A Family Affair….
4 hours on the train. It went by quick and they fed us a lot. I guess that’s the advantages of first class. The scenery along the way was fantastic…just ask Pamela to see one of her ‘post’ or ‘hedge’ pictures. We arrived at the Birmingham New Street Station just after 4:00. Rushing to find our way out there were Anneke & Bill. For those who don’t know, Anneke is my cousin on my dads’ side…one of many I will meet for the first time on this trip.
Due to the time and rush hour, we decided to walk around the Grand Central mall and stopped for a coffee. I could see Pamela’s eyes light up when she saw Selfridges. We found a place to sit and have our drink and catch-up….46 years worth. When we headed to their home in Stourbridge we stopped for dinner and The Bell and Cross Pub in Clent. More catching-up. We got to the house afterwards, unpacked a few things, talked more, and got a good night’s sleep.
After a full English Breakfast, outside on the sunny patio we were off to explore the Stourbridge area and had two of the best guides ever. We explored The Original Manor House of Sir William de Whittington built in 1310. It is a pub now with door openings that are only 5’ 10” tall. I do think people have become taller in the past couple of hundred years. We went for a walk along the canal in Kinver and enjoyed the warm weather and the chirping birds. A quick stop at Hadley Hall in Clent. The home of Lord and Lady Cobham. A beautiful large estate that is full of deer. That evening we had a delicious home made meal of Faggots, Mushy Peas and Mash…. (look it up). After dinner, we were broken in slowly with a visit from extended family. A very nice evening and wonderful to finally meet some more of the UK family.
The next adventure was to The Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site. www.ironbridge.org.uk The Ironbridge itself has a very special meaning to the UK family as it was a favorite site for their father and grandfather Bernard van der Woning to paint his pictures and where his ashes were spread. We have one of his lovely works at home of the bridge from many years ago. We met some additional family, Wendy & Mel, at the bridge and spent the day walking around the beautiful park and checking out the pubs and café’s. I have sort of gotten myself hooked on the cream scones, so of course I had another one there.
Our last day in Stourbridge we went to see the Holy Austin Rock Houses in Kinver. Up until 1964 these houses in the side of a rock hillside were still inhabited by the cave dwellers in their own self sufficient village. Very cool place that is under the National Trust and restored for visitors to enjoy. Then we were off to see the family….very excited but also a little nervous. There were approx. 50 family members waiting to meet us. No pressure at all. It was a little overwhelming at first but soon it was very comfortable and a lot of fun. Talk, talk, talk and lots of pictures. Everyone is so fun and it felt like we already knew everyone because of our Facebook connections. What a great reunion!
On the way home after a 6 hour reunion we want to stop for a quick dinner and stopped at the Crooked House Pub. YES……crooked it was. It was on the site of an old coal mine and the ground has given way and the house is now extremely crooked. The house has been propped up on one side with bricks so it will stay up. It is completely safe and is a popular dinner spot for the locals. It was so busy that we couldn’t stay to eat as it was completely booked up. I must say that just walking up to the house was a challenge because without realizing what gravity does; you start to walk sideways. When we went inside you already felt like you had a few too many drinks. It was such a weird feeling that I don’t think I could have eaten there.
The following day….Birmingham
A quick 40-minute car ride and we were in Birmingham for the 3rd Maiden Show for Ray. We had to say goodbye to Anneke and Bill and our great time with them. Until we meet again.
Ray left me at the hotel as soon as we checked in and I went shopping…😊 Ray did a great job getting the hotels right downtown and right by the great shopping areas. Good man! Next is a new suitcase to get the goods home. So much diversity….street performers, shops, café’s and a completely walkable street with no cars allowed.
An early train again in the morning so a good sleep is in order.