One thing about living in a foreign country (especially a smallish one like the UK) is that whenever family members visit the country for any reason, they’ll make an effort to come visit us as a part of the trip. Jenny’s brother John travels for work, and occasionally makes it to England. We’ve been lucky enough to have him visit twice in the year that we’ve been here; once at the beginning of winter, then again in the spring. On both occasions he sacrificed time with his family by delaying his flight home until the end of the weekend instead of the beginning, so we wanted to make the most of our time with him.
During John’s winter visit we wanted to do something warm, so we took him to the York Chocolate Story. It’s more of an interactive experience than a museum—a guided tour of the history of chocolate, focusing on the innovations and contributions of the companies in York that were and still are key players in the world of chocolate. Although there were opportunities to sample different candies throughout the tour, the best part was at the end, after the historical part of the story was over. First, our tour guide taught us to taste chocolate like a professional taster. Then we each decorated a chocolate lollipop with whichever of the numerous available toppings caught our fancy. Finally, we watched real chocolatiers make ganache filled chocolate candies; they let us take as much as we wanted for samples on the spot, and to take home and eat later. They made it look so easy that we were inspired to try making chocolate candies, but although we’ve acquired the supplies, we haven’t yet carried out our plans in that department.
In addition to the Chocolate Story, we showed John some of the standard sights of York, which date all the way back to Roman times, and had lunch at a pretty good burger joint. In the evening John spent a lot of time with Elena and Roman, playing and reading and making life easier for Jenny and me. Then after they went to bed, we got our turn with him, to catch up on all the news about his family and our mutual acquaintances back in Texas. We appreciated the visit, and hope that he didn’t mind coming to see us.
During the last few weeks of pregnancy, because there is so much uncertainty about when the baby will actually arrive, Jenny is always grateful to have fun things on the calendar with set dates, to mark the passage of time in a more orderly fashion. This time, the last thing on her schedule before Kate’s due date was Aunt Terry’s visit. She and her husband Gary had planned a vacation to London and Paris, and carved out a day to head north to see us. I had never met Aunt Terry before, but Jenny had told me some stories; it was nice to finally get to know her, even if it was only for a few hours. We had lunch together and went for a drive through the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, but mostly just spent the time talking and enjoying the good company. Elena and Roman were, as always, excited to have new people pay attention to them, especially people who brought them presents.
After Baby Kate arrived, our first family visitor was Uncle John, who was again area as part of a business trip through Europe. If it’s even possible, Elena and Roman were even more appreciative of his presence and attention this time around, since Jenny and I were spending so much time on Kate’s needs. Even though Jenny was still recovering from the birth, she didn’t want us to just sit around the house during our visit, she wanted to get out and do things. We had a great meal at Betty’s and then took a nice walk around town, looking for all the yellow bikes and other Tour de France decorations. The next day we headed out to Brimham Rocks for a hike. I carried Kate in the tummy pack, and even though it was a misty gray day, she slept peacefully through our whole walk. John had to leave early the next morning to make the long trip back to his own family, but we were all very glad that he came. Living so far away from everyone, it’s so good to see family members, even on short visits.