Where to start... I had a whirlwind first 2 weeks seeing pretty much everyone and going to the MAY BALL!! With Alex and Sam. Then I got stuck because my new debit card hadn't arrived yet. Things slowed down a bit at 67 park ave while I checked the post religiously and got settled in - I was there about 3 weeks in the end I think...
When I arrived at Heathrow I got a train straight to Cambridge and pretty much went straight to sleep. I badly needed to catchup from the long journey and last days in Lima, and I needed to get prepared for another night's sleep to be missed! I got to Cambridge about 9:30pm on the 17th and the ball was the 18th :D perfect timing.
It all started with a hair appointment at 2pm; Kelly (Sam's girlfriend) had organised for Kirsten and I to have our hair done at the same time and place as her. It was very luxurious!! We all had our hair down and set in curls, but by the time the ball rolled around, and we'd waited in the cue to get in - which was over an hour long and wound through the grounds of St John's College - mine were pretty much gone! Damn. I managed to repair one of my cracked falsies (nails) that I had done cheap in Lima though, crisis averted there! Haha ...such first world problems. But this was definitely a first world affair. The most luxurious, extravagant and ridiculously posh event I have ever dreamt of going to. Our motto for the night was "because we can", it didn't matter if we swapped a half drunk fancy cocktail for the next one we wanted to try. It was there to be tried! The event itself was spread over the whole of St. John's College and each courtyard or grand hall had a different "art for arts sake"-related theme. So for each of the 8/9 areas there was a different type of fancy food, a different type of fancy drink, decorations and a form of entertainment or two. It was incredible. And of course everything was of the highest quality! I was so busy trying all the incredible food and drinks, and trying not to miss the best entertainment (they gave you a program) that I didn't even take off my 4-inch heels until 4:30am! we played mini golf after that and I scored a hole in one fist shot ;) such a pro. I'd say easily more than half of the ball made it to the survivors photo at 6am! We definitely did. Then headed upstairs from the main courtyard to Sam's room and proceeded to sleep most of the day.
Amazing. Partying in absolutely luxury in a surreal castle, with the very bet of entertainment, food and drinks... they'd lit it up the castle with bright pink, blue and yellow patterned and moving lights, it looked like a fairytail castle!
The rest of the time in Cambridge was spent hanging out with my awesome cousins Alex and Sam :) we had to pack up all of Sam's stuff to take with us the next day when we drove up to Hartford to see the rest of the Blayney family. It's the end of the academic year in the northern hemisphere! Haha
Hartford was amazing. I love hanging out at Angelbeck house, good spot. We took a country walk, had a pub dinner, went ice-skating, I watched Michael and Kate performing at different recitals, we had a hilarious and inventive cocktail evening. Overall it was just really great to catch up with everyone and spend some time together, not that it was very long! after a couple of nights I was off to Nantwich to stay with Grandpa and Elizabeth!
I only stayed two nights in Nantwich, but we were busy the whole time! The first we went out to see a play called "widowers houses" at a round theatre - it was really good, strange ending... But really good! The next day we went shopping in Chester and had coffee at the fancy cafe with the butler that we always go to ;) it was great, and Grandpa was very generous and bought me bunch of new clothes! ...really nice to have a few different things to work with actually. My wardrobe is getting a bit tired! Haha lucky I could leave a few things with Grannie and Keith (my next stop) so I didn't mind adding a little weight to my backpack... even though it was almost bursting at the seems at this point and had a hammock strapped to it...!
I had time to walk around Nantwich with Grandpa and to relax with a cup of tea at many an opportunity while I was there too, and I managed to shatter my iPad screen. Whoops! It's ok, Keith was a miracle worker and found a place close by to get it fixed only a couple of days later. Just the screen broken.
From Nantwich I went to Northampton and caught up with the Civil side of the family :) the evening I arrived almost everyone managed to pop round and say hi for at least a little while which was so nice!! Family reunion!! I think I stayed one night there before we headed off to Askrigg for the weekend.
Askrigg is absolutely beautiful, I LOVE the tiny English country roads lined with stone walls, and the rolling green hills spotted with bedraggled sheep and black and white spotted cows! The houses are old stone and often have thatched roofs over there too. It is gorgeous! And we actually had good weather!! Still cold by my standards (20ish?), but we saw the sun for more than 5 mins and it barely sprinkled with rain. Crazy!
Driving in we came up over the mores for Keith to take some photos of grouse and that too was really impressive! Misty and flat with just heath and grass covering the plains.
All 7 of the family were only together with Grannie, Keith and I for the first evening. Then Alistair and Kirsten went to London and different kids disappeared at different moments for friends birthday parties etc. but we did get a wonderful full-group pub dinner in before that happened. Awesome. So loud... Haha some things don't change, it was great to see everyone again. I love visiting family. Plus, everyone fusses over me! I don't think I know how to look after myself anymore! Haha
Over the weekend Annabel, Rosalyn and I went to Hawes (a neighbouring village) with Grannie and Keith to explore. Grannie bought pie, Keith took photos, I admired the quaint English village and surroundings, Rosalyn played in the park and Annabel came along for the ride :) We ended up at the Wensleydale creamery and I tried all there cheeses while everyone else had more tea. It was great. Later on when there were more of us together again and we all had icecream and played in the park. Got to make the most of sunshine in Askrigg!!
After that wonderful weekend in North Yorkshire (I really wish I had stayed longer!!) things started to slow down. I was back in Northampton and my new debit card had still not found me. I'd had news that it had arrived in Cambridge, but the porters seemed to have lost it. So I ended up ordering a new card AGAIN and having that sent to Jack at home to forward to me. Again.
Anyyyyywayyyyy.... So I spent 2 weeks a least from this point hanging out with Grannie and Keith. I pretty much moved in ;) haha ...it took a little while to get settled because I kept on expecting it to arrive any day. Once I'd accepted that it would arrive eventually and I should just relax and make the most of my time there I really got into it! I even knitted a cover for my phone. Grannie helped me :) lots of stuff was going on in Northampton though - its summer in England and the weather was amazing!!. We went to Carnot sale, the parish fete, a dragon boat festival and a waterfront festival, I walked through Northampton... went to the markets, the hospital where Grannie sells her baby cardigans at their charity shop, did a bit of shopping. I even got to go horse riding with Clare one afternoon. That was amazing! We trotted between gorgeous fields in the countryside for half and hour or so, wonderful! I got to spend a lot of time with my beautiful cousin Mimi, she is only 6 with Down's syndrome and loves to dance in the garden :)
The day when my cards actually arrived I had bitten the bullet and gone to London for the day - amazing day, gotta love London. I spent the whole day wandering around the streets and exploring :) :) it's only an hour on the train from Northampton, just 30£ for the return ticket. So worth it.
So when I got back it was time to organise my flights to France and let my host families from 2009 know a specific time to expect me! ..I'd told them approximate dates but everything was very fuzzy when it came to details. I even fitted in a bit of last minute shopping before Grannie, Keith and I shared some sangria to celebrate my continuing travels!
And I would just like to say that they were absolutely amazing, thank you so much guys!! For putting up with me and entertaining me for such a long time. I really appreciate it and had a lovely time with you!
...I calculated that it was 41 days from wallet stolen to new card arriving. Wow. Thank you Jack for my western union money instalments to keep me going! And all the incredibly generous and lovely family who put me up for free! It really helps!!