Friday, May 30, 2014

Stonehenge and Cousins!

It's been a very busy week! On Monday we took students to Stonehenge and surrounding areas, which meant I was out for the entire day.  It was a lovely day for me because I've not actually been to Stonehenge before, and it was a treat to go with some of my favourite students.

Whilst I was doing that, Rich and the boys met up with my sister and her family. They had a lovely time wandering around London, ending up at the Tate Modern, which has a huge space that's ideal for kids to run around!

This is Avebury, which has a stone circle and lots of lovely sheep and lambs.

Here I am in one of the ancient stones...

And then at Stonehenge.

Meanwhile the cousins were getting reacquainted at the park (while it was dry!).

The next day was a free day for me so we all went to the Natural History Museum. Again, I've not been before and it was a phenomenal place - even the building itself is worth a visit.

Raf was a bit scared of the dinosaur exhibit at first, but he ended up liking it. His very favourite thing was the escalator through the planet and then 'experiencing' an earthquake!

That's a big one....!

Outside we met a sort of unfriendly robot!

And then to Wagamanas for some noodles. Rory adores his little cousin Charlie. And Charlie was really getting in to the noodles, and he even tried the chopsticks!

Aunty Melissa looks after Charlie, which was really nice for me as I got to eat lunch without Charlie throwing food all over me!

Raf was unsure of the noodles but he did love the tofu.

Favourite Uncle Sam!

Melissa and I were booked in for tea at the Ritz. Much to my dismay, though, she cancelled it as it was going to be a very late tea... Not to be derailed, we did head for a still fairly posh cream tea at Selfridges, and Charlie came with us while the other kids went to a toy shop with Rich and Sam. Charlie very much enjoyed his first tea, and even had a sip of mine.

I should also mention that I did share a nice bottle of Rose with Melissa at All Bar One, which helped make up for the Ritz! Whilst there the kids were sort of crazed. At one point they disappeared downstairs to the loo, and a man came up asking, 'are those your children?' We were all set to deny this (fearing the worst and that we'd be charged with neglect) when he said, 'they're simply delightful'!

The next morning Melissa came over and we headed to the park for one final wet soggy walk. 

And then to warm up the older kiddos watched some TV together on the iPad. Amazingly there was no real argy bargy! We'll see them again when we return! Lots of wonderful memories.

Monday, May 26, 2014

London... Part One: Journey and Cambridge

We're in the UK! We arrived on Thursday morning and it's been somewhat of a whirlwind since we got here. I'm traveling with 2 colleagues and 25 students - as well as the boys, of course. Lots of photos are on my other camera (of course I forgot the lead) so just a few pics from our first couple of days. The trip to the airport was rather brutal, with Charlie basically experiencing his first tantrum on the bus to Logan. Not one tantrum, but two 30 minute body meltdowns with screaming, flailing, and general displeasure. It didn't bode well! Added to that we'd had Raf's kindergarten screening that morning, so things were rather hectic. 

Here they are calmly waiting to head to Portland.... where our kind friends Jen and David picked up our car for us so we wouldn't have to pay hefty parking fees for the time we're away.

The calm before the storm.

Rich and Raf napped en route.. whilst I tried to hold on to a rather rigorous toddler.

Frankly I was mildly terrified of the plane ride given our bus experience... and Raf was completely hyper at the airport. Which was super when you're helping to shepherd 25 students through the airport, too!

Uh oh...

But the boys were fantastic. They really were. They played, ate, and then SLEPT!

And they they were fairly good en route from the airport into London (we're staying at Regents College, a beautiful part of London).

And a beautiful campus for our students. We're staying in a pretty cramped but pleasant room, and the grounds abut Regent's Park, which is spectacular.

We mostly walked around, trying to keep awake on Thursday. The boys fell asleep earlyish, only for Raf to wake at 12:20am for almost 3 hours. Gah, jet lag! On the Friday I was really busy with the students. We visited St. Pauls (phenomenal) and Westminster Abbey, followed by a welcome to London Meal in one of the oldest pubs in London. I didn't hold back on the chips.

On Saturday we took the group to Cambridge and the boys hitched a ride. It was pretty rainy and we were booked for a punting tour down the River Cam. Rather last minute, I asked Raf if he wanted to join us, as the boats are very sturdy, and he hopped aboard. It was a lovely hour (and the sunshine appeared, even) touring The Backs. We had three boats of 10 people out, and we managed to go down the river together, with all the punters serving as guides. A very fun afternoon.

We headed for a pub lunch afterward and then headed to Pembroke College (where I went to university) for a quick tour. We only managed to see part of it, but it's a beautiful college, the third oldest of the Cambridge colleges. 

The boys are being nice and quiet.... The college is 14th century, so many, many beautiful buildings.

Including the chapel.

We left to meet an old Cambridge fiend and his family at the Botanical Gardens and Raf feel sound asleep!

The gardens are quite breathtaking.

My favourite are the beehive gardens (bee-attracting flowers with their own beehives contained in the flowerbed. Really very pretty).

We had a great meet-up with our old friend Phil and his wife Cathy and their lovely kids. We hadn't seen Phil since he visited us in the States in 2002! Photos are on my proper camera so I'll be back to add some!