School officially ended the 30th of June, and our visas to legally live here in Spain expired on the same day. After doing some research and emailing/calling government offices here as well as multiple Spanish consulates in the U.S. (which naturally yielded various answers and further confirmed our long-standing suspicions that the law here is very much subject to human interpretation), we determined (with varying levels of confidence) that we needed to leave the Schengen Zone by going to the U.K. and return to Spain as official "tourists," no longer on our student visas. (Yes, we have been considered "students" this year, receiving a stipend, instead of employed workers...even though we collect a paycheck each month.) We returned to Spain holding our breath, praying our way through passport control; if the border patrol guy saw our visas and had questions about us "overstaying" them, even though we are 99.99% sure we did the right thing and aren't technically overstaying, we might have had some explaining to do. Thankfully, all went 100% OK and the guy didn't so much as glance at our passports, except to find a page to place the incoming stamp. (Sometimes border patrol flirts with you, sometimes they are busy having a conversation with another guard, and sometimes they ask lots of questions and want to see your national identity card. It's a gamble, really.)
All that to say, we finished school, spent a lovely week escaping the Spanish heat in the cool of the English countryside, and returned without a hitch. Now we can safely be here for another 3 months before we head back to the U.S. More on upcoming plans later...
It's kind of crazy, but we've had the opportunity to visit the U.K. twice already this year, so this was our third time in England in 2015. The previous two times were spent in big cities (Manchester and London), and we decided we wanted to go somewhere quiet and picturesque. We found an adorable renovated chapel-turned-house on Airbnb, booked it, and set off for the tiny, sleepy town of Bleasby. (Does anything sound more British? Try saying "Bleasby" in your finest British accent, and you'll see what I mean.) There wasn't an ATM, grocery store, or gas station to be found, but we thoroughly enjoyed the quiet, charming town and made some day trips which I'll post about soon.
The two photos above are a great representation of what we did in Bleasby: lots of reading, and lots of walking along roads to local pubs and restaurants.
Should you ever find yourself in Bleasby, or in the neighborhood for that matter, stop by the Manor Farm Tea Shoppe--it is an adorable place to have lunch or afternoon tea. If it's a pretty day, sit outside and enjoy watching the sheep roam in the distant field while you sip your tea in the garden. My favorite menu items were the grilled bacon, brie, and cranberry sandwich, and the carrot cake. Delicious. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, Manor Farm turns into a gastropub, which I wish we'd realized before Monday rolled around. Oh well--next time!
We were happy to find The Red Lion, a pub in the next town over, when the pub down the street from us in Bleasby told us they didn't have a cook, so there wasn't any food available. Kind of a disappointment, but it just meant we had to walk a little bit further to eat! We ate three meals here, and the food was very good; the owner was very friendly and even gave us some ideas for day trips in the area. They also had a beautiful yard out back to eat in, so we enjoyed dinner outside one evening.
Walking home from the Red Lion, we walked by endless fields of green, old homes with quaint, enviable English gardens out front, and fields with cows and sheep having their second dinner. A book I read while in England, My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner, said it best: "The original garden of Eden could not have had such turf as one sees in England." It is so, so beautiful!