Ah, family. I was going to start off in a jocular vein, pondering as to whether family is the bedrock of society or the source of all its ills, (probably a bit of both, eh? 😉 ) but the husband sagely surmised that my mother wouldn’t take kindly to my tactless attempt at humor, and the reaction of the husband’s family is a big unknown, so never mind.
Anyway, we were long overdue for a joint visit to the husband’s family in his hometown of Newark-upon-Trent in England, but first we had to get there.
Alighting from the plane at Heathrow, still reeling from the after-effects of a sleeping pill (me) and sub-par, drug-free airplane sleep (the husband), we collected our suitcases and bike box and made our way to the rental car pick-up area, where the agent brightly informed us that she was able to upgrade us from a van to a… bigger van. “Uh…OK, thanks,” we agreed dully, still not quite able to properly process human speech, much less the consequences of having a big van in a country of narrow, windy roads.
Upon arrival, we were welcomed by my stoic and serious brother-in-law.
In fact, there were warm greetings all around.
Here’s what we got up to in and around Newark:
Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Museum
If you’re a Tudor and late Plantagenet history geek as I am, this is a must-see. Located in the countryside near the town of Market Bosworth, this small but interesting museum takes you though the story of the Battle of Bosworth in which King Richard III (the person many people think – but can’t prove – is responsible for the death of his nephews, the so-called “princes in the tower”) loses to Henry VII, marking an end not just to Richard’s life, but also to the Wars of the Roses (aka The Cousins’ War), and establishing the Tudor dynasty. No one knows for sure where exactly the battle took place, but they have some good guesses it was very close to the site of the museum.
The plan was to continue being submerged in royal history by visiting the Richard III Centre in the city of Leicester, but our maddening, confusing, and unreliable GPS system, which we nicknamed Nigel and which was housed in someone’s cracked, cast-off phone provided by Budget Rent-a-Car (budget, indeed), had us going in circles in the Leicester city center until just before the Richard III Centre closed, so that was a bust.* Fortunately, in a situation that might otherwise have produced marital fireworks (not the good kind), the husband and I held fast to our senses of humor (mostly) and we made do with heading to Leicester Cathedral to view Richard’s final resting place.
*Not getting to see the Richard III Centre wasn’t the only fallout from Nigel’s poor navigational skills. A few weeks after the trip I noticed a strange charge on our credit card bill, followed shortly by a letter in the mail from Budget, explaining how we’d been nailed in Leicester for driving in a bus lane. After receiving a post-trip speeding ticket from French authorities a few years ago, I’m starting to think hitchhiking might be a better way for us to get around foreign countries.
This was supposed to be one of the non-cycling portions of the trip, but I decided this wasn’t a battle worth picking. On a ride we did together, we went past a farmer’s field with the creepiest scarecrows I’ve ever seen. It was chilling, even on a warm summer morning.
The husband also met up with a local cycling club for their weekly Sunday ride, hammering out a fast 70 miles that I was more than happy to skip.
The plan was to have the husband do the majority of the driving. He grew up in England and has experience, so why risk the head-on collision that my driving would almost certainly cause? However, there was one situation in which I was going to have to drive. The husband wanted me to drop him off with his bike in a town called Hunstanton. He would then bike to another town – Skegness – and we’d spend the rest of the day there. I would need to drive approximately 68 miles to meet him there and this required us to have an “additional driver” charge on our rental car contract. In the end, this ride never took place, since the husband opted for the group ride you just read about. I did try driving once – about 2 miles from grandma’s house to our AirBnB. The husband shifted while I steered, used the pedals, and concentrated on staying on the correct side of the road. So can I say I’ve driven in England? Barely.
The husband’s parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in June, so a party was arranged to coincide with our visit. Several other family members joined in from different parts of the island, as well, bringing together four generations spanning ages 1½ to 93, with the 93-year-old having nearly as much energy and vitality as the 1½-year-old (though she didn’t scream as much).
And then, after days of conversing, reminiscing, laughing, and reconnecting, we were off. Buying a rubber bath mat and the thickest bungee cords I’ve ever seen, we jerry-rigged a system to keep the bikes and bike box in place, and were on our way to our next adventure.
Costs associated with having a rental van in England:
- Three-week van rental with unreliable GPS: $1001.35
- Additional driver fee: $200.00
- Fine for driving in bus lane: $36.34
- Bungees and rubber mat: $16.29
- Subtotal: $1,253.98 (stay tuned for more charges)
Posts in the UK Road Trip series:
- Part 1: Family Time in Newark
- Part 2: The Peak District
- Part 3: Wales
- Part 4: Ludlow & the Shropshire Hills
- Part 5: London