With every vacation, there is a lesson to be learned.
For example, in 2014, we learned that boating holidays = glorified camping with mold and more spiders.
On our first trip to Utah, we learned the importance of filing our tanks in remote gas stations and to be thankful for PB&J.
On this trip, we learned the need to pre-book hotels in England.
When it comes to traveling in England, don't attempt to "just wing-it" or "play-it-by-ear." This equates to certain disaster or a dodgy hotel room; same thing in my book. We left London near eleven at night, heading to Birmingham, with two sleepy kids in the back seat. Luckily, Zoe and Felix slept through the mayhem of stopping at sixteen different hotels, all no-vacancy.
Road works caused chaos, creating a domino effect of people getting off the roads to seek shelter. Exhausted, we had ceased to be picky, and just wanted out of the car. I felt like we won the lottery when we snagged the last room at a Travelodge near the Birmingham Airport.
It was 4am and the day had been exceptionally long. I could overlook the unsavory loiterers in the lobby, the stained carpet, and itchy sheets. I just wanted to crawl into bed, thankful to not have to sleep cramped in the car.
The next morning, we had happy kids and the stress of the previous evening had melted.
Even the lobby looked sunnier.
Why didn't we use our iPhones to find a hotel?
Travel lesson #2, just pay for the international plan. Dan's cell, which has worldwide data, had gone flat, so my phone was our only source. I had not planned on using it for the trip, so we dug it out, and turned on the data. Knowing it would be expensive, we did this when things got desperate, which is how we found the Birmingham Airport. When we returned to the states, we found out that we had incurred a bill of over seven hundred dollars for using it that one time.
OVER SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!!!!
Luckily, the rep at AT&T was awesome. Scratch that, she was beyond awesome. Since our billing cycle had not ended, she was able to dismiss the charge and back-date the international plan that we should have purchased before our trip.
We ended up paying thirty dollars and had sushi to celebrate the bullet that we dodged. Whether or not you think you'll use your phone, just pay for the international plan. It's better to be safe, than to pay OVER SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!! Seriously, I can think of so many better ways to spend that money.
We left the hotel mid-morning and went in search of a place for brunch. Although all of us would have happily eaten nothing but Cadbury chocolate, Dan and I had to be adults and insist on a proper meal.
First, we found a Toby Carvery.
Toby Carvery is the Big Foot of British chain restaurants. I've spotted them, I've even walked inside of them, twice, but I'll never eat here. The "Colonial Williamsburg-esque" signage and promise of carved meats is highly appealing to me. I want to eat here. I really do. I give them a longing gaze as we drive near, but unfortunately, they offer zero options that appeal to the kids. I mean nothing. Zilch,
We ended up at this pub.
The Hazelwell is a local pub, where we were very much the high maintenance non-locals. We all enjoyed our meals and it was cheap.
I tried a British BLT.
This one happened to be served as a wrap, rather than on bread, which was not the difference. The difference is in the bacon. In England, the bacon is thick and chewy, much more similar to what we think of as Canadian bacon. As a breakfast side, I much prefer British bacon. It's yummy. However, in a BLT, it's America for the win. Crispy bacon is far superior on a sandwich.
After lunch, it was time for the second "Happiest Place on Earth" ; Cadbury World!
I didn't take many pictures on this visit, because it wasn't our first time. Honestly, we were just there for the chocolate. Bring on the chocolate!!! We want chocolate!!! The only AMAZING addition this time around was a station where they give away cups of warm, melted Dairy Milk with mix-ins of your choice. I've never tasted anything so heavenly. If I could, I'd drink this elixir every day.
Click the link to see pictures and read about our first visit to Cadbury World.
I did take one snap that made me wonder.
We bought out the Cadbury World outlet store, practically making the trunk (boot) of our rental scrape the asphalt as we drove off to our next destination. We actually saw another family bring empty suitcases to load their chocolate haul. My heroes. Brilliant.
On a non-Cadbury, but candy note...it was on the drive that I discovered the most addictive British treat.
Barley Sugar doesn't sound so nice, but trust me.