Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Weekend in Cornwall

This year for the long Easter weekend holiday, we decided to stay a bit closer to home than we have the past few years since we were unsure how traveling with a small baby would be. However, since it is a four day bank holiday weekend, we wanted to take advantage of the long weekend and so we drove down south to the south west coast of England in Cornwall.

One of our first observations about this trip was that we had no idea so many camper vans existed in England! Apparently they all congregate on the M5 (the motorway route to get to Cornwall) on holiday weekends and we experienced traffic with what seemed to be the entire population of camper vans in all of England on our way down to Cornwall. Once we arrived in Cornwall, it seemed that we were passing camping sites around every turn. It is very unlike any other part of England we have seen.

The other observation about this trip was that we truly enjoyed the food in this corner of England. The seafood was definitely fresh and we ate some at every meal. Cornwall is known for a few other food items - cornish clotted cream, clotted cream fudge, and cornish pasties, all of which were excellent right at the source!
While the newscasters kept reporting on the "Barbecue" Easter weekend weather we had in the UK, it still was not as warm by the coast as it was inland --- BUT a weekend without rain in England is fairly uncommon, so we treasured every minute of the sunny skies!
Little Crosby sporting her sun hat, ready for some time outside after checking into the hotel.

Mom and Dad's idea of relaxation the first afternoon there - snacks and beverages while overlooking the beach at the hotel!
Just call her Stevie Wonder.....trying out baby sunglasses for size. Crosby was not pleased!

On Saturday, we drove up the coast to a town along the water called Padstow. It was a cute little town with a port and shopping market area, but it is most famous for being the home of Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant and other ventures.
Driving in Cornwall was a bit hair raising. The streets are very narrow, quite windy, a bit mountainous, and there are thick and high hedges lining most all of the roads. I left the driving to Scott!
A very English looking scene in town.
Scott & Crosby at the water in Padstow.
A fudge shop....the clotted cream fudge was amazing!
We had lunch at Rick Stein's Fish and Chips shop right on the water. It was nothing short of DELICIOUS! Tip: If you are going there, they do not accept reservations. You need to queue outside and they seem to wait for the entire restaurant to clear out, and then they seat the next group of people in the queue. It was worth the wait!
We had freshly caught oysters and deep fried oysters to start. Both were amazing.
And then I had monkfish "fish and chips" - deep fried in beef fat. MMMMMmmmm heart attack good!!!

After a walk around Padstow, fish and chips for lunch, and some cornished cream ice cream for dessert, we made our way along the coast and decided to stop at a National Trust site -the Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps to walk along the stunning coast there.
These yellow flowers/ground cover were very prolific along the coast at this point. I am unsure as to what flower or plant they are, but they were very pretty.
We took Crosby in the stroller along the coastal path.
The views were unbelievable.
Such a pretty coast!
And then back to our resort/beach area of the hotel.
It is a big surfing area.
Scott & Crosby on the beach. Crosby didn't care for the wind too much, so she slept through the walk, while bundled up.
Family portrait on the beach with a sleeping baby!
The cliffs along the beach had lots of rocks (and signs for falling rocks) but beach -goers seemed to camp out in the caves all around.
A great sunset over the water.
Easter Sunday in the sun - Miss Crosby sleeping through a beautiful morning again!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Marathon US Travel

Crosby & I are now counting down the days until we head back to the US for our first trip there since Crosby's arrival. I am not sure if I am a brave soul or a fool for trying to make Crosby's first flight (a transatlantic one none the less) on my own, but I will be doing it.
Scott will join us later along the way. We are flying out of one airport here in England, transferring in Newark, NJ, and then flying to St. Louis where we will stay with my parents. Then, Scott will join us in St. Louis for a few days, and then we pile everything into a car, drive for about 5 hours to see his parents in Indiana, and then we will drive north to a suburb of Chicago to see Crosby's great grandmother, where all of our family members will reconvene for the weekend for Crosby's baptism. Crosby, Scott & I will then fly out of Chicago's O'Hare airport to return back to England, via a London airport on the return end.

Tired already from reading that itinerary? I am, and I haven't even started packing for the trip yet!

Our trip back to the US is actually somewhat central compared to most. I was recently talking to another expat here in England who is heading back to the US with her family - they start out on the east coast, then go south, and then end up in the midwest so they can see everyone, before flying back to England. Another expat friend is back in the US right now with her family, she has three stops on her trip, with two internal flights. I guess we are lucky that we can drive in between our stops? While it is great to go home, the stakes are now higher since Crosby is involved and everyone wants to have time with her and we want her to be able to spend time with to everyone too. We know a short weekend trip back in to Chicago only is no longer going to be the case, as we may have done in the past. Plus, we have tenants living in our home, and neither of our immediate families are in Chicago. Perhaps if our families were both in the same city and we had previously lived in that same city, we would not face such internal travel, but I cannot imagine many expats are lucky enough to have all of those things aligned.

For such a long (and costly now since it's x 3) flight, I think I am always going to want to make the most of our time back in our home country, however I have a feeling it is always going to feel like a marathon US trip whenever we decide to go home....and I already feel like for such a long trip back home, we are still not getting to see everyone we would like to be able to see and visit all of the places we would like....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Our little American

Since Crosby was born here in the UK and not in the US, we had to register her birth with the US government and US Embassy in London in order to gain her American birth certificate, social security card and number, and American passport. We wanted her to become an official American as soon as she was able. Unfortunately, just because Crosby was born in England does not mean she automatically gains British citizenship. Now, if the reverse situation happens (a British couple has a baby in America), that child does gain automatic American citizenship....

Since we knew we wanted to take Crosby on a trip back to the US in the spring, we wanted to secure her American citizenship paperwork and passport as soon as possible. However the process requires an in-person visit to the US Embassy in London, so a bit of time was needed for me to recover so I could be up for a day out with a newborn in tow.
First, we had to register Crosby's birth in the UK and obtain her UK certificate of birth. Then we had to have Crosby's passport photo taken (of course not simple task since the US passport photo has to be a different size than a British passport photo!). I was very proud of taking Crosby on my own for her photograph to be taken. It was my first outing with her on my own, and I went right after my parents left to go back home. She will use this photo until she is five years old. I think it's crazy because she has already changed, just a few weeks after this was taken.

Once we had her photograph taken and had her UK record of birth paperwork in order, we were then able to make an appointment at the US Embassy for our in-person appointment.
Last month when Crosby was just over one month old, we took a quick day trip down to London to visit the US Embassy there to apply for Crosby's paperwork in person. We were able to just drive straight into the city, park right on the square by the Embassy and Crosby was a perfect baby for the big excursion. We walked through the square in front of the Embassy and took this picture in front of the US Embassy there.
With Dad/Scott in front of the gates of the US Embassy, Crosby sleeping through most of the visit there!
Crosby's US passport has finally arrived. Hooray! Just in time for Crosby's first trip with mom to the US!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Surgery

When I first heard this phrase - as in - your local "surgery" - I thought it was a bit strange....a surgery center? Wrong. Another British word that is different than the American version...It is basically the equivalent of the local doctor's office. These doctor offices exist in every area and locals are assigned a local surgery based on one's post code (aka zip code).
In the two years plus we have lived here in the UK, I had only been to the local surgery once - when we first arrived as I needed to register with the local doctor. The surgery center assigned me one of the doctors in the practice and it was actually not until this week that I met "my" doctor in the group.
The concept of the local surgery is a point of how this NHS system of socialized health care works. Everything runs through your surgery center first if you are following the NHS way. With my recent pregnancy, I sought 100% private care (very a-typical here in England) so I did not visit my local surgery for midwife appointments except to tell them I was pregnant so they could register me at the local hospital and then to show them my notes so they knew I was receiving proper care elsewhere.
However, now that we have Crosby, the local surgery is the doctor's group I will visit for her care and it is as well as where I go for general medical needs. Ironically we have now landed ourselves there twice this week....

First, we went for Crosby's 7 week post-birth hip check and weigh in where we met the doctor with whom we are both registered. All went well and Crosby is growing like a weed (99% for height which we knew would happen with her tall genes!). Then unfortunately I ended up with a bacterial infection this week and so I was back at the doctor's office for treatment and a prescription to assist. For the second visit, I saw a different doctor other than my own - just another one in the practice who had an available appointment.

So beyond the fact that we go to the "surgery" whenever we have medical needs and yet no surgery actually takes place there - I also find it a bit different that the same doctor who sees Crosby is the one who also sees me for any problems I have. If we were in the US, we first would have gone to the pediatrician for Crosby's check up and then I would have seen my own doctor for my situation, however here everyone goes to the "GP" (general practitioners who see all family members and all aged patients) and then if there are special circumstances you would receive a referral to a "consultant" (i.e. an Orthopedic Surgeon, Dermatologist, etc.). In some ways I believe this referral system is how some insurance policies operate in the US, but for a general PPO type of insurance policy, I was always used to going directly to the type of doctor needed for the situation.

This system and concept of the local surgery seems to work just fine here in England, however it is one of the other differences we are adjusting to as we experience life in a different country......I am sure the British might find our system difficult to navigate on the reverse side....

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mothering Sunday

Sunday April 3rd was "Mothering Sunday" here in the UK. It is the British version of what we know as Mother's Day in the US. In reading about the history on why it is on a different date, I have found information that says in the US Mother's Day always takes place at the beginning of May but here in the UK, Mothering Sunday takes place on the Sunday halfway between Shrove Tuesday (also known in the US as Fat Tuesday) and Easter - halfway between Lent. Typically this means Mother's Day in the UK is in March, but this year due to Easter being so late, it was in early April. For more historical information, this site explains things in more detail.

Either way, now that I am a Mom, one of the advantages of being an expat here in England means that I get to celebrate Mother's Day twice - once for being a "Mum" here in England, and then again in May on the US Mother's Day. On Sunday, I had a very nice first day being a Mum here in England. Scott brought me breakfast in bed and little Crosby was once again a good baby all day long. In May for the US Mother's Day, Crosby & I will be back with my Mom in the US so I am excited to have the best of both worlds for my two first Mother's Day(s) this year!
Crosby all smiles on Mothering Sunday in her special outfit, although it should have said "I Love Mummy" for this celebration in England.
Opening my cards from Scott & Crosby. Crosby managed to get into the pink paint and painted her hand prints all over her card for me. Very cute...and well done Dad on the thought (although I sniffed something suspicious when I came home from the store and saw pink paint all over Crosby's outfit and didn't get a straight answer as to why she had pink marks....!!!). I feel so lucky to have such a nice husband and a beautiful baby girl as my daughter!