car that I could drive. I don't know how to drive manual, and that is what most people drive in Europe. Boo. We were researching cars online, seeing if we could get to a left-hand drive car dealership in London...in the end we found a very nice Vauxhall Astra (right-hand drive) with about 50,000 miles, 1 owner, and automatic! It is a definite step up from our old Suzuki "Wift" in Bermuda.(the "S" came off...)
We spent time with Keith's family and friends...although there are a few that we didn't get a chance to see and although I did try to get him to call and arrange something, just know that if we didn't see you this time, we are much closer now to England and will be back.
We also had a chance to meet up with my former Bermuda School of Music colleague and friend, Li You. She and her husband Ed have 2 1/2 year old Victor. We went to Old McDonald's Farm in Essex for a great time on trains, trampolines, and slides.
After our 2 weeks in Clacton, getting the new car on Friday--we left on Saturday to drive up to North Wales and spend time with Suzie. Her husband Mal just left for a job in Bermuda, so he's now baking bread at Supermart!
Mal and Keith go way back to when Keith worked in Cayman. We had a lovely few days with Suzie that went too fast. We managed to see a few castles and get in a lovely hike. We are now in the Cotswolds and will see Keith's friend Kevin get married today! Kevin also worked at Supermart but has been back in England for several years. For those who came to our wedding, he was a groomsman. We saw him for a quick drink last night and he looks very happy. We will meet his bride and family today.
We have one more stop in our U.K. journey, to see Steve & Debbie in Exeter. Steve and Keith also go way back, and the last time we met up with Steve was at his place in France back before Patrick was born and I ran the Paris Marathon.
We've booked the overnight ferry next week, and we will be officially on French soil in a matter of days! Thanks for reading and I'll update more when I get the chance!
Patrick and Sparky!
Grandpa Bill and Nana, at the waterfront in Clacton.
In Stratford-upon-Avon, on our way to Wales.
View of Prestayn, Suzie and Mal's hometown, North Wales.