Ron's parents arrived in Newcastle exhausted but excited for this year's annual visit! We took it easy for the first few days, catching up and enjoying a few traditional pub meals in town. On Friday night, after Ron and I finished with work, we all caught a train up to the northernmost English town of Berwick upon Tweed, sitting on the coast just two miles from the Scottish border. We had passed through this charming town on the train many times on the way to Scotland before, and had always wanted to stop for a visit.
After touring around a bit (and accidentally getting too drunk with the locals on Friday night), we caught a bus from our Berwick hotel over to Holy Island in Lindisfarne, which is only accessible by road twice a day due to the changing tides. We arrived to Manor House Hotel, a little bed and breakfast with a beautiful view overlooking the island's 16th century castle, and promptly had to go over to take a tour!
That night, we had local island fare at the Ship Inn, in the center of the small island town. In the morning, we toured the medieval priory & monastery ruins, overlooking the famous St Cuthbert's Island.
Here was the moment when Teresa asked for American cheese with her full-English breakfast:
After the Holy Island visit, next up was the historic golf city of St. Andrews up in Scotland. Not only did we have the famous golf course to see, but also the local castle and priory ruins as well.
And nearing the end of our visit together, we couldn't let them get away without a waffle dinner at Kaspas... !
In the months following our wedding, I got started a very busy new job, and we also spent a lot of time researching and touring new flats. So, we didn't do any fun trips, thus the gap in these posts! BUT that was about to change... eventually we found a new flat that was cheaper than our current rent, which will ultimately give us a higher budget for more traveling! We got moved in the weekend before my birthday, just in time for the arrival of my mom and sister to come and celebrate! With the Jincks girls in tow, my birthday week was absolutely packed full of adventures!
They landed in Newcastle on my birthday, March 7th. I left straight from work to meet up with my friend Honor, who drove us both to the airport to pick them up. Next, we all headed to the new flat just quickly enough to drop off the bags and call a taxi. We were off to an exciting evening at Bongo's Bingo! Not only did we all have an absolute blast, but a birthday miracle occurred and I actually won a huge inflatable yellow duck named Sergio!
The next day, we did a bit of shopping and then met up with my friend Katy for a fancy afternoon tea at the Great British Cupcakery on the Quayside. We had the best seat in the house for some Instagram worthy selfies! And all the food was literally piled up in front of us... we all indulged so much we nearly needed to be rolled out the doors.
On Saturday morning, we were off to London. For the past several months, I'd been prepping for my stage debut in a comedy show called Mortified. This weekend, I would be walking out on stage to read humiliating entries from my middle-school diary. And it was a complete success - I walked off the stage absolutely buzzing to do it again! Not only was Ron, my mom and my sister all able to come support me, but also my friends Lauren and Jimmy.
The next morning, we met up again with Lauren and Jimmy for a fresh breakfast, before setting off to explore London on the bus tour. We stopped at Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, and also took the Thames River boat tour to the Tower of London. Fun fact, there have been 6 versions of the London Bridge, one of which currently sits in Arizona after being purchased and transported by a wealthy American (he'd mistaken the very simple London Bridge for the much more iconic and admired Tower Bridge).
After we got back to Newcastle, we were able to finally slow down a bit! Mom and Michelle were amazing with the new flat, helping us to unpack and organize it. We spent lots of time thrift shopping and sampling every coffee and cake in town! As with every other time, their visit was far too short and ended before I was ready! Until next time :)
Having just been in the States for our wedding, we were spending this year's Thanksgiving in Newcastle. And because every Brit is curious to know what a true Thanksgiving is really like, we ended up having a beautiful Friendsgiving celebration with my colleagues-turned-friends. We had a gorgeous spread of food that was worthy of rivaling any American Thanksgiving table, appropriate seasonal decorations, a post-meal trivia game and some couples quizzes. Every time I think we couldn't be luckier to have the friends we do in England, they prove me wrong again!
Obviously Thanksgiving doesn't warrant a day off work in England, so I also had a little lunchtime celebration with my fellow American at my new job, complete with turkey sandwiches and cranberry juice. Cheers!
About mid-way through 2018, it occurred to me that there was a milestone birthday approaching for Ronald. Although I was already deep in the weeds of planning our wedding, our trip home to the States and two additional summer trips before that point, I decided to also start planning the best surprise party he'd ever seen!
Step One: Throw Him off the Scent
Ron's birthday was a Thursday, the day immediately after we were scheduled to land back in Newcastle after our wedding in the States. So in advance of the wedding trip, I floated some birthday ideas with Ron to set his expectations. I suggested that we may be exhausted after all the travel and excitement of the wedding, and that we should have a calm birthday dinner for him on that Thursday. We could always go out that weekend if he was feeling up for it... He agreed!
Step Two: Prep the Party
I booked out a party room at a bar in town for Friday night, and sent out all the invitations to our British friends. I ordered the decorations, coordinated the arrangements with the friends helping out, and also wrote up a personalized scavenger hunt. I had a few goals with the party: make Ron feel young (as he was a bit nervous about turning 30), make him feel at home at Newcastle, and make it very personalized to him! The party theme would be "Frat Party" and the scavenger hunt would highlight all of our memories so far in our new city.
Step Three: Decoy Birthday
We were both off work on his actual birthday (Thursday), so I woke up and made him his favorite breakfast: peanut butter pancakes with maple syrup. I gave him his presents (including his very first "husband" card since our wedding 6 days prior!) and let him choose a nice relaxing takeaway dinner for that night. I also made a second birthday card (for Friday), but kept that one secret it for now. He loved the Thursday birthday treats, and was completely unsuspecting of any more upcoming surprises...
Step Three: Surprise!
The next day, Ron went to work but I had the day off. I spent that time picking up final decorations, bought the cake, and planted all of the scavenger hunt clues around town. I had also planned for a few of the clues to be given out by specific people that we knew, so I also made arrangements to meet up with each of them to hand out those specific envelopes in advance. I packed up a bag of all of the party supplies and a fratty change of clothes for each of us, and handed it over to our friend Paolo, who was tasked with setting up the party room at the bar. Then, I went home and waited...
Ron got home, where I had made a quick dinner for him. He could see I was giddy and giggly, so I went ahead and gave him the secret birthday card...
Think back two years,
To our first Newcastle toast
And we also went here
For our first Sunday Roast
Upon reading the clue, he knew immediately that this was The Town Wall, another pub just up the street. This would be our final destination (which he still thought was a dinner reservation). Along the way he commented that he was still full of beer and wouldn't have much of an appetite, so I assured him that was fine, we could just get some nibbles and rest after trekking all over town... :)
Throughout the scavenger hunt, I'd been secretly texting Paolo to make sure everyone was ready in the room. He'd let me know that the reserved room was the first room on the left, hidden behind a heavy black drape. So as we walked in, I told Ron that I thought our table might be behind this curtain... check out the videos below to see what happened next!
Not only was this Ron's birthday party, but it also happened to fall exactly 1 week since our wedding day. It was the first time we got to see most of our friends since coming back from that trip, so it was a great chance to catch up with everyone and share our happy stories from the wedding.
As making Ron feel young was the ultimate goal of the party, I'd venture to say that the evening was a great success!
Ron & Andee
Two Americans documenting our adventures abroad!
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