After working six days in a row during half-term when it was crazy busy at the museum, I was exhausted and ready for a little break. To get some much needed relaxation, I escaped the city and had a little vacation visiting my friend Sarah in Dorset. On Saturday straight after work I went to the coach station and waited for my bus… which turned out to be delayed. What was worse is that all around my fellow passengers and I were other buses going to the same destination. Those buses kept loading and we were kept waiting. After an hour, when another bus was loading, at our gate, to go to the same place – and we still weren’t going anywhere the people started to go crazy. There was yelling, a manager was called, people started throwing insults, we were told it was going to be another hour, and it got ugly. One lady start yelling about her dog, and race, and how English people don’t stand up for themselves. I decided to get out of there. I got a voucher for a free future bus ride and I had them change my ticket to the next morning. I went home and would start again in the morning.
Sunday morning was smooth sailing and I got to Sarah no problem. Sarah is my friend from work. I actually met her at the interview for the job and we kept in touch a little between the interview and the first day of work. I was so excited when I heard that she got the job. Sarah is smart, passionate, warm and honest. She’s traveled a ton, she’s knowledgeable about all kinds of interesting topics, and she has strong opinions but is open to chatting and learning about other points of view. After I first met her, I hoped that we would get to be real friends, but I didn’t want to come off needy. Lucky for me, it all worked out. And now, here I was in Dorset with my friend and she was going to take me to walk on the beach in February.
And how cool is that, the beach in February?! Yes, it was cold and windy, but the blue water and open sky was glorious. Also there were tons of dogs frolicking around too and that was really adorable. I know this sounds stupid, but I didn’t know places like this existed in England. Obviously, there’s tons of coast, why wouldn’t there be beaches? But all I ever thought about before was London and then countrysides with beautiful brick buildings and rolling hills. Sarah and I walked along the beach and breathed in lots of fresh ocean air. She pointed out the Purbecks and Old Harry Rock, which in the photo above is all the way to the left and just above the man’s head. More on that later. She drove me around a little to show me the area and the harbor with boats, and all the stress and crime of the city seemed to melt away.
Sarah then took me to her house for Sunday lunch with her family. I got to meet her parents, her sister, her brother, her sister-in-law, and most importantly her adorable baby niece. I was kind of nervous being the new person, but mostly I didn’t want to embarrass myself by being so excited and touristy about lunch. Her family was so warm and welcoming, and I had no reason to be nervous. Her mom was especially kind and a great cook. I’m also kind of jealous of her spacious kitchen with a lovely big window and thick wooden counter tops.
Anyway, back to lunch. When Ryan and I first had Sunday lunch at a pub, his coworkers told him it didn’t really count unless you had it at someone’s home. That felt kind of deflating, because when would ever get that chance? But now, I was having my moment and I didn’t want to stick out by taking pictures and being a weirdo. The food was really delicious and there was so much of it: roast beef, potatoes, vegetables, cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire pudding, and lots of crazy. It was delicious. I would love to learn how to make potatoes like that with a crispy outer crust and a creamy inside.
After lunch we played with the baby and watched her be crawl around, play, and make adorable faces. Finally after lots of relaxing and digesting, Sarah and I went to Wimborne (which is a town in Dorset) to walk around and go to the pub. Here is where I’m lacking on pictures. While we were out, I used my phone and since then my phone had decided it no longer wishes to hold a charge and/or my charger no longer wishes to work. So my photos of this night are in limbo. Anyway, when we arrived in Wimborne, the bells at the Minster were sounding. The church is a beautiful stone building, that’s large enough to feel significant but not so large that it feels intimidating and cold. The bells themselves, were so lovely. They were melodious and went on long enough to fill the whole town with music. We then did a mini pub crawl and I got to see large and small places – all very cozy and charming. At the second pub I found Devil’s Backbone IPA! This is the second time I’ve found this beer in the UK. I’ve gotten so excited because Devil’s Backbone is an independent brewer located in rural Virginia. Ryan and I have visited the brewery with friends, and I’m not sure you can find this beer everywhere in the US, so it is especially exciting to find a piece of home abroad.
The next day Sarah made me breakfast. She made me fresh squeezed orange juice and a bacon sandwich. Again, I tried to play it cool – but I did text Ryan something like, “I’m eating a bacon sandwich with butter and brown sauce on it!” And he wrote back, “going native!” It was really tasty and it’s trying different food combinations that is something I love about living in the UK. If she came for a bacon sandwich at my house, I’d add an egg and cheese. Both good, just different, and I love that.
We then drove over to the Purbecks where Sarah knocked my socks off with Dorset’s beauty. It was windy, but we were lucky to have blue skies and sun. We walked around muddy paths, stopping every so often so I could take pictures and be in awe. As we walked we talked about everything, work, relationships, Tudor history. It was perfection. At the end of the path we reached Old Harry Rock, and his wife which is apparently the smaller rock that sticks out. Here’s what I know about this rock: I don’t know why he’s called Harry, he’s a chalk formation, he’s on the Isle of Purbeck, and is the easterly point of the Jurassic Coast. I also know, the view is breathtaking. The blue sky, white rocks, and green grass filled my heart up with beauty and gratitude. Looking out over the ocean, I felt that the world is beautiful, that I’m lucky to be alive, and lucky to have this opportunity to live abroad and get to breathe in new places.
Sarah and I walked up hill a little, and apparently if you go further up, you can see over into the town of Swanage. It was as we walked up the hill that I took the picture above. I’m sort of in love with this photo. The people look so small and it makes me feel like the world is large and glorious and we are fortunate to be a small part of it. But anyway, it was so windy that my eyes were watering and the weather seemed to be shifting, so we decided to turn back and go home. It was at this point in our trip that we started unpacking Tudor history and I felt thankful for my friend. I have lots of people who let me talk at them about my interest, but Sarah is the first friend I have who was willing to dissect it with me.
We turned around at the right time. We were not ten feet from the car, when it start to hail and snow. Over the course of this weekend, I think we had every kind of weather: sun, rain, wind, snow, hail. Weird. Luckily it didn’t last long. On the drive home we stopped at a farm store – which was mostly a convenience store. But it’s worth noting because when we parked we saw tons of birds, including peacocks. Sarah was not a fan and wanted to get out of there. I stopped to take pictures. That’s the second time I’d seen peacocks in about a week! I also bought this sugar jar. It’s a little more country chic than I usually like, but I love pigs so I couldn’t resist.
We ended with lunch at a pub where we had deliciously thick roasted root vegetable soup with warm brown bread. The pub was cozy with wood paneling and a roaring fire. It was decorated with maps, photos of cricket players, and old looking paintings. It felt very English, and then Michael Buble’s version of Georgia came over the radio. It made me chuckle, the juxtaposition of these two countries – my two homes. It felt funny and also perfect. Before going to the bus Sarah drove me to catch a glimpse of Corfe Castle, which is over a thousand years old. A thousand years old…all that history is a reason to be smitten with England. I didn’t get to go in and explore closer, so I’ll save that for my next trip to Dorset. And that’s the perfect way to end a vacation – leaving it wanting more.