Our Midlife Adventure (Not Crisis!), Pt. 4

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By Kim Dunn and Laura Waters, Special for PQ Monthly

So we needed to spend three months in the UK and didn’t know where we were going to stay the first month. Writing that just now I realize it sounds kind of strange. Who needs to spend three months in the UK, right? Well, if we wanted to stick to our plan to spend nine months in Europe—we did. The rules of the Schengen agreement, which relaxed travel between Schengen borders, also limited how much time you could spend within the territory if you don’t belong to a member country.

We could basically stay in mainland Europe for only three months and then we would have to leave for another three months in order to return again. It’s complicated. We lost hours of our lives reading travel blogs with differing opinions on how the law is interpreted.

image4We had to go to the UK. For three months at least. After weeks of looking for a place in the whole of the UK that wouldn’t blow our budget (the dollar wasn’t strong last year), we found a last minute Airbnb in London. The family who lived there was leaving for a one-month holiday and on a whim placed their flat on Airbnb. They wanted someone to stay one month, no more no less. The ad read like it was written for us. London was great.

Tatum enjoyed riding double-decker buses, walking across Tower Bridge, playing in our huge neighborhood park and the museums. Museums are free in London! And while London was a wonderful surprise stop for us, we were ready for a little break from the chaos of the giant city. Enter more cows!

My mom came to visit us at this point in the trip and she had chosen a quaint little Lancashire English country cottage for our stay. It was charming; there was a babbling brook, lots of cows, breathtaking gardens, a pub next door, and lots of time and space for quiet contemplation. It was paradise, unless that kind of quiet is your idea of hell (like it may or may not be for Kim).

We settled into our Waddington cottage, two charmingly cobbled miles walk from anything. It was here, at the beautiful pub and inn next door that we began to learn about the English culinary delights they’ve been keeping secret—the desserts! Sticky toffee pudding, let me tell you. Just Google a recipe and make it today. Actually no, wait until fall when you want a warm bowl of o.m.g. And spotted dick is delicious, too. And cream scones. I developed a bit of a cream scone addition. These treats are not to be missed on any UK adventure, in our opinion.

We visited a couple nearby towns during our stay. The coolest part of my mom’s visit is when we would realize how special it was that we were standing on the other side of the world, surrounded by so much history, with our 3 little generations.

A highlight (or something like it) was our weekend getaway to Blackpool, which calls itself the UK’s Vegas. It is not. It is a dirty, seedy sea-side wonderland of rickety piers and run-down arcades and casinos. It’s the place where Grandma and granddaughter were able to gamble together (precious), where Tatum saw her first fireworks, and where we all played in the Irish Sea. Totally unforgettable.

After this month in the country, we saw more country. We stayed outside of Leeds and visited many charming English towns: York, Hebden Bridge, Newcastle, Scarborough, Harrogate. All worth a visit—for the cream scones alone if nothing else. And afterward, we finally made it to Bristol, where we stayed with Bea, whom we’d talked to on Airbnb for nearly a year. It was wonderful. She was a proper English host and we miss her to this day. And Bristol is lovely, a place we could live. It reminded us of Portland a bit—colorful, liberal, creative, friendly, beautiful. We highly recommend a stop there. And, if you do, bring back a cream scone for me?