Wonderfully we got into the UK in between the snow storms, and it was actually our most on-time arrival in Devon from the US so far. Go Figure. We even packed an extra carry-on full of clothes thinking that it was highly likely that we would lose our luggage. Didn't happen thankfully.
The first few days were pretty busy. We didn't get to Devon until the 23rd December. We had our obligatory pasty at Paddington train station in London before standing (!) all the way down to Devon on the train. Got to love British Rail and the holidays, and to think that they are putting UP the fares. Madness.
First up on arrival to a VERY snowy England was the Simmons' Family Christmas Meal. Me, Tim, my brother, step-mum and my Dad's side of the family. Always great to see everyone even if it is only once a year.
|Tim and I at my family's house in Devon and Christmas Day|
Christmas Eve was spent at the bar that my brother Mike works in at the moment. Good grub there thanks bro and then in the Bell.
Christmas day was spent at Mums. Usual strange (but awesome) traditions of Champagne in the morning, Whiskey and Pork Pies (for Ken's Midland roots), presents, walk to the pub (which we skipped this year... ), much napping and then a turkey Christmas dinner.
|Tim and my brother Mike during Christmas Dinner|
My big present this year was a DSLR Canon Rebel T1i Camera from Tim and my Mum. It's awesome. I've been wanting a fancy camera for a while now and Tim has been making me put it off so that he can get me one for Christmas. I did, admittedly become a member of the paparazzi though over my time in the UK. I decided that I was determined to catch all the things that happen over Christmas that we just take as "normal" but then one day realise that we have no pictures of. I'm definitely having fun with it though. So far I'm still just trying to figure out what all the settings mean, but its such a nice camera sometimes nice ones just happen without me even trying. I'm all about black and white and portrait people photos at the moment. Watch this space for my new hobby!
Usually on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas), my brother and I go surfing. Last year we dragged Tim along too. Although this year we broke our reasonably long running tradition. There was snow on the ground and Mike had the flu... didn't seem like our most sensible idea ever. Although we did go for a nice walk on the beach instead. I really love going down to the sea in Devon. It's a beautiful part of the world if you ever get the chance to visit it you should. This does mean though that I haven't been surfing for a year and a half. Boo. Hawaii in April should make up for it!
|Mum, Ken, Mike and Tim on Saunton Sands|
|Tim and I walking on Saunton Sands|
Then we headed off to my Dad's for dinner. This has turned into quite the feast of lots of our favourite food and often results in us being pretty hammered... No less than 8 courses later, fun time was had by all.
|Dad's flat for Boxing day dinner|
The rest of the time in Devon was spent mostly lazing around, eating and of course, included the obligatory trip to Squires Fish and Chip shop and a trip to the Thatch for a pint. I got to drive my old car for the day too! So happy, haven't driven for at least a year and in my own little car too. Brilliant. Even with My Dad, Tim and Mike crammed into my little Fiesta. Good times.
|Squires Fish and Chip Shop in Braunton|
|The Thatch Pub, Croyde|
|Dad and Mike looking over Croyde Beach|
Our last night in Devon was spent in our local at The Bell for the quiz night. We weren't particularly good but it was great that for the first time in years my 3 childhood friends were all in the same place at the same time. Really great to see them, even if the first thing Neil said to me after hugging me was "Wow your accent has changed" and then walked off. Hmmmm. I guess it had to happen at some stage.
Tim and I then left Devon to spend New Years in London where we were to be joined by the lovely Miss Danielle. The very helpfully do lots of railworks on the route from Devon to London in between Christmas and New Year so we persuaded Mum to drive us up to London for a much more eventful than liked journey. Half way along the M4 motorway we had a puncture. Nightmare. Tim changed his first ever car tyre right there on the edge of the motorway! Eventually we made it to my cousin Jasper's house to meet his new addition baby Thorin.
Then Tim and I got a cab to our hotel to meet Danielle. After much of a cluster later, someone had already checked in as me and taken our room and then the next room they gave us already had someone in it, sigh. Much annoyance later we had a room in the hotel opposite Danielle.
|Tim and Danielle outside Tim's favourite coffee shop in London|
To top it all off at this point I seemed to have contracted Mike's bug and was developing a pretty hefty cold. Determined not to let everyone down I probably trekked around London for two days too long and made it worse, only to fly home on the 1st and have so much pain in my ears as we landed that I have been rendered useless with an ear and sinus infection for the last week, not able to go and join to my project in New York.
We spent New Year Eve itself in both the Winter Wonderland in Hyde park in the very impressive beer garden and in Covent Garden too. The crowds were too crazy to get too close to the London Fireworks so we saw the top of them over the buildings in Covent Garden, took part in an impromptu ring of people doing Auld Lang Syne and found a camper van full of hot Somerset Cider to hang out in. Pretty Good fun.
|The cider van!|
|Hyde Park Winter Wonderland|
|Danielle and I at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland|
Now I'm back in Chicago spending the week here recuperating from my stupid cold and looking forward to the exciting year I already have planned! We are going skiing in Breckenridge for a weekend in early Feb, my Dad, Mike and step-mum are coming over to go skiing in Park City, Utah for a week and then a few days in New York on the way home, a week in Hawaii in April with Tim's family and two weddings to attend and thats just up to May! All very exciting!