Final Day of UK Trip

Yesterday I went to the office at my usual time and only Chloe was awake when I passed the bedrooms.  I took the tube as per usual into the office.  I forgot to mention in yesterday’s blog that the tube in front of us had an emergency passenger alarm pulled while in the station so we ended up being stuck between stations for about 10 minutes.  Not a good experience for anyone that is claustrophobic!  Fortunately the tubes are much less congested at the moment (at least in the morning) because it is now school holiday’s in the UK.  Makes for a much more pleasant trip to work as I now can get a seat.  I had a reasonable amount of work to do in that I needed to wrap up with my senior staff and sort out a few outstanding client matters as well.  At 9:30am I tried phoning the flat but got no answer so I thought that Helen and the kids were out.  I tried both their mobile phones and also no answer, so I sent a text to their phones telling them to call me when they could.  I got a call from a sleepy Helen saying ‘What do you want?’  I quickly established that they were all still in bed.  You could just see how busy the day was going to be for them!

They spent the morning cleaning the flat with everyone having a task to do.  They had no plans to go out and so all they did was pack up and clean up.  Helen had to take some wine to the chairman of the company that owns the school that she works at and the kids are studying at.  He is a member of one of those clubs on the Mall.  You have to take a taxi to it because you wouldn’t otherwise know which club it was – they either don’t have any name at all (or number) or they only have a very small name plate.  Visitors aren’t welcome at these clubs (especially women usually) and so they don’t advertise themselves much if at all.  Most of them only have membership by invitation.  She did manage to find the club (courtesy of a taxi driver) and besides this outing the only other she did was to the hairdresser.

By the time I got back to the flat (at around 2:30pm), most of the packing was done and I just needed to pack the final suitcase.  The problem was that there were way too many things to fit into that one suitcase.  We sifted out the read books and put them to one side and I will bring them back on my next trip.  Even with this there still seemed to be too much for the suitcase. Some repacking was done of the kids’ suitcases and with a little pushing and shoving we managed to get everything in.  We did have to take an extra backpack for the books we brought back (at least 30).  I had organised for a taxi to take us to the airport and he called just before 4pm to say he was downstairs.  As there really isn’t any space to park downstairs (the flat is on Victoria St), he did a trip around the block while we came down with the luggage.  Of course, just at the point he returned it started to rain (again).  We managed to get everything into the minivan including ourselves and we headed for Heathrow.

It was just the start of rush hour and so we got stuck in traffic and it took us around an hour to get to the airport.  We left from Terminal 5 (the new terminal) which is nice looking but there are a number of practical flaws.  We checked in and then wanted to go through the nearest security checkpoint only to be told that we could use it as I flight departed after 6pm.  This meant walking all the way to the other side of the terminal to the other security check point.  Of course another 1000 people were also going through security at that precise moment.  Fortunately they are quite organised and we didn’t have to wait too long.  Michael though set off the security body scanner – it must have been his electric personality that did it because he had nothing else on him.  They wouldn’t search him until I had given permission (I wonder what they would have done if I said no?).

We then headed for the BA lounge which was on the other side of the terminal building.  By the time we got there I was looking forward to sitting down.  When we turned our backs, Michael and Chloe had vanished and Helen set off to find them.  They had found the food, dished what they wanted and were sitting down at a table eating.  Helen and the kids went out to have a brief look at the shops and Michael bought himself a large chocolate (which he plans to share with his friends at school) and Stephen bought a Digital photography magazine.  Otherwise everyone was shopped out.  We left the lounge at around 6:35pm as we had to get to satellite B for our departure gate.  This requires that you take the longest escalator I have ever seen down to the train and then the train across to B and then another escalator up into the satellite terminal.  By the time we had done that our plane was about to board.  The plane was ready to leave on time but as a squall had hit Heathrow about 10 minutes prior to our departure; it resulted in a slight delay.

Michael sat by himself (one row in front of the rest of us) and then Chloe had the window seat with me next to her in the aisle, Mom had the other aisle and then Stephen in the window again.  The window seats face backwards and I don’t like flying backwards – just feels wrong.  The service on the flight was good, it was slightly bumpy but everyone got a reasonable (though shortened) night’s sleep after we had finished watching the movie we had each chosen.

It was an enjoyable and relaxing trip and we are already thinking & planning for next trip.  We have a game park visit booked in September which is just a short break of 3 days.  I will probably blog it as I usually do – the most enjoyable part will be the photos (hopefully) from that trip.

Hope you enjoyed the read … we enjoyed the holiday.  We’re now back in CT where it is icy cold but at least clear.  It will some time to get used to the darkness at 6pm rather than 11pm!

Until next time.

Peter, Helen, Stephen, Michael & Chloe

Day 18 of UK Trip

I knew that I would eventually forget to type an update before I went to bed and it happened last night.  So here it is a little late but at least you get to read it still.  I was awake and off to work again before anyone else in the flat was up.  Michael did wave to me from his bed before I left but that was the closer it came to having anyone awake.  I had a no-client day in the office so I was able to catch up on a lot of emails and internal work that needed to be done.  It is amazing that while I sit in London working I think of all the things that need to be done in SA and when I am in SA I think of everything that needs to be done in SA.  There must be some type of ‘Murphy’s law’ for that.

Helen and the kids went out to Little Venice yesterday.  Now most of you probably haven’t head of that – don’t worry – neither had I.  They took the tube to Paddington and then walked from there to Little Venice.  It is a series of canals and Helen says it is really beautiful around there and where she could live if we ever moved to London.  I can only just imagine the price of the houses!  They took a boat on the canal which passes under London Zoo and under the largest aviary in the UK (maybe even in the world?).  While they found it fascinating to see they all felt a little sorry for the birds who were so constricted in space (even though it was the largest aviary in the UK).  The boat trip was about an hour and went from Little Venice up to Camden Town.  They went to see the series of locks (canal locks not house locks for the ignorant types that read this – Marcus) and then had lunch at a pub in Camden.  They then caught the tube back again to the flat.  They seemed to have a thoroughly enjoyable day.

I got home at about 6:30pm and after playing 2 games of tennis on the Wii against Michael & Stephen (the result is of course obvious), we went out for dinner at the Spanish Tapas restaurant which is nearby (Janet – you know the place).  We ordered way too much but it was a really nice meal and then walked back and stopped in at Sainsbury’s to buy a few things to take back to SA and also to stock up on a few ready-made meals for me as I am back again in a week’s time.  Then the rest of the evening was spent packing.  A lot of packing still needs to be done but so far we have 1 suitcase full & closed, a new acquired backpack full of books (don’t ask how many books we are bringing back!) and Helen and the kids will have to do the rest this morning as I am about to go to work!

One last update will be sent tomorrow morning when we get home.

Day 18 of UK Trip

What still staggers me about the UK is the number of people smoking outside.  Of course they can no longer smoke indoors so they are all outside but there seem to be an inordinate number of them outsiders.  It struck me again this morning as I was walking to the tube at 8am (while everyone else was still sleeping) that almost everyone I passed was smoking.  Unfortunately I had to walk twice to the tube station because I forgot my tie the first time.  Just as well that I did because I found the key in the door of the flat from last night still!  Helen would have been looking for it everywhere.  Just as well England is a safe place.

I had my usual time at work going from meeting to meeting and taking and making phone calls to the SA office in between.  We had a client lunch today and as we always do we walked there.  It was about a 20 minute walk (there and back).  We went to an Italian restaurant and the food was quite good (more Italian Chris but I avoided the pasta as I am very self-conscious now following your hurtful remarks).  Helen and the kids were going to come through to the office today so they could see where I worked but when I phoned to check if that was still on, Helen said that because it was raining (yes again), that they wanted to stay in the flat.  That meant I could work longer so I eventually left work at 6pm and headed back to the flat.

Helen and the kids had pretty much spent their day in and around the flat.  They had gone out to fetch the boys’ Oyster Cards (for them to go on the tube/buses at reduced prices) from Victoria Station and they had done some shopping especially for dinner (from Marks & Spencer).  Michael had been getting in his Wii tennis and even Chloe is now playing in tournaments.  I tried my hand at beating Stephen and Michael and to ensure that they maintain a healthy self-esteem (unlike mine was has taken a battering from Chris), I let them both win.

After dinner we went from a walk down into St James Park and probably added 10 ‘lifers’ just from the park.  It had turned into a lovely evening and we walked around the park and enjoyed the birds and the scenery around us.  It was twilight and the lights from the historical buildings on the Mall and from the London Eye looked beautiful as a backdrop.  We got back to the flat at 9:30pm which gave me some time for a little Wii playing and unfortunately I was knocked out of the Australian Open by John McEnroe after an epic struggle that lasted 18 minutes.  I must have burned off at least the desert today with all that playing and my shoulder is really hurting now.  Might have to phone in sick tomorrow.

Kids in bed, Helen watching TV and I am sure we will soon be heading for another night’s peaceful sleep.

Day 17 of UK Trip

It was back to work for me today again.  We were still in Scotland but I had to catch the 8:30am train to Glasgow to visit a client.  While I getting up I got a text message from our marketing head to say that his plane was delayed and after a few text messages and then phone calls we agree to try and push back our 10am client meeting but still go ahead with the visit.  I decided to catch the 9am train to Glasgow and got there at just before 10am.  Our marketing head arrived at 10:30am (the BA crew hadn’t arrived for the flight – something to do with swine flu!).  Fortunately the client was still able to see us and it was quite a productive meeting.  We walked back to the station.  Glasgow is (in my view) a deserted city.  There is hardly anyone around, parking is freely available on the streets and you hardly see anyone walking around.  Where are all the people?  Who keeps all the shops and especially all the coffee shops going?  We caught the 12:15 train back to Edinburgh as our next meeting was back there again.

Helen and the kids in the meanwhile slept on though Helen was disturbed by the room cleaning people wanting access to the rooms.  They had breakfast (I assume because we never discussed this minor detail) and then they went back to the room until check out (which they had managed to push back to 1pm).  The plan was that we would meet for lunch back in Edinburgh and we timed it perfectly as we got back to the hotel at 1:15pm just after Helen had checked out.  We went back to the pub we had eaten at for our first lunchtime in Edinburgh and finished up at about 2:15pm.  Helen and the kids went shopping and I later evidenced their handiwork in that they managed to buy about 15 or 16 books (who knows where we are fitting those in the suitcases – just as well I am back in a week’s time again).   We headed off for our next meeting and while the plan was to walk, it was of course raining again (though this morning there was not a cloud in the sky!).  So we picked up a cab instead and it took us about the 500 yards we needed to travel (but at least we were dry).

Our second business meeting also went well (they are a client who like us) and then I walked back to find Helen and the kids at the station.  They had gotten all the luggage to the station and were reacquainting themselves with Cafe Nerd again (it was familiar territory).  I arrived at about 4:20pm and our train was scheduled to depart at 5pm.  We moved everything to the correct platform and waited for the train to arrive which is duly did (on time) and we managed to get on an stow all the luggage and settle in for the 4 hour 45 minute journey back to London Kings Cross.  It was an uneventful journey with the kids reading, playing cards and just generally annoying me from time to time.  Helen always gets to sit be herself on these types of trips so she was fast asleep and oblivious to the world.  The scenery for the first section of the journey is quite spectacular as the train runs along the East coast (and sometimes right along the edge).  After about 45 minutes the scenery changes to farm lands and dales which is equally interesting but not as dramatic.  It is really quite an enjoyable train trip.   I tried to do a little work and my plan was to write the blog on the train as well but the Wi-Fi connection was incredibly slow and erratic and it was just irritating me so I quit and read instead.

We got back at 9:45pm and took a taxi from Kings Cross back to the flat.  London is definitely a few degrees warmer and the flat even hotter & muggier than outside – thank goodness we have some aircons in the flat.  I challenged Michael to a quick game of Wii tennis which turned out to be a very quick game given that I was trying to go for winners as Michael boringly just stroked the ball back (he just wears you down!).  I suggested that we leave the Wii here in London (my secret plan was to get some practice so that I can properly challenge and whip Michael) but that wasn’t met with a lot of enthusiasm.

A long day and sitting around travel always takes it out of you (not really me as it is now 12:15am and I am still quite wide awake).  The kids are fast asleep though and I am sure by the time I press send Helen will be as well.  I have to get up early tomorrow for work so I better finish this now and head for bed.

Good night!

PS: Some people have requested to view some of our pics.  We (being Stephen) has loaded some on the blog.  If you look at the top of the page you will see tabs – one being Home the next one being Photos.  Click on photos and then click on the link to Flicker and you can see some of our trip photos.  I am sure he will add some more tomorrow as well.

Day 16 of UK Trip

Another day and the one thing that you could be assured of is more rain.  However, at least today it was minimal and didn’t disrupt our day at all.  We learnt from our experience of Saturday morning and gave Chris sufficient time to put on his make-up and therefore agreed breakfast at 9:30am.  That still really isn’t late enough for all the eateries in the area who seem to only serve breakfast from 10am.  We did find a place up the Royal Mile called the Filling Station.  After being ignored for about 5 minutes I wondered if it was a self-service place and the name was illustrative of the fact (as all petrol stations here are self-service).  Maybe we had to cook our own breakfast in the kitchen and pay on the way out?  And then I eventually got the attention of the waitress was obviously wasn’t coping with the other 2 people in the restaurant that she was serving.  Go back to ‘After being …’ and repeat again about 5 times and that seemed to be the way breakfast went in that we had to get her attention to order, get her attention to get milk for the coffee, get her attention to point out that she hadn’t brought the juice, get her attention to bring the bill etc.  Fortunately we weren’t in a hurry and so we used the time to talk and enjoy each other’s companies (the only other thing to do was try to get the waitresses attention).

After breakfast we headed further up the Royal Mile to visit Edinburgh Castle while the Nels went for another walk.  We agreed to meet one last time for coffee and parting farewells.  Unfortunately the rest of Scotland (and some of Asia and Spain) had also decided that today was the day to visit the Castle and so we spent about 25 minutes in the queue for tickets.  Stephen (of course) pointed out when we were about 5 minutes from the front of line that we should have just booked on the Internet using my mobile phone.  Pity he didn’t think of that 20 minutes earlier!  I had forgotten that we now have a teenager in the house and I should have asked him for advice on the situation at the beginning so it really was my fault.  I learn by my mistakes though so the next time we visit the Castle I will make sure to book online before arriving.  Fortunately it wasn’t raining and in fact the sun was out.

We did get into the Castle eventually and walked about the various walls and museums including queuing for 25 minutes to see the Scottish Crown Jewels (which weren’t that impressive).  The chapel in the Castle was built in 1100 – apparently the oldest standing building in Scotland.  It really does put things into perspective when the building you’re in was around 900 years ago!  We visited the dungeons and prisoner of war exhibitions as well.  When we finished visiting the last exhibition, as we exited back outside the wind was suddenly howling and then it started to drizzle again.  We had finished seeing what we wanted to see so we headed back to the hotel and met up with the Nels again.

Alison was very happy because she had found a handbag for her outfit for her son’s upcoming wedding.  I was ‘horrified’ that she had shopped on a Sunday and Chris immediately replied ‘It twas the woman’ – I stayed outside.  He then proceeded to say that he stayed outside the shop.  All he needed to be doing was eating an apple at that point and I could have mistaken him for Adam.  We enjoyed our parting ice creams and then Chris and Alison headed back home to the Yorkshire dales.  It was good to see them again and catch up and I did pass on everyone’s good wishes that sent them to me!

We came back to the hotel room so that I could watch the golf for the afternoon.  There is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in July than in watching the British Open and it was all the better for actually being in Scotland while it was happening.  It is a pity that Watson at 59 didn’t win but it was enjoyable to watch anyway.  Helen went out shopping while I was watching (Twas the woman) and came back with less money and more books.  We had dinner this evening at an Italian restaurant (again) which made it 3 evenings in a row eating Italian.  This was probably the best of the 3 restaurants we visited (sorry Chris & Alison) except for the fact that Helen found a spider in her pasta.  Fortunately when she noticed it, it still had seven legs so she hadn’t eaten most of it.  They were very gracious & apologetic in replacing it but Helen never quite recovered.  Stephen (our all-knowing teenager) did inform us all of an interesting fact about spiders though.  For those of you who didn’t know, in our lifetimes we (on average) swallow 8 spiders during the night while we are sleeping.  So Helen has probably increased her intake to 8 1/8ths.

This is the end of holiday for me as I am back to work tomorrow (someone has to pay for holiday).  Sleep well.

Day 15 of UK Trip

I just realised (12:20) that I forgot to write the blog for today (or actually strictly speaking yesterday now).  I woke up at around 8:15 and then eventually got up at 8:45 when I couldn’t resist the call of the bathroom.  When I came back into the room Helen was stirring and she asked what time it was.  I said 8:45 but she didn’t believe me since she thought it was around 5am as it was dark in the room.  The black curtains definitely do their job!  We had agreed to go to breakfast at 9:15am with Chris & Alison and as that seemed unlikely to happen (as the kids were still sleeping), I sent a text to Chris to suggest 9:30am breakfast.  They readily accepted and then even at 9:30am when we were ready; Chris was still putting on his makeup so we had to wait a few more minutes.

As the hotel breakfast was £24 per person and as we didn’t think we could eat that much for breakfast, we went out to find a place. Helen has spotted the pub across the way did an ‘All-day breakfast’ (not a liquid one!) but when we got there we discovered the pub only opened at 10am.  We did find a place up the Royal Mile without having to walk the full mile.  Stephen was the only adventurous eater in that he had the Traditional Scottish Breakfast which came with Haggis.  He gave it a try and deemed it to be ‘flowery’.  I tasted it too (I have eaten Haggis previously so I am now a connoisseur) and I agreed it was a little ‘flowery’ and not as nice as the one I ate previously.  Might have been too much bone and too little brains in it.

After breakfast, the Nels went-a-walking (up and down the Royal Mile we heard later).  Chris reckoned they be doing 2 miles with all the walking they be doing today (one mile up the Royal Mile and one mile back again).  We went on an open-top bus tour.  The kids sat outside in the light drizzle (of course it is still raining) and Helen and I sat on the top but under shelter.  The hotel concierge suggested we use the Green bus as it had entertaining live guides.  We took his advice, the only problem being we didn’t understand much of what the guide was saying.  He should have warned us that they were speaking a foreign language as we would have taken the English bus then.  We did pick up the odd word about gallows, hangings, ghosts, exhuming bodies and selling them to the Royal College of Surgeons etc.  We also got a good overview of Edinburgh, saw some people playing Croquet (much to Michael’s amusement), some more playing soccer and a smattering of Scottish History (which Helen says is unimpressive that is the history not the croquet).  The bus tour took just over an hour and we disembarked at the same place we embarked and then walked back (with a few stops in the shops on the way back) to the hotel.  The morning had passed us by and due to the strenuous activity of the morning we decided on a short rest before going out for lunch.

We picked a sandwich place (O’Briens – I thought we were in Scotland not Ireland?!) and lo and behold, who were sitting there relaxing but none other than the famous Nels.  We got our lunch and joined them for a wee bite and drink (which would later cause us to need to do the thing that came before bite).  After lunch, we ambled down to the Museum of Childhood.  On the bus tour we were told that if there was one thing we definitely should do is visit the museum and as it was free, we gave it a try.  It was so good actually that I think they should charge for it.  We spent just under an hour wandering around.  They had various exhibits mainly of ‘old’ toys – many of them I recognised as things we played with.  Big Ears & Noddy plasticene sets (I am sure my brother and sisters would remember those if they saw it again – well maybe not Meryl she is getting old now and her memory is fading), toy cars, box cars, tricycles and dolls (including even Gollywog who we thought would be banned from such a museum).  There were also some old toys you could play with and Chris was forever fighting off the kids to get his chance at it.  Fortunately Alison was there to restrain him.  It was quite enjoyable (for everyone) and I happily gave a donation when we exited.

That had really tired out Helen who now needed her afternoon nap and so while Chris & Alison went down to use the hotel’s pool and sauna (Chris assures me that while he was naked in the sauna, he did hang the Do Not Disturb sign from the room on the sauna door handle), Helen got in afternoon nap while I did some CBD work and watched the British Open golf.  I am looking forward to the final round tomorrow … Tom Watson (at 59 years old and is a previous 5 times champion) is leading by one stroke and at least one South African (Retief Goosen) is in the running as well (at 2 shots back).  Will be a really interesting afternoon tomorrow (so you know what I will do for worship tomorrow).

We went out for dinner at 7pm and it took us until about 7:30pm to find a place to eat at.  We discovered that the pubs can only take children up to 8pm (not sure if that is a Scottish thing or an English thing as well) and so after walking down the Royal Mile for about 300 yards, we walked back up it again and eventually found an Italian restaurant to eat at.  The owner was very friendly and the food was again good.  The owner came half way through and asked me if I wanted a spoon to eat my spaghetti with because he said I ate like an Italian (I was wrapping the spaghetti around my fork like Italians do and he was clearly impressed).  Of course the Brits cut up their spaghetti into small bits so I did stand out I guess.

It is incredibly noisy (we have the window open but I am going to close it now) as there are bachelor and hen parties going on downstairs in the road.  There will be a few people with sore heads tomorrow am!

Day 14 of UK Trip

The night was permeated by the heavy drops of rain falling not just from the sky but also from the tree.  Note to self: don’t park under a tree when in a motorhome when it is raining.  I was first to wake at 8:30am this morning and as we didn’t want to use the onboard toilet (because we had emptied it and didn’t want to re-do it before returning it), I had to get up and use the facilities outside the motorhome.  This woke up Helen and Chloe and Michael and Stephen followed shortly after.  While Helen was showering (or washing) without soap, we started packing up all our clothes into the suitcases again.

We had breakfast, washed up and then finished our packing.  We only just over an hour to get back into Edinburgh and so we weren’t in a rush.  We left at just after 10am and it didn’t take long to find our way back to the block of flats to drop off the motorhome.  The SPG directed us and we simply didn’t believe it when it said turn right when it showed a left turn but after driving arriving the block again after missing the turn, we got it right the second time and found the correct place.  The owner came down to fairly promptly to check through the motorhome and then went up to call a taxi for us to get us into Edinburgh.

We got to the hotel (Radisson on the Royal Mile) at around 12pm.  It is a hotel we have stayed at during all our previous trips to Edinburgh (this is the 3rd as a family) and it is a really nice hotel and situated in an ideal place.  Up the road is Edinburgh Castle and down the road is Holyrood Palace.  One road down is Princes Street (which is the shopping area).  Even though check-in time was only 2pm they were able to give us one room and Helen promptly had a bath, washed her hair and came out announcing that this is really the way she looks.

We were all quite hungry at this stage so we headed for lunch.  It was still drizzling (as it had done the whole day so far) and so we just headed up the road a little and found a nice pub and had a sandwich (Michael only really) and the rest of us had soup.  We then went back to the hotel to unwind and relax and wait for our invited guests – Chris & Alison Nel – to arrive.  They drove up from their home in Yorkshire and as the weather was really bad, they took longer than they expected.  Chris said that right at the place which announced they were crossing into Scotland, it was raining harder than at any other place along the route – that seems to be Scottish weather.  If you watched any of the British Open golf today, you would have seen what the weather is like.  Windy, overcast and sometimes raining.  At about 7pm it started to clear at the golf and one of the foreign (read US) commentators said “What is it about Scotland, the best weather seems to be between 7pm and 9pm each evening”.  That comment echoes my thinking – we have definitely had the best weather between 7pm and 9pm each evening (except for tonight when it was still raining).

This afternoon we walked down the road to John Knox’s house.  It is just about 200 yards down the road and the last time we were here they were renovating the house so we couldn’t visit it.  John Knox (for those of you who don’t know) was a great Scottish Reformer.  He was said to have died in the house though he didn’t live in it for that long.  The house is now a museum to his life and it was interesting to see some of the original paneling, ceilings and artwork still in place.  They also pay a lot of respect to Knox’s preaching ability.  Apparantely the Catholic’s feared Knox coming to preach in one of ‘their’ villages as his preaching had such a great effect that he empty the Catholic Churches.  They admitted that he was a great orator but more than that, that his preaching was obviously especially blessed due to the effect it had.  There were quite a few comments in this vain in the house.  I thought it was amazing that he never had his head chopped off.  In an age that disagreements were settled in this fashion, it was incredible (if not miraculous) that he survived opposing three Queens (including Mary Queen of Scots and Bloody Mary) who were all staunch Catholic Church supporters.  His arguments with each of them are apparantely renowed.

They also have an amazing collection of old books including Calvin’s Institutes (an original copy), one of the key Erasmus books, Knox’s History of Reformation in Scotland and the first English Bible printed in England.  What amazed me was that it could have been a foreign language.  The English was vastly different from what we understand to be English and so you can see how much the language has developed.  For instance they use ‘f’ instead of ‘s’ which makef for interefting reading.  That if juft one of the thingf that I noticed though.

As it was raining quite hard this evening we simply went to the nearest restuarant up the road which happened to be an Italian place.  It was exceptionally good for the price and the gelato was incredible.  It was really nice catching up with Chris & Alison and discussing issues of common interest (like UK health & safety regulations, family, friends and of course churches and CBD).  They will stay over the weekend and leave on Sunday for their home.  It is great to have friendships that stand the test of time and that when you see friends like this again you simply can pick up where we last left off.

The kids are now watching Star Trek in their room (they are sleeping together in 3 separate beds so no arguments about whether Chloe kicked Michael or Michael kicked Chloe) and Helen and I are watching (or should I say) listening to the First Night at the Proms from the Royal Albert Hall.  Quite nice background music while working (we both have our laptops out – Helen is probably checking Facebook her regular blogs and catching up on everything she has missed during the last week).

I am finishing much earlier tonight than usual as I plan to go to bed earlier.  Hope you all had a good week (especially those of you who were working while we were holidaying!).

Day 13 of UK Trip

I think it is official now – it has rained every day we have had the motor home.  Today started off with the sun out and it looked like it had cleared but as we headed further south so it became more overcast and by the time we had found the caravan park for this evening and settled in, it started to rain again (to be more precise it started raining just after Helen got back from the toilet and I was in the toilet).  Then it cleared up again later this evening and it was quite a nice evening but it started raining about 30 minutes ago (just when I needed the toilet again) and while I type this it is raining again.  It hasn’t spoiled the time we have had but it would have improved our enjoyment of the trip if we had better weather (meaning less rain).

This morning I was dreaming that an elephant was about to crush the motor home and I woke up with a fright only to realise that it was Helen jumping off the top bunk above me (I am going to pay for putting that comment in!).  It was 8:30am and everyone else was still asleep but Helen figured it was time to wake everyone up and so she did her Ninja impression by jumping off the top bunk.  It did the trick as everyone soon woke up and the morning routine kicked in.  Helen went for a shower and then when she got back, I went.  We figured that the Brits/Scots shower in the morning (their weekly shower) and obviously today was a popular day because we both found the showers to be quite full.  Even the basins were quite well used with those people not showering washing themselves in the basin (sans clothes … no I am not exaggerating).  When I showered the water pressure was so low that I wondered if I would be successful in getting the shampoo out (but I was fortunately otherwise it would have ruined my day).  All the time I was showering I kept telling myself not to leave the soap and shampoo in the shower and then tonight when Helen asked where the shampoo and soap were, I suddenly remembered that I had left them in the shower.  Fortunately it is the last evening so we will all follow the British example and skip showers tonight and tomorrow.  Hopefully they will let us check-in to the hotel in Edinburgh tomorrow despite the collective smell.

As I mentioned above, we drove south again this morning until we came to Oban.  Oban is a town directly east of the Isle of Mull and is the ferry port to Mull.  We thought we might go over to Mull but as we only got to Oban at 11:15 and then spent about one and half hours wandering around (and having ice creams and all buying an article of clothing – watch out for the kids Scottish shirts), we decided against it and rather started to head inland (east) back to Edinburgh.  We had driven through a nice town on the way out last Saturday and Helen had discovered it had 2 caravan parks, one of which was rated the best park in the UK in 2003.  That doesn’t really say much because I always wonder why they weren’t the best park in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008?  But we decided to head there anyway.  We stopped on the roadside for lunch which works really well except that when truck or another motor home pass by the whole motorhome shakes from side to side.

We got to the park at 3:15pm and found a good spot.  Probably the “levelest” spot we have found so far – we had kept the best for last (or we are getting better at picking the spots).  Helen and I decided to do some “reading” on our beds and when I next looked it was 5:45pm and I had only managed about 5 pages (I must learn to concentrate better).  The kids had occupied themselves with soccer, spying and who knows what while Helen and I ‘relaxed’.

Supper this evening was Spagetti & Tomato and cheese (one of my favourites) and we also had sauteed vegetables with Brie cheese (you probably can tell we were using up the last of the food).  We have done quite well with planning meals and supplies and I think tomorrow we will flatten most of the rest of what we have left before we drop off the motorhome.  Everyone is now asleep (as they should be, it’s 12:30am!).  We are only about an hour outside of Edinburgh so tomorrow morning will be spent packing up of things before we head out.

We discussed the trip today and everyone agrees that it wasn’t as good as our Irish motorhome holiday.  We think the reasons were:

1. Weather was better in Ireland (hard to believe but there we had 6 straight days of no rain vs 6 days of rain in Scotland)

2. More to do in Ireland (we stopped more often, drove less as there was more to see and do)

3. Nicer motorhome in Ireland (this one has been quite cramped and not as well designed)

4. Nicer campsites in Ireland (every Ireland campsite would be rated 5-stars here in Scotland – actually they might have to introduce a 6th star for Irish campsites)

It is not that we haven’t enjoyed ourselves, it is just that we enjoyed Ireland more.  The Irish trip is one of our top 3 all-time best holidays as agreed upon by everyone so it is hard to beat and it won’t be displaced by this trip (the other 2, for interest, were our Namibia trip last year and our Kruger trips – pick any one!).

This evening after supper I got a lot of instructions what I need to include in today’s update.  Helen wanted me to include that she never had a place to sit because Stephen, Michael and myself were always using the table with our laptops (she really does like to find poor things to complain about), Michael wanted me share something that I did which isn’t repeatable in writing (my parents might disown me and cut me out of their will), Stephen liked Michael’s suggestion (I still didn’t and still don’t) and Chloe probably wanted me to tell you how Michael keeps kicking her at night.  So hopefully that has sufficiently covered their wishes.

Good night (it is thundering at the moment and Helen has worriedly asked about being parked under a tree) … If you don’t hear from me tomorrow you will know why …

And watch out for the special guest appearances tomorrow through Sunday … you will have to wait and see who they are!

Day 12 of UK Trip

We woke up this morning with the sun pouring into the motorhome.  We forgot to close the skylight last night and so at about 5am the motorhome was already light and at about 7am it was flooded with sun.  I lay in bed in and sent some business emails with my blackberry while I waited for everyone else to surface.  Eventually my full bladder got the better of me and I got up and that inevitably woke up everyone else.  It was Stephen’s 13th birthday today so we now not only have a teenager on the house, we also have one in the motorhome!  The first order of business was for Stephen to get his presents we had brought with us (one very heavy one of an ESV Study Bible which we brought all the way from CT!).

We then started our day off with the usual breakfast – Shreddie’s for everyone except Helen who has found some kind of cinnamon cereal that she loves.  I think if we let her she would eat for it lunch and supper as well.  We didn’t really know what to do today as we had considered going to Isle of Skye or otherwise skipping it and heading further south.  We settled on driving to at least Kyle of Lochalsh which we have been to previously and is just before the bridge to cross over to Skye.  Unfortunately the further we drove south the worse the weather became and within 30 minutes of driving it was already raining.  It rained on and off while we drove.  A fairly large section of the road was single track again and as we were now nearing more civilisation than the North West section, it meant regularly stopping and pulling off again as we passed cars in the opposite direction.  Fairly tedious and tiring driving.  We got to Kyle of Lochalsh at 11:30am and as the weather wasn’t good we decide not to spoil our memories of Skye in the sun and rather to keep heading south.  We did some shopping in Kyle for lunch and also for cakes/pastries to celebrate Stephen’s birthday.

We then headed off south again and after about 10 miles we pulled over to eat our lunch.  Michael remarked how much he likes the motorhome because you have everything you need onboard – toilet, food & beds.  What more could you need especially if all the caravan parks had Wifi (like last night and again tonight).  After lunch we continued to head south as Helen and I had agreed that we would try for Glencoe for the evening.  The criteria was that we wanted a caravan park in or very near the town so that we could eat supper at a restuarant tonight to celebrate Stephen’s birthday.  It has to be in or near because once we have a stand we can’t give it up or someone else might take it.  So it has to be in walking distance so that we can leave the motorhome in its stand.

Shortly after we pulled off after lunch, the conversation with Helen started to dwindle and eventually when she didn’t answer at all I realised that either our marriage had hit a low point or she had simply fallen asleep.  Fortunately it turned out to be the latter as I could hear her snore shortly after.  Given the bumpy nature of the road, stopping and pulling off a few times (one ways due to roadworks) and even stopping to refuel, she slept on.  She told me this evening that she didn’t really have a good sleep though!?!  Fortunately the SPG was set and so I simply followed it until we actually hit Glencoe and then just as I was pulling into the Caravan site, Helen woke up.  We got here at 3pm so we had a lot more time just to unwind.  My back is really sore either from the bed or the driving (not sure which).  Michael (our commentator) said I must be getting old (he has the gift of encouragement).  Unfortunately it is really hurting and so I am going to take an anti-inflamatory just before I go to sleep and after I have finished typing this update.  Besides that, we are all well and enjoying the holiday – we have far more to be thankful for than to complain about.

Glencoe is a Scottish town with a lot of history.  Due to Helen’s guidebook reading we have discovered it was the place that the McDonalds while hosting the Campbells, ended up being slaughtered by the Campbells after a signal was given by the Campbell leader.  The whole McDonald clan in the area was wiped out.  The restuarant that we went to tonight (the only one in town) had a poem about the slaughter on the back of the menu.

The caravan park is a 5-star park.  Still haven’t figured out what gets the 5-stars but they have a small shop, toilet facilities are nice and clean and they have Wifi.  Their Wifi is a little more sophisticated than last nights (we paid £3 and all used the code). It cost £5 tonight and you get a unique code so that if someone else logs in, it kicks the other person out.  I didn’t like us sharing 1 between 4 of us so we bought 2 and I used one exclusively so I could catch up on some CBD work (Janet is sending me threatening emails so I need to make sure I get some of the work done).  Chloe, Michael and Stephen did some spying on the other people in the park.  Chloe was in search of TV sets (she counted 11 satellite dishes) and Michael/Stephen were looking for good looking girls (they found 2 according to their criteria).

We went to dinner at 6:30pm and walked about ½ mile before we realised that the restaurant wasn’t in that direction and so had to double back.  We got to the restaurant just before the heavens opened again and we left after it had finished raining so we really timed it well.  There is only one restaurant in town and they also do takeaways.  When we arrived there was no table free but the waitress kindly asked 2 men to move so we could have a table for the 5 of us.  They agreed and got to share with another couple – we thanked them profusely.  It was a quaint restaurant which seated about 20 people.  It was packed full and 2 sets of people also came in for takeaways.  Stephen and I had starters (Tomato and Basil soup).  There wasn’t a huge selection for the main courses – only 5 items on the menu but you could also chose from the takeaway menu.  I had pork loin, Stephen &  Michael had Chicken Breast, Chloe had a Cheese Burger and Helen had Salmon Quiche.  The food was very nice and everyone enjoyed their meals.

Stephen and Michael played outside for about an hour when we got back and Chloe cleaned the motorhome, made coffee for Helen and I and just generally entertained us with her antics.  When the boys came back, Stephen started messing around with his one birthday present – Adobe Photoshop which Grandpa had given him.  He tried to put Helen’s face onto Angelina Jolie’s body.  It was quite funny because the proportions never worked out so Helen’s head dwarfed Angelina’s body or she ended up with Angelina’s hair which looked even funnier.  It did amuse everyone though and so Michael and Chloe only ended up going to bed at 10:45pm.  Stephen played on until 11:30pm and finally fell asleep at 11:45pm.  Helen has just gone to sleep (12:15am) and I will shortly.  It isn’t really totally dark outside even though it is 12:25am at the moment – it still amazes me!

As the motorhome is definitely at a downward sloping angle tonight, Michael is likely to roll onto Chloe, I am likely to roll into the crack and hopefully Helen doesn’t roll off the top bunk.  Only Stephen (the birthday boy) gets to sleep with his feet below his head and seems comfortably asleep.

Well that’s it for tonight, sleep tonight, I hope the bed bugs don’t (or didn’t) bite.

Day 11 of UK Trip

I just love Caravan Parks with Wifi access.  Why didn’t some of the other caravan parks have it?  Only £3 as well – we definitely milked that £3 – 4 laptops all open and downloading emails, reading the news, getting the weather, playing games, uploading pics to the blog (there are some there now) etc.  This is what I call a 5-star caravan park – forget the state of the abolutions!

After some early mornings we decided to sleep in this morning and I got up first at around 8:30am.  Nothing like a full bladder to get you up.  As it was raining (again and just as I predicted in last nights Travelogue), I opted for the onboard option for early morning abolutions and was followed by some of the kids as well.  Helen went (despite the rain) to the abolution block.  After breakfast we headed out (at about 10am).  We continued West along the Northern border of Scotland.  It is very rugged terrain and despite the rain it was still beautiful.  The landscape is littered with sheep (I have to eat some lamb chops before we leave here).  Both Helen and I feel this side of Scotland is the much better side – if you ever come to Scotland skip the North East – it is not nearly as impressive as the North West.  Around lunch time the weather started to improve and the sun came out which made the landscape all the more impressive.  We followed the coastline until the road couldn’t go any further West and then we headed down South.

The road today was graded an ‘A’ road but for most of the way it was a single track road.  There are pull-off (or pull-over) places every 200 meters (or so) but it is still quite intense driving under those conditions especially when you are playing chicken with a truck to see who will pull off first.  Of course when I did that with a car coming in the opposite direction they just automatically pulled over.  Even though they tend to drive the single track lanes at 40 mph and above, we had no incidents or close shaves but it was hardwork for the driver.  I had to take a few breaks just to relax, stretch my legs and get in some fresh air.  We probably drove for about 100 miles on this road – as you can see quite a substantial distance.

We weren’t sure where we were going to stop this evening but headed for Ullapool.  Partly because we got their at just before 4pm and partly because everyone except Michael was sleeping, we decided to continue on and head for Gairloch which is on the North West Coast (parallel with the top of the Isle of Skye and the Hebrides Islands).  We had read in the guide book that there was (what sounded like) quite a fancy caravan park and so we went to it.  When we got there both Helen and I thought it was more like holiday park than a caravan park and that people who were there were not doing what we were doing.  It was also about 3 miles outside of town which means we couldn’t walk around the town.  So we headed back into town to the other caravan park and that is where we are now.  They only had 2 open stands left and we got number 2 which is overlooking the sea and only stand 1 is closer to the abolutions than us. Not sure why no one else chose it – it is even flat so no one gets to roll on top of anyone else tonight.  We have a round cheese which we use to check the levelness of the motorhome when we are parked.  Fortunately no one has eaten it yet otherwise our spiritlevel would be gone!  Tonight it didn’t roll front or back but it did roll (only slightly) from right to left.  This is the least of our concerns as it means that only Chloe is affected and she didn’t seem to care.

We went for a quick walk to get some provisions and found the local supermarket to much better inside than what it appeared to look like from the outside.  Despite it’s smallness, they must have stock a range of 30-40 whiskeys.  We got what we needed for supper and breakfast and then headed back to cook supper.  Our supper this evening was rice mixed with prawns, brocolli and peas.  Once again a really nice dinner given the limited facilities.

The rest of the evening was consumed by reading (either books or emails).  Chloe and Michael were first into bed at around 10:30pm but Chloe was still awake at after 11pm.  Stephen went to sleep about 30 minutes ago and Helen has just said good night.  It is now 12:15 and officially Stephen’s birthday – he is asleep so I don’t think I will wake him up to wish him!  The sun finally set at around 11:20pm this evening and it is now dark but it starts getting light again at about 2am.  Better get to sleep soon otherwise it will be sunrise before I have gone to sleep.

Cheers from all of us.