Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jolly Ol' England

Well my very own Knight-in-Shining-Armor, Sir Daniel Blankenship, has just won the husband of the century award. He pulled off the ultimate surprise for me and I'm still in shock. In planning for our return trip home to the States, Dan told me we'd be stopping in London but that I wasn't allowed to be involved in any of the planning and I wouldn't know how long we'd be staying there. I love a good surprise so I had no problems with that!

As the day of our flight approached, I was thinking a day in London to hit the major sights and then we'd be off again and on our way to Seattle. Well, we arrived at Heathrow Airport and took the Underground train to London's Victoria Station. So far, my suspicion seemed right on track. Then we boarded yet another train and this one ended at East Grinstead, which I'd never heard of. I had no idea where we were headed at this point. This is where it gets interesting.

Outside the train station, a man was waiting to drive us to our destination. I was curious, to say the least. The car made its way through the lush, green English countryside (on the wrong side of the road) while the driver chatted with us in his fancy accent until we pulled up to a winding driveway that led to...[insert drumroll here please]...the Ashdown Park Hotel which is a castle!!! And by castle, I mean a CASTLE! A genuine, real-life, incredibly gorgeous castle! I had the hardest time fighting back tears as the car pulled up to the front covered entryway, which Jackson instantly dubbed a tunnel.We were met with a flurry of butlers and doormen and my mind was still whirling as we followed a Daddy Warbucks look-alike through a long series of hallways and staircases to our ridiculously gorgeous suite, complete with a bathtub with jets. Heavenly! Here are some photos so you can see for yourself what we were walking into:We had delicious afternoon tea (and milk for Jackson) at an outside table, overlooking the Ashdown's extensive grounds. A hot air balloon passed by in the distance. As dusk drew nearer, a herd of deer was spotted on the lawn.When we had first talked about stopping through London, I had told Dan I'd like to tour the city on one of those double-decker buses. Well, I got my wish. We took the train back into London for a day trip and boarded the Big Bus Tour bus for a fabulous top floor view of all that London had to offer.Jackson was pretty stoked about the breezy, carseat-free ride. That is, when he wasn't adding to the Jackson-Asleep-In-Famous-Places photo collection.We hopped off the bus for a quiet stroll through the beautiful Green Park on our way to Buckingham Palace.Jackson wasn't a huge fan of Buckingham Palace.And of course we left the bus for a lunch of authentic fish & chips and British brews in the dimly-lit, rustic cellar tavern of The Dickens Inn, thanks to the recommendation of our taxi driver earlier that day.Here are some more London photos:
All together, we spent 4 days and 3 nights at the Ashdown. Day 3 was a day of countryside quiet, complete with a hike through the Ashdown Forest. It was a gorgeous day to get lost in the woods (somewhat literally)!Here are some more of our royal family fun photos:Jolly ol' England was jolly good indeed. We hope we get to go back some day.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ci vediamo dopo, Italia!

I hate goodbyes. And so this is not goodbye...merely ci vediamo dopo, or "see you later" to beautiful Italy and to all of the friends (American and Italian) we've made here.

Last night we had a Ci Vediamo Dopo Party at one of our favorite restaurants here in Grottaglie. The food and wine was delicious, the atmosphere was perfect, and the company was exceptional. We'll truly miss the faces that we saw around the table last night.Jackson is definitely onto us. He can tell that something's going on and from the looks of things, I'd say he's not happy about it.Dan is trying to get him excited about his next adventure in jolly ol' England...and he even got Jackson to say the word "jolly" but you can tell our kid is still unsure of what all these movers and boxes and packed bags are about. He's going to miss Italy and his friends here for sure.

One thing I've realized I'll miss about Italy is the way they love kids -- or more specifically, our kid. I don't know of a coffee shop (and I frequent many of them!) or a restaurant in America that welcomes your child (smiling or crying) as if he's family the way that they do here. Jackson got a little antsy as the hour got later and later and pretty soon he was carted off by Olivia, the restauranteur, to play in a giant trough full of wine corks.

Olivia and the rest of the restaurant staff gave Jackson a red wine cork to take home to America as a memento.

Our shipment is on its way to America already...although we probably won't see it for about a month. Our bags are packed, the last load of towels is in the dryer, and the apartment is spotless.

Tonight we'll be doing some more "Ci Vediamo Dopo-ing" (I just made that a word) and gelato eating and then tomorrow we fly to London before we head home to Edmonds. I seriously cannot believe that 3 months have already gone by since we arrived here! It went by too quickly.

Until next time, vediamo dopo!