Chardon | USA

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Chardon, Ohio – my childhood home. I spent most of my childhood here, from the age of 9 to the age of 18, when I embarked to university in Cincinnati – and never looked back. I have been traveling ever since, now living permanently in the great country of England. I haven’t come home for more than 2 or 3 weeks – but this keeps home a comforting and relaxing environment.

I was home for one week this time in the middle of July, which for this part of the USA means sunshine and heat, humidity and of course, the potential for strong storms. Proper storms as I call them – the equivalent in the UK is a small rumble in the distance.

I spent most of my days on our back deck, watching our adorable Golden Retriever dogs (Jac and Lilly) play in the backyard. Jac, the older of the two, moseyed around the lawn, stopping and sniffing when it suited him. Lilly, our puppy, has a lot more energy. She would bound around chasing balls I would throw to her, or grab rocks to play with.

It had rained a lot this year, so the grass, instead of being a dull and dead brown was a magnificent green. A green that glistened in the sunshine and that felt full and soft on your bare feet. I adored walking around barefoot. I would sit on the deck reading (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the third time) and would love the hot sun on my face. It was incredibly peaceful. Barefoot, reading, sunshine, and a glass of cold water. I could have stayed in that position for days.

When the family was home, we played a human sized jenga game in the yard, and had s’mores next to bonfires. I ate incredibly well – bbq ribs, hamburgers, fettuccine alfredo, Olive Garden’s endless salad and breadsticks, ranch dressing, mochas, Sam Adams… I came back much heavier than I left.

A Rant About Chicago O’Hare Airport

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This year, instead of going abroad for my summer holidays, I decided to spend a week back in the comfort of sunny Chardon, Ohio (also known as my family hometown). Mid-July, after a sunny week in London, I headed off on a plane for Chicago, to ultimately take the final leg of my flight to Cleveland.

Cleveland use to be a major hub of an airport, with (you’ll never believe this if you go to this tiny airport now) flights to the UK directly. DIRECT! What a thing of dreams these days. Hopkins International Airport only keeps the name alive through a flight to Toronto, Canada. A 45 minute journey on a 30 seater egg-beater with wings. Hardly international.

But I digress. My biggest complaint is with the Chicago O’Hare Airport itself – a nightmare for international travellers, whether American or otherwise. AVOID AT ALL COSTS!

Now, I fly British Airways (BA) on nearly all my international flights. This airline was my first in flying to London, and I had such incredible service for cattle class that I cannot be on any alternative flight without someone else booking that ticket for me. I will always recommend a BA flight internationally. They greet me with smiles and lovely British accents, great service, and good food. I flew their 747 jet (my personal favourite) out to Chicago. It was when I got off the plane when I was faced with the horror that is International Terminal Customs.

What the heck is going on here?! The queue for the citizens alone was nearly back into the plane. No signs. Not to mention anyone helpful to tell us what was going on. In the citizens lane, we were shuttled into this pen with new machinery that was to take our photos and basically do the work of the customs officer for us. Was it confusing? Yes. Was it poorly laid out with no directions on how to use the system? Yes. Was it manned by people who cannot speak nor understand much English? Unfortunately yes. Not the best place for them – cue frustration on both sides.

I got a photo taken with a big X marks the spot – and shuffled back to a customs officer anyways. A complete waste of time.

I had a lot of spare time before my next flight, because I knew from previous experience that Chicago’s International Terminal is a nightmare. But never was it THAT much of a nightmare. My seven hour layover was cut down to three by the time I resurfaced on the domestic side of the airport. No joke. I went straight to the bar to drown my sorrows in a cold pint of Sam Adams (excellent choice of beer if over on that side of the Atlantic). I had to readjust my speech once there… Doesn’t help that the majority of my adult life so far has been spent in England, I couldn’t think of the American equivalent for pint or another word for bill as the man behind the bar had no idea what I was talking about.

At the end of a long journey (coupled with a flight cancellation just after all of the above hassle), I was home and extremely jet lagged. Lesson learned: never fly through Chicago again if you can help it!

Sandown Park | Surrey

As a summer party at work, we went as an office for a day out to the races – at Sandown Park in Esher to be exact!

We had a great time at the races. Everyone dressed up, though very few of us wore a hat or fascinator. We had Pimms and prosecco, sat in the glorious sunshine, and lost all of our money betting for the horses with the best names. It was a fantastic day.

While the races aren’t generally my thing, watching the horses and sitting in hot, English sunshine is definitely right up my alley. I adore England when it is sunny, as you all should know by now, and I am in the best mood I can possibly be on those days. It was a great time out with the whole studio, and something we don’t do as often as we should.

St James Park | London

   
   Bright and sunny mornings in London are some of the best in the world. The tourist areas are quiet, the buzz of the city is at a low hum from commuters headed to work. This is where I found myself on a beautiful Friday morning last week. 

I took a roundabout route into work – grabbing my typical Starbucks coffee to walk down Regents Street to St James Park. I sat in the sunshine with my book and enjoyed the warm sunshine. It wasn’t crowded, the tourists were still at breakfast, and true Londoners (if they spared the time) are able to enjoy the spoils of their city without the fuss.

Green grass was fried brown in patches, a victim of too much sunshine and no rain – London loses its sparkle when this happens, even though we enjoy the rare sun. You have to love the rain as much as the good weather – the country needs it. 

Off to work refreshed and relaxed – this is the way to start a day.

Cambridge | Cambridgeshire 

   
           
It is very important to give yourself some ‘me’ time every once in a while. This is time just for you – to do what you want when you want to, to think things through in life, to gain perspective on things which were once driving you mad. 

So one Saturday I took myself for just this purpose to the nearby city of Cambridge.

I don’t know why I don’t go to Cambridge more often. It is just as close to me as the great city of London is.. It is cuter, less busy (but still packed with tourists), has lovely shops and canals and a lovely park – yes, why don’t I go more often?!

I arrived late morning to do a meander through the shops, grab some food, and have a mini picnic in the park looking out over the river. I walked nearly everywhere, through some of the college grounds, around the cobbled streets, wandering in and out of boutiques, and ultimately sitting down next to the river to watch punters try to turn around and tourists in the boats who looked out almost unfazed with their superb surroundings (who are these people anyways?!). My M&S sandwich and I nearly attracted some bad attention from the local swans, and my poor timing saw me sitting down at the exact same time the clouds arrived, hence beginning the on-off dance between myself and my light jacket. 

I returned to my home calm and happy with the world, and pleased that I hadn’t wasted the day in front of my iPad, which I typically find myself doing when at a loose end on a Saturday. X

Dyrham Hall | Gloustershire 

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In an attempt to break up a long drive to one of the most beautiful parts of the UK (Cornwall… If anyone’s missed my last month of posts), I planned a stop off at the National Trust property Dyrham Hall, just off of the M4 highway nearly to Bristol and at the same turn-off as Bath. Knowing myself, I would have gladly progressed onto the great UNESCO protected city, however with a 8 hour drive ahead of us, Bath was too much of a time commitment. Thus we find ourselves on a beautiful, sunny afternoon in Gloustershire.

The grounds are stunning: rolling hills very common in that part of the country, a large deer park, city views in the distance, and a Manor House with manicured gardens. The house is currently under refurbishment, and you can explore the work the National Trust are undertaking in order to conserve the roof specifically. The grounds are lovely and large, with great walks and views of the countryside. You can’t even see the house when you arrive down the long driveway.. It’s tucked out of the way, around the path and down the hill.

We had the most beautiful blue skies that day, which juxtaposed against the bright green grass gave us stunning colours. Photos don’t show enough of the real thing – it was a visual delight.

Canons Ashby | Northamptonshire 

   
           
Sunday morning. My second favourite morning of the week. When you wake up, especially at the hour I usually do, everything is quiet. No one is out like on Saturday mornings. Everything is still.

Ben and I are up early – our body clocks don’t know the difference between weekdays and weekends, so we are wide awake by 7am. The neighbours are quiet, the town is still asleep. If there is early morning sun, we take our breakfast out to the patio with a book.

But this Sunday was different. It was Fathers Day, and we were due to meet up with Ben’s family at a National Trust in Northamptonshire. It was a small drive from where we lived, so we packed a picnic and headed out on nearly empty roads.

When we arrived, there was green countryside all around us, cows next to the car park, and as we walked towards the property, a lovely priory church peaked through the trees. We sat down in beautifully manicured gardens, with shaped hedges and flowers (and a croquet set!). A jazz band played for the other families who were also picnicking on the lawn. The sun broke through the clouds, and we had a wonderful family picnic.

Meats, coleslaw, scotch eggs, pasta salad, salad, fried onions, and crisps, washed down with lemonade and sparkling water. Ben’s mother brought her picnic china and wicker basket, and I brought my two blankets to sit on. Other families brought tables and folding chairs – coolers and drivers! 

After we were fully satisfied, we had a meaner through the 13th century house. We learned about the family that lived there, walked on the original stones, saw some of the clothes of the last family who lived there. We wandered through the priory church, once a large monastery that was nearly all knocked down by King Henry VIII. We wandered through the second hand book shop (coming out with a purchase or two) and the National Trust shop. 

The National Trust has always been an institution I adore. It takes these once stately homes of the old English aristocracy and ensures that its history is preserved. Always worth the money. We had a fantastic time.