I have a confession to make. I’ve never had a strong desire to go to England. I love Jane Austen. I love British accents. I love a good spot o' tea and a crumpet. But for whatever reason, it’s never been high on my list of places to travel. Perhaps because I thought it would be too much like home. Luckily for me, I got to go to England when all I wanted was a place that feels like home.
Sam got the opportunity to go to an IB conference in Oxford. The backstory to that is that he was originally going to go to a conference in the middle of Arizona during the last week that we were supposed to be in Yakima. My always-optimistic hubby thought it would be perfectly feasible for me to finish work, pack up the house in 2 days, finish painting our garage, and have us all moved out before he took off for a week, returning a day before we needed to be out of our house. Somehow I was able to talk him out of this idea, gently reminding him that he is not always the best judge of how long things will take.
So when we got to AISZ, he got signed up for a conference in Oxford for four days. And as luck would have it, it was during a four-day weekend so I got to go, too! By this point in October, I was feeling pretty homesick. I missed family and friends. I missed the simplicity of being able to speak the language. And I wanted to have a pumpkin spice latte and some spicy food (not necessarily together, but hey, I’m not picky!)
So on Halloween (after dressing up like Mary Poppins for school that morning) we headed to the Zagreb airport. I am usually a terrified flier, dreading it for days, sometimes weeks in advance. But for whatever reason, I was not terrified. It was only a 2 hour trip and we had rented Blue Like Jazz for the journey. Any plane ride that lasts the length of a movie is pretty much perfect in my opinion.
We landed at Heathrow and read the wonderful signs in ENGLISH to find our way to the bus. We picked up our first English newspaper in four months. We chatted with the bus driver. We felt like we were eavesdropping on everyone around us because we could actually understand what they were saying!
That night, Sam had to go immediately to his welcome dinner for his training. So I decided to wander down the street in search of spice. I found a little Chinese restaurant and located “Mouthwatering Chicken” on the menu. Yes, please. It had chili oil, peanuts, cilantro, coriander and sesame sauce. So. Good. I love the food in Croatia, but there’s not a lot of variety. So having something so different than what I’d been having for the last four months was a real treat.
The next day I got to just wander around Oxford. It’s a fairytale city. You feel like it can’t be real. It’s that amazing. It’s small enough that you can do everything on foot, but yet there’s plenty to see and do. Churches, all the colleges, shops, pubs, coffee and tea houses. It was the first time in my whole life that I'd wandered around an unfamiliar city by myself. Thankfully I got to spend some of the time with my traveling buddy. Sam had a little time after his trainings for me to drag him around to some of the sights.
I love traveling in fall.
First Starbucks in four months!
Just a little puddle.
What I loved about this trip (among other things) was that it was the perfect time for a break from Zagreb. I mean, I love it here. But things are just a little harder and take a little longer and it gets tiring sometimes. We’d been having car trouble (meaning our AMERICAN car wasn’t working. We had to buy parts in the U.S., have them shipped here, and had to pay ridiculous taxes on them.) We were feeling a little overwhelmed by having so many things out of our control. It’s also about the time where the “honeymoon” faze of living overseas is over. Instead of feeling like it’s an adventure, you start to just feel frustrated by the fact that simple things are complicated. But then you get an opportunity to take a weekend trip to England and suddenly, it’s an adventure again!
If I would have come to England at any other time I would not have appreciated it in the same way. I would not have noticed how friendly the people were, how wonderful the food was, how speaking in English to strangers can be a delight, or just how good cheddar cheese can be.
And for that, I am thankful for jolly ol’ England.