A Travellerspoint blog

October 2011

Last Leg

Reporting from Jinqiao

semi-overcast 20 °C
View European Vacation on aboo10's travel map.

So we left Wales and headed back to London for the last five days of our holiday, this was a little longer than anticipated, but my little sister was having a party on the Saturday night, so we wanted to be able to join in the fun! We arrived pretty much in time just to join in the party, and Marns had bought Jie Jie a party dress! Was lovely to meet a few more friends of Marns and James, especially ahead of their big day next April!

The following morning we left Marns and James to sleep off the after effects of the party and took the kids into the city, on the trusty number 19 bus from Islington all the way into the city and explored Piccadilly and Green Park. We got caught in the rain and so ducked into the Trocadero, just near Piccadilly Circus where we found an indoor performance space where some 'kids' (twenty-somethings) were practising their dance moves, which involved a lot of acrobatics... Didi decided he wanted to join in, and was going through the motions copying them, and collected quite an audience himself because he was so cute... especially when he put his head on the ground and then walked his legs around it, as if he were spinning on it!

The next day we went to the British Museum, while Marns and James returned to work. Jie Jie was fascinated in the Egypt section looking at the mummies, and in particular became quite vocal about death discussions. She was a bit disturbed at some of the tiny mummies, when she realised they were likely to have been children. It was quite easy to tell we have been on the go for quite some time, because although we were enjoying the things we saw, including the Greek Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, an exhibition of Australian Indigenous Art, both kids were shattered - Didi nodded off in the ergo carrier and Jie Jie, well check this out:
Mike sat holding her for about 40 minutes!!! Incredible!!!

Now, although I am writing this well after the event, this was the week of the London Riots... the initial night, and the night we were unaware of what was going on was Saturday, and we first heard about it on the Sunday night news. On the way home on Monday afternoon, we stopped in at the Sainsburys in Angel, near the Tube station, and bought a few things, but something I needed for dinner wasn't available and so while Mike and the kids were paying in Sainsburys, I ducked in next door to Waitrose... while I was in there an announcement came over asking customers to finalise their purchases as the shop was closing early. On exiting, there were police at the door, and across the road at the entrance to the Tube station, police in riot gear were assembling and forming an even line... of course I asked, and they said that they had had word that the riots were heading our way... advice was for all shops in the mainstreet to close... Now we didn't have a pram with us, we'd just bought a stack of groceries to carry and the kids were exhausted... and we were about 3km from Marns' house. "Keep moving guys, we have to get home!!!!" Fortunately made it home without incident, and reports that night were that Islington was safe.

Tuesday, we had our last hurrah catching up with friends. Lunch at Carluccio's in Covent Garden with another friend of Mike's from uni and dinner with a friend of Mike's from nursery school and his partner. Lunch was delicious, but dinner was a bit of a drama as many of the restaurants had been advised not to open due to the riots. Didn't see any action in the taxi on the trip home either, thank goodness!!

Our last full day we were relaxed and didn't venture too far from home. We walked up to Islington again, and then went out for a final farewell dinner with Marns and James.

It was a good holiday, but after 6 weeks we were ready to head home to Shanghai again. Look at our hand carry:
And I have to admit they were great little travellers on the flight home! Bye bye UK... see you again in April!!

Posted by aboo10 02:01 Archived in England Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Our last week in Wales

Reporting from Jinqiao

sunny 20 °C
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Getting back to base in Pontypool was good, and we took a couple of quiet days out just playing in the sunshine, and doing local activities. I spent a lot of time stocking up on essentials and some 'exotic groceries' in Sainsburys, and contributed significantly to the weight of our luggage, and each item was looked at followed by an eye roll - but I know that once we're home again, he'll appreciate the Giant Cous Cous and the marinated capsicum, and a seven month supply of children's toothpaste! It's one of the quirks of living as an expat, stocking up and transporting around the world things that you take for granted in your home country.

One of the highlights of the few days in Wales was our family lunch at Jamie's Italian in Cardiff. We had secretly arranged with Claire to meet her there, before we proposed the idea to Mike's parents, but they suggested we took her along, which kind of spoiled our surprise. It took a methodical approach to get everyone there at the same time, driving Nannie and Granddad to the bus stop to get a bus to Cardiff, and having Claire meet them at the bus station to get them to the restaurant and us driving down with the kids. Look at this for swish: IMG_9525.jpg

They do some fantastic things, with such fabulous flavours in the food. Also the way they present stuff is just plain cool. I particularly liked how to serve the entree on wooden planks raised from the table on some cans of tomatoes.

We then had a couple of quiet days in Wales. Took the kids on their first real bush walk or mountain climb depending on how you look at it... where we walked up the bush trail (I'm not convinced they call it bush in the UK though) next to Pontypool Park, and yep, the whinging started five minutes in... but to give her credit it was pretty steep! Although that didn't stop them from running off after the sheep!

What was our goal? Well, we'd found out that the Folly and the Grotto were open in the afternoons on the last weekend in July - so after our disappointing previous visit, we were keen to get inside. Except we arrived before it had opened, and with no signage indicating opening times, and little mobile internet coverage, but it was good to have some running around time and some time to carefully ponder how grass grows:

Finally the Grotto caretaker arrived, and opened the little retreat up, opened all the shutters and welcomed us in. And wow, what an impressive interior, especially considering the rather drab exterior... but hey, don't judge a book by it's cover. Every square centimetre of the internal walls, floor, ceiling and supporting beams are covered in shells and animal bones. Truly remarkable.
The next day we decided to finish off what we had started, and so we went to visit and climb the Folly as well! Great views over Pontypool!

We had a lovely trip to the 'beach' near Cardiff, which was met with bewildered questions such as 'but where's the sand?'. But the day was beautiful, and Jie Jie took it upon herself to carry a stone (almost from the top) which was about 2kg and the size of a bag of sugar from the top to throw into the water, with the idea of making a big splash. To her credit she carried it the whole way down, but because of its weight she actually couldn't heft it far enough to even reach the water. So she pulled her foot back to give it a kick to send it flying into the water, and I called out not to kick the rock, because she was wearing open toed sandals, but I was too late, and she let fly and the rock didn't move, but her face crumpled up and she stifled a scream as she realised how silly kicking a rock that big actually was. We had a beautiful afternoon, and both the kids did really well climbing over the stone dune.

We visited St Fagan's Folk Museum just outside Cardiff, where we explored old farmhouses, olde worlde shoppes, a stunning castle and beautiful gardens.
And then that evening Mike and I went out to dinner, leaving the children to be babysat for the last time by Nannie and Granddad!

Our last tourist activity was the whole family to Caerleon - again requiring execution efforts of mammoth proportion, getting Nannie and Granddad on a bus to Caerleon and picking up Claire from Newport. We enjoyed the Roman Museum, the Baths and especially playing Gladiator in the Roman Amphitheatre. Last time too, that all of Mike's family were together!

Then back home to do the final packing and be ready for our early bus to London the following morning! Good bye Wales!

Posted by aboo10 08:08 Archived in Wales Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Cosy Cotswolds

Reporting from Jinqiao

sunny 23 °C
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Our next destination, was to have 2 nights in Oddington with Marns, James, and James' family. So after spending a bit over an hour getting out of the CLA carpark, we then quickly drove down to Oddington, about 40 minutes away. We drove through some beautiful countryside to get there, and then found the house easily.

We enjoyed getting to know James' family around a very casual barbeque, and a few bottles of lovely wine, and enjoyed the long summer evening, until the kids were ready to crash. They frolicked in a little play tent and with Molly, the bouncy golden retriever. We were in very comfortable accommodation, up on the third floor of the beautiful old home. With tummies full and after a long day at the CLA fair we sank into the comfy beds and slept soundly.

IMG_9283.jpg Waking up in the morning, the kids were delighted to explore the garden, play with the dog, feed the chickens and collect the eggs. We had a very civilised breakfast in the sunshine on the lawn, before setting out to explore the Cotswolds for the day!

IMG_9317_2.jpgOur first stop was Snowshill, which was where my step-grandfather was evacuated to as a child during WW2. Also, my Grandma's own grandma is buried in the churchyard here. We enjoyed exploring the old graveyard looking for our Great great great grandmothers gravestone, and with some jubilation found it, even though time has worn away the letters. IMG_9316.jpg

IMG_9338.jpgAfter Snowshill we headed down to Bourton on the Water, which is a tourist destination frequently visited by daytrippers where the river runs through the town and is quite shallow, and very inviting, for children, young and old to play in. Our kids were no exception, and once they got used to the very cold temperature of the water, were in for ages!

Then it was back to the house, which seriously is so pretty, it looks just like a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle!! The kids again were involved in feeding the chickens and playing in the extensive gardens. We went to the local pub for a delicious local dinner, and the kids were able to run around in the yard and play with another family, before dinner. Again, we headed home to fall into bed and sleep soundly.

IMG_9299.jpg Our last morning saw the kids feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs again, and then spending hours upon hours playing with the permanently set up electric train set. It is a very impressive set, with stations, and level crossings, and trees, and lights and whistles. In fact, it was such a draw card that when Didi woke during the night instead of asking for milk as is his custom, he said train train, and wanted to play in the middle of the night!!

We then set off to visit the Daylesford Organic Farmhouse which sells amazing breads, fruit and vegies, preserves, herbs, cheese, oils and vinegars, wines, cooking accessories and even has a cooking school. Marns bought me an amazing Red Onion and Apple Chutney, a jar of Harissa and some dried mushrooms. We then had a coffee, and the kids shared a tub of super creamy chocolate ice cream, which wasn't really 'snack size', but they still managed to devour the lot. The Farm is set in the most beautiful grounds, with lovely outdoor furniture, which of course is also for sale. There is also a spa for a full day of indulgence.

Afterwards, we dropped Marns back at the house, and then set off for the next stage of our Cotwolds trip, to Newbold-on-Stour, to stay with a friend of Mike's from uni, and meet her children for the first time! We had a lovely afternoon while the kids played in the backyard, and then enjoyed catching up with her husband. The next day we visited Stratford-on-Avon, and enjoyed the little ferry punt across the river, watching the swans, looking at the Lock to move boats from the canals and then finally going and having a chat to the big statue of Shakespeare, who is actually well known to our two munchkins from his speaking role in the film 'Gnomeo and Juliet'. Jie Jie was also very interested in knowing the stories of all the other Shakespearean characters also immortalised in statues around Stratford.

From Stratford we headed back to Wales, where Nannie and Granddad were happy to see us all again!

Posted by aboo10 17:18 Archived in England Comments (0)

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