We carved out some time while family was here to venture to a few places here in England. For these trips, we wanted to lighten our load a little. So, Theo and Viv had to stay back with a sitter and miss out.
With my mom, dad, and brother we drove south to the coast and visited Bodiam Castle and the Chalk Cliffs of Seven Sisters.
When we moved to London I promised the boys that we would visit a castle. I searched for the most castle-y looking castle. The one that I thought THEY would have in their head as what a castle should look like. Once I found this one, I knew it’s where we had to go. Look at that castle! It has a moat! It was built in 1385!
The boys absolutely loved it. And the adults did too.
This castle happened to be near the southern coast, so we decided to head to the nearby chalk cliffs.
Chalk Cliffs at Seven Sisters
In case you didn’t catch that, I did say THAT WE DROVE.
And… I look forward to NEVER driving in England again. Rich rented the car online, and then called me, “Ya, I got the car. And.. oh, hey babe. You have to drive because my license is expired.”
I was like
Ok… ok, alright.
Ok. Ok. I will be driving then…hummm hum hum..”
I drove. I DID. I drove the car, in England, with my husband, two children, mother, father, and brother in tow. On the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road. I started out ok with it. The city roads, I wasn’t worried about. The country roads, I was definitely not worried about. But it was the merge onto the “motor-way” that had me the most anxious. I was also super nervous about all of the city round-abouts. A few tight spaces had everyone holding their breath, but overall getting out of the city was fine. Getting onto the motorway was also ok because I had four adult helpers watching out all sides.
But then we had to veer off of the motorway onto the English country roads. Which were going to easy peasy.
Except I was completely wrong. The English country roads that we drove on were, like, not in a big open field with lots of visibility. Na Ah. They were windy crooky around all these little villages and stuff. They were about the width of a car and a half, and they twist and turn so bad. You can only see about 40 feet in front of you before the road winds again. And most of the road had tall shrubs or a wall right on the side of the road. A shoulder is non-existent.
SO your car can’t fit on your side of the road. You can’t see on the road up ahead because of the turn and because of the walls and the shrubs. If a car comes, you can’t move over. And you have no warning. I don’t understand how this flies. It was like driving in a tube slide that is not wide enough for two cars to pass. And the Brits are just flying around these blind turns, like no big deal. When we met another car, literally and actually, one car had to wait for a little break in the road side wall and pull over so the other car could come through.
I built up a line of at least 8 cars behind us, at all times. There were times when I felt (as I heard another ExPat friend say) frozen in fear. Our whole life was in this car and it was impossible. I had to pull over a couple times and give my white knuckles, tense shoulders, and nauseous stomach a break. Trying to drive on those blind country roads sort of broke me. I couldn’t do it.
Rich (and everyone else in the car!) kept complaining that I was driving too far over and that we were going to slam into the road-side wall. And I can’t blame them. Honestly, to not-used-to-it Americans, it was F’n scary.
“I don’t know what else to do!” I would shout. “Ride the middle, and get in a head on collision!? I can’t see!”
“But if you keep driving so far over, we’re going to hit the wall!” They would say.
Here’s the truth, after a few rounds of complaining, I pulled over and had Rich start driving on his expired license. After not even a few turns he goes “Oh wow babe, you’re right. This is really hard. Really hard.”
See? Thank you.
I drove all the way to the castle. He drove for a little while and then we switched back and I finished driving the last half hour to the cliffs. When leaving the cliffs, my anxiety at driving home had me in tears, so Rich finished the trip home from there. If he got pulled over, my plan was to plead insanity.
We didn’t get a scratch on the car, or die in a crash, or get pulled over… SO it all worked out in the end.
Will I be able to face those country roads again? It’s hard to say. I don’t like that they defeated me so badly. The competitive and adrenaline-junkie side of me wants to try again – without kids in the car. But the normal, rational me definitely wants to avoid them for all eternity. I’ll be just fine if I never drive on those roads again. And I will surrender to the fact that I can’t do it. You win, roads! You win.
My blood is pumping right now at just recalling the memory…. so I’m not hopeful for victory in the future.
A little later in the summer, we traveled BY TOUR BUS to the English city of Bath and Stonehenge with Rich’s family. Comfy, air-conditioned, reclining seats. And no driving required.
Bath is an adorable little town centered around the old Roman Bath house. Rick Steves has a great episode on Bath, and it was my reason for wanting to go here. Look it up on YouTube.
Bath often wins the National Competition for the prettiest flowers. It’s extra unique because every building in Bath is required to be built out of white bath stone. It also has an amazing Cathedral, easy cozy pubs, and impeccably clean streets. It’s beautiful, arty, chill, and fun.
We loved it and I would love to go back.
In fact, we liked it so much that all of us have decided that we are going to retire here. Wish us luck with our retirement in Bath.
Stonehenge was more for the adults to appreciate. But the kids had a great time here too.
Mostly because it was just an open field.
That is always fun.
If you’re into history or mystery or aliens or quiet places or being outside then you will like visiting Stonehenge. It’s a world heritage site and a “wonder of the world,” for goodness sake. If you’re over this way, it’s worth the trip.
We toured with Day Tours London. There are lots of tour bus companies. We were very happy with this one. Would recommend!