Archive for the 'United Kingdom' Category

Paris to London for Christmas

We caught the Eurostar from Paris back to London the day before Christmas Eve. This involved a metro to the train station in Paris, the Eurostar and then two trains to Surrey. At the station in Paris Ed went on strike and sat down saying “No more trains!” Not the best when there were still three trains to go that day. Once on the Eurostar the trip was speedy and smooth. Although we’d only paid for three seats (Ed was free onĀ  a lap) we ended up with four. The kids were occupied with eating and building cardboard Eurostar trains (given to us at check-in) for most of the journey.

on the eurostar

Kids on the Eurostar

We arrived in London the day a big storm was due to hit the south of England. We were lucky to get on the last train allowed through to Surrey but the train before it had been cancelled so it was absolutely packed, the kids and I were separated from Dave in different parts of the carriage, and it was a bit of a push to get all of us and all our luggage off again at the right station. For the final leg of the journey we got a taxi to Dave’s mum’s house and then…relax!

We spent ten days with Nonna that were full of family get togethers. First there was Christmas, then Nonna’s birthday on Boxing Day, then another extended family meal on the weekend.

A little bit of Thailand in England. Merry Christmas!

The kids wore Thai Hilltribe outfits on Christmas Day

flaming pudding

There was plenty of yummy food

After all that excitement we took the kids ice skating under a big top, which was their Christmas present from Nonna. Lil was convinced it was going to be easy and watched ‘how to ice-skate’ you tube videos beforehand with Dave. The reality was a little trickier but she gave it a good go, didn’t get frustrated, and had fun. Ed went around once and decided that was enough.

ready to ice skate

Ready to skate!

Dave and I enjoyed an overnight away from the kids (our first in 18 months), staying with his brother and his fiance who took us out on the town. Thank you Nonna for looking after the kids!

The rest of our time was spent trying to keep the kids from going too stir-crazy in the very rainy weather. We went to see Frozen and emerged from the theatre to a flooded street. On our final full day Dave and Nonna took the kids into London to visit the science museum while I began the big task of packing everything up.

A big reason for doing this trip was to spend time with family, both at the wedding in Thailand and over Christmas in England, and it was really great to be able to spend such quality time together.

comfy

Hanging out on Uncle Richard

Next up – a final three nights in Bangkok on the way home!

Glasgow to Dundee to Newcastle

Our second week in Scotland was spent in Dundee, specifically Broughty Ferry, the little seaside village where we lived when Lillian was born.

Lil in front of the flat (top windows) we lived in when she was born

Lil in front of the flat (top windows) we lived in when she was born.

We decided to hire a car for the week and drive up from Glasgow. Rhino Car Hire were by far the cheapest and we paid 110 pounds for the whole week with a one way car hire picked up in Glasgow and dropped off in Newcastle. When I made the booking I also requested two car seats for the kids. They were going to charge GBP 77 for Edward’s and GBP 42 for Lil’s seat for the week but we worked out we could buy two new car seats from Argos for GBP 45 total so I cancelled the seat request. When we dropped the car off (a story to come below) we just left the seats in the car.

view from the top

View from the top of the Wallace Monument

It was strange but fun to be in a car again and under our own steam after almost five months of taxis, tuk tuks, trains and buses. On the way to Dundee we stopped off at the Wallace Monument just outside Stirling. It was a windy day but the views were amazing from up the top.

going back down

Spiral staircase in the Wallace Monument

In Broughty Ferry we stayed at The Ferry Flat which was in a great location and very cosy. It actually reminded us a lot of our old flat in Broughty Ferry which was of the same era and even had the same colour carpet. It was also a bit of a bargain at GBP 250 for the whole six nights.

Cosy Broughty Ferry Flat

Cosy Broughty Ferry Flat

fiery sunset

Sunset view from our bedroom

We didn’t do many touristy things here at all, aside from a drive up to the Law lookout and a visit to the (free) Broughty Castle. The castle is actually a great place to warm up and has a room set up for kids with activities, colouring pages and soft animal toys.

Dundee

View from the Law over Dundee and the River Tay

The rest of our days were spent catching up with old friends, playing in the great (but freezing) park by the castle, and revisiting old favourite eateries such as The Ship Inn and Visocchi’s for lunch.

Castle Green Park

Broughty Castle and Castle Green Park

On the day we were leaving our alarm went off at 7:30am and…we stayed in bed for another hour. Then we got ready and packed and finally got away at 11:20. We got in the car and I fired up google maps which told me it would take 3.5 hours to drive to Newcastle. For some reason I had had it in my head that it only took 2.5 hours so suddenly we lost another hour in the schedule and would now be arriving right on car drop-off time. There was no time to get lunch on the way besides a quick toilet stop at McDonalds and eating in the car. The kids got their first ever happy meals.

Finally we arrived in Newcastle, only a little after car drop-off time. We just had to fill up with petrol and find the car place which I thought was right near central train station where we would get the bus to our ferry to The Netherlands. All good in theory except we could not find a petrol station. Or the car place. We ended up on the wrong side of the river. Then back again. Then google told us it was back over the bridge. Argh! Time was ticking, my phone died. Back over the bridge we went and finally found the car hire place who told us they do have an office by the train station after all.

We ended up having to pay the crazy car hire prices for a tank of petrol AND get a taxi to the ferry port. Check-in for the ferry closed at 4:15pm and our taxi pulled in at 4:25. We raced in to the totally empty terminal and up to the counters where they thankfully let us through. I think we were last on the boat but we made it! That was the most stressful travel day of the whole trip and I’m quite happy to be back to modes of transport where any delays are not my fault.

More on the ferry trip and Amsterdam next post.

Glasgow and a Day Trip to Edinburgh

Dave and I lived in Glasgow for a year back in 2005 and fell in love with the city and Scotland as a whole. We were so excited to return and Lillian was also very excited to come back to the country where she was born (in Dundee.)

We had a fantastic apartment for a week in the Kelvingrove area of Glasgow that made our stay even more special. This place won all our awards for best accommodation of the trip (minus friends’ and family homes!)

One of these is our home for the week in Glasgow.

Our apartment was on the corner.

The apartment had amazing big windows and was the most fully equipped rental we’ve had.

Glasgow apartment

Living and dining room

On our first night we couldn’t work out how to get the oven to turn on but that just meant we got to have take away from our favourite Indian place Mother India’s Cafe. It was as delicious as always. (And we did eventually work out the oven.)

The good thing about visiting a place where you have spent a lot of time before is that you don’t feel a great need to rush about and see everything. We had a leisurely week but we did still visit a few places and caught up with some old friends.

Dave explaining the Kelvin Scale

Dave explaining the Kelvin Scale to the kids

The Scotland Street School Museum was a great place to visit with the kids and we got to ride Glasgow’s awesome orange subway to get there.

subway

On the clockwork orange

The museum is in a Charles Rennie Mackintosh building and was actually an operating school for many years. There are classrooms set up as they were in various eras. We were there on a school day and shared the place with some students on an excursion. This was great as we got to see them dress up and be ‘taught’ by an old style teacher. She was a bit scary!

writing with chalk

Lil writes on a chalk board.

On other days we visited the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery and the People’s Palace. The Kelvingrove Museum is an old fashioned wonder house. It’s been there since 1901 (it was being renovated when we lived in Glasgow) and has all sorts of exhibits including a stuffed elephant over 100 years old. We were explaining the concept of taxidermy to Edward for days after our visit. He thinks it’s a bit rude.

Kelvingrove Museum

Kelvingrove Museum

The People’s Palace is another good sized museum for kids. It has exhibits showing what life was like in Glasgow in the ‘olden days’ as well as more recent times. I particularly enjoyed the exhibit about the demolition of the Red Road Flats.

You can’t visit Scotland without visiting Edinburgh and it’s an easy day trip from Glasgow. We caught the train which takes about an hour each way. The city looked gorgeous, seen from the castle, all set up for Christmas with the markets, ferris wheel and giant swing ride. I would have loved to go on that swing but the crowds were crazy.

sea view

Edinburgh view from the castle

smile!

Ed at the castle

Our week in Glasgow was over all too soon but we weren’t leaving Scotland just yet – it was on to Dundee!

Travelling With A Stroller – An Update

First we went back and forth as to whether to take a stroller with us or not. Ed was 2.75 when we left and in the end we decided that yes, we would take our old Maclaren with us and see how we go, prepared to ditch it if need be.

We travelled with the stroller from Singapore, through Malaysia and into Thailand and found that we really weren’t using it enough to justify the effort of lugging it from place to place. So we ditched it as I wrote about here.

I’m glad we ditched it when we did. Not having the stroller certainly made it easier to travel by bus up through central and northern Thailand and we really didn’t miss it. In fact we often commented, thank god we don’t have the stroller. We used the kinderpack carrier, we used tuk tuks, or we carried him on a hip or shoulders for short distances.

Now we’re in the UK and Europe there are a couple of key differences that make getting around without a stroller trickier:

1. It’s cold! We’re wearing layers and bulky jackets and while it is still possible to use the carrier it’s not always comfortable.

2. There are no tuk tuks! What?! You mean we have to walk all that way?!

We survived in London with the carrier and just carrying him but after a day in Glasgow where he refused to go in the carrier, but also refused to walk, I said that’s it! We’re buying a cheap stroller. And I did. And it is tiny and he looks huge in it but it does the job, he sleeps in it, and it’s very light and easy to carry when travelling. And everyone is happy.

Lack of tuk tuks in the UK means we bought a cheapie stroller. He seems to like it.

Stroller snooze.

List 48/52 – Dave’s Favourite Things About Scotland

I usually try to publish these list posts on a Sunday but this week has gotten away from me! Ed has stopped having a nap unless we’re out and about and so blogging time is even scarcer these days.

This week’s list is from Dave. We’ve just had a great two weeks revisiting Scotland (more on all that to come) and these are his favourite things Scottish.

1. Sunsets that last all day (in Winter), or rather, sunrises and sunsets that meet somewhere briefly in the middle.

trees

Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park

2. The friendly people.

3. The accent and language, or, patter.

Brushing up on the lingo.

Glesga Patter

4. The beautiful scenery.

5. The castles.

6. The whiskey.

river view

View from the Wallace Monument near Stirling

7. Catching up with old friends this time around.

8. Feeling less like tourists and more at home because we’ve lived there before and know where things are.

9. Showing the kids places we’ve talked about.

10. The cosy pubs and good pub food and the fact that many allow kids.

The Ship Inn Broughty Ferry

The Ship Inn Broughty Ferry

 

Landing in London

On landing in London we spent a week with Dave’s mum in Surrey. She moved from Australia a year ago and had all her furniture shipped over, so walking in to her flat felt just like being at her old home in Newcastle, with a slightly different view! We had posted our winter clothes to her by sea mail before we left Australia so they were all waiting for us too. Luckily my jeans still fit after all that good Thai food.

Sunny but chilly!

Decked out in their winter gear.

It took most of the week for us all to get over the jet lag. The kids’ wake-up time slowly crept up from 3am the first morning to a more respectable 7am and I stopped falling asleep early with the kids.

After a few rest days we headed in to London to do some touristy things. The weather was perfect for the London Eye with clear skies and views for miles. Lil thought it went a bit slowly though. We used the Days Out website that gave us a voucher for 2 for 1 tickets by showing our train tickets. Ed was free.

shiny Thames

Shiny view from the London Eye.

pod view

One the Eye

We spent the rest of that day visiting a Christmas market, wandering across the bridge past Westminster and Big Ben and on to Trafalgar Square. Ed had a nap in the carrier along the way.

crossing the river

Madeline and Lillian crossing over to big Ben

carrier in action

Carrier in action

Another day we met up with a blogging friend, Alexis from Something I Made, and her family at the British Museum. (Alexis once guest posted about travelling to Ibiza with kids on my other blog.) The kids (and Dads) had a cracking game of What’s The Time Mr Wolf? on the lawn out the front of the museum while we drank coffee.

running at the British Museum

Running at the British Museum

They also helped us tick off a must-do by taking us for a ride on a big red double decker bus. It was great to finally meet in person.

having a chat

Henry and Edward having a chat on the bus.

London/Surrey was fun and we’re looking forward to returning for Christmas.

Bangkok’s Grand Palace and the Flight to London

To finish off our three and a bit months in Thailand we had another six nights in Bangkok. It was our third stay in the city this trip and we spent it at the same Air BnB apartment that we stayed in last time. It was nice to come back to the same place where the doorman recognised us, we knew the area, and the apartment was just as we had left it. Even my washing powder was still there.

The main thing I wanted to do this time in Bangkok (besides shopping for shoes for the kids) was visit the Grand Palace. We chose to go to the palace on a Sunday. It was hot and it was busy. Much busier than I remember it being in 2004. Perhaps a week day would have been quieter? Anyway, we were there and we were on a mission to have our family photo taken in the same place as my mother and her family had theirs taken in 1961. First we had a little look around and tried to dodge the crowds. Lillian really enjoyed the murals.

mural gazing

Mural gazing

I really enjoyed the details.

flowers

Flower walls

And then we found the place for the photo. In 1961 my mother was almost 8 years old when she visited the Grand Palace with her family at the start of their big family trip. You can see more photos from their time in Bangkok here. The palace in 1961 was quiet. No crowds!

1961 and 2013 Grand Palace Bangkok

1961 and 2013 Grand Palace Bangkok

The day before we flew to London I did some shopping (alone!) and bought some books for the kids to help keep them occupied on the thirteen hour flight.

Surprise goodies for the 13hr plane ride tomorrow. The book bottom left is a comic about a novice monk!

Activity Books

I went to the Kinokuniya bookshop in the Siam Paragon shopping mall and happily stumbled upon these Thailand activity and colouring books by Nancy Chandler. They have great things like a hilltribe paper doll to cut out, masks, and word searches with Thai towns and places. I also got Edward a new sticker book about London. Sticker books are always popular. The Satima book is a comic about a novice monk that I couldn’t resist for Lillian.

The flight to London went well. It was a daytime direct flight with British Airways and was only half full so we ended up with six seats for the four of us. Because it was daytime we also had some spectacular views out the window. We flew right across Afghanistan and it was amazing to look down on that landscape, so mountainous and barren, and see tiny villages and wonder what those people’s lives were like.

snowy mountains Afghanistan

Afghanistan

When we arrived in the UK the sun was just setting and the plane flew right over the city. We saw the London Eye, the Thames and a beautiful sunset. Getting through immigration was a breeze and Dave’s mum was there to meet us on the other side. Two kids fell asleep (short-lived) in the taxi on the way home. More on our first week in the UK to come.