Something Old and Something New

Jamie periodically has to travel for work, normally it is only for a night or two but due to bad timing and a conference in Seattle Jamie will be gone for 2 weeks, including 2 weekends. So the weekend before he left we wanted Saturday to be a fun family outing day and then on Sunday Momma needed alone time and Daddy had the joy of all 3 kids on his own.
On Saturday we decided to go to Tintern Abby in Wales for the day. We started out in the morning and as we got farther west the fog started to burn off and the sun came out. By the time we got to Wales it was gorgeous out, the sun was bright and it was actually warm. Jamie and I really like the drive out to Wales we’ve done it twice so far. It is only 90 minutes away and you drive through the English countryside, which is pretty, and then cross over a big bridge as you enter Wales, Kellen likes the bridge part, as soon as you cross over you notice there are more hills or small mountains. It feels a bit more like home since England is so flat. It was only 11:30 or so when we got there but with the kids we thought it would be easier to eat before actually going into the Abby so that we could take our time and they could play. That way I could also feed Ella and wouldn’t be stuck nursing in the parking lot. We drove through the little village and didn’t see much other than a touristy café so we decided to keep driving. The next village was really small but there was a pub so we figured that would be our best bet, I jumped out of the car and they didn’t open until 12:00 so we were out of luck. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to be having lunch in a crowded overprices café when I spotted a sign on the road for the Kingstone Brewery. This is out in the country and surrounded by little villages so we were surprised to see the sign and doubtful that it would work out but figured it was worth turning to see what we could find.
We drove up a dirt road that was essentially all huge potholes and pulled up to a shack like building that contained the brewing equipment and then a questionable sign that said lunch and shop. I figured it was at least worth jumping out to see what it was all about so I got down before we unloaded the family.  I walked up and the first thing I noticed was that it was just a Mom, probably about my age maybe a few years older, and she had kids running around and a baby in her arms. She was chatting with a friend in the kitchen and said I was welcome to go into the main store. When I walked in I couldn’t believe it. Inside the store was awesome, she had a selection of local cheeses, meats, beers, a beautiful display of veggies, it was a real life version of whole foods. The menu was only about 4 items and I asked if they were serving lunch yet since it was empty. She thought for a minute and said, “Sure, my bread just came out of the oven so I can start now”. That did it for me, fresh baked bread and good cheese, what more do we need?
We piled out of the car and the weather was so nice we sat at a picnic table outside. Immediately the kids were playing and running around, she had a whole group of kids of her own so it was totally stress free to know ours weren’t bothering anyone. Jamie and I were laughing that Kellen picked up a stick and Jamie started telling him to be careful and we look over and her son had a full branch he was swinging around. We just ordered the ploughman’s lunch, you see a version of this on most pub menus, it’s usually a cheese, bread and meat platter. She mentioned that she’s experimenting with meat pies and did we mind trying a few of those, which of course we were happy to do. Then the kids got a homemade pizza. We figured we couldn’t go wrong by ordering some basics.  We ended up getting a table full of fresh bread, a great salad with avocado, local cheeses, spreads and (sort of) cold beer. The food was delicious, the beer was good, the sun was out and the kids were happy running around. It was one of those moments where you sit back and think, wow we are really lucky.
After our amazing meal we went down to Tintern Abby and it was so much fun. The site is really well preserved so it was a lot of fun to walk around and really be able to see how the building was used as far back as the 12th century. Historic sites like these are getting to be family favourites because they are interesting and educational for Patrick while also being outside and easy to tour places for Kellen.
Knowing Jamie was going to be gone the 2nd goal for the weekend was for me to get some alone time. If I’m not careful I can find myself going quite a while without time to myself and I start to get a little nutty. Sunday morning we had breakfast together and then I jumped on a train and went into London for the afternoon. I can’t image trying to commute in everyday but for a day excursion on the weekend I enjoy taking the train. It is only 30 to 45 minutes depending on the train you catch so it’s nice to sit and read both there and back. I got off and took the tube to the Southwark station and walked to the Tate Modern. It was really nice to be able to jump on and off the tube without worrying about strollers or diaper bags.
I spent a few hours viewing the galleries there were some really interesting exhibits. There were also a few that I just didn’t get but I freely admit I am not well versed in modern art. There was a series on New Documentary Forms that was really interesting, in particular a series on American Power and a series on Lebanon. The highlight for me was a series of work by John Hartfield they were photomontages for AIZ (Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung, Workers’ Illustrated Magazine) criticizing the Nazi regime. Unfortunately the images aren’t online but they were amazing and to think they were done in Germany during such a dangerous time makes them all the more interesting.
We haven’t taken the kids to any museums yet because we assume young kids will disturb others. I was amazed at how vibrant the museum was. There were families with young children, there was an area for the under 5’s to play. The museum was far from quite, people were talking and laughing, kids were being kids, and no one seemed to mind. The lack of pretension was refreshing.  I actually got to sit and have a long lunch out before catching the train back.
All in all it was a great weekend all around. It was also the perfect example of what I love about where we live. In one weekend we were able to drive through the countryside and tour a site that dates back to 1131 and the next day you are in the middle of London viewing modern art.

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