The year 2018 is when both John and I marked our 75th birthdays. That called for a celebration. And celebrate we did, with a two-month trip to the United Kingdom. By this age, we couldn't be sure how much longer we would be able to undertake such a journey.
In January I began the planning for the trip. One focus of our travels would be discovering where
English ancestors had lived before making the trip to America. After spending some time on Ancestry.com and in our family trees in Family Tree Maker, I chose several of the locations where these people had lived and then began making reservations.
Over the eight and a half weeks, we stayed in hotels in five cities and in National Trust holiday cottages in five towns. What an adventure. We rented a car and John drove a stick-shift car on the wrong (to us) side of the road. We were able to see so much and go so many places that wouldn't have been possible without the car, but it was also a real stretch for him to safely drive all that time. We took trains twice and a long bus ride for another trip as well as using the London Underground for the first few days and last few days of the trip.
Everything went absolutely as planned—thank goodness.
In the West Midlands we found a small settlement and a pub named for one of John's Wiswell ancestors and the community and church where some of my Longley relatives were baptized and lived. We attended Holy Eucharist one Sunday in Kent at the church where some of my Polhill ancestors lived for about 100 years.
The rolling hills of the English countryside delighted us with the green, green fields divided by stone and hedgerow walls. The beach in Bournemouth is absolutely beautiful. We hiked in lush forests, sometimes through fields of shamrocks—and we weren't even in Ireland. Snowdonia National Park in Wales is gorgeous. We saw evidence of the Roman occupation of Britain while in Oxford and other places. We visited the harbor from which the Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflower to Cape Cod.
Our housing varied, from buildings constructed to house the growing population of industrial workers in Birmingham to a barn that had been remodeled, providing a sprawling, open self-catering cottage. We spent nights in an apartment in a large manor house and a few nights in a small cottage that had been built to house an observatory. One location was in a building that housed workers on a large rural manor. And we walked up and down too many stairs to count. We were amazed at how many narrow, curving staircases we found. How did children navigate them? Or women raising the children and carrying clothing and babies up and down the stairs?
We traveled to England expecting lots of rain. We even bought water-proof shoes to help keep our feet dry. But we had absolutely beautiful weather—only wearing our raincoats a couple of times to keep dry. At other times they were good wind breakers. We even bought sunscreen. We hadn't expected to need that in England.
We certainly won't forget our 75th birthday celebration. And, although we became aware some of the issues of aging—running out of steam earlier in the day and taking more time to figure things out and adapt to change—we also learned we are still up to the challenges of travel.
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