Travel

Saaaaannnnnn Fraaaaannnnncisco!

With the Thanksgiving weekend approaching, we realized that we had four days we could use to do some more exploring. San Francisco has always been on our ‘bucket list” so on the Monday before Thanksgivinig we booked out flights and accommodation! I had been to San Francisco about 7 or 8 years previously and loved it – I remember spending three days walking and exploring the city so I was excited to share the amazing city with Anthony and the boys.

We flew out on the Wednesday night of the Thanksgiving weekend, which is one of the busiest holiday weekend in the US, I suspect that it is even busier than Christmas! We had been at the boys school for their “Thanksgiving Concert” which was fantastic. The boys were so serious as they sang the three Thanksgiving songs – “Mr Turkey” was my personal favorite!

Thankfully we convinced our lovely neighbor Chris to drive and drop us off at the airport, and we were very glad that we did as the queues into the airport and check in were huge! But we were soon on the plane and flying north to San Fran! The boys loved the flight and were so excited about taking off and landing. It was the first flight they had been on in a while – and the first of quite a few they would have in the coming months.

We arrived into San Francisco late in the evening for the boys,  so we headed straight to the hotel. We stayed at the Holiday Inn located in Fishermans Wharf – it has a great location and was very reasonably priced considering how well located it was. After a big day the boys thankfully had a good sleep.

Anthony and I always find that the best way to get our bearings and also see as much as possible of a new place with the kids is to jump on one of the “red Bus” or any hop on and hop off bus tours! The kids love sitting up on the roof (even if it is freezing as it was while we were in San Fran). As we were only really had three full days to tick things off our list. We decided that the bus was the best option. The bus was great and we were able to see the “Painted Ladies,” the crooked street’ and all the key landmarks! We decided to stop at the Sutra Baths where there are amazing views of the Pacific ocean. That afternoon we explored the Fishermans Wharf which the kids loved, especially when we headed to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory for sundaes and to watch the Christmas Concert – which included snow. The boys were amazed.

One of the things I remember doing and loving when I first visited was riding over the Golden Gate Bridge over to Sauslito. So the next day we rugged up the boys and hired bikes. I have to admit that riding up hills with a 16 kg 3 year old on the back your bike while you struggle with horrible morning sickness, was not ideal. However as soon as we reached the bridge and were riding over the sun came out, I was loving it again.

As we cycled down the other side towards Sausltio was came across the “Bay Area Discovery Museum” (https://www.baykidsmuseum.org). We had not realized it was there and we were so glad that we decided to go. The boys loved it. It was in an old Military barracks looking back over towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the city skyline.  There were lots of areas for the boys to explore, both inside and in the outside areas. The gravelled construction zone  area was a definite highlight and it was a difficult extract the kids! I vaguely remember riding away with Sam screaming to go back! We then caught the ferry to the city which went past Alcatraz. I had been to Alcatraz when I first visited, however we could not get Ant a ticket as they book out so quickly – and especially over the holiday weekend. So hopefully Anthony can sneak back one day to check it out.

We are very fortunate to have a friend who lived (she has now moved to Sydney) in San Francisco, who Anthony had met when he was going his MBA. We were hoping to see Jen, Stephen and their baby girl Elyse, but poor Elyse was not well, and Stephen stayed home to care for her. So we had Jen all to ourselves! We met her at the California Academy of Science (http://www.calacademy.org) which is within the amazing Golden Gate Park. The day we went it was actually raining, so it was a perfect place to visit with two active boys. The boys loved it – especially the planetarium.. they chased (maybe terrified) the butterflies. They also enjoy watching all the fish in the in aquarium.

On our final day, it was literally pouring with rain.. more than we had seen in a very very long time! We loaded the boys in the pram and walked our way through puddles to the Exploratorium (http://www.exploratorium.edu). This, I have to say, was such a fantastic place to visit with the kids, and i think we actually enjoyed it more than the California Academy of Science, mainly for the reason that there were so many exhibits and the boys able to interact with them all. It was an extraordinary collection of scientific experiments which the kids could mostly do by themselves.

We loved San Francisco, it was obviously a very kid centric trip so we did not explore the fantastic resturants, the fish market and Alcatraz, but thats ok, as we had a great time, and learnt some good lessons about traveling with the boys.. and you never know when we maybe able to head back!

Tips:

– Do one main activity a day

– don’t try and squeeze to many things in one day

– down time needed… not just for the boys, but for us as well!

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East Coast Cooling

After being home for a few days after San Francisco, we hit the road (or the skies) of the East Coast! Anthony needed to be in Washington DC for a briefing, so we took advantage of the opportunity and decided to go with him. This would of course require lots of changes for us… mainly the weather. At that stage we were still in shorts and maybe a long sleeved top if it was little cool in Coronado.

With no direct flights from San Diego to Washington DC, we stoped over for a few hours in Dallas, Texas. It actually worked well as the boys were ready to stretch their legs. They were great on the flight – the power of the iPad is amazing! We arrived into Washington and immediately notice the change in temperature – the boys had to wear jumpers.. amazing!! The boys think the highlight of all travel is going in a taxi! So they are very easy to corral into collecting their baggage with a taxi ride to look forward to.

The next morning we woke up in the heart of Washington DC which was looking beautiful and wintery. The area where we were staying was located near the White House and walking distance to all the main attracts. As it was the beginning of December, the streets and houses were all decorated in readiness of the Christmas holidays. The festive atmosphere was aided by the cool crisp air, with the threat of snow on the forecast.

We rugged up and hit the streets to try and orient ourselves before Ant needed to head into the Embassy. We really had not realized how close we were to the White House! Our experience in San Fransisco taught us that our good old double pram is worth its weight in gold – even though the boys were nearly 3.5! So we loaded the boys up, and layered them in coats which they found very strange to do, and hit the sidewalks (so American!).

As we headed towards the White House we marveled at the beautiful old buildings and architecture of the city. As we arrived at the White House we could see and feel snow! The boys were amazed.. just as Ant and I were amazed by how small the White House looked! After seeing it in so many movies and news stories etc.

The following day we took in more of the Washington DC museums which are all free! The Smithsonian was a clear favorite of the boys (and ours) as it was really targeted at children (of all ages). The boys could climb over dinosaurs and cave people families! Again the pram was a huge benefit, so as the boys had a quick snooze we were able to walk to the other key sights. I have to say the reflection pool which looks up towards the Lincoln Memorial was truly amazing and breathtaking.

On our last day in Washington DC we headed to the Lincoln Memorial. I think Anthony and I could have spent considerably longer there it had not been for the freezing cold, and two little boys! The scale of the memorial is beyond what I expected and the view across the surrounding area was beautiful. Anthony and I both found the Vietnam War memorial very moving. Washington DC is certainly an amazing city, and I hope that we can return one day when the boys are older, or just with Anthony!

Our end destination of our trip to the East Coast was Boston, so we had a bit of driving to do. We left Washginton DC and made our way North East towards Boston. We travelled through some lovely country side – with lots of forests and threats of snow which the boys loved.  We were able to tick a few states off the list as we drove through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

We waved to New York as we drove past. We had decided not to go to New York on this trip. Ant and I had been to New York 3 years previously and had had such a an amazing time, and we knew it would be a very different experience with the boys.. and we wanted to tick on seeing some new parts of America.

On our travels, we did pass throughs Gettysburg and visited the Gettysburg Museum (http://www.nps.gov/gett/index.htm). The Museum was one of the best we have been to – the boys enjoyed it and Anthony and I realized how little we knew about American’s Civil War and to be honest, how recent it was. Again, it was one of those places Ant and I would love to go back to one day when we have some more time, and the boys are a little older. The boys loved the fact that it was snowing when we were there.

After a couple of days of driving (the boys were great) we arrived in Cape Cod for a few days of exploring and staying in a little house in Barnstable. Cape Cod is such a beautiful place, and I can only imagine how lovely it is during the warmer/summer months. We had rented a beautiful little cottage in a picturesque small town. We had three nights, and it was lovely have a our own space and beds after having been in hotel rooms for the previous 5 days.  While we were there we took the boys on a train ride to “Christmas Town” – it was a great musical held on an actual train – we went as it was getting dark and the railroad was decorated in all the christmas lights which the boys loved! It is clear why Cape Cod is such a favorite holiday destination – especially during summer. The Cape Cod architecture was beautiful and we loved the feel of the place – albeit a bit chilly in the middle of winter. 

Onwards we went through to Boston. Again, through Anthony’s MBA, we were able to catch up with more friends, James, Julie and their daughter Heather. We were staying right in the city which was great – so we met them at the hotel and they were able to take us a bit of a walking tour of Boston city. Heather was fantastic at helping keep the boys nice and busy as we explored the Boston Common. There had been a huge snow storm earlier in November (very early to happen)  – there were still piles of snow in the gardens which the boys were amazed by. We passed the good old “Cheers’ bar as well before we had a fantastic dinner in Beacon Hill.

Visiting Boston for us, could not be done without a quick trip to Harvard University. Having read too many case studies to remember during our MBA’s we felt that we had to see the famous university, and we were not disappointed. It was stunningly beautiful. You can walk through the university – and admire the amazing architecture and grounds.. and for a second pretend you are attending and just in-between classes – but then you are rudely reminded that you are only visiting when one of your children is desperate to go to the bathroom – and you are trying to avoid him pulling his pants down right there and peeing on one of the hallowed Harvard trees!!

One of the best things we did was spend a day at the Boston Children’s Museum (http://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org). We hadn’t intended to stay the entire day but i think we could have stayed for two. Again we jumped on to one of the city tour buses. We saved this for the last day – thankfully we did as it was raining! We had the bus to ourselves for most of the day. It certainly gave me a greater understanding of America’s history and the Civil War – I have so much more to learn.

We loved Boston and all the places we visited  – of course we didn’t get to see all the things we wanted to, but that is all part of the adventure – and the excuse to back again one day!

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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Four Bears and bare bottoms

We were so fortunate to have my parents come and stay again. This time we had decided that we would finally see some of this amazing country! We chose to visit Sequoia National Park based on recommendation from some friends here. While it is extremely hot at this time of the year, they said that as you headed into the mountains the temperature dropped making it perfect!

After a 6. 5 hour drive through some amazing (and less amazing) country side we finally arrived at our house we had booked at Three Rivers. Three Rivers is the last real town before you head into the the Sequoia National Park, located approximately three and half hour north east of Los Angles.  We drove up and had our first real LA traffic experience… not something I would like to do everyday! The boys were great considering the amount of time we spent in the car, and honestly the drive was worth it when arrived at the house we had booked.  The house was truly amazing. It was position on a hill overlooking the Serra Nevada mountains which make up the Sequoia National Park.

http://www.vrbo.com/360711

We arrived the day before mum and dad and were able to settle into the house and the pool! The first night watching the sunset with our toes in the water of the pool was like heaven. There are actually no words which can describe the immense size and beauty of the mountains. No photo could really ever capture it. Every night we all pinched ourselves.

Three Rivers, is aptly named! There are actually three rivers which run into it. We spent a morning with boys before Mum and Dad arrived exploring part of the Kaweah River. The height of the river varies greatly through out the year and was quite low when we visited. We started chatting to a couple with a daughter the same ages as the boys and soon found out they were locals and the guy actually worked at Sequoia National Park! So we were able to get recommendations and plan an itinerary for the next few days in the park.

As you drive through the National Park to reach the main walking tracks, you are constantly amazed at how the landscape changes from desert to the lush green forests of the Sequoias. We had the windows open most of the drive up each day as we tried to soak up the amazing scenery. You keep looking for Sequoias and think you have seen one, but when you do, you really know they are something truly amazing. The smell of the forests was also amazing, we ran out of words beside ‘WOW” to describe what were seeing. The boys mean while were playing with trucks pretty oblivious to the amazing spectacle right out their windows.

Here is a summary of the tracks/hike we undertook with the boys. We hope that one day we can return when the boys are a little older to stay in park and complete some of the longer walks.

Day One:

No visit to Sequoia National Park would be complete without a visit to the General Sherman – which is the largest known Sequoia in the park. The track is sealed and has really great information as you walk down to the park. The boys were great walking down, however needed a little assistance on the way back up.    General Sherman is the walk that everyone does on a trip to Sequoia so it was well set up and parking etc was great.

We then headed to Cresent Meadow for lunch. While we had be advised to be careful and aware of the bears, it was not until we sat down for lunch at the picnic tables that we had true appreciation of the work involved in protecting the bears.  The national park provides ‘bear boxes’ to lock away any food which you may have in your car so that the bears are not tempted to enter the car park and try and get into your car. The preservation of these  amazing animals is clearly at the forefront of everyones minds.

Crescent Meadow was amazing, it was again a relatively well sealed track, but was about 1.6 mile loop through to the Tharps Log. The scenery yet again took our breath away. It was not a very busy trail so we had time to stop and look at all the squirrels and other wild life that the boys found along the way. The entire track was shaded and the giant Sequoia butted up agains the path and provided constant wonderment and photo opportunities.

As we circled back around the meadow we were on the constant look for bears as we had been told that the bears like the meadow. In all honesty, I assumed that the bears would not really be around and instead the signage and bear boxes were more to keep us on edge and on the paths! But up ahead we could see that some people had stopped and there to a amazement were a mother bear and two of her cubs – they were literally 15 meters away from us, and they were completely at ease and took no interest in any of us. We just stood in shock at seeing these amazing creatures, whilst trying to make sure the boys were not too loud! Apparently there was a fourth one further around, but we did not see it.

On the way back down that night we saw another one in a meadow near the Big Tree Trail just off the side of the road.. Amazing!

http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/crescent-meadow-sequoia/

Day Two

The Crescent Meadow walk certainly tested the boys in regards to distance (and us as well as we enviably had to carry the boys some of the way), so when Anthony suggest an equally long distance walk which included a cave… I was certainly was not as enthusiastic as he was! We armed/bribed the boys with their own little torches to brave the cave. The Crystal Caves are only open during the warmer months and you have to purchase tickets at the main information centers within the park.

The tour is highly organized with set departure times and grew guides who brief you as you walk down to the cave and then meet you at the cave entry and lead you under ground. The caves were so lovely and cool, so you will need to bring jumper which was a novelty for us! The tour was fantastic with providing the history of when it was found by white settlers. The formations within the cave were quite spectacular.

http://www.sequoiahistory.org/default.asp?contentid=632

The boys loved the tour – they were a little boisterous at times but they were fascinated by the stalactites and stalagmites along with the “spider web’ door which was a the entrance of the cave. So, even though I though that the boys would not enjoy it, they did! Anthony was right yet again. After the cave visit we headed to the Lodgepole Visitor Centre which had a fantastic video about bears which we would highly recommend seeing. The visitor centre also gave a fantastic history of the Sequoia National Park and the animals and people who have and currently live there.

Day Three

Yet again, Anthony had a great idea that the boys could climb up Moro Rock. After the previous days effort I decided not to question him as he seems to have more confidence in the boys capabilities than I do! And yet again he was right. Moro Rock is as it sounds… a Rock.. but a Rock with a view .. and a view which is spectacular and definitely worth the heart palpitations I had as we walked/climbed up it. There are 350 steps to the top. Once you are at the top, you literally feel as though you are at the top of the world. There are uninterrupted 360′ views of the national park down the valley through to Three Rivers and beyond. Just breathtaking! We held onto the boys so tightly!

http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/moro-rock-sequoia/

After the adrenaline rush of Moro Rock we headed to the Big Tree Trail which is located near Giant Forest Museum (which is also well worth a visit). It was a very easy hike around a meadow – not nearly as beautiful at the Crescent Meadow hike, but we still would stop and admire all the Sequoia Trees as we past them. By this stage the boys interest in bears had increased ten fold so they were on the constant look out of them. After seeing the bear video at the Lodgepole Information Centre, and having read some children’s books aimed at educating kids about keeping bears wild, we were all experts on seeing evidence of bear activity!

http://www.visitsequoia.com

As you can see, we had the most amazing trip to Sequoia, made all the more wonderful that we could share it with my mum and dad. It has certainly made us realized that we have many more beautiful places to visit while we are here.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

The Farewell and The Arrival – January 3rd

Farewell Australia

Farewell Australia

I am going back over old ground here, but before I completely and utterly erase the flight from my living memory. Well, I am exaggerating slightly (see the memories are fading already0. Normally there is a sense of excitement when embarking on a flight… well that was before the boys and also I have never been on  flight where we are leaving the country for a long period of time.

We had had a wonderful evening the night before we flew out with our parents and our sisters (minus Jen, Den and Airely) at Robin and Carolyn’s house. It was very strange having to say good bye to our sisters and little Olly… but I know that we will see them before we know it (well I hope so).

I was very surprised, but I actually slept relatively well the night before. With our 7 bags, the kids back packs, we needed two cars to get us to the airport.  It was completely hectic at the airport with people either flying home or heading on holidays after the Christmas and New Year break. The grannies’ were in fine form watching their boys race all over the place, it meant that we could check in and get organised without having to worry about them jumping on the conveyer belt. By the time we got the tickets I was desperate to go through the gate.. as I knew that I would start to loose my composure. I was dreading having to say good-bye.

Anyway, we finally walked through the gates after lot of tears – and a quick rush back for a final hug and kiss with the parents and Joanna and Bas. The boys were getting a bit overwhelmed by this stage as they obviously had no idea what was going on. So we headed to the windows to check out the planes which helped distract them. Once we were called for the plane the boys were getting pretty excited … which was a worry as we were hoping they would start to calm down! As we were sitting towards the pointy end of the plane, we were quite apprehensive about how disrupted the boys may be on the flight. However, once we got our to our seats we realised that the majority of the people were under 16! So we could breath a sign of relief!

Well, I can’t speak highly enough of the flight attendants, they were fantastic with the boys. The boys were pretty impressed with the buttons on the chairs so that filled in hmm about 5 minutes every hour. We honestly did not get too much sleep. We left Melbourne at 11 am and the flight was for 14 hours, so not really the best time for the boys to fly. They had a 2 hour nap at the 4 hour mark and they kept them going until about 11 hrs…. where they starting getting a little more restless! Anthony was great with taking them up and down the aisles. But we had to laugh as we would see them same people walking up and down aisles with their kids, so at least we did not feel like we were the only ones. We had to wake the boys when we finally arrived in LA.

We had a quick change over to the domestic terminal once we arrived. We had requested assistance with our luggage and the service was fantastic. We were able to walk through to the domestic terminal and it was fantastic to get some very fresh cool air. We boarded the next flight and as we were taxi’ing out to the run way we could see one of our bags sitting on the tarmac! Ahhh by this stage we were all pretty exhausted. I don’t remember much of the fight to San Diego, as I think we all just passed out with exhaustion.

It was amazing flying into San Diego, I really had not realised how close we were to the Mexican border and also how arid the land is around the main city. Again we had to wake the boys when we landed. We were very kindly met by the family (Kirsten and Brad) who we were replacing. It truly made such a difference to see two smiling and welcoming faces after our trip. It was such a thoughtful thing to do, as trying to get the luggage and find the car hire place may have pushed things to far! With all our luggage we would not have been able to fit it in one car anyway!

We then went to our temporary accommodation. Kirsten had been shopping and put together an amazing hamper of things to get us through the next few days, including an amazing dinner. All these little things made the transition here so much easier. We finally got all our bags into the apartment and we agree to a 1 hour nap before getting out and finding out where we were!

So, the 14 hour flight was not great, but then I keep thinking of my friends who have flown back to the UK a number of times with younger kids.. the thought of another 10 hours was enough to keep me grounded here for a little while. The boys were overall very good, for two little active kids they behaved exactly as expected. I can highly recommend stickers and iPads!! Oh and the Planes movie… not that I have watched the whole thing yet, I can confirm the first 20 mins were great.. I have watched it about 10 times now.

 

Jack

Sambo enjoying the movies