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.