Ever since I started traveling, which wasn’t until I was twenty one, I simply haven’t stopped. Nineteen countries in the last seven years. I say this not only to brag (though bragging I am) but it is something I have found addicting and intoxicating and also something I have desperately wanted to share. Lucky for me my wonderful husband shares the same addiction and we have certainly roamed the globe together from the beginning. However, ever since my first foray into new and exciting countries,when I went to live in England for a study abroad program, I have thought how much my mother would love, love, love this.
My mothers parents, along with my neighbor growing up, Jean, are people who traveled the world when I was young and they would send post cards from across the world and our stockings were always stuffed with interesting little things from around the world that my grandparents would bring back. That ignited the spark in me to travel.
Now my mom and dad certainly make their way around the US and took us camping and fishing all over the place. However, I knew my mom would love to leave the comfort of the good old US of A for something much older and just the right amount of different.
A trip with my mom is something I’ve hoped for for years, but since I’ve been a flight attendant it has become much more accessible as she can get discounted tickets through my flight benefits.
So we decided to finally make it happen. This was something I had wanted for years and the actualization of this was almost as good as the first time I traveled myself. I remember riding on the bus from the airport to Oxford, where I was going to live, and watching out the window thinking, “This is England! Those are English trees!” and anything mundane seemed exciting. Sharing it was a very similar experience. I had imagined her reaction to the things I had planned on showing her, and she didn’t disappoint.
On our way we got incredibly lucky and got first class all the way there. We flew from Minneapolis to LaGuardia, I told the first class flight attendant that is was my mom’s first tie in first class and he treated her very well, refreshening her wine and we got lunch. We taxied to JFK where we flew direct to Heathrow, and let me tell you, international first class on delta jets is phenomenal. This is definitely part of the experience I was hoping my mom would have. You’re greeted with champagne on a silver platter.
I had to say “Okay, this is the part where you pretend you belong”
You’re meal comes with a shrimp avocado appetizer and you have multiple choices for your main course. Now let me make this very clear, food in first class internationally, is awesome. Seriously. As is the wine. We both slept decently after plenty of awesome wine, in our seats that reclined to flat beds.
Our first day in England we arrived at my friend Cris’s house in Oxford around 11am. Despite the jetlag we simply had to make use of the rest of the day. We took the bus into Oxford city center and I showed her the main Oxford sites. These were the are places I walked, grown and constantly feel nostalgia for. Getting to share Oxford with my mother was such a wonderful adventure and I am unbelievably glad that we were able to do it.
The jetlag quickly dispersed under the adrenaline of my mother having a brand new experience every ten minutes. I’m all about cataloging exactly what was done during a trip through pictures, and so she got a sick of me saying “stand in front of that! Let me take a picture!” Her reactions to the stain glass windows that were hundreds of years old and the wonderful architecture that Oxford is known for was exactly how I remembered feeling the first time I saw them.
That first afternoon we wandered the main streets where the older colleges are, toured the Sheldonian Theatre where the graduation ceremonies of Oxford are held, saw the Radcliff Camera, St Marys Church built in 1086, the Bodlien Library and had drinks with my dear friend Cris at an extremely standard neighborhood pub.
My mother proved to be an excellent travel partner. She was laid back and easy going. It also happens that our feet have a similar standard of soreness after several long days trekking everywhere. It was also a bit of an amusing role reversal. Keeping in mind I’m used to traveling with Ben, who is at ease with travel as I am, I found my self telling my mom to take out her return ticket, stand to one side on the escalator, hold her hand on her purse and etc etc. But we all have to learn it somehow:)
Her standard for this trip were, one castle, one garden and one cathedral. Through out the cities we visited, Oxford, Woodstock, London and Calais, we definitely hit all of these at least one. Her castle was Blenheim Palace in Woodstock which we toured. This experience was accompanied by seriously fantastic grounds which are the home of more than one very typical English style gardens. The Cathedrals we visited were St Margrets Cathedral in London as well as St Pauls Cathedral, which is easily one of my favorite buildings in London. As for gardens we not only visited the Blenheim Palace grounds, but the Queen Ann Gardens outside Buckingham, the gardens outside town hall in Calais and the Oxford Botanical Gardens. I learned they are are the oldest in the country and my mom’s favorite part of our trip.
I took her to the Randolph hotel, and old five star hotel with a fancy bar and a truly English tea room. My host mom Cris took me there as treat when I had lived with her and I knew it would be equally a treat for my mom. We had high tea with the scones, jam and clotted cream, salmon sandwiches and dessert tarts. I love it because its something not solely for tourists. Most of the other people in there were English people celebrating something.
Our day trip to Calais in France was a first for me. We ferried over the English Canal and wandered the city a bit, visiting a WW 2 museum which was housed in a bunker used during the war where Hitler actually hid for a time. We ate lunch there and I had the best mussels of my life. We had beach plans but the chilly fog made that a bit unrealistic, however the mist had cleared up by the time we were heading back. The view of the sunset and the white chalk Cliffs of Dover were a truly amazing site and made that whole worth it.
One our last night there I took her to the Turf Tavern, one of the oldest pubs in the country, as well as a very popular spot in Oxford. We ran into a couple of Americans who were celebrating a bachelor party with their English friend. They asked if we were touring and we told them we were just here together and I was showing her around where I used to live. They express shock and delight at our little shared adventure.
“So its a mother-daughter trip, huh? Well, heres to that.”
He raised his glass to us, and we all drank. Yes, thats exactly what it was. It was a culmination of years of planning in my head. It was the most fantastic experience I could have had. It was truly wonderful to see my parent in a place of new experiences, and experiences she was so delighting in. I don’t thing this is something that happens all that often. It was an experience to bring us closer as mother and daughter, to share a passion she has heard so much about, and share places so close to my heart with someone whom I love so dearly.