Thursday, August 30, 2007

Final week in England

Our last week in England I was a single mom, as Brett was off on a business trip in Boston. I survived the week just fine, at least everyone here speaks English and I felt very comfortable in Swindon. I really could live here if the cost of living was not so high. The people I met at church were very friendly and supportive while we were here.
On Wednesday the kids and I went to the Cotswold water park with a friend from church. It was a neat park with lots of little lakes. People were sailing, and waterskiing and canoeing. There was a little beach area for little kids to play in too. The water was much too cold for the girls but there were many kids playing in the water. There was also a playground and we had a little picnic lunch. It was a fun afternoon. (Sorry I forgot the camera so don’t have a single picture)
On Thursday the kids and I went exploring and found a little Cotswold town called Bibury. This was a cool town. It was very very old and there were old stone houses everywhere. A beautiful stream runs through the town and the water was very clear so you could see the fish swimming. We brought bread to feed the ducks and the fish and the ducks would actually fight over the bread. We went to a trout farm while we were there and got to feed them. The girls really enjoyed watching them. Then we went on a little hike through the forest. We love the outdoors especially when the weather is beautiful! (oops forgot the camera again!-Brett is usually the picture taker in the family)
Friday we did a lot of packing up and cleaning to get ready to leave. The kids and I found a Mcdonalds (Brett refuses to eat it while not in America so we took advantage while he was gone) and had a picnic at Lydiard Park (the coolest playground in England)
The major accomplishment for the week-Addy is potty trained! We started her on Monday and she has been in underwear since. She has done great!
Saturday morning we had to leave bright and early to go pick up Brett at the airport. We were all excited to see him! Then we headed into London to do a little sight seeing. We took the kids on the London Eye, a gigantic ferris wheel that moves very slowly and you can get a 360 degree view of London. It was very busy and had to wait in a very long line. This was not a Lego Land ride but the kids still had fun. We walked around the touristy part of town and saw Big Ben and had a picnic lunch at the park. The kids liked the street performers and the people pretending to be statues. London is a huge city with so many people and lots of walking! I don’t think I would enjoy the big city lifestyle at least not with small children.
Sunday we were all packed up and ready to go to France. We managed to make it to church and then headed to the airport. The flight was only an hour thank goodness, the kids were pretty tired. When we arrived in Paris we picked up a car- we did a short term lease because we are going to be driving all over Europe now. We got a Peugeot 407SW it barely fits all our luggage but going to the van would have cost a lot more! We now have to get used to driving on the right side of the road again and having the steering wheel on the right. We managed to find our way to our apartment in Croissy sur Seine that night. It’s a nice town right across the street from the Seine River.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Our 3rd-4th week in England

Brett had a training class in Bath all week. I dropped him off at the train station every morning and he would ride to Bath every day. The weather was “rubbish” the first part of the week with lots of rain.
On Thursday we finally saw the sun shining and we had to get out. The kids and I headed to a farm called Roves Farm. The girls had a great time! They got to feed baby goats with a bottle, ride on a tractor, see a few farm animals, make a craft and play on the bouncy castle, climb the haystacks, and playground.
Thursday evening we drove to Oxford. This is a neat town with Oxford University which consists of 36 colleges, the architecture of the colleges was beautiful. We saw the Radcliffe Camera-a classical rotunda, the Bridge of Sighs-it is a copy of the bridge in Venice, and Christ Church.
Friday we went to Bath with Brett in the morning and the kids and I played at a huge playground across the street from Brett’s class. We then had lunch in Bath. It is a neat city and much more lively during the day time than it was at night. Then we drove through Cheddar Gorge it’s an amazing canyon. It’s the only place you can buy Cheddar from Cheddar. We also drove through Bristol it’s about an hour from Swindon, it’s a very big city with lots to see.
Saturday was a fun day with the kids. We took them to Legoland Windsor. Alana especially loved it because she could go on all the rides. Addy needs to grow a little taller, she was sad when she couldn’t go on the ride, but she had fun on the smaller rides. We had to switch off with Allden. There were tons of people at the beginning of the day so we had to wait in long lines of 30-45min per ride. Then it started to rain in the afternoon and towards the end of the day we only had to wait about 5-10 minutes for the ride. We didn’t have time to go on all the rides but we had a great time. One of our favorites was the miniland. They created little city’s and replica’s of famous places out of legos. Alana’s favorite was the rollercoaster and the boat ride, we got to race little motor boats around a lazy river (all of us could go on the ride) it was pouring rain at this point so we got quite wet. After lego land we had dinner in Windsor. This is where the Windsor castle is, the Queen of England sometimes resides here.
Sunday we went to church then took Brett to the airport. He had a business trip in Boston for the week. So I’m here in London with the kids on my own.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

3rd weekend in England

We had another see half the country in one weekend adventures. There is so much beauty to see we don’t want to miss it.
Friday morning we headed north and drove through some of the Cotswold villages. We took the scenic route from Cheltenham to Warwick. The route follows the Cotswold Hills and some pretty villages along the way. We quickly drove through Stratford-upon-Avon where William Shakespeare was born in 1564. We drove on a little further until we came to the Warwick Castle. The place was very crowded and we had to walk a long ways just to get to the castle. The castle is magnificent with huge outer walls and towers. The owners of Madame Tussaud’s wax museum bought the castle and set up wax figures to illustrate its history. We saw the Great Hall and State Rooms where they had armor displayed everyone got to try on a headpiece. The Staterooms were decorated as they were back then. When we went in to see the wax people they looked very real and even had sound effects, Alana was asking if they were real and wanted to touch them. Addy was a little nervous about the wax people until we saw a display of a little girl playing and giggling and she got to try on a princess hat. We skipped the dungeon this time because of the long line and didn’t think the girls would care about it too much. Brett and I had already seen it, they show all kinds of instruments that they used to torture people, it’s pretty disgusting. We also saw a jousting match, and sword fighting and other competitions led by the King. It was similar to the Renaissance Festival at home. We also saw the mill right on the river and it said they used to catch eels in the mill and it was a delicacy to serve to important people (yuck!) After we left the castle we headed north about 3 hrs to Lancaster and Morecambe where we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast. Morecambe used to be quite the happening beach town. Our B&B was run by an older couple and it was like stepping back in time all the furniture looked like it was right out of the 70’s. We ate dinner at a carvary and had the best dessert called the Knicker Bocker Glory. It was a gigantic sundae with fruits of the forest and chocolate topping everyone was on a sugar high after that.
Saturday we had a full English breakfast consisting of sausage, bacon (ham), eggs, toast, beans, tomato, and mushrooms. It was very good! We headed up north to the Lake District. We stopped at Bowness and took an island cruise on Lake Windermere. Windermere is the longest lake at 10 miles long. It’s beautiful with green treed islands in the middle of the lake. Beatrix Potter was said to write many of her books here in the lake district. This place is lovely maybe it would inspire me to write a book too if I spent enough time here! The scenery is just gorgeous with tall green mountains and beautiful lakes and forests. We pulled over a lot to take pictures but they never really capture the full beauty of the place. We drove up through several mountain passes, we passed a slate mine that had a 25% grade down the side. We saw beautiful lakes that reflected the mountains behind them. What a fun day!
Sunday we had to head home but of course we couldn’t just head straight home we had to drive through Wales first. We stopped at the Preston Temple on the way south, as you drive down the motorway you can see the white spire with the golden angel Moroni on top. Then we drove over to Conwy it was a neat town with a big castle and town walls that are about 4,200 ft long and over 30ft high. We had a really yummy lunch and let the kids play in the indoor playground and then headed on to Snowdonia National Park. Snowdon is the highest peak in Wales. We drove the Llanberis Pass which was just amazing! We needed another day or 2 to see more of Wales. What a fun weekend!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Our 2nd Week in England

Exmoor National Park

We really try to maximize our weekends here since Brett works all week, so we are tourists on the weekend. We always try to pack too much into one day, and it gets dark a bit earlier here than it did in Ireland.
Saturday we explored the area along the southeastern coast of England. We drove through Salisbury and saw the giant cathedral with the tallest spire in England (403ft tall). It was built around 1220. There were lots of people out walking around the downtown area, looked like a fun town to spend more time in but we drove on down through Newforest, the largest area of unenclosed land in Britain. We had a picnic lunch in a park with horses. The girls enjoyed petting the horses and feeding it an apple. Our next stop was in Southhampton where the Mayflower and the Titanic sailed from on it’s maiden voyage. Then we drove on to Portsmouth, once a vital navy port. The HMS Victory-an English Flagship restored to its former glory was here in port. We took a little harbor cruise and got to see all the big ships in port and enjoy the beautiful day. From here we went on to Arundel and saw the Arundel Castle. It was a big grey hilltop castle surrounded by castellated walls overlooking the small riverside town. The last stop of the day was Brighton, it reminded me of San Francisco California. We picked a bad time to go to this place, they had a Pride Parade earlier in the day so the city was just crawling with interesting people and the traffic was horrific! So we observed the city from our car and people watched as we sat in traffic. We planned to stop at the Brighton Pier but it was packed with people and didn’t feel like getting all the kids out in that mess! We did see the Royal Pavilion it was Prince Regents fantastic oriental palace. We needed more time we were also planning to see Leeds Castle but time and daylight ran out. It was a fun day.
Sunday after church we headed out for another adventure. We drove about 2.5hrs west to Exmoor National Park. I think this place was one of our favorite places we have been so far. The scenery was amazing! Majestic cliffs plunging into the Atlantic ocean and driving through the lush green forest. Wow! We stopped and took pictures along the way but they definitely don’t do justice to the amazing beauty of this place. Our favorite town was Lynmouth it is a little village down by the ocean with a river running through it to the ocean and green cliffs in the background. Above this village on the tops of the mountain is Lynton, the 2 villages are connected by a cliff railway. It would be cool to have a house here!
Monday after work we drove to the little town of Uffington and saw the vale of the great white chalk horse carved onto the hill top, it is about 350 ft long. It is said to be Britains oldest hillside carvings dating back to 1000 BC! We took a hike up to the top and walked around the chalk horse. From the top of the hill you could see for miles, green fields everywhere! Then we walked over to Uffington Castle, it was only imaginary as it wasn’t really there but you could see where the walls were built and the big moat around it, there was a great flock of sheep grazing where the castle would have been. Brett had some fun and chased the sheep (that was Alana and Addy’s favorite part).

Tuesday the kids and I went to Cotswold Animal Park. We had a great time. We saw all kinds of animals, the girls favorites were the penguins, meekrats, bats, and wolf. The also enjoyed the big playground and the train ride around the park.

Wednesday evening we went to Lacock Village, the entire village is owned by the National Trust so everything is kept the same as it was a long time ago. The River Avon runs through it, we drove by the Lacock Abbey it looked like a big fancy house with big gardens (unfortunately the gates were closed so we couldn’t go see it). Then we drove all the way to the town of Bath, this is one of my favorite city’s I have been too. The city is named after the Roman Baths. They were built in the 1st century, this bathing complex is one of Britain’s greatest memorials to the Roman era. We got there late so all the little shops were closed and the Roman Baths were closed but we’ll have to come back in the day time. We saw the river and the cathedral and walked around and then got some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream a 3 scoop cup of ice cream cost ($8) 4 GBP.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Our First Week in England!

First Week in England
Thursday the 26th we flew from Dublin to London, it was only an hour flight but it’s still a bit difficult getting all of us and our luggage into the airport and checked in. When we arrived we drove about an hour 15 minutes to where we are staying in Swindon. We are renting a home here for a month. It is very expensive here! It is a 3 bedroom 1 bath home fully furnished in a gated neighborhood and we get a grass backyard. We are close to a couple nice parks and the town center. We are very close to Intel so Brett has been riding a bike through a forest like park to work every day.
Our first Saturday here we explored our city. We found a couple of really nice parks with great playgrounds, lakes, ducks, and lots of trees and grass. We went to the Coate Water Park and the Lydiard House and Park. The kids enjoy running around playing and feeding the ducks.
On Sunday we found a church to go to and the people were again very friendly and welcoming. We even got invited over for dinner and made some new friends.
I am getting very comfortable driving on the left side of the road now and much better at driving a stick too! Then we’ll leave here and be driving on the right and I’ll have to get used to that again.
There has been a lot of flooding in a city about 45 min from us and the people have not had running water for about a week. The church was doing a little service project asking people to donate drinking water so we volunteered and helped deliver a bunch of water on Monday night.
Tuesday night we found the Asda (it’s a Wal-mart) I guess it’s the biggest in Europe it was like our super Walmart at home.
Wednesday night we went out exploring and drove down to Avebury and Stonehenge. Avebury is a lovely town and it also has a stone circle similar to Stonehenge but the stones are much more spread out. Then we drove down to Stonehenge it’s pretty cool to see all those gigantic stones stacked up and in a big circle. We ended the night in a small town called Devizes where they have a canal with a series of locks so that boats can go up and down a large hill by adjusting the water level in small locks to raise or lower this boat to the level of the next lock. It would take a long time to get up the hill on a boat.
Thursday the kids and I went to a butterfly garden the girls really enjoyed seeing all the butterfly’s up close. They also had a few farm animals, there was a big turkey and Alana said: “Mom look a ham” I giggled. They also had an indoor play area with balls and slides and mats so even Allden got to crawl around and play.
Friday evening we drove down to Lechlade it’s also a lovely town right on the river Thames. We walked around a park area right by the river, the kids liked the big swans and ducks. Then we drove on to Cirencester, it’s also a neat town and of course we found the huge park with lake, ducks and playground and enjoyed walking around in the nice weather.
There is so much to see and do and not enough time to do it all!