The Trip Out + Forgetting How to Shower in Sleaford
We hit the road on 20 September — our anniversary — to begin our next UK journey! (Read about the first here.) LAX is pretty much the bane of everyone’s existence, but we found that heading out of the country, it wasn’t so bad. Being pre-checked meant we rolled through security super fast, so we hit the little Mexican bar + restaurant we went to last time to kill time. (They have a really great ginger margarita.)
I’m including a cute little map for y’all, so you can check out the full spread of what we did. Over 2,000 miles in the UK!
Our overnight flight was uneventful, just the way I like them! We got in a whole hour earlier than scheduled, which was badass. We deplaned quickly at Heathrow, and made it through customs, picked up our bag, and caught the bus to our rental car…all within about 20 minutes. Completely unheard of, if you ask me. The last time we flew into Heathrow, it took a bit of time to clear customs, and we had to wait for a while on the bus to take us to Enterprise. This time? Smooth sailing!
From Enterprise, we set out for Sleaford, where we would spend our first night. We stayed in the cutest, tiniest AirBnB — it was a little cottage house off of one of the main streets.
Our host was super sweet to us, and offered us a full English breakfast cooked up the next morning! We popped in to the room for a short bit to rid ourselves of the plane ride funk, as we were going to be meeting Jeff’s friend Matt at one of the local pubs. Can I just say, I was so tired and out of sorts that I got out of the shower with conditioner still in my hair? Fail.
Anyway, we met up with Matt, and happened to also run into another friend, Mike, whenever we got to the pub. Mike met us for lunch with some of his friends a few years back whenever they were on holiday in California, so it was neat to see him again…and by chance, too. (Even though Jeff lived in the UK for a bit, it’s still funny to me that we ran into someone we knew in a totally different country, 6,000 miles from home.) The pub was great, definitely enjoyed it!
After the pub, Jeff and I set out to grab a bite to eat. We wound up at the Packhouse, where I had my first grilled halloumi experience. I remembered seeing an article not too long ago that talked about a halloumi shortage. Yes, seriously. Apparently, it’s super popular in some areas, which is causing the shortage. After having it, I definitely understand why it’s in high demand. It’s delicious — sort of a bit of a mozzarella flavor, but it’s a super sturdy, firm cheese that doesn’t melt as you’d expect cheese to melt…which means, you can grill it, or pan fry it, and it retains its shape while getting crispy brown on the outside, and soft on the inside. (How do I know this? Because I bought halloumi once I got back to the states. Yes, it’s that good.)
Wales, Hello There!
Our AirBnB host, Annie, prepped a lovely full English breakfast for us prior to leaving Sleaford — I think probably the best of the trip! We hit Costa for our morning coffee (better than Starbucks), and set out for Lincoln for our first castle of the trip. Have I mentioned that I’m mildly obsessed with castles? I mean, obsessed like I want one of my own? But perhaps a bit modernized, ya know, hot water and whatnot.
Jeff lived in Lincoln before, so during our drive, he told me a bit about some of the places we were passing and some of the things they did there. We dropped in to a little farm shop and picked up some goodies to bring back to the kids, drove down “the Fen” — one of the local long, bumpy roads. I seriously caught some air in my seat, haha!
We got to Tattershall Castle a bit early, so we walked the church grounds (where Tom Thumb is allegedly buried). Tattershall was awesome, as all castles are. One of the things I really liked about Tattershall was that at the very top, where you could look out on the horizon, they had visual aids to tell you what you were looking at. So, not only did you get to see and read about the history in the castle, but you also got a bit of a lesson about the surrounding area.
After Tattershall, we set out for Wales. We would be staying at the Seiont Manor Hotel in Caernarfon.
So, this would be where I tell you…I wasn’t really sure about Wales. Wales wound up on our list of places to go because the original place we wanted to stay was fully booked…Irton Hall in Cumbria…which was one of our favorite places from our first UK trip. When we found out that our grand plan to stay at Irton again ahead of our Scotland adventure, we sorta shrugged and said…ok, well, let’s see where else we can go. Jeff suggested Wales, and I agreed, because…why not?
What I knew about Wales ahead of time? I knew vaguely of the Welsh language. I knew that Wales was home to a city with the longest place name in the world…and I knew about this dish called Welsh Rabbit / Rarebit…and I also remembered that Autumn had to do a mini-report on Wales in sixth grade.
Needless to say, I didn’t know much. I still don’t, because an overnight stay is hardly effective when it relates to actually learning about an area. My point is that I had very little idea of what to expect. I wasn’t un-excited about it, because I mean…hello, we’re on vacation in a totally different country!! But I also wasn’t chomping at the bit. For me, Wales was going to be a stepping stone to Scotland, which was what I was really excited about.
Guess what happened?
Wales blew me away. I seriously cannot wait to go back there. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, and I really want to explore the rest of Wales after seeing Caernarfon. Caernarfon was basically the most perfect place.
If I had to imagine the perfect place, it would have a European vibe…it would be coastal, but also country and wide open spaces. It would have history, breathtaking views, and the perfect touch of modernity. That’s what Caernarfon is. It’s historic, it’s beautiful. It’s on the coast, and it looks like the most awesome combo of fishing village and farmland.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself because it makes me so excited to think about! Let’s back up!
Our drive from Lincoln to Wales was beautiful, like drives are through the countryside. Sheep and cows to boot, one of my favorite things ever to see on a drive. We crossed into Wales, and the signage was immediately bilingual — Welsh, and English. Welsh seems really interesting, really confusing, and really complex. I haven’t done more research on it yet, but it’s on my list. I’m intrigued, so I sorta want to learn the letters and sounds. (A brief convo with our hotel waitress shed a little light on it, but the letters + letter combos aren’t super intuitive as it relates to the sounds they make.)
I really enjoyed the coastal drive in Wales, as well — traffic was a little heavy in some areas (a lot of construction), but I found it to be enjoyable, even whenever it was raining on us a bit. At one point in our drive, we crested a small hill, and the view revealed a castle on the hillside. It almost seemed like a dream. I still don’t know what that castle was called!
We did stop at Bodelwyddan, hoping we could drop in for a tour, but the last entry time had already passed — sad trombone — but we still took a few pictures. You know, “Pics or it didn’t happen!” Well, I have pics. I saw it. Like, from the outside, haha. I wish we’d been able to get in, but no such luck. So, we continued on our way to Seiont.
I should mention, Jeff booked all of the places we stayed — every day was like a new adventure, on top of an adventure, because I had no idea what to expect with the accommodations! Jeff likes to take the lead on booking places, because as he likes to say, he likes staying in nice places. That said, neither of us want to spend a fortune, either!
As we got closer and closer to the hotel, the countryside became…well, more countryside-ish. It was clear that the hotel was tucked away, which made it even more appealing to me. It turns out, our accommodations rivaled that of Irton, as far as beautiful surroundings, structure, accommodations, and very kind staff. I was pretty jazzed about it, and was excited to see the room…which was equally as amazing as the outside! We had the most awesome view, with two balconies with double doors on each. Not too far off in the distance, there was a field of sheep, and you could also hear the sound of rushing water. Pure perfection!
One thing that I love about the UK — and perhaps non-chain hotels in general — is that they typically have pretty good food on their menu, so if you’re totally wiped out and you don’t feel like going back out…get dinner at the hotel. We were definitely wiped out, but also really excited to stay at the hotel because of how beautiful it was, so we opted to eat at the hotel. The food was pretty good, but so was the selection of Welsh beers they had! The Welsh word for beer/ale is “cwrw.” Probably one of the only Welsh words I’ll remember at this point, haha!
After dinner, we opted for a restful evening, enjoying the view, some wine, and … Kitchen Nightmares on television. Not just any episode, y’all. It was the Amy’s Baking Company episode, which is probably the most popular episode of Kitchen Nightmares ever. I’d heard about it before, but had never seen it until that night…and it’s plain to see why it’s probably one of the most watched. Pure crazy right there. It’s crazy enough that we’ve since Amazon Primed that stuff for the kids so that they could also enjoy the entertainment.
The next day of our trip — and next post — would be our Caernarfon Castle experience, and our drive to Scotland!