‘Home’ again

To follow up on my post on Leaving ‘Home‘, we are Home again!

We did it!  We did something different and had an adventure.  Many memories made and treasured and very lucky to have 2 homes…

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We cant really complain about being home, we do live in a beautiful part of the world – Maine.  Freeport to be exact.

Re-entry has been pretty smooth.  The actual day of travel ran like clockwork (I’d like to think that was due to my amazing organizational kills :-P)….travel to airports, pet check-in, people check in arrival in US and so on.   As we had rented our home in the US for the last year, friends had kindly been in to manage any needs at the house before we arrived….also, some friends were under instruction to make beds, stock fridge and get pet food in for our return late that evening.  Thankful for this as we rolled in late and could tumble straight into bed.   Also thankful for the numerous friends willing to stay up late to collect us with our baggage.  As mentioned previously, Icelandair has a generous baggage allowance.  2 x 23kg bags per person….so in all, we had 460KG of luggage (excluding ‘packed to the gills’ hand luggage x5!).

Despite my sadness of leaving England, its always good to be home.  Nice to have your things around you and that settled feeling.  The kids were excited to begin pulling their things out of storage.  It wasn’t long before toys and books were unpacked.

I was anxious to get the kitchen unpacked.  I had missed these items the most.  Managing with just essential kitchen items in the UK had become frustrating at times.  In addition to these, having appliances back!  Dishwasher!!  We’d been without one for 14 months. Obviously, a material luxury but the kids were thrilled to throw away that washing up roster 🙂   Fridge!!  We struggled with a miniscule British fridge for about the first 5 months.  I ended up buying another fridge in the UK as for a family of 5, the coolbox we had just wasn’t cutting it.  Also having to get onto my knees to peek inside was getting old (just like my knees!)   The UK is awash with charity shops so picking up a used fridge (Bosch no less) was easy and resale was even easier!  Last, but not least, a tumble dryer!  We didn’t invest in one on the UK (mostly as there was no place to put one in the house) and with it being one of the wettest years on record (2015), we missed the ease of drying the laundry.  The days became a battle with the weather.  Getting any laundry outside in the dry moments and dragging it all back inside for the wet moments.   I could never get anything completely dry and I couldn’t stand laundry on all the radiators!

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Ahhh….how I missed you 🙂

A non kitchen item I was pleased to see was my closet (wardrobe!).  In fact, all our closets.  The UK house had NO storage space whatsoever.   What pieces of furniture we had, we packed full. In fact, we little storage in our bedroom, opting for some plastic totes to hold our items.   Not ideal, but again, wasn’t worth investing a lot of money.  Coming back to a huge walk-in closet was bliss.  But now, we debated do we even need it?  As you see in the photos below, the clothes shown is all we took to the UK.  And then, we only wore half of them.  So do we really need any more clothes? Or storage for any more?.  As I write this piece, clothes we left in storage have been unpacked….and most have gone to charity.   We have learned to live with so much less and its refreshing and liberating.  Which makes us wonder…do we need all this stuff – clothes, things, anything?   Life takes over and you accumulate and settle.  We were happy and enriched with less and on the move.   Time will tell if we ever fill these closets again!

Our home withstood renters well.  We were lucky…..but the garden not so much.   I didn’t take any ‘before’ photos but here’s a shot of one of the twins holding a weed she pulled up.   Thankfully now we have it restored back to its former glory allowing us to enjoy the final days of summer and into the Fall.

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For everyone in the household, they’ve slipped back to their old lives easily.  Kids back in schools with all their old friends.  Husband back in the office, pets back to their favorite resting spots in the sunny garden.   What we do know is that despite being away, nothing really changed….except for us.   Everything and everyone around us has remained constant.   Reassuring and easy in some respects but I wonder if we will long for more change in our own lives.   In this journey, we taught the kids that change is good and not to be feared.  I hope they hold onto that as they grow into adulthood.   For now, I need to live by my own words and be comfortable with the fact that  I have not returned to the life I had prior. For me, the adjustment back home is greater.  I no longer have an office to go to, colleagues to socialise with.  Nor do we have the big trip to plan for.   So what next?  I’m not sure but happy to be home and so is Chester…

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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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One year on…

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We embarked on this move with a one year time frame in mind.    To take a break, connect with family and do something different.

The kids signed up for ‘just a year’ and have seized every moment based on just that.

So now what?  We have had an amazing 12 months.  We’ve done a lot and the kids have grown in so many ways.   Daily we point out their achievements, big or small, and even tomorrow we will attend an awards ceremony where our oldest will be honored by her school…bearing in mind she has only been there for a year she has so much to be proud of.

Its been a gut wrenching decision but we will be leaving the UK and moving back to the USA.  Its complicated so its the easiest path at this time….but every single one of us has a heavy heart….:-(

Seven one way flights are booked (5 people, 2 furbabies), we are beginning to pack up the cottage and have begun to say our goodbyes.

We have a few more weeks left on the island so we will surely be making the most of it.   Look out for final UK posts and then more about our life back in the USA!

What we do know – we are ‘Always Home’ on either continent.

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Maine Botanical Gardens 2014

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Corfu June 2016

London – Sky Garden

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So we’ve spent the last few weekends in London so I have a few more posts to write.  In particular order, I will just cover a little of what we have done as we’ve had some enjoyable experiences.

Yesterday, we went to 20 Fenchurch Street, the official name of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building.

We’ve admired this building all year and I think I can say its my favorite modern building in the city.  Growing in popularity is the 3 story Sky garden at the top of the building – floor 35.   I have tried to get tickets in the past but they go quickly.  This time, luck was on my side.  With friends visiting from America, I checked in at Sky Garden website (here) 3 weeks prior to their trip to see tickets available.   The website has a 3 week leadtime for booking so sometimes can be tricky to plan.   I managed to snag the tickets we needed so I was thrilled.  It has been on my London ‘must do’ list for some time.

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View up 20 Fenchurch Street

It’s easy to find and easy to access.  Security was swift and efficient and in no time, we were on the 35th floor looking out over London.  Note – the views are great!  And when you compare to the London Eye (£25) and the Shard (££), considering this is FREE, its probably all you need.  In fact, I would even argue it was better than the Eye.

I loved the view of the Tower of London….a favorite place of mine and new vantage point.

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Tower of London

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St Pauls, BT Tower, City of London

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West London

The gardens are mostly green but lush and nice to wander around.

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View from Garden overlooking main cafe/ vista

 

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The Tower boasts a couple of cafes and a restaurant.  We sat in the window with afternoon tea jut taking in the view.  It was perfect.  And because they limit the numbers up there, its not crowded and has a lovely spacious feel.

If you’ve not done it already, plan ahead and visit the Walkie Talkie!

Sports Day!

This last week, the twins experienced their first sports day.  I find it a very British affair.  The Americans don’t do sports day like the Brits do.  In fact, the Americans don’t consistently do sports day so the whole thing was pretty new.

Sports day is serious business here.  Highly competitive, organised with military precision and House trophies up for grabs!

Already at a disadvantage with no egg and spoon experience, they went for victory in every race!  As expected, we came dead last in the egg and spoon 🙂

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Dropped egg!

A surprise win was the sack race for one of the twins.  Technique was stellar and she romped home to victory!

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Victory!

Race of the day was Obstacle course….twins in heat together (possible recipe for disaster) and neck and neck the whole race for a joint first…made for a much better conversation over dinner!

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Twins – neck and neck – same pace and technique 🙂

So a great day for the memory books and another unique experience of living in England!

 

Cornwall – Carnewas

This is a follow up post to the Watergate post yesterday.   We rounded out our day after the stroll along Watergate Bay at another National Trust spot further North along the coast (just a few miles).   This was Carnewas.   This is home to the famed Bedruthan Steps.  Sadly we didn’t go this far as the crew was tired but for a short distance, the rewards were plentiful.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!

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Idyllic setting

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Views from the coastal path

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View south down the coastline

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Playing with camera filters allows for  moodier shot

Cornwall – Watergate Bay

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Watergate Bay

Day 2 of our adventure and we had an exciting day planned.  Firstly, another note about Parkdean and the site.  Not sure if its the time of year or this would be year round, but the place was full of crows…yes crows!  The noise from the them is deafening and starts around 5am…needless to say, we were up early!  The good news is, the sun was blazing and the weather gods were looking down on us 🙂

The weather was particularity exciting for the girls – the camp was home to 3 swimming pools and  200ft water slide…so yes, we hit the pool for an hour before we set off for the day.  The camp actually plans well for the British summer.  They keep the pools heated at 30° so even if the weather was cooler, they were plenty warm enough.

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This day we knew we wanted to head North from Newquay.  We were headed to Watergate Bay.

I have family that often stays at the Watergate Bay resort.  Sadly, not for us this trip but it looks gorgeous and does offer all sorts of sports etc.   We arrived at Watergate Bay Beach area and easily found parking.  In high season, I am sure its a bear to park but we did just fine and were happy to pay £6 for all day parking…..a good deal for all day.

Our first stop was Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant!  We were so excited to experience a Jamie O restaurant and food and this was a really special treat.  What we have saved on accommodations, we can put towards experience.  In addition, the cause is a good one.  The Fifteen Model began in London in 2002, providing chef apprenticeship opportunities to disadvantaged youths in the local area.  There are now a number of the restaurants and the Cornwall location is also a local charity.

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Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen at Watergate Bay

I believe on all kinds of experience, big and small, basic and organic to grand and bold.  A dining experience at an upscale establishment is not only special but helps build skills in the kids for when the embark on their own adventures later in life.  While Jamies Fifteen is not over the top fancy (especially for lunch), they still had a properly set table, a sophisticated menu of which the kids asked the waiter many questions on to make their choices and a level of expectation on behaviors.

The restaurant is beautifully located on the beach of Watergate Bay overlooking the ocean.  Every table affords a great view.  The kitchen is ‘open’ so you can see the chefs at work.  The kids were happy to face the chefs to watch and we had the ocean view seats.

We opted for cocktails and mocktails all round and the food was delicious..

 

After a long leisurely lunch we explored the beach.  The sun was still shining so stripped off our shoes and wet for a paddle.

Surfers and Kite surfers were out but as the beach is HUGE, its felt like it was all ours 🙂

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Paddling at Watergate Bay

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Kite surfing at Watergate Bay

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Watergate Bay

Cornwall – Newquay

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Gunnel at Cranstock Beach

This last weekend, we went to Cornwall for the weekend.   It was a cheap getaway that we booked just a couple of weeks ago.  I had seen an offer in the Daily Mail to collect the tokens and get away for just £20pp.  I dont often do offers like this but as a family of five and copious amounts of travel draining the purse, I thought this would be a great deal for us…and it was.

We booked into a camping resort – Parkdean, Newquay.  Again, never staying in a ‘holiday camp’ type of resort before this was a new experience but pleasantly surprised.   The unit we booked accommodated up to 6 people.  It was sparkling clean and had everything we could possibly need for the short stay…2 bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen, living room, diner, tv etc.  We are at the beginning of the season so I wonder how well the units would hold up through the summer but for us, it was perfect.   We opted to bring our own sheets, although, they do offer these as an extra charge.   With the newspaper deal, we paid under £50 for a 3 night stay!  WOW!  This is a brilliant deal and highly recommend anyone looking out for the deals when they are done again.  We paid an additional £40 for entertainment passes.  Not critical for us but we did use them and they did check the passes so with such a good deal, happy to spend the little extra.

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Lounging around at the Camp site

Our first full day there was Saturday.  Having been weather watching all week, we knew that the weather wasn’t going to be great so we opted to do some driving/ touring around the area.

First stop was Newquay.  Don’t get me wrong, Newquay has some of the most beautiful beaches and best surfing spots in the UK but on a grey day we were less than enamored.  The town center/ promenade area was also disappointing.  Maybe we just didn’t hit the right spots?  Not sure…but with one way road systems, rain and no ease of parking we moved out of Newquay and headed South along the coast.

Our first pull over site was a National Trust location Crantock Beach.  We have an annual membership for NT so as it turned out, we were going to be fortunate to use it a number of times this weekend away.

We headed up and over the dunes onto a pretty sandy beach.  As I said, one of many in this lovely area.

We took a stroll along the beach watching the tide come in.   We opted to take a different path back to the car park.  There are many paths off the car park so by chance we opted to take an opposite path up and over into another cove.  This was beautiful!  Its clear where the water flows here and leads out to the ‘Gunnel’.

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Dogs playing on Crantock Beach

If you go, take a walk over to the wooden bridge and cross over to a series of steps up.  166 in all.   Perched at the top, there is a delightful cafe with fantastic views.  Naturally, we took some tea and cake – what we do best 🙂

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View of the Gunnel at the top of the steps/ cafe

After refreshments we set out North again to find another adventure.   Next stop was Holywell Beach (National Trust).

We asked the car park attendant for his must do at the beach and he told us to head to the far end and explore the cave…so that’s what we did!

For the walk back to the car park, we ventured through the dunes….all very picturesque!

Two beaches down, we opted for a little change in scenery – we headed into Truro for a look around.  I wont spend much time here on it as we only hit the shopping/ center.  From what we saw, it would be worth a return visit one day to explore more.  Shopping was pretty standard but the kids enjoyed a change in activity.   We grabbed a bite of dinner at Sams Bistro.  I would recommend the restaurant – the food was good and reasonably priced.

Final stop was back at Parkdean in Newquay – our camping resort.  In true holiday camp fashion, the resort offered plenty of evening entertainment.   So Bingo and quiz night it was before we headed off to bed!

 

York

A brief post about a flying visit to York a few days ago.  I wont really do it justice as the trip was quick and I know there is so much more to see and do here.

My Sister in law and I took a train from Manchester into York.  A quick trip, just 1.5 hours and the views (cross Penines) can be lovely at times.  Its so nice to take a train.   With so much driving in the car this year, taking a break and being a passenger was welcome.

I have a good childhood friend that lives in York so the intention was to catch up and send time with her.  Sadly, we haven’t been able to get to York as a family as we’ve been so busy and its been just a bit too far for the weekend.   So being in Manchester for a week, allowed a day trip to make this happen.

Naturally, no trip to York is complete without a trip to York Minster.  My friend was fortunate enough to be married in the Minster and I was bridesmaid.   It was a great day and memorable being such an impressive venue.

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York Minster

This trip we were disappointed with the Minster.  Now they charge £10/ adult to enter (kids are free).   The charge seems high and is the only Minster/ Cathedral we have visited int he UK so far that makes a charge.  Additionally, on entering, the Minster was filled with workmen and scaffolding setting up for some theater productions.  I am sure now, these are no longer happening but then the charge still applied despite the disruptions.   Having been to the Minster many ties before, the level of scaffolding and high charge, we opted not to go further.   Interestingly enough, a large group ahead of us was also put off by the charge and opted not to pay.   I wonder if the entrance fee sometimes works against the minster vs relying on donations?

We opted for a couple of quick snaps outside and moved on!

Lunch was looming so we checked out Tripadvisor for some good eats.  Going for Fish and Chips, we went to Drakes in the center of town.  Not bad food but perhaps there are better choices in town?  It was fine though and caters for tourists wanting the classic British dish.

We spent a lot of time walking around the streets of York.  Architecture and history is fascinating.  The shambles I think is the most photographed street in England and we also stopped into York’s most haunted pub.

While we didn’t do it, there is a cat trail of York.  Its is a self guided trail and info can be found online and certain shops.  We did a few and enjoyed seeing the cats as we walked through the day.


The day was cooler than we had had all week so we opted to stop for hot drinks to warm up.  A must do is the York Cocoa House.  Hot chocolates are amazing and for the grown ups, they can make them much less sweet so a little more sophisticated.   Each drink comes with a complimentary chocolate of the month (ours was Ginger) and the cake selection was fabulous too.  If you lived locally or had a longer stay, they offer chocolate making classes and more.

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York Cocoa House

Shopping in York is really good.  Huge range of stores from high end, to novelty and then also great antique stores.   We enjoyed browsing through some more of the unusual shops..

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Soap Store

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Fun novelty gift store

We wrapped up our day with a walk around the city walls.  The walls afford some pretty views and again, steeped in history for the city which dates back to 71 AD when the Romans arrived.

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Walking city walls and view of the Minster

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Clifford Tower

If you are visiting the North of England, York is a must do and if we had time, we would be back!