Monday, 3 November 2014

Just another weekend in England

Happy Monday!  It’s sunny but cold here in England this morning.  The back of our house faces the south and since the sun is lower in the sky these days, it’s streaming in through the windows and making for a cheery start to the week.  Much better than waking up to rain and clouds on a Monday.  I’m spending the next couple of days putting the posts together on our fall break trip a couple weeks back, so this morning I thought I would share with you our quiet weekend at home.  We really weren’t home for a good portion of it (errands to run and plenty of this country to still explore right out our front door), but after traveling the 2 weeks prior, we stuck a lot closer to home this weekend.

Saturday morning we made our weekend trip to Ashby de la Zouch for groceries and coffee.  After we enjoyed our coffee, we headed over to explore Ashby castle.  Yes, we get to go grocery shopping in a town with a castle!  Not something you get to say everyday in the US, is it.  We had popped over to the castle a few weekends back but it was raining out that Saturday, so we just got our annual membership to the English Heritage organization.  With this membership, our family can get into any of their historic sites in the UK, and trust you me, there are a lot of them to see.   Since it was a beautiful, sunny day this Saturday, we decided to head back there and actually check out the castle this time.

A little about castles in the UK:  a lot of them are actually ruins, as is the case with Ashby castle.  Some are still very much intact or have been rebuilt to their former glory, but let’s face it – it is EXPENSIVE to keep a castle up AND a lot of them have had extremely turbulent pasts, as is the case with Ashby castle.  Ashby Castle was originally built in the 15th century.  During the 1600s, there was a Civil War brewing in England and unfortunately, the residence of Ashby Castle were on the losing side.  It was ordered that the Castle be demolished so it could no longer be used and was blown up, most likely with gunpowder, as best it could be back then anyway.

When I say these are the ruins of Ashby castle, I’m not talking about a few leftover bricks or rocks just sticking out of the ground.  What is still left of the castle is quite a magnificent sight.  You can stand at the base of the remains of rooms where Lord Hastings and his family lived and see the ornate fireplaces 3 and 4 stories up that once warmed these rooms.  A large section of the kitchen walls still stand and you can step inside the gigantic fireplaces where meat was roasted on spits to be served to some 100+ people a day, or where they boiled up who knows what in huge caldrons.  There is still a tower with a narrow winding staircase you can climb to the top (98 steps – Leah counted to make sure the sign was accurate) and from where you can look out over all of Ashby-de-la-Zouch and see the lands once ruled from within these walls.  The chapel walls still stand tall with the beautiful arched windows that once held stained glass.  And, there is still a creepy, narrow underground tunnel you walk through from the kitchen to the cellar that was used when the castle was under siege.  Even in it’s ruin, it is easy to feel the magnificence and power that once stood there.  
At the top of the remaining tower at Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle
And then we went grocery shopping.  Castle tour.  Grocery store.  Just another Saturday morning in merry ol’ England.

Saturday afternoon we decided to literally explore right outside our front door.  Just down the road from our house is a trail you can take all the way into Derby if you are so inclined (about 15 miles away), but we decided to just walk to the next town over (about a mile and a half).  The trail is beautiful, covered with trees and following a stream for most of the way we were on it.  When we neared the town, we had to jump off the trail and followed the road into town.  Eric and I wanted to stop in at The Three Horseshoes for a pint, but the sun was already getting low in the sky (it was only 4:00, yikes).  We snaked our way through the little village and found the road that brought us right back to our front door.  

Walking on the road back to our house.
Sunday we decided to run some errands and get a few more things we’ve been missing for the house, mainly a much needed vacuum cleaner.  We all piled into the car and heading into Derby and got exactly zero of the items on our list.  Well, I take that back.  Eric did find the cord for the phone he was looking for because the phone he bought didn't actually come with the correct cord.  We TRIED to buy a vacuum clean, but as happened when we also TRIED to buy a TV at this particular store that will remain nameless but I will never go back to again, they apparently didn’t want to sell one to us.  We spent several minutes looking at the vacuums (and there were lots to choose from), picked out a Hoover (price was good, recognize the name, and there was an outlet available so we plugged it in and tested it out), only to be told that particular vacuum isn’t really for sale.  Say what???  Why do you have it on display AND with a price tag on it then?  As mentioned above, this exact same thing happened when we tried to by a TV from here a few weeks back.  So, we get directed to a different vacuum and lucky for us, there is actually a VAX rep in the store who proceeds to tell us all about the fine features of the VAX vacuum cleaner and gives us a demo.  Ok, we are sold.  We’ll take that one.  Oh, wait.  Sorry.  This one is out of stock.  Are you kidding me? 

One of many gnarly trees at Calke Abbey.
So out the door we went with no vacuum cleaner and head towards IKEA to get a few other house type things we still need.  Or so we thought.  To make a long story short, we bagged that idea after getting stuck in a traffic jam in the parking lot at IKEA where we were never going to find a parking space anyway (ok, we had been warned not to visit IKEA on a Sunday – stupid us for not listening) and ended up at Burger King of all places for a late lunch because we were all hungry and cranky by this time.   After our extremely un-English meal, we headed towards Calke Abbey, an estate not far from our house, with only the utensil trays we had planned to return to IKEA in the trunk of the station wagon and went for a hike with the sheep instead.  We got home late in the afternoon, enjoyed a light dinner with a little cider beverage Eric picked up at the grocery on Saturday, and got everything ready for a new week at school.  All in all, not a bad way to end the weekend. 

Sorry.  Couldn't help myself.  Had to take a pic cuz it just looked so pretty sitting on the table.

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