Wednesday, April 20, 2016


I think I set the spring break bar a little too high. Clare, my mom and I traveled to England to visit Rob and Andri over Clare's spring break. It was pretty much the best. Clare didn't want to come home. (She did have a moment in the airport on the way home when she said "Daddy!" in a very sad voice. I think she suddenly realized she missed him.) My friend Alex suggested that next year I'd have to take Clare to the moon. He might be right.

Clare was in heaven, being the only kid with four adults. She could always talk someone into playing Peppa Pig with her. When Andri's parents and sister arrived at the end of the week, it was even better for Clare. Andri's mom Barbara was up for anything, including many rounds of "scaring" Andri's sister Anna. I enjoyed not having to change diapers all week, although I did miss Christopher. (And Ben, too.)

As for Christopher, he didn't seem to care at all that we were gone. I agonized over leaving him for weeks before the trip. Glad I wasted all of that energy on worrying about nothing! (What's new, though, right?) He had a blast with his dad and his Grandma Mary Theresa. Ben sent me daily reports, which I might have to post here because they were pretty funny. Christopher also did a little soul searching while he was away from Clare's influence, and realized that he is in fact NOT scared of dogs, and that he is also willing to at least try any piece of food on his plate. I will say, though, that Clare and Christopher's reunion at the airport was one of the cuter things I've seen. Although she claimed all week that she didn't miss her brother, she ran straight to him and they hugged and jumped up and down for a good five minutes.

When I was a kid, I used to keep a trip journal on all of our family vacations. (No, I have no idea where these journals are today.) I thought it would be fun to recap our trip with an online trip journal of sorts, with a summary of what we did each day.

(Also, a side note: this trip was one of my 40 x 40 goals!)


We flew from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, had a short layover, and then went on to Norwich. Clare did really well on the flights both there and back. (Other than screaming with joy on takeoff.) When we arrived in Norwich, Rob and Andri took us to a traditional Sunday roast at a local pub. It was so good. Beef brisket, delicious potatoes, red cabbage, and of course real English ale.

There was also some mask decorating.


On Monday we explored Norwich. It was rainy, but we took it in stride. We were experiencing England - complete with the typical rainy weather. Norwich is super old, to be technical about it. (There have been people living in the area since the 5th century.) We took an AWESOME tour in the afternoon, guided by a Norwich resident who was very knowledgeable about the town. His driving, however, was quite scary. We thought we were going in the river at one point. He was funny and informative, though, and we all loved it.

We road in this thing:

Before our tour, we stopped in one of Norwich's 33 churches, because Clare of all people wanted to go in. She is quite interested in churches. We did some shopping, and then had lunch at Biddy's Tea Room. It was a very cozy place, and we all had tea and sausage rolls and cake and other good things.

Tea time.

It was a good start to the week.

Norwich market.

On Tuesday we drove to Cambridge. It is a beautiful town. We walked around and looked at what we could of the various colleges, had lunch in a pub that is famous for being the place where Watson and Crick announced they had discovered the structure of DNA, and went punting on the river. It was sunny that day, so it was perfect weather for wandering around outside. (The highlight of Clare's day: getting to ride on the top of a double decker bus.)

Apologies to King's College Chapel for cutting off the spires.
Time for a steak and ale pie.
This building is across the street from the Eagle, and is the oldest standing building in Cambridge - the tower was built in 1033.

A better view of King's College Chapel.

On Wednesday, we visited Blickling Hall, a grand estate in the countryside. It reminded me a bit of Downton Abbey, because it was still decorated as it was in the 1930s. The gardens were beautiful, and Clare really enjoyed exploring them. She was less thrilled with the house itself, but I promised her cake in exchange for her patience, and she did pretty well after that. I found it fascinating, and if I hadn't had an almost 5-year-old in tow I would have spent more time looking around. On the way back from Blickling Hall, my mom and I were dropped off at Norwich Cathedral, where we were promptly caught in a hailstorm. We made it unscathed into the cathedral, though, and I am glad I did because it was impressive. Norwich Cathedral was completed in 1145. Sometimes I find it hard to wrap my mind around how old so many of these buildings are. On Wednesday night, Andri generously babysat Clare so my mom, Rob and I could go out for drinks and dinner. It was really nice. We ate some delicious tapas, drank wine, and had a lot of fun talking.

Our new house. Oh wait.
The view is okay.
Milky tea and a Victoria sponge cake.

Norwich Cathedral.

We started the day with a traditional English breakfast, which was one of the things I requested we do on the trip. Then we explored Norwich Castle. Clare was looking forward to seeing the castle all week, and even though I warned her it would be nothing like the castle on "Sofia the First" I think she was still a little disappointed. She ended up having a great time though, because the castle was super kid-friendly. And packed with kids, incidentally. (And she was able to purchase a plastic crown in the gift shop, so that made her day.)

Yeah, that crown was broken 24 hours later.

Queen Clare.

That afternoon we went to afternoon tea at the Assembly Rooms in Norwich. Andri's mom and sister joined us, my brother and Andri's dad ditched us and went to a pub. I don't know why. The tea was lovely - small sandwiches, raisin scones, clotted cream, and many desserts. And tea, of course. (Side note: taking Clare to a fancy tea party is another of my 40 x 40 goals!) The room we were in was beautiful, as well. If I knew anything about decorating I might be able to describe it here. I don't, though, so let's stick to the food.

My favorites were the cucumber and cream cheese sandwich and raisin scone with clotted cream and jam.

Crown still intact here.

Clare and Andri.

You can see a bit of the room behind Clare and Meema Jo.


On Friday we drove to Wells-Next-The-Sea, which I kept insisting on calling Wells-Next-To-The-Sea. My brain just automatically put the "to" in there.  It was a gorgeous day. We were on the North Sea, although due to the interesting geography of the coastline, we couldn't actually see much of the sea, because the tide was out. It was nice being in the sun on the beach, though. Clare and I both got sunburned. We had lunch outside, and a duck took a piece of bread right out of Clare's hand. That was traumatic, to say the least. There was quite a bit of screaming. Once we escaped the duck, we spent some time at a playground and wandering around the shops. Then it was time for ice cream and the drive back to Norwich. We spent our last night there going out for a delicious dinner. (And a delicious gin fizz.)

The many last-named clan.

A treat from Barbara.

On the beach with my best girl.
Saturday morning it was back to Minnesota and reality. I miss my brother and sister-in-law more now that we got to spend a week with them. I wish they weren't two plane rides away. We will see them again in June, though, so I am happy about that. It was just so nice to be able to spend that time with them, and with my mom and Clare, too. It was a special week. I really hope we can go back again soon.

Meanwhile, these two are sure happy to have each other again.


  1. What a wonderful trip! I spent several days in Cambridge years ago. It's SUCH a sweet little town and just so beautiful.

    And that your goal of fancy tea with Clare ended up being IN ENGLAND totally KICKS BUTT.

    I'm so glad you had a such a wonderful trip. :)

  2. What a great way to recap an overseas trip. Everyone looked so HAPPY!!! I had the opportunity to go to England after college, and yes, THE RAIN. The old buildings are so detailed and intricate (the history!!) ... and you got to bring Clare to a real castle! Actually, it's pretty amazing that you were able to give Clare those experiences and memories with family at her young age. Hopefully she remembers her first trip to England when she's older (how could she forget?!) My boys have never been on an airplane and they ask on a regular basis when they'll get to go. Priorities. First we have to find a house, then we can try to save our pennies for traveling!!!