Monthly Archives: August 2014

Our U.K. Adventure, June/July 2014 — Week 4

After leaving Lincoln we drove to Watford, a suburb of London. Watford did not have much going for it with the exception of the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Michelle was the driver behind this stop although the kids were super excited that we chose to do it. We arrived at the studio at 9:30 a.m. in time for our 10 a.m. tour time. We started out by watching a video from the cast regarding their experience filming. As we walked out of the theater we were standing at the doors to the Great Hall. The doors opened and all of a sudden we were on the actual film set for Harry Potter. They consider the sets as “Hot Sets” meaning that they could use them tomorrow if needed. As we left the great hall we toured all of the major sets in each of the films. There was also an opportunity for Michelle and the kids to fly on broom sticks as they inserted the backdrops as if they were flying around Hogwarts and around London. Butter Beer was also on the menu. The kids loved it although it tasted a little like cream soda to me.

After the tour we were dropped off in the gift shop. If I thought the entrance tickets were expensive, it was nothing to what we were about to spend in the store. The kids each wanted wands, which we treated them to. Here is where they also spent most of their pocket money. All in all $350 later we walked out. While it was a very expensive day, I would not have changed any part of it. The delight and joy on their faces (Michelle included) was priceless.

The following morning we departed Watford on our way south of London. En-route we made a slight detour to a town called Kimpton. A friend of mine has the last name of Kimpton and had asked that if I was close to stop in and take a picture. We did one better, not only did we take a picture of me in front of the sign but also found a pub to hoist a pint in his honor. 😉

From Kimpton, we headed to our hotel in East Grinstead. The following day we met five of my relatives and their families for a lovely afternoon of reconnecting. I think it was wonderful for Michelle and the kids to meet the family and our children to meet their cousins.

We then headed into London to do all of the traditional tourist items including the London Eye, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Tower of London and Buckingham Palace. A nice addition was that we happened to be in London during the Tour de France. As we were standing at Big Ben, we were able to see the cyclists race by. They are truly flying; you don’t get the full sense of their speed on TV.

After a month in the United Kingdom, we were truly exhausted; however, we would not have traded the experience for anything. We traveled 2,600 miles, and if you have ever been there you know that in the UK that is a huge distance, unlike here in the States. I found that I missed driving on the right side of the car, and I found the narrow roads exhilarating. Michelle would not agree. J

I realized something this trip — I have not gone back enough. I really enjoyed connecting with my family again. As I get older I am beginning to realize the importance of that so much more. I hung out with some of my older relatives and wonder if I will ever see them again. The last time I was back was in 2008 for my gran’s funeral.

Michelle and I have come to the conclusion that I need to make a trip back at least every two years, with the family joining me every other trip to help curtail the cost. While we will never do a month again, we will probably spend 10 days more often in and around my brother’s area and Lincoln.

As I look back on our journey I realize that this was truly a trip of a lifetime and that it was so important for me to have my family here in the States connect with my extended family in the United Kingdom.

Week 4

CHEERS!!!!!

 

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Our U.K. Adventure, June/July 2014 — Week 3

We left Edinburgh and headed to Lossiemouth in northern Scotland to visit my nephew Wayne and his family. We had a really enjoyable time getting to know his wife Kate and their three children. Tristan and Rachel had fun playing with Chloe. Rachel enjoyed feeding their twin baby boys, William and Jacob. We even got a tour of Wayne’s work place at Lossiemouth, which was a big hit with the kids!

After Lossiemouth it was time to go and find the Loch Ness Monster. We toured the visitor’s center; it was very informative, however, I felt like they spent too much time explaining the sightings and showing how they were not really Nessie sightings. Rachel was sure she saw Nessie in the distance. After we left Loch Ness we headed through the Scottish Highlands, what beautiful countryside. A highlight was seeing a lone bagpiper playing his pipes on the side of the hill. Very cool. I love the sound of pipes…..

We ended up in Glasgow just for a quick night stop then were off to Lincoln to visit my Uncle Trevor and family.

Lincoln is a fantastic city full of history and culture. It is also the home of my Uncle Trevor and Aunt Anneliese. I had not seen them in more than 20 years, and it was superb to visit and catch up over the three days. Before we left, we asked them for recommendations for hotels in their area. They found a great place in downtown Lincoln looking right at the castle wall and the cathedral. Skipper (Uncle Trevor) made the reservation for us to avoid international calls to set everything up. It was the one part of the trip where I did not have to plan anything. They also planned two full days and evenings of activity for us, including tours of the castle, cathedral, Sir Isaac Newton’s house, and a visit to Belton House. One of the evenings was spent having dinner in a traditional English country pub. My cousins were not able to get time off work, but joined us every evening for dinner. Overall the entire experience was grand and probably my most memorable part of the trip. I hope it’s not another 20+ years before I see them again.

Week 3 Pics.

 

Father/Son Camping Weekend 2014

When he was five, Tristan wanted to go fishing and sleep in a tent. He had never done either one. I reached out to a couple of our friends who had boys Tristan’s age and suggested a camping weekend at Clear Lake, Oregon.

Fast forward five years — we went with three other dads and their respective boys to Twin Lakes in Eastern Oregon this month. We arrived on a Thursday and departed that Sunday. What a splendid time. We had three campsites with three trailers and a tent. We were fully equipped with microwaves, fridge freezers, A/C and TVs — yes, we were roughing it.  🙂

During the day we gave the kids our undivided attention and did basically anything they wanted, including rafting, kayaking, swimming, playing games, etc. One of the dads even purchased a paddle board for the trip. This was very cool as most of us had never used one. This year was a little different in that they were mostly all 10 years old. In the past we had to keep a closer eye on them when they were riding around the park and playing in the trees. This year they had more autonomy to show their responsibility.

After dinner we changed the pace of things a bit. The kids all go into one of the trailers for movies, games or whatever they choose to do. At this point the dads break out the poker and adult beverages. It’s a great group of dads who go on this trip, and we all get along very well. We play cards well into the early hours of the morning. I did feel a little sorry for our campsite neighbors this year as we were not exactly quiet after 10 pm. It’s amazing how you can solve the world’s problems with a little rum and whisky while playing poker. 🙂

The kids get along great (for the most part). A sign of a successful trip was once again the kids not being happy to go home and already asking the dads where we are going next year.

That brings up a good point as these trips do not just happen, and it involves a lot of planning and preparation. Usually we spend some time during the year at a bar playing poker and accomplishing a little planning. 😉

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Bring on the planning meeting!!!!

Happy Trails

Father/Daughter Camping Weekend

Last weekend Rachel and I took our annual camping trip together. It’s a time for her and I to get away on our own, leaving Tristan and Mum behind. This year she chose to go to Casey’s RV Park, in Oakridge, Oregon, one of our favorite places. I love the opportunity to escape with the kids individually and connect one-on-one. Tristan and I have been going on a father-son camping weekend with some of his friends and dads for the last five years.

When we arrived at Casey’s, we did the most important thing first. No, it was not setting up the trailer and campsite; it was buying ice cream. Once Rachel was set, I could have a little time to set up camp. We had a great day of swimming in the pool and riding bikes. She got to choose all of the meals for the weekend and the special treats we took with us. In the evenings we read books and played games. It was nice to not have the distraction of TV and life.

In the mornings we got up, had breakfast and sat outside, watching the river run by. We relished the tranquility of our surroundings reading books. I like the fact that the kids are at a stage where they can sit peacefully for a while and just relax without going a mile-a-minute.

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She is already asking where we will go next year!

Happy Trails

Our U.K. Adventure, June/July 2014 — Week 2

After a week in Tisbury, we headed down to Plymouth to visit my Uncle Paul and Aunt Alison. This is also the town where my gran lived. We had a couple of great days visiting and touring the area. I have fond memories of Plymouth. I remember growing up and going out on the moors to play. There was this huge rock that we loved to climb. We spent a day looking for it and with Alison’s help, we found it. Michelle thought it did not really exist. There’s something magical about watching your children relive some of the joys of your childhood. Something new for me on this trip was a bay cruise that we took out past some military battle ships and submarines. It was also interesting to see the Hoe from the water site. As a means of adding just a little more history, we went to the steps where the Mayflower set sail in 1620.

Over the years Michelle has learned to love some of the English comedies and shows that I have enjoyed. A more recent show is “Doc Martin.” The filming takes place in a small fishing village on the southwest coast called Port Isaac. Port Isaac was just over an hour from Plymouth, so we decided to head there on our way to Bath. We enjoyed a nice lunch and tour of the village. If you watch the show, rest assured that the town is just like you see it on television.

In Bath we spent the day touring the town and visiting the Roman Baths, a big hit. The Romans built the baths around Britain’s only hot springs and was considered the finest religious spa in northern Europe. Everywhere you look in Bath, you are reminded of times gone by.

Another highlight for me in Bath was visiting my Great Auntie Birdie, who turns 90 this year. We showed up and she had made us a homemade strawberry pie, homemade sausage rolls and various other snacks. We had a lovely visit.

We left Bath and headed to Chester on our way to Edinburgh. We spent just a few hours in Chester, although found it very charming and worth coming back to visit. We took a short tour around the cathedral and found a nice English pub for dinner.

Edinburgh is probably one of my favorite cities. I love the history and the castle, and I have great memories of going to the Edinburgh Tattoo. We had a couple of full days visiting the castle, The Mile, Scotts Tower, and the Royal Yacht Britannia. I had never toured the yacht before, and it was a great treat. We spent the morning touring all of the decks and having morning tea on the deck. Rachel really enjoyed having tea and cake on the deck. For a royal yacht, I would have expected it be a little more extravagant. The queen had a great deal of involvement in the ships décor, and she has relatively simple taste and a great dislike for redecorating needlessly. The laundry facilities are still the original equipment that was installed in the 1950s. It was a little surreal to be standing in places that have been frequented by royals, presidents, Nelson Mandela and the likes.

On our second evening we enjoyed a lovely evening with my Scottish relatives — Elizabeth, John, Auntie Moira, Ian and Andrew. Such a fun evening reliving old times and catching up.

Week 2

Happy Trails

Our U.K. Adventure, June/July 2014 — Week 1

The United Kingdom is a magical place, filled with castles, culture and history far greater than we see in the United States. Growing up in England, it was a part of my upbringing, and I did not fully appreciate the magnificence of my surroundings. I’ve been living in the United States since 1987 and have become used to my surroundings here. While there is history, culture and beauty here too, it cannot compare to my homeland.

Michelle and I knew that once we had children, we wanted them to experience the United Kingdom. Two years ago we decided it was time to start planning. We wanted Rachel to be at least 7 prior to going, which meant Tristan was 9. It took us two years to plan and save for a month-long vacation touring England, Scotland and Wales, what most would call a trip of a lifetime. Our goals were simple: spend a month visiting the sights and visiting family (some of whom I have not seen in over 20 years), and have the whole trip paid for before we left U.S. soil. Two years of planning and hard work paid off.

We landed at Heathrow and drove the two hours to my brother’s village, Tisbury. Tisbury is close to the last town I lived in prior to coming to the States, Amesbury. As we neared my brother’s house, we passed by Stonehenge. This sight was a huge hit with the kids right off the bat. We spent a week with my brother and family, staying in a nice little cottage just a couple of miles from his house. A bonus to the cottage’s location was that it was within 20 feet of the pub.

My brother and family had some fantastic things planned for us and the kids. We went to Swanage for a day at the beach, swimming and kayaking. We also toured Old Wardour Castle (Robin Hood was filmed here), Monkey World, Salisbury and Longleat Wildlife Safari. We also had a day fishing at one of my brother’s favorite spots. The kids even got a special treat — a sleepover with their aunt, uncle and cousin while Michelle and I enjoyed a nice dinner at the pub to celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary. For me, the visit was a little trip down memory lane that I was able to share with my kids. We even found the last house I lived in and the school where I graduated. It was a little surreal…

Week 1