Leaving ‘Home’

So its been awhile…and a lot has changed in our world.

Over the last 2 months, we’ve packed up one home and returned to another.   Its been busy and despite the lack of posts, we managed to squeeze in a little more travel before we changed worlds.  Those updates to follow.

Since we made the decision to return to the US (here), we kicked into moving mode.   We halted all purchases unless it was critical (such as food!), we began to pack up our belongings and anything not coming with us was to be sold/ donated.  We arrived in the UK with 10 pieces of luggage.  It was our aim to leave the UK with the same 10 pieces….and we did!  Contents differed slightly and brought back lots of momentos, but essentially, we traveled with just our bags.   Icelandair has a great baggage allowance which we used to its maximum!

I single handedly packed up our home over the last few weeks.  It was good to keep busy and have a focus and the prospect of leaving was depressing.  Thank heavens for Facebook groups for selling items.  Between 3 separate groups – I sold EVERYTHING!  Down to the cutlery in the drawers.   I honestly think we broke even in our home furnishings.   I priced to sell, built up a reputation of good quality and people were clambering to get a deal.  At the same time though, it was heartbreaking.

We got to the point where we had nothing left….what you see here was it!   The TV was sold at this point but not yet delivered…

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Packing to return to the US was much more difficult than packing to go to the UK.  Difficult in terms of needing to find a home for everything (no default of ‘put it into storage’), but mostly difficult as it marked the end of our adventure.   We knew a year (14 months in total) was probably not long enough, but it went by too fast.   Our year was up.   We did so much and including our planning, we had so much to look forward to for such a long period of time.  Now it was over.   We all held a certain level of excitement to come back to the US, the kids especially, but to be leaving family again was hard…so difficult.

We spent as much time with family as we could in the final few weeks.  With special time planned to make the fondest of memories.  If nothing else, the kids built strong bonds with family members allowing them to feel they belonged to a large family.

In addition to people, we had pets.  Sadly only 2 to make the return journey (the third was carefully boxed up in hand luggage).  No-one wants to put their pets through any stress, and knowing it would be a stressful moving day for them, I knew that it was important to keep them with us (vs re-homing).   Sure enough, they bounced back pretty quickly and have settled in well again back at home.

The process is much more simplified on a journey into the USA than into The UK.   A process I could manage myself but nonetheless, I worried about their travel. We booked the pets on Virgin Atlantic.  The outbound journey was smooth and hoped for the same on the return.  They were beyond excellent!  They eliminated the stress on my side with friendly and efficient service.  Also super flexible with us as we decided to hang out with the dog a little while longer before he was crated.   Additionally, they arranged for the Heathrow Vet to stop in and issue a passport for the dog.  It wasn’t needed but just in case we came back anytime soon :-).   Bizarrely, this service was HALF the price as if i had done it at our local vet.   For what should have been a highly stressful time, it proved to be a straightforward and laid back process.   For anyone considering pet travel, Virgin Atlantic comes highly recommended!

Even the cat got packed up (she had a temporary home for a couple of weeks)…..its was exhausting work for her too..:-)

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As we left the cottage, we took a few photos for the memory book.  We were very happy here and already miss the cosy nature of the home.   We even miss our friendly ghost (or so we thought there is there).  Its hard to tell but every time we went away, the new net curtains in a  front downstairs room were pulled down!  It was once a main room of the cottage that looks directly into the street.  I am sure our friendly spirit didn’t like the view obscured!  Aside from those times and her gentle hand on my shoulder one night, she was never really a nuisance!

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On our final stroll through the village, the sun was setting.  A poignant end to our time in this beautiful place.  One could say that life is about the journey, not the destination.  This time, I wish we could have lingered a little longer at this destination..

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Studland Beach – Dorset

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View of Old Harrys Rocks from Middle Beach, Studland

Its been a busy week with family visiting…a lot to write about and STILL behind on prior travel I’ve wanted to write about!

So here’s a quick one as I wanted to share a new place we visited this weekend.

Taking advantage of the lovely weather we’ve had in England this week, we’ve done a number of beach days.  One was spent at Studland Beach on the South Dorset coast.

Studland is a National Trust Property and they maintain the coastline nicely.  As it is a NT site, having a membership is helpful as the car park is then free (usually £6).  There is no additional charge for the beach.

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We visited Middle beach.  There is also a South Beach (with a great coastal walk to Old Harry’s Rocks) and a Knoll Beach….one section of the beach is also for naturists (further on the north side).

Middle Beach offers a nice sandy beach, toilets, cafe and ice creams!

Of course, with the weather being perfect, it was very busy.  Space on the beach was at a premium but we managed to find a spot and settle in.  In fact, we stayed all afternoon and opted not to make the walk to Old Harrys rocks this time.

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As you can see, dogs are allowed on the beach.  They need to stay on leash but we swam our guy far out and took him off leash so he could swim.   The water is shallow for a log way out so its perfect for kids and dogs alike!

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Family Frisbee

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Family swim

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Great game of frisbee with the dog

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Buckland Newton, Dorset

To wrap up our weekend, we decided to stay local and take a stroll around a different village, Buckland Newton.  After a little research in the book Dorset Pub Strolls, we found a pub – Gandering Geese – that offered a 3 mile picturesque walk around the village.

Point #1 – make sure the pub is still open!  Book was published in 2001.   Things change in 15 years….Pub was no longer in operation!   It didn’t deter us from the walk though so we set off on the trail described in the book.   It was a gorgeous walk.  Sun was shining, mixture of meadows and trails and there’s always another pub to find at the end 🙂

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Springtime affords spectacular vistas of rapeseed fields

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collecting daisies and dandelions

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views across Dorset

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Trail walk

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Views on the way back down

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Plowed ‘ombre’ fields

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the curious cows 🙂

Oh so British…

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On a recent weekend, we decided to take a drive to the South coast.  West Bay specifically.  However, en route, we stumbled upon a festival that I would consider so very British.  The festival was a Dorset Knob Throwing festival!   What on earth….?   Exactly what we thought!   So we diverted into the village of Cattistock, following the signs and surprisingly, waited in line to enter!  How did all these people know what Knob Throwing was?

It so turns out that there are approximately 9 Knob throwing festivals through the year although in my research since, I have not been able to find reference to a festival other the one held in Cattistock….keep me posted if you know of them!

Upon entering, we politely inquired as to what a knob is and we were told a Dorset knob is a hard dry savoury roll/ biscuit.   Baked three times to produce a dry crumbly item.   Also, what I understand is that these are only baked at certain times of the year.

Dog friendly event – in fact, the dog loved it.  stale bread rolls everywhere and all over the ground as they were being tossed.  Needless to say, he was full by the time we left!

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The Festival is visited by over 5000 people each year and its a key fundraiser for the village of Cattistock, allowing them to supply funds to local organisations to keep the village thriving.

So the festival was a lot of fun.  Well organized games and activities from Knob throwing, Knob darts, Putt the knob and more.  You keep a score card and manage your points that you may score.  This is then submitted for the chance of being top Knob player.   We took part in many of the activities and had so much fun with it.   Sadly though, no prizes for us but that didn’t matter.   In addition to the games, there were plenty of food stands and also craft items.   We ended spending a few hours here and no doubt contributed to the funds raised quite generously 🙂

Knob events….

They take the Knob throwing very seriously…

So if you are ever out driving and see a sign for Knob throwing, don’t be shy, pull over and take part!

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Ringstead Bay, Dorset

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Ringstead Bay

Spring is finally here in earnest.  We headed to the coast for the day this weekend so get a teaser of warmth and summertime to come along the Jurassic Coast.

We have been to Ringstead Bay once before,  late last summer.  A first time for me and I liked it so much, we thought it would be good to go back and also take some visiting family.  Knowing the weather wouldn’t support sunbathing and swimming, we knew that the walks and views were in themselves enough to take us back.

We parked up at the National Trust Car Park which is easy to find and at this time of year, not busy at all.  To our disappointment when we arrived, the fog was heavy…not expecting that at all but it did clear after an hour to allow us some splendid views.

During our visit, we got to watch some para gliders practice take offs.  Back last summer, I recall seeing the same at this spot so I would assume its fairly frequent.  Fun for the kids to watch and adds to the beauty of the location.  We took the paths down towards the ocean.  One path leads to the an amazing, tiny chapel overlooking the ocean.  Back in the summer, this chapel also served tea and home made cakes.  There was no-one there this time but something to bear in mind if you head up that way.  My guess is, in season, they serve afternoon tea most weekends, so be sure to have a few pounds in your pocket…its worth it!

We headed down to the beach and just let the kids be kids and dog be dog…paddling and swimming (dog only).

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fog lifting over the beach

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post paddle stroll

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foggy view from the top

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a dog and the ocean….happy dog

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splendid views from every angle

The hike back up to the car park is steep in places but we strolled back up at the end of the afternoon, sun kissed and rosy cheeked from our day out by the sea.

Kingston Lacey

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Snowdrops in bloom

Another day trip we made during half term was to the National Trust Property of Kingston Lacey.

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Kingston Lacey House

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Grounds of Kingston Lacey

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Views from Kingston Lacey

I had heard the Snowdrops were in full bloom and i thought it would be nice to see….being from Maine, bulbs don’t typically sprout and flower until May so an early Spring is a treat.  We had a spare day so I packed up a picnic, the kids and the dog and headed out.  Just a short(ish) drive to Wimborne Minster, Dorset from where we live.

Kingston Lacey is a National Trust property.  A country House and estate dating back to the 17th century.  The grounds are extensive and what I particularly liked was the fact I could take the dog!  They will provide you with a map where dogs are permitted which was ample and we took many of the forest trails too which led to Kids playgrounds allowing the younger 2 to burn off some energy.

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Chester the Golden enjoying the trails

The Snowdrops and daffodils were in full bloom and coupled with some sunshine made for a please few hours out.

The house is currently closed (except for 2 rooms), so we didn’t make it inside (opting to stay outside while we could!).  I am sure it would be worth a return visit though.

As with any National Trust property, we rounded out our afternoon with a Cream Tea in the tea rooms.  Nicely done in the old stables/ stable yard of the house.