family

No Bears… Big Bear Lake

We were so fortunate to have Granny and Papa (Robin and Carolyn) visit for the first time in July/August (yes, I know that is nearly 6 months ago and they are due to arrive next week again oppHonestly, we have been so lucky with the being able to have our family and friends visit. It also encourages us to look at new places to go, however ‘bucket list’ seems to get longer and longer after each wonderful place we see.

As it was Robin and Carolyn’s first visit, we decided to keep local for the first week or so and allow them to acclimatise and get their bearings around good old Coronado. As you can imagine, they fell in love with the place as does everyone! We have had some challenges with the boys enjoying their swimming lessons. So with the arrival of Granny and Papa on the scene, it was time to get the boys more confident in the water. So pretty much everyday Robin and Carolyn were here, they had the boys down at the beach swimming and splashing around.

Of course, we took Robin and Carokyn to the usual San Diego sites including the zoo and generally all over the island. We were able to secure a spare bike for the time they were here so we could all cycle together (with the boys in the trailer.)

We has too laugh as there was an ongoing joke about how it never rains here (which is true!!) anyway the day we decided to head out on the bay in the boat (which I nominated not to go) it happened to rain. It did not only just rain but it poured!! Thankfully Anthony had decided to take out the awning as it initially had been sunny – the awning at least provided a little more protection. The boys apparently snuggled up under the front dash! As you can imagine it did not stop them enjoying the time out on the boat. Carolyn was even able to get a swim in off the back of the boat while it was raining.

We took complete advantage of having the grandparents in town (as we always do) and headed away for the night to Laguna Beach. It was such a great surprise when Anthony turned up at home with a black Camaro convertible!! What a treat! I not sure the boys even noticed that we have left as they were engrossed in the daily craft session they were having with Carolyn! (We were presented with a decorated pet rock and necklaces once we returned). There is a fantastic coast drive (equivalent of the (great ocean road) from San Diego pretty much all the way along the Calafornian coast. So we headed up the main freeway and then cut in and took the coast road via a stop over at the famous Trestles surf break which was a high light for Anthony.

After this we travelled via Dana point to Laguna beach. The coastline is amazing – the traffic not so great! Friday afternoon was not a great time to travel and coupled with the summer holidays we travelled along at a snails pace – but it was worth it. We had a great evening enjoying the local sites. Laguna Beach is the home of all the Orange County photos you may see around  – and it the home of the beautiful people!

On the at back to San Diego we visited San Juan Capistrano – a beautiful town with one of the original missions http://www.missionsjc.com in California. It has been restored and preserved to represent the past Native America and Spanish involvement. It has a wonderful serene feel, the grounds the way in which the buildings have been preserved is beautiful. The surrounding town is lovely to walk around with an historical area where you can only walk (no cars allowed) with lovely stores and places to eat. You past through the town if you travel to and from LA and San Diego via the Amtrak.

After our weekend away, we packed up again and headed to Big Bear Lake! This is where I hand over to Anthony for the Big Bear Lake report. We had wanted to find a little slice of the American dream by having a house on a fresh water lake where we could take the boat. After much googling and elimination due to excessive distance from home we settled on Big Bear Lake which is a 3 hour drive from home. Be warned, the road on the map is decidedly flat when compared to the actual ribbon of tarmac that lead us up to 7000 feet above sea level. With the poor car on its last legs we hauled the boat and trailer over the last hill to discover an amazing oasis of green pine trees and an amazing lake right at the top of a breathtaking mountain range.

Tired after a big drive we headed straight to the boat ramp to drop the boat in and drive it around to the dock at the house. There is a big issue with fresh water mussels being transported between lakes here in California. These killer mussels building up so much that they have been known to sink docks and navigation markers. After a stringent boat inspection and engine cooling system flush we finally backed the boat down the ramp. With so much focus on paperwork and mussel inspection yours truly omitted to screwing in the bung!! All was not lost as I enjoyed my first swim in the lake with bung and spanner in hand. Never again will I forget that silly bung!

After a stressful day of logistics we settled into an amazing week of early morning wakeboarding, mid-morning explore, afternoon naps followed by taking the boat to various beaches around the lake to swim and let the boys explore the shoreline. The highlight of our mid-morning adventures was taking the chair lift up to the top of Snow Summit Mountain (www.snowsummit.com). This was the first chair lift ride for the boys and I must admit that Clare and I were both a little nervous as the boys were eager to peer down at the ground 100s of feet below in some spots. There is amazing 1 mile loop track you can walk around the top of the mountain with breathtaking views which I highly recommend. We had lunch at great little BBQ restaurant overlooking the valley below. With its proximity to LA, Big Bear Lake is certainly a holiday destination for the well-to-do of the American society. We were lucky to rent a ‘well lived in house’ for a reasonable rate. Other recommended activities include the discovery center on the north shore of the lake (www.mountainsfoundation.org/big-bear-discovery-center) which allowed the boys to touch items from the forests as well as a great interactive natural outdoor trail. The boys also enjoyed ridding their scooters along the sealed path that threaded itself along the north shore of the lake.

While we will not risk taking the boat up to Big Bear Lake again through fear of the car dying on us, we will certainly be back to see it in the winter and introduce the boys to snow.

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10 hrs is better than 24 hrs! – England May 2014

Ok.. I have to admit, I am writing this as I sit overlooking an amazing view of Sequoia National Park. Hmmm very cheeky to be blogging about our last holiday while on the current one! I have clearly broken my commitment to blogging more regularly!

It was very important to us, that Jack and Sam met their English family, and especially Great Granny, who we all love dearly. Lets also be honest, the 10 hour direct flight to the UK from San Diego was certainly more appealing that the 24 hours from Australia. I take my hat of to my friends and family who have done this trip a number of times with small children.

We entered the airport with a great sense of trepidation in regards to the flight – based on our previous flight which was to San Diego. Thankfully our friend Liz was able to drop us at the airport making the trip that much easier. After the boys had decorated the British Airways check in counter with a un-supervised permanent marker, we were checked in and through customs in record time.

The flight was scheduled to leave at 8pm and after the inevitable delays we left at 9pm. Sam was the star and was fast asleep before the flight took off and Jack was close behind him. Besides a mid-way vomit by Jack in the window seat (thankfully he was sitting with Ant). The flight was completely uneventful! We arrived at Heathrow at 3:30pm London time and were greeted with train transfers and never ending escalators which the boys loved. The facilities at Heathrow were fantastic – with great parent rooms where we could change and get the boys sorted.

After getting our bags we headed to Avis to pick up our car – we had an amazing deal through Avis via British Airways – along with the fact that Avis is also located in the Terminal 5 carpark, they are now my favorite car rental place! We hit the road and headed to Reading which was an easy 40 min drive, even in peak hour traffic.

As we enter Reading which though that we would go and surprise Granny. She was not expecting to see us until the following day. Anthony’s Granny (Liz) is truly amazing, she is in her mid nineties and still living at home and looking after her self. When we knocked on the door and she came it, it was worth everything to see her face. She honestly said that she never expected to meet her precious Jack and Sam. After we nearly took a few years off Grannys’ life after the surprise we had given her we headed to Ian and Wendy’s house (Anthony’s aunty and uncle).

We arrived and were totally spoilt! We had not seen Ian and Wendy (or Ellie and Tom) for 9 years! Wendy had stocked the fridge with all the boys favorite things and had left the boys little treats in their rooms, along with the toys Tom and Ellie had had as children. It was wonderful to have such a welcome after the traveling through our nighttime. The boys were true stars! They ate well and slept relatively well the first night all things considering.

Over the next few days we had daily adventures with Great Granny as we visited her favorite spot in Henley, where we visited the “Wind and the Willows” exhibition. It was fantastic – I had grown up with the adventures of Toad Hall – Ratty, Moley, Badger and of course that cheeky Toad. Granny was so generous and brought the boys an abridged version of the book and little toy characters which the boys still ask for. It was truly amazing to see her face just light up seeing Anthony and the boys.  Ellie joined us for the day, and it was wonderful to finally spend some time with her after so many years.

That evening we headed to the Dew Drop Inn (http://www.dewdrophurley.co.uk) and met John, June and Sally down from London. It was fantastic to see everyone together, and I was especially excited about seeing my dear Sal! Sally spent nearly 18 months in Sydney the year before the boys were born and left once they were 6 months. She was literally there from the day we found out we were pregnant to when the boys were 6 months old. Sally and her friend would come and stay with us during the time they were in Sydney, usually based on the fact that I could not stand where they were living in Sydney! They both were the most amazing house guests and I was so attached to them both.

So to see Sally from my perspective was incredibly emotional, even as I write this it evokes so many strong emotions. From Granny’s perspective, it  must have been so amazing to see two of her three boys, their wives, her grand children (minus Amy, Oli and off course the Aussie contingent) and the two of her great grandchildren (she now has five!).  We had a wonderful dinner – Tom who’s is 14 was amazing with the boys! He had them exploring the local country side looking for bears so that we could at least have a conversation and enjoy such a special occasion.

After a few days in Reading we headed to London. We timed it well with the FA Final against Arsenal and Hull City. We were heading to Finsbury Park (Arsenal heartland) to stay with John and June. It was amazing driving through London and Anthony and I both commented on ‘feel’ that London has! While we only saw John and June for a night, we had a fantastic time exploring Clissold Park and the local duck ponds. June and John in there true style made us feel so welcome – and spoilt the boys AGAIN! They entrusted us to look after their wonderful house while they were in Turkey. It was also amazing to be reunited with our dear Sally, we were able to have dinner and lots of catch ups every day!

The boys (all three) were desperate to explore all modes of transport offered in London. The next day we jumped on a red double decker bus and headed to my aunts house for lunch with my cousins. It was so lovely to show the boys off to my cousins Clemmie and Beatie! I have been so fortunate to have seen my aunt, Tanya, quite regularly over the last few years. But this was the first time my cousins had met the boys. I have to admit the boys were in good form. Considering jet lag and new people they performed all their party tricks and I think charmed everyone. We had a wonderful lunch outside in the amazing London weather. Tanya is such a wonderful host and always spoils use with amazing food – from all my favorite London haunts. It was so much fun just gossiping and chatting with Beatie and Clemmie over yummy bubbles and wine! It was equally as nice to meet Beaties’ partner Johns’ parents.

Over the next few days we explored all the wonderful London parks and playgrounds and were able to see some special friends. It was wonderful to see my special friend Jo and her boy Bow who was in my mothers group from home. Jo, Phil and Bow had recently moved back to the UK. It was lovely to see our three boys together again. We had started our day together at the Natural History Museum, but quickly realized that the park would be a better option so we had an amazing day at the Princess Diana water feature and then playground in Kensington Gardens. Jo and I had spent to many hours together in the Waverley Park sharing coffee and stories about our boys. It was a slightly tearful good bye, but hopefully we will catch up again soon.

We were also fortunate to time our visit with Robert and Di Hooks’ visit to London. We have seen lots of Di and Robert over the last few years in our visits to Ballarat – to the point that any car that resembles Di’s the boys yell out “Di’s car”. Di and Robert came and joined us at Clissold Park near where we were staying. It was quite strange to see them in London when the last time we had seen them was in Ballarat! Di and I were even able to sneak away for an unscheduled shopping trip.

The boys loved the visit to Greenwich via the Thames. They actually survived the hour ferry ride down there. The gardens were amazing and we yet again found a fantastic playground and wore the boys out. Anthony and I were even able to wheel the two sleeping boys into a pub for a proper English beer and pub meal!

After exploring all the London parks, tube stations, Greenwich and Finsbury Park we packed up and headed back to Reading for a final few days. Ian and Wendy yet again provided us with a wonderful place to stay. The boys loved seeing Tom again, and ALL the boys set up train tracks. We were truly luck with the weather and were able to take advantage of the garden at both Granny’s and Ian and Wendy’s.

We were able to sneak in a visit to Hayling to see the sea side and the yacht club. The boys were fascinated by the pebbley beach. It had been pouring rain in Reading when we left, however we were greeted with gray skies but no rain in Hayling. We hope that we can spend a few days down there next time we visit.

The final days in Reading were filled with more wonderful catch ups as we were able to finally meet Leo! Amy, Oli and Leo came down especially to spend a lovely day with us, and more fun and laughter was had – with lunch in the garden with Granny. These trips are never long enough, and we hope to be back very soon.