Thursday, January 24, 2013

Christmas Holiday: day trips.

This is going to be a three-part series of my Christmas holiday with my family in England. Catch up with my last post on Christmas day here.

PS, I've visited before. See details on London here, Scotland here, and other day trips here.

In an effort to keep the Christmas holiday an actual holiday, we didn't plan any big trips. Rather, we opted for day trips or small couple-day trips. We wanted to make sure to keep a good amount of time for sleeping in and relaxing. I'm going to jump around the day trips we took in this post. This is your warning: I'm going to rely on lots of picture.

Warwick Castle

This castle, appropriately in Warwickshire, most reminds me of a Renaissance fair. There was the touristy things, like the stocks, jesters running around, jousting in the yard, and other such activities.

The castle itself was in great shaped though, and they let you explore a lot of it. We climbed the towers, spiraled up and down staircases, and pretended to be royalty. Do you see Veronica waving to her court there?

In December, England was in the midst of huge rainfalls and massive flooding. The river beyond the castle was overflowing into people's yards and doesn't usually look that wide. It also closed us off from the highest lookout point on the right.

This picture is one of my favorites. Poor Mum is always trying to get candid photos of us all, and we're really not always into it. She called us as we were about to climb the tower. She got wonky arms and staring faces from Dad and Steph.

After exploring the castle ourselves for a bit, we took on some of the extracurricular activities. We went on a ghost tour, a tour of the dungeons (which were hauntingly done, so it was more of a haunted house than a historical trek), tried on some helmets (we couldn't see), and met Merlin and his dragon.


It was a really cool castle, but more of a theme park than a castle. Thankfully, it didn't rain the entire time we were there, and as one of our first days in England, we needed that.

Birmingham Christmas Markets

TransAtlantic flights are rough. I think they get worse every time. I'm always optimistic, though. With that in mind, we planned on going to the Birmingham Christmas markets on mine and Steph's first day in England. Add a torrential downpour to that. Add a stressful drive over and a hard time finding parking. Everyone's excitement was waning quickly. Before I get all Debbie Downer on you though, you'll need some background. The Christmas markets are a huge deal in Europe, and specifically, Germany. They're massive outdoor markets for the month preceding Christmas were craftsman and artists and merchants of all sorts will come in and bring their goods to sell in an outdoor market. I really wanted to see unique, homemade trinkets and ornaments. We didn't really find that. There were repeat booths and nothing looked "English" to me. I don't know if it was just the Birmingham market or if that's what the markets have become with a more global economy, but I'm going too large-scale here. So I'll stop: the market was really cool. There were German beer garden type houses and booths, shops, and crafty things. I picked up a little metal bird and Mum got a cute little hunchback nutcracker. It would have been better without the rain.

Sherwood Forest

Dad lives in Derby, which is about a half hour from Nottingham.  We all know what that means - Robin Hood. My favorite Robin Hood is the fox version, also known as the Disney version. When we had a free afternoon, we didn't let the rain hold us back and headed over to Sherwood Forest to see the Major Oak - rumored to be where Robin Hood, the human version, and his merry men would meet. The tree is aged at about 1000 years old. That shit cray. In order to keep that up, they've fenced off the tree, added supports to help his huge and heavy branches, and patched him up whenever water damage threatened. I wish I would've gotten to hop around in the tree, but I have a bad enough track record with breaking chairs, so it's probably wise they put him off limits.

There were plenty of other trees around the same age in the forest in various stages of life, though, that were not off-limits. This one reminds me of Pocahontas. Doesn't Veronica look just like Grandmother Willow? I tried to drop in a link there but there's no individual picture link for her. I suggest Googling and not taking any of the various essays behind the pictures.

I love this picture of Veronica. And now this has turned into a Veronica portrait post. She shimmied herself into a hollow tree and Steph and I were playing the part of the paparazzi and snapping pictures as fast as we could. Sometimes we really just aim to annoy. I have some nice shots of the inside of Vero's mouth, up her nose, and some as a blur ball. She has such a genuine smile that I love here, though, that now I feel all future photography stalking will be validated.

Lastly, and most importantly, we all, very appropriately, bought Robin Hood hats. We may or may not have wore them while watching Robin Hood the next day. Also very necessary.

Next up: the overnight tour-de-Bath-and-Wales. It doesn't quite have the same ring as France, and thankfully wasn't nearly as exhausting, but I think the sites were just as worth it.

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