Day Three: Provincetown 

The trip three hours into the future caught up with us today. No one stirred until 9 am. After a quick shower, we slipped into the hotel continental breakfast just in time to grab a carb heavy breakfast. 
The first stop this morning was the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory tour. The self guided tour only took about 15 minutes, which was just enough time to show us the process for making their delicious kettle-cooked chips. The factory can produce up to 350,000 bags of chips in a day! After loading up on chips, we hopped in the car for the 47 miles “down” (actually, the very tippy top) the cape to Provincetown, aka P-town. 

Provincetown is famous for being the spot where the pilgrims first touched land before later settling on the mainland at Plymouth. In the 18th century it became a fishing community. It became (and still is) an artists’ colony in the late 1960s. It is now well known as a popular LGBT resort. 

We started with climbing the Pilgrim Monument, which is set atop a hill above the main street and can be seen from anywhere in town. The monument was built to commemorate the pilgrims landing in 1620. It is the tallest all-granite structure in the United States. “The heart-healthy walk to the top on 116 steps and 60 ramps only takes about 10 minutes at a leisurely pace.” (

 We climbed the steps, enjoyed the view, zoomed through the adjacent museum and then set off to explore the main shopping corridor, Commercial street. 

 Commercial street is just as it sounds, commercial. We found a delightful little restaurant called the Mayflower Cafe. Their menu had just about anything you could ever want, including: a full bar, massive amounts of fried seafood and a selection of Portuguese dishes. Many Portuguese sailors from the Azores settled in Provincetown after the Revolutionary War after being hired to work on merchant ships. Jeff enjoyed his Portuguese kale soup. 

After a delicious (two drink each) lunch of assorted lobster dishes, Jeff split off to go check out the pier and the girls and I explored the eclectic shops downtown. 

On the way out of town, we made a stop at Race Point Beach. I wanted to go there mostly to see the lighthouse (which was not visible), but the girls enjoyed sticking their toes in the coarse sand of the Atlantic Ocean. As we strolled onto the beach, we noticed several people lined up taking pictures. It turns out there were several huge seals, a dozen or more, swimming up the coastline. The girls really enjoyed just standing on shore spotting seals as their heads poked up here and there. No doubt they were just as curious about us as we were about them. 

Our next stop was up the coast a bit to Highland Lighthouse, also known as Cape Cod Light. Highland Light Station was commissioned by George Washington in 1797. It was originally a 44 foot wooden tower situated a top the cliff on outer Cape Cod. It was the first lighthouse established on Cape Cod and the 20th in the United States. The lighthouse has been restructured several times, most recently in 1857. The severe erosion of the adjacent cliff forced the relocation of the lighthouse 450 feet     In inland in 1996. Only 6.5 acres, of the site’s original 10, remain because of the erosion. Highland Light, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, remains an active lighthouse to this day. 

After a long day of exploring, we were all ready to take in some Zzzzs. We picked up a pizza and went back to the hotel to watch a movie on the TV and unwind a little so we can get up a have another adventure tomorrow. 

Goodnight, from Yarmouth. 

Day Two: Plymouth

After a restless night of sleep, we woke up, cleared out of our hotel and went straight to Dunkin Donuts for the breakfast of champions.  I made sure that I read up before hand so I knew the proper way to order my coffee (“medium – coffee regular”). Dunkin Donuts has an ordering language that locals know so they get the proper coffee-cream-sugar ratio. I guess they don’t trust you with your own sugar/creamer in these parts. The clerk didn’t single me out as a tourist until Jeff ordered and blew my cover. Who cares though, I got to have a donut and coffee for breakfast, right?  

 After breakfast, it was off to the Mayflower II, a reproduction of the original Pilgrim ship the Mayflower. We lucked out because the ship had been in Mystic Seaport undergoing a survey in preparation for an “extensive overhaul.”  It came back to town on May 15th.  In 1620, the Mayflower brought 102 English Separatists from England to the New World. They were bound for the area near the mouth of the Hudson River in modern day New York State.   At the time it was part of the region known at the time as “Virginia,” named for Queen Elizabeth I, the “Virgin Queen.”  The original ship sailed back to England, fell into disrepair and was scrapped sometime after 1624.
A few years back while doing some genealogical research, I discovered that Jeff is related to one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact.  I don’t remember which one.  There were 41 signers.  At the time I discovered this information I thought it was spectacular until I found out that 35 million people or 12% of the U.S. population are descendants of the 102 passengers of the Mayflower.   I guess that is still pretty neat, just not spectacular. 

 After visiting the Mayflower II, we drove three miles south to the Plimoth Plantation. The Plimoth Plantation contains reproductions of the original English settlement and a Wampanoag (the local natives) home site. 

 Both areas are staffed by guides in period costume.  They are trained to carry out the many day to day tasks that the original inhabitants would have had to complete in order to survive. The plantation functions as a “living museum.”  There are gardens and livestock and all of the materials to build the buildings are processed on site using colonial methods and tools. There is even a bakery that makes “thirded” bread, made with wheat, corn and rye flour. We also learned about making beeswax dipped candles, pottery, and sewing.  All of the costumes are made (and repaired) on site by people working on the plantation. In the Nye barn, we saw some pigs, goats and llamas. All of the animals at the plantation are historical breeds, representative of what the pilgrims would have raised. 

To prepare for the Plimoth Plantation, I read Myles Standish and the Amazing But True Survival Story of the Plymouth Colony.  It was a fascinating book about several facets of colonial pilgrim life, with particular focus on Myles Standish, an English military officer and military advisor to the Plimoth Colony.  

 For lunch, we  went back into Plymouth to the Lobster Hut. I thought I didn’t like lobster – and then I ate a lobster roll. Three words: TO. DIE. FOR.  After properly stuffing our faces, we packed it and a drove to our home for the next three days… Cape Cod!


New England: Here We Come

I am a planner. Good or bad, I am very type A and prefer to have well laid plans, particularly when I am traveling. Jeff likes to say that I “plan the fun out” of things. I like to say that I am “always prepared.” Semper Paratus.

Regardless of the point of view, one of the side effects of going back to work this year has been that I haven’t had time to plan the specific details of the Wilson family summer trip. So, as I sit on the plane bound for Boston and our New England road trip adventure, it is with the just the slightest bit of trepidation. 

Part of how I like to prepare for a trip is to read to and with my kids about the region that we will be visiting, including its history, traditions and food. Sometimes we watch movies, too. 

This go around, I started very late…after school got out in mid-June. Despite the limited time, I was able to squeeze in a few good titles. 

 I started with Amazing Places to Take Your Kids. I found this while weeding and organizing the non-fiction section in my library. I used it as a guide when I was planning out our route between Cape Cod and Montreal. 

 Next, I listened to George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen From Both Sides. This is a short book (64 pages/ 70 minutes on audiobook) that explores General come President George Washington and King George III of England.  This book did a good job presenting facts in a neutral way for both men. Oftentimes, our history is tainted with biased accounts of history.  


The “You Wouldn’t Want to…” Series consists of over 50 books on mostly historical topics. Each book is about 30 pages and is illustrated with silly cartoonish pictures. My whole family enjoyed reading these books. They are packed with facts and only take a half hour to read. Each book also contains a glossary of relevant terms. So far we’ve read You Wouldn’t Want to Sail on the Mayflower: A Trip That Took Entirely Too Long by Peter Cook and You Wouldn’t Want to Be An American Colonist: A Settlement You’d Rather Not Start by Jacqueline Morley.

As we board the plane to Boston from DC at 10:07 local time, I am starting to have flashbacks of our ill-fated travel day to Germany in 2012. After traveling all day from  Seattle to Iceland to Norway and finally to Munich, we had a 100 mile drive through the dark in a rental car that it took us an hour to persuade the rented GPS to speak English.  It was only after the third “Road closed” sign AND THE ROAD ACTUALLY ENDING that Jeff decided to turn around and try another route. We pulled into our hotel in Fuessen just before midnight as the desk clerk was putting away the sign from the sidewalk. Late, but not too late (barely).
To read more about that day go here: Germany: Day 1

I am hoping for better luck today. 

I am glad to announce that although as I write this it is almost 3 am and despite the several detours and massive amounts of road construction, we made it to our hotel and slipped into bed just after 2 am.  I’m wicked stoked to hit Dunkin Donuts in the morning before we head off to the Mayflower and Plymouth Plantation. 

Goodnight all! (Or should I say “Good Morning?”)


Wilson Family English to English Translation Guide

uk usa

Whilst in the UK we kept a list of new “English” words that learnt.

In order of appearance:
quid – £ pound (like buck)
britches – pants
trolley – grocery cart
chap – friend
holiday – vacation
bin – garbage can/trash can
rubbish – garbage
push pole – push-up popsicle
lollie – Popsicle or lollypop
chips – fries
telly – television
lemonade – lemon-lime soda (i.e. 7up)
loo – bathroom
toilet – bathroom
water closet – bathroom
jumper – sweater
way out – exit
push cart – wheelchair
pudding – dessert
super soft ice – soft serve ice cream
lift – elevator
lorry – truck
foot way – sidewalk
pavement – sidewalk
caravan – trailer (as in camping)
tube – subway
subway – pedestrian underpass
lead – leash
alight – exit
diverted traffic – detour
hump – speed bump
Sat-Nav – GPS
toastie – toasted sandwich (like grilled cheese)
with ice & a slice -with ice and lemon or lime (as in G&T)
Queue – line
pram – baby carriage
goods vehicles – delivery trucks
motorway – interstate
Wellies/Wellingtons – rubber boots
car boot – large garage sale in open field
lie in – sleep late
cot – crib
crisps – potato chips
car park – parking lot
sellotape – scotch tape
gutted – disappointed
haberdashery – things related to sewing
kit – sports uniform (as in football kit)
to let – for rent (always looked like “toilet” without the I)
marquee – large tent for temporary outdoor functions
mobile – cell phone
MP – member of parliament
nappy – diaper
mum – mom
cheeky – ballsy
peckish – hungry
pissed – drunk
plaster – band-aid
prom – concert
anti-clockwise – counter-clockwise
swede – yellow turnip
torch – flashlight
zebra crossing – crosswalk (with the white striped lines)

UK: Day Seventeen

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Day 17:

July 1, 2013

For the last day of our trip, Jeff set out in the car for the Glenkinchie Distillery whilst the girls and I walked up to the Edinburgh Castle. What we did not realize at the time, was that HRH Queen Elizabeth II was arriving in town today and the gunners for the 19th Regiment Royal Artillery would be welcoming her with a 21-gun salute from the castle.

The local paper says, “The Royal Salute provides a great occasion for the Scottish Gunners to display their professionalism and prose in conducting such an honor in the nation’s capital city.”

After touring around the castle’s sights while completing the kid’s scavenger hunt questionnaire, we happened upon the “one o’clock gun,” a 25 pound howitzer, that is fired daily (except Sundays). It was originally used to “help sailors reset their chronometers in the days before accurate time pieces were available.
Read more about it here.
While trying to see the one o’clock gun (btw- you don’t need to see it because you can certainly hear it) a helpful tourist tipped us off that there would be a pipes band and a 21-gun salute to the queen in just over an hour. We had a nice lunch in the castle cafeteria and then scoped out a spot to take in the action. It turned out to be well over an hour of pomp and ceremony involving a brass band, a pipes band, a regiment of gunners and several miscellaneous soldiers and dignitaries. It was all pretty fascinating (to me).

IMG_0958Aside from the activities, my favorite part of the castle was the great hall, which was very reminiscent of the great hall at Hogwarts, but with lots of weaponry and armor (and no magical ceiling). I enjoyed it all very much. We got the chance to see the Scottish Crown Jewels, (aka the Honours of Scotland).  The crown, secptre and sword date to the middle ages.  They have been housed at Edinburgh castle since 1707, although forgotten for a nearly 100 years.  During WWII the “Scottish Regalia” were hidden for fear of being stolen by the Germans.  In 1953, they were returned to the Crown Room for public display.346px-Crest_of_the_Kingdom_of_Scotland.svg

There were also several museums to see within the castle, but the girls threatened to die of boredom, so we set out to explore a little more of “the royal mile” area (between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace) on foot. I had hoped to see the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, but since the queen was in town it was closed to visitors (much to the delight of the girls). Instead, we wandered into the Museum of Childhood for the several floors of displays of historical toys, games, clothing and books. The girls enjoyed a game of “snakes and ladders” and before wandering through the shops on the way back to the hotel.IMG_5515
After resting our feet for a bit, we met back up with Jeff for our last official meal of the trip. Since we were in a Scotland, I thought we should find a “chippie” (fish and chips restaurant). Bene’s didn’t disappoint. The kids enjoyed their deep fried pizza and Jeff and I tried out the local fish and chips. It was delicious, as expected, but we had so much food that we were too full to try the local favorite: a deep fried Mars bar.
Edinburgh had much more to offer. We could have spent a few more days exploring the sights, but sadly we had run out of time.
IMG_5527As I was packing up, Kai told me that she was feeling “bittersweet.” I know exactly what she meant. We’ve had some great adventures these last few weeks. The UK has been a wonderful adventure much more fantastic than I ever could have dreamed, but we are all ready to head home. We’ll have to return someday to try out the Mars bars. 🙂IMG_9219

UK: Day Sixteen

Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian's Wall
Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall

Day 16:

June 29, 2013

Today we had to cover the most distance of any of our driving days – 185 miles/300 km (4 hours driving time). We set out for what Jeff thought was a “driving day.” Once we were on the way, I mentioned “a quick stop on the way” (Housesteads Roman Fort at Hadrian’s Wall).
IMG_0991According to Wikipedia, Housesteads “was an auxiliary fort on Hadrian’s Wall in the Roman province of Britannia.” Hadrian’s wall was a “defensive fortification in Roman Britain.” Built beginning in AD 122 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and abandoned in the 4th century, its purpose is believed to have been to mark the northern reaches of the Roman Empire and prevent the “barbarians from the north” from invading. Our quick stop took close to two hours, but it was well worth it. Although the fort was in ruins, there was an short informative movie that helped us all visualize what it would have looked like.

Along the northern edge, we were able to stand up on the wall and gaze at the peacefully grazing sheep on the rolling hills toward Scotland. I didn’t see any barbarians, but what do I know?
Read about Housesteads here.
Read about Hadrian’s Wall here.


IMG_5560We were all parched (or is it peckish?) so we attempted to find a place to eat. Hahaha. There was nothing for miles and miles and miles except tiny roads with randomly placed traffic circles that kept us constantly wondering which direction we were traveling. Tommi (the Sat-Nav) directed us right to a closed road on the main artery to our destination. We followed the “diversion” signs to discover that the road was closed because of a cycling race. As we we happening along, we thought we had come upon a major accident because there were several police cars and motorcycles blocking the road. As we waited, we saw motorcycles clearing the roadway. Next, the pace cars buzz by followed by a massive clump of cyclists and then a dozen support vehicles each loaded with a roof full of bikes. The whole procession passed in about three minutes. Then, the police re-opened the road and we were on our way. It was pretty neat to be tooling along out in the middle of nowhere (we were actually in the middle of Northumberland National Park) and to have a little show appear and then disappear just like nothing ever happened.

IMG_5465We travelled several more miles and finally crossed the border into Scotland. The landscape changed quite dramatically. In England, there were mostly rocky rolling hills covered with sheep. As we passed onto Scotland, the landscape became more mountainous with forests and low lying brush filled valleys (also with sheep). The roads did not improve either. As it was Sunday, there was a lot of traffic, particularly motorcycles, horse trailers and “caravans” (motorhomes). We had a few brushes with terrifying oncoming traffic, but we survived.

Not long after crossing into Scotland, we finally found a place (a gardening store of all places) to stop and have a quick bite before continuing on to Edinburgh.

Upon arriving in Edinburgh, we discovered that the hotel had “no car access.” Not what I had hoped for at the end of a long day, but we found a parking garage several blocks away and we schlepped ALL of our treasures to the hotel (it took two trips) to check-in. After settling in, we set out on foot to find a proper dinner. We found a place called “The Filling Station” that was supposed to be “American” food. Tiring of Steak and Ale Pie and the sorts, we happily settled in for cheeseburgers before calling it a night.

I had a hard time sleeping. Edinburgh is at 55 degrees N latitude making the days especially long this time of year. The sun did not set until just past 10 and then rose again around 4:30 in the morning. The sky never did go completely dark. It was magical in its own way.

UK: Day Fifteen

Day 15:

June 29, 2013

View from Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm
View from Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm

After breakfast, we started out the day with a drive up to Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm. Beatrix bought the house and its 36 acre farm after the success of her first few books. She went on to buy several more houses and farms in the area, leaving them to the National Trust when she died. She did a great deal to preserve the natural beauty of the surrounding area. She was also a sheep farmer. Read about it here. (Who knew?)

Mr. McGregor!
Mr. McGregor!

I enjoyed the house and gardens very much. The girls and I were able to look around her house and the surrounding homes and gardens to see several of the scenes that she used in the illustrations of her stories. Although the house had no written information, as she requested it be left just as she had left it (right down to a fire in the fireplace and fresh flowers throughout the house), the docents were talkative and and enjoyed sharing bits and pieces of Beatrix’s world with us. We found Tom Kitten’s gate, Mr. McGregor’s garden and even an egg laid by Jemima Puddle-duck in the rhubarb patch.
From Hilltop, we walked a few hundred yards down the narrow road so the girls could play on a nearby playground. Then, we made our way through the Skinner maze back toward our home base.

The roads today were even crazier than yesterday because, being Saturday, there was a lot more traffic that was going a lot faster down an even narrower road bordered by illusive rock walls disguised by greenery. I watched the car ahead of us as its driver side mirror whizzed by the opposing traffic with centimeters to spare. At one point, we had an abrupt meeting with a tour bus (see day 15 photos) that could have ended badly, but was mostly just entertaining at this point (we’re seasoned now).

"Ploughman's Lunch"
“Ploughman’s Lunch”

Along the way, we happened by a random neighborhood pub in the middle of nowhere so we stopped in for a pint and some lunch. When we got back to town, Jeff took the girls “crazy” golfing (mini golf) and I explored the little town. We met up for a dip in the hotel pool and happened upon some pleasant conversation with a local woman and her young daughter in the hot tub. It was interesting to compare info (for example, the kids don’t let out for summer until July 27th here). After the pool, we cleaned up and set out for a nice long walk to Lake Windermere, the nearest lake. On the way back from the lake, we happened upon another local pub and had a nice dinner while listening to some live local music. It was another great day.
Tomorrow we’re off to Scotland!

Lake Windermere
Lake Windermere

UK: Day Fourteen

Day 14:

June 28, 2014

Jeff set out for a dentist first thing in the morning to get his broken tooth fixed. His journey was successful and he made it back to the hotel just as the kids and I were heading down for breakfast.

After filling our bellies, we loaded up the car and set out for “The Lake District” of Cumbria County and its picture perfect rolling hills and lakes that were once home to Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth. As the weather was absolutely dreadful (again) and hiking was out of the question, we decided to take the advice of Rick Steves and set out on a “car hiking” route. Rick says, “this hour-long drive which includes Newlands Valley, Buttermere, Honister Pass and Borrowdale gives you the best scenery you’ll find in the North Lake District.” I’m not sure what kind of formula-one race car he was driving, but this loop took us several hours to complete. He was right about the scenery, though. The best way I can describe it is the road to Hana (the whole loop) with two-way traffic (on one lane, of course), in what appears to be several driveways all linked together in a contiguous chain though an enormous free-range sheep farm/hedge maze. It was like a life sized Skinner rat maze with sheep obstacles and a beautiful view.


Honister Slate Mine
Honister Slate Mine

Jeff says this entire trip has been like a “two week defensive driving test.” (I’m not sure if he is going to pass.) Although he says, “I’m an excellent driver” (just like Rain Man). At the midway point on our driving tour, we stopped into the Honister Slate Mine which produces its “famous” and “best” Westmorland green slate. We all enjoyed trekking deep into the hillside to see inside this working mine and to hear about the process of slate mining.

IMG_5427At the next “town” over, we stopped into the cafe/ice cream shop for some mid-afternoon tea before we continued on our “hike.” A few miles down the road, we reached Newlands Pass. From the road we could see a waterfall, so we pulled off and walked a few hundred yards to get a closer look. The wind and rain almost blew is off the mountainside, but it was nice to get out for some fresh air and to commune with the sheep. “Mind the poo” became the phase of the day.

To cap off our scenic drive, we diverged a bit and went off the beaten track that even “Tommie” our Sat-Nav couldn’t find… the Castlerigg Stone Circles. Catlerigg is one of the earliest stone circles in Europe. It was constructed by Bronze Age people possibly for use in solstice celebrations. To the casual observer, (read: the Wilson family) it looks like a large sheep pasture with a bunch of big rocks thrown in the middle. Jeff and I walked around the stones and waited for a mystical feeling (that never came) and the kids tried to catch (and pet) the sheep (while “minding the poo”). We finished up the day with a fabulous Italian dinner in Keswick.

Castlerigg Stone Circles
Castlerigg Stone Circles

UK: Day Thirteen

The Wheel of Liverpool
The Wheel of Liverpool

Day 13:

June 27, 2013

After breakfast at the hotel, we wandered over to the nearby Museum of Liverpool. The museum contained various exhibits showcasing the various facets of Liverpool and its history. Liverpool has a rich and interesting history as a shipping port and hub of the slave trade, as well as a hot bed for popular music (think Beatles, Echo & the Bunnymen, OMD, Elvis Costello, Dead or Alive). Jeff watched the movie about the rival football clubs Liverpool and Everton. We all watched the Beatles story movie. The kids enjoyed the many hands-on displays, and at free the price was right.

IMG_5368The weather was dreadful with the downpours dampening my spirit (and my shorts-clad body). We had all run out of clean clothes, so laundry took priority over other more entertaining afternoon activities. If ever I were to have a vacation nervous breakdown, it was beginning to look like this may be the day. (It almost happened in Germany after Jeff kept driving around the “road closed” signs only to discover that there was no longer a road.) The budget chain that we’ve been staying at has no laundry facilities, so we set out in the car to find the “laundrette.” Somehow, we thought we would find a place to eat on the way. After driving around for over an hour through shady neighborhoods full of locked up businesses with no food in sight, I was about to have a major freak out. We finally found a McDonalds (barf) and then made our way to a nearby laundrette. When all was said and done, we had spent two hours and several quid, but we had clean clothes, moderately satisfied bellies and an interesting “cultural” experience under our belts. Breakdown averted. We decided to get out of scary-town and head back for the hotel to unload the laundry and find a more appetizing dinner spot. After ditching the car, we journeyed back into the pedestrian area downtown (several square blocks have been developed into a car-free pedestrian zone) and we happened upon a Jamie Oliver restaurant “Jamie’s Italian” for dinner. I enjoyed it very much.