Solo UK holiday

I’ve taken my first solo holiday, spending nearly two weeks in England and Scotland visiting family and friends. Read the original story about my holiday here on RyanCentric, or go the easy route and read the copy of it below, followed by photos from my trip.

Giving Thanks in the UK

Well, I’ve done what I never thought I’d do: I’ve taken my first holiday as a solo vacationer. Maybe it doesn’t count though, since other than the travelling part, I spent the nearly two weeks with family and friends in England and Scotland. I left Seattle on a Tuesday and arrived in Newcastle, England, the following day. I was so pleased to see Michael and Liz waiting for me when I came out of the baggage claim area; I’d been looking forward to that moment for so long, and it was truly worth the wait!

The next day, I woke in Billingham – in a comfy duvet-covered bed – to the smell of British bacon sizzling downstairs. After breakfast, we went to the store for a few groceries and some flowers before going to the cemetery – possibly one of the hardest parts of my trip. While it was very heartbreaking to see Paul’s name etched in stone, it was nice to see that the family have been bringing fresh flowers. We planted a few tulips and crocus, which will look lovely when they bloom in the spring.

After leaving the cemetery, we went back to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I was so happy that everyone shared in the holiday with me, the quirky American! While it wasn’t the full-on, day-long process that Thanksgiving would have been state-side, it was a wonderful day and I really enjoyed explaining the traditions (and pumpkin pie) with everyone. And it must have been a hit because there’s already talk about Thanksgiving 2010!

On Friday, I woke once more to the smell of bacon and enjoyed a nice bacon roll for breakfast, and then it was off for some shopping at Dalton Park. Whilst shopping isn’t always top of my list, the company was fantastic – and I managed to find a new jumper, on sale! Then it was on to Seaton Carew for some fish and chips. Yum! That night, the family all got together for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and drinks at one of the cousin’s houses to mark what would have been Paul’s birthday. It was so nice to spend the evening remembering him with so many people who loved him so much.

The following morning I took the train to Scotland, where I spent a week visiting with friends. That night, I attended the “Old Hacks” dinner with Paul’s university friends. The (sort of) annual event was very much the way Paul always explained it and I could easily see why he spoke of his university friends with such high regard. I was very touched at the way Paul was honoured throughout the night, and am certain Paul would have been pleased.

I really enjoyed my time in Scotland, and had the chance to visit with several friends – new and old – while I was there. It was a whirl-wind of activities that included pub lunches; a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia and the Dungeons in Edinburgh; an overnight trip to Stirling and another to Dalkieth to enjoy good food, great wine, and even better company; and a trip to see the Doctor Who Exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

I spent some time wandering around Edinburgh on my own, remembering just why I fell in love with the city shortly after moving there in 2001. I also spent time in the Old Town with Paul’s sisters, Ann and Elizabeth, who’d travelled to Edinburgh for a couple of days’ shopping and site-seeing of their own. It was really nice to remember my time with Paul by spending time with my sisters-in-law.  While at first it was difficult to walk around the city where I met Paul – and fell in love with Paul – without him, I eventually found a strange peace with it all.

A week after arriving, it was sadly time for me to leave Scotland again. While it was difficult to say goodbye to my favourite city and my friends there, I knew I had family waiting for me back in England – and I knew I’d be back in Edinburgh again before too long.

Once back in England, Michael, Liz, and I headed out to the Billingham Catholic Club for some Bingo and live music. It was pretty tame for a ‘final night out’ but after previous nights out I’d had in the UK, it was just what I needed! On Sunday, my nephew Stephen and his fiancée, Debbie, took me out shopping and bought me a lovely Barbour jacket and took me by Dalton Park again where I got some Cadbury’s goodies for the folks back home.

Waking early on Monday morning, I dreaded going to the airport to return home. While I am normally itching to get back to my own bed after two weeks’ holiday, I didn’t want to leave this time. However, it was time to return to reality. But at least I brought back loads of British candy to help soothe the transition – and a 15 tog duvet to help me through the bitter cold winter weather and broken furnace that was waiting for me at home.

Excited to return, I’m already counting down for the Ryan Family Reunion in York – February 2010!

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