Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bittersweet Goodbye

"What you risk reveals what you value."
-Jeanette Winterson
We took a risk. We packed up and left a city we had lived in for 20+ years, moved our children thousands of miles away from their friends and family, and took the ultimate chance. I am so glad we did. We taught Henry and May that RISK IS GOOD. It's isn't always easy. It is scary. It can be daunting. But it taught us all about being flexible, curious and to enjoy one anothers company. It taught us that we value adventure, travel and that we like learning about new things. It exposed us.
We jumped right in and made the most of our time living in the UK. We moved at the perfect time...time to help the Queen celebrate her 60 years on the throne, time to see London shine bright at the Summer Olympics and time to welcome a new royal Prince into our adopted country. We came to understand what makes the British people tick...their quirky humour, their sensibility, their love of a Sunday Roast at their local pub, and their love all things to do with the weather.
We took a risk. We hiked, swam, dirt scootered, beach combed, safaried, walked, canoed, jumped, ran and biked our way all over the UK, Europe and Africa. We lived a normal life in Twyford. Our kids were the only Americans in a British school. Henry played cricket...a game that we still don't understand but he does. May competed against elite British gymnasts and discovered that she is great at other sports too. Pete strengthened his job credentials substantially along with a renewed business confidence. I became an expat and understand the quick friendships that form with other expats - friendships lead an accelerated life when you are an expat. They have too. People come and go so fast. We also formed some deep friendships with the lovely people of Twyford.
"Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."
-Miriam Beard

Our idea of living has changed. We learned that wherever we are, as long as we are together, that is home. We learned that we don't need a "huge" house to be comfortable...sometimes smaller is cozier. We re watched the entire series of "Friends" and exposed our kids to many inappropriate, 20-something, scenarios. We saw the way other cultures live, in mud huts, no shoes, blurred-cataract eyes, but with a sense of family and community so strong as to seem unbreakable. We felt the simple pleasures of walking to town, to the shops, mean so much more now that we have been forced to re-acclimate to the "American" the car...all...the...time. We embraced the Sunday tradition of a long country walk in the woods, no matter the weather, with a follow up Sunday roast at the local pub. Life slowed down, but not idle.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
-Marcel Proust
We have new eyes. They have been opened, opened wide with all of our experiences and memories. Opened wide with new friendships and the confidence that only travel can bring. Our eyes are open to an enduring love of all things British: bunting, Cadbury chocolates, Nutella (not technically British but we learned to love it in Britain), bangers and mash, the impeccable driving skills all Brits possess, chips, the unique slang/lingo, crisps, a proper cuppa tea, biscuits, a pint of warm ale, how great a Pimms or a gin and tonic taste on a hot day, windy, rocky beaches, fields of sheep, the fascination of all things Royal, British bacon, the wearing of hats to social events, horse racing, the Tube, Harrods, the beauty of the British countryside, the pomp and circumstance, London cab drivers, and the fierce pride that the Brits have for their country.

So we say pip pip and cheerio to our adopted home. We say HIP HIP HOORAY to Great Britain. We return to the US of A with open eyes, new ideas in how we want to live and with the satisfied knowledge that we jumped at a chance of a lifetime and took a risk. Well done to us.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Year in Review

Hard to believe another year has come and gone...everyone says that right? I have finally figured out why time flies so fast, especially as you get older. When you were little, waiting 12 sleeps until Santa came seemed like eternity - how could you stand it? Then when you were in college (20 years old), having to go to summer school for 6 weeks seemed liked a lifetime (and a death sentence). But now living abroad for the past two years seems like it just flew by! Didn't we just pack up our entire house, sell 1/3 of our stuff, and move to an entirely different continent? Didn't that just happen? Didn't we just get here? And, now, we are going home already? WTF?

Time flies when you are having fun, making memories, experiencing the world with a whole new perspective and trying to drive on the left side of the road without mangling your entire family.
As we enter into a new year, here is a quick peak into some highlights of 2013.
We came. We saw. We conquered.
So lucky to have one of my BFs come for a visit! Cathie and I met in Paris for a couple of days and then "Eurostared" it back to London so she could check out our hood, crib and look for Prince Harry.
What We Learned:
  • That January in Paris is lovely but cold and possibly snowy.
  • Travelling on the Underground with large suitcases, on a Friday, during rush hour/commute time, can make you sweaty.
  • Wearing a jaunty hat you bought in Paris is a commitment-once it's on, it needs to stay on, or risk severe jaunty hat head.
Morning power walk to the Tour Eiffel
Jaunty Parisian hats in London
Half term break brought a Davis family road trip in Ireland
What we learned:
  • Irish roads are even more narrow than British roads.
  • Guinness is brilliant and so are the Irish folk.

Cliffs of Mohr
We enjoy staying in "manor" houses
Our room is HUGE!

Fish are hard to catch no matter where you are...

Doing donuts on the beach in your rental car is great fun!
Ireland really is the "Emerald Isle"

Guinness is good
MARCH 2013
Explored London and the surrounding area
What we learned:
  • That no matter how many times we venture into London, we always discover another magical area...
Seven Dials in Covent Garden

May is great at running!

England's countryside is mind-blowingly gorgeous!

A canal runs through Northern London - right outside of Paddington Station. Who knew?
APRIL 2013
More BFs arrive - the Basch family comes to stay at Hotel de Davis. BFs reunited all around!
 Hip hip hooray!
Davis fam rendezvous with Basch fam in Paris.
Davis fam carries on to Bruge and Brussels

What we learned:
  • That no matter how far away you are from friends, you can always "pick up" where you left off, even at age 12.
  • That Sir Tom Jones enjoys eating in Henley and Ty Burell likes "modern" art.
  • That a duck confit sandwich and a glass of Proseco at the Borough Market might be the best lunch eva.

"Pick Up" friends like no others


Beers as big as your head are good

How can you not be all smiles in Paris?

Borough Market

Stonehenge is cool!

Sir Tom Jones is sitting to the left of my large head, behind that door...
Bruge is charming

Seeing the world by bike ROCKS!

There are a lot of windmills in Holland

This dog might have the best napping spot ever!

Fun art in Bruge

Singing in the rain in Brussels

Always be prepared!
 MAY 2013
Camping with our new British friends in the New Forest.
Swimming in the Thames River

What we learned:
  • Camping in England is the same as in America: takes forever to prep and get ready to go, campsite set up and take down is a pain in the ass, and cleaning up at home after camping sucks. But it sure is fun.
  • Camping in England is different then camping in America: you must have a cricket and football pitch set up, instead of being worried about bears, one must mind the wild ponies and cows, and the showers and loos are spotless!
  • Swimming in the Thames in May sucks.
Brits and Americans can get along! Looks like we have buried the hatchet.

Camp cooking means a trip to the pub for dinner

Fast friends no matter the age difference

"We go slow for ponies"

Nervous anticipation

Still smiling and dreaming of the hot chocolate waiting for him!

JUNE 2013
Visit from Gigi and Papa and trip up to the Yorkshire Dales.
Let the Social Season begin: Order of the Garder, Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and the Henley Royal Regatta

What we learned:
  • Sometimes flights are delayed and you lose 3 days of visiting time :-(
  • Driving in a car with your in-laws, your two kids, your wife and a persnickety Sat-Nav for 5 hours blows.
  • Her Royal Highness is teeny tiny whilst William is quite tall.
  • There is nothing better than people watching at Royal Ascot and the Henley Regatta.
  • Wearing a hat is FUN!
  • Wimbledon is everything (2 times!!) and attending with a member is the way to go in style!
Bolton Abbey

Kids will gladly hike with Gigi

Fish are hard to catch no matter where you are...

Fountains Abbey

Order of the Garter

HRH (the Queen), Prince of Wales (aka Charles), and Prince of Cambridge (aka William)

The Queen and Camilla

HRH the Queen at Royal Ascot

Chavs on the train
(I love that this pic is below the one of the Queen)

Chilly day at the races

Tailgating Wimbledon STYLE!

Centre Court

Great seats!

Watching from the "hill"

Great day of tennis - bucket list!

Perry, May and Hadley at the Regatta, daaaahling

Da boyz- Grover fitting in well with the red trousers!

 So lucky to be reunited with yet another BF Paula!
Holtzclaws and Davis kids in front of our house
A pub

July 2013

A visit from the Holtzclaws!
A visit from the Taylors!
A visit from Gainer!
A visit from Lentz!
A visit from the Smiths!
A visit from Stacey!
May graduates from "primary" school!
A Royal Baby is born!
A visit from the Olsons!

What we learned:
  • That we had a house that could accommodate a LOT of people.
  • July is when people like to visit London.
  • It can actually be really hot in London and thus makes the Underground m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e...
  • The entire world was on the edge of their seats for the birth of Prince George!

 Butter Beer at the Harry Potter Tour
 Pints at the Duke of Wellington (local pub) with the Taylors!
 Lentz, Gainer, Freeling and husbands (sans Dave) reunite in London!
 Royal Baby mania in front of the Lindo Wing!

May's "house" wins the Polehampton Swimming Gala!
 Year Six Leaver's Prom and feeling SASSY!

 Best British Buds!

 May graduates from Polehampton and on to "secondary" school!

 Pints with Gibson!

Cousins on a hike in Turville

 Catching the train to Edinburgh

 Excited in Edinburgh

 Pinkies UP! High tea in London!

Road trip to meet the Olsons in Normandy
More road tripping thru France and on in to Switzerland ~ 7 days hiking in Zermatt and Grindelwald
Henry turns 12 in Grindelwald, Switzerland

What we learned:
  • Driving a right hand drive car, on the right side of the road, isn't that hard. Just requires some concentration.
  • That having a French speaker whilst ordering in a French restaurant is important...especially when it comes to seafood.
  • It is important to trust the SatNav otherwise you end up in the middle of Paris by the Arc de Triumph massive roundabout.
  • That Mummy really knows how to take her family on a "death march" nearly every time we hike.
  • Asian tourists in Switzerland make very poor shoe choices for hiking on glaciers and they sometimes like to stand and squat on TOP of the toilet.
 The Olsons

 American Cemetery in Normandy

 A beach is an excellent place to do cartwheels!

 I do love my Sister-in-Law!

 Pete O., Grant and Henry frolicking in the sea!

 Cousin time is the best time!

Beware of French restaurants by the sea if you don't speak French
-cold snails and lots of mini lobsters!
     The Mighty Matterhorn - took our breath away every time

    Henry's birthday death march started out well...

     then we hiked down this steep mountain, replete with avalanche guard rails.

    Steep-Mummy was hyperventilating!

     Sunny, snowy reflections - Henry can't take it!
     Cold glacier fed streams feel good...

     Zermatt is stunning!

     Dirt scootering was a blast!

     Like a postcard in Kandersteg

     Gondola up is the way to hike...

     Wild flowers!

     We survived the death march and lived to celebrate Henry's 12th birthday in Grindelwald!


     Apparently this is a problem...

     They have no problem embracing their surroundings...

    Henry is 12!
    SEPTEMBER 2013
    School starts again...both kids at the Piggott School!
    A visit to Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey)
    Jen completes the 21 mile walk in Stroud for the 2nd year!
    What we learned:
  • That it was sure nice to have our house back to ourselves finally (just kidding...we loved having loads of visitors!)
  • Seeing the actual site of Downton was thrilling!
  • Jen can take non-family members on a death march and manage to get us lost on the 21 mile walk-ended up doing a couple more miles than needed.
  • A pint sure tastes great after a slog of a walk!
 May Year 7 (6th Grade)

 May and her mates

 Henry Year 8 (7th Grade)

 The start with Stacey and Kristin

 Almost half way
 Feeling pretty good

Quaint Cotswaldian homes

    Thea, Jen and Suzanne
    2 Brits and an American at Downton!
    Having a cuppa at Highclere-not quite up to Lady Mary's
     criteria I say!

    The grounds were lovely!

    It is an imposing place to say the least!

Love the door knockers at Highclere!

So glad we got this hard to get ticket! Sells out months and months in advance!

No photos inside please...shhhh

Cheeky Suzanne breaking all the rules on the current bell system at Highclere

A day trip to Corfe Castle
A week in Florence - back to the scene of many crimes!

What we learned:
  • There really is nothing better than Italy: passionate people, gelato, vino rosso, gelato, fashion, art, gelato, sculpture, churches, pasta and gelato.
  • That we like gelato. That's all.
Corfe Castle

Sibling LOVE...

Tuscan hillsides

 San Gimi

 Ponte Vechhio

 San Gimi

Muggy and hot at the end of October


 Happy wine tasters...


 More gelato

 Gelato Trio!


 Handsome and happy young man

Thanksamas - a dual celebration of Thanksgiving and Christmas with the British Branstons
A decision to move back to the USA was made-Feb 2014!
A last European trip to Amsterdam
Enjoyed the Christmas season in London
Spent the last 2 weeks of the year in Seattle, Sun Valley and Galveston, Texas!
What we learned:

  • Well we haven't learned this yet, but we are hoping moving back to your "home" country is easier and less stressful than moving out of your "home" be determined...
  • Amsterdam is charming and picturesque and still has a lot of "funny" smells
  • Henry Winkler might be the nicest man on the Planet Earth
  • Taking 2 international flights and 3 domestic flights will result in 3 out of 4 Davis family members getting the flu
  • That we should all have a Masters degree in "travel experts" - we ROCK!
British Branstons-always up for anything!

Quaint A-Dam

Anne Frank

Hey a HUGE wooden clog

Carry on is the way to go

Tulips in December

Cards and pancakes on a Sunday morning

Nicest man ever!

Meeting the Fonz and getting his autograph...again!
J Crew comes to London just as I am leaving...

Covent Garden


Christmas at Harrods

Reconnecting with BFFs in the Squah at XXX
We got to go to our first Bat Mitzvah - fun!!

And we are skiing!

Skiing with cousins is super fun!

1/2 had been thru the flu at this point...

Sun Valley gangstas...

Traditional photo around the table opp...super casual. May in PJs

Rye sitting on Santa's lap

Walter White was good to Uncle Saul, I mean Will

Even Lionel Richie made it to SV

Girl cousins making cookies

From snow to sea...
I have more Texas pics but sister in law needs to email them to me - hint hint!
Well that is the year in review - not too shabby at all I must say. We are completely fortunate to have been able to experience all we did this past year! Sorry to be so braggy - look at us in all these awesome places. Just delete this entire post!
Now we are into the 15 day countdown of our remaining days in the UK. So bittersweet but looking forward to being closer to our family and friends. See you in the US...although I am sure I will write one last UK blog before I go...