Monday, September 1, 2014

Returning to the Motherland

Note: This is a guest posting by Alex......

After nearly three and a half years, a trip back to England was loooooong overdue.  The original plan was for us all to go for our summer vacation.  Unfortunately, due to Grandpa Lee's illness, Sara made the decision to remain back in California.  Not wanting the girls to miss out we decided I would (literally) fly solo with the dynamic duo for two weeks.  Below is a brief summary of the trip and the highlights.....

With a constant supply of meals, snacks, drinks and cartoons the girls did great on the flight from LAX to Heathrow.  We were even lucky to get the "Skycouch" lay flat seats so they even snagged a few hours of sleep...

Shows and snacks
We made it!!!
It felt good to be back in England and see how things had changed in the past few years. It was also nice to see green fields and trees... such a change from drought ridden SoCal. Jet lag with the kids was rough initially so we kept things simple for the first couple of days.

A short walk from Granny and Grampy's house is the River Thames which flows all the way to London.  The first stop was to the Riverside Pub for Swan feeding and some "Pub Time"...  
Seeing swans for the first time 
Ahhh, pub time by the river
We spent some time exploring the local town (Lechlade) including the library, post office (to mail our postcards) and of course the Christmas Shop.  We also stumbled across a shop selling American snacks..

Checking out books at the local library
A taste of home - yikes Lucky Charms for $6!
Mailing post cards
What to buy at the Christmas Shop?
 A new hardware store had recently opened in nearby Faringdon and (with permission) was using the original name of Davis DIY.  Although smaller than the original it was great to see the name back in use again..

On Sunday Granny and Grampy hosted a family BBQ for the cousins and family to meetup. The weather was perfect and the second cousins finally got to meet each other and see how they have grown.  Gemma was just nine months old on her last visit and Joanne was yet to be born.

Gemma, Lily, Edward and Joanne
 With Granny's sports day activity set the kids had a great time with sack and three legged races and of course the egg-and-spoon...

Egg-and-spoon racing
A short drive away is the twon of Bourton-on-the-Water deep in the Cotswolds region of England.  The town is very touristy but has lots of things for the kids to do including the model town and Birdland.  The model town is actually a replica of the real town so it is fun to match up the real bulidings to the models.  There is even a model town, in the model town, in the model town etc etc.  It keeps getting smaller and smaller.

Tiny shops in the model town
Tiny version of the Church
Staring competition... first one to blink loses
Our big day out for the visit was a trip to Legoland in Windsor.  Located just outside London and close to Windsor castle.  Although it was a little warm and crowded we had a great time on the rides and looking at all the Lego models.

GG plans her route around the park
Mini Mt. Rushmore in Lego
Number one on the must-do list was driving the Lego cars.  After an extensive training session Lily was up first.  There was some initial trouble with driving on the wrong side of the road but after that she was away.  Then it was GG's turn on the smaller kids section, she was much more cautious and took it very seriously...

Lily behind the wheel
Driving is serious business
 In the afternoon we took our seats for the Pirate stunt show.  It was great fun with much swashbuckling action, explosions and stunts.

The big explosion finale
No trip would be complete without a visit to the gift shop for a small souvenir.  Just a quick browse to find something and then on our way home right?  Wrong... an hour later and no decision made the tears came fast, not the best way to end the day.

Lego Friends... pre melt-down
The next day we needed to take it easy and recover from the Legoland craziness.  I remember as a kid, Dad and I renting a row boat on the Thames and spending an hour messing about on the river.  So it was one of my highlights of the trip to rent a boat at the same place and take the girls out.  I rowed up stream and Gramps took the downstream leg.
Messing about on the river - Gramps was left on the river bank
About fifteen minutes drive from the house is the Cotswold Wildlife park.  Set in the grounds of a large country house, the park is home to many wild animals including Rhino, Giraffe and Lions.  We spent a fun day riding the train that circles the park, playing on the huge adventure playground and watching the animals. 

The choo choo train
All aboard the train
At the Giraffe enclosure
A Rhino grazes in the grounds of the house 
Picnicing in the park
Lily masters the rope climb at the adventure playground
No trip to England would be complete without sampling some of my favorite cuisine.  We can get all these foods in America but they just aren't quite the same...

Indian take-away - Chicken Tikka Biryani
 We took the kids out to the local fish-n-chip shop.  They, of course, wanted chicken strips but the rest of us went for the classic...

I spent a day in Oxford buying some souvenirs and playing dodge with the hordes of exchange students (I forgot about them).  One surprise though was stumbling upon a traditional pie shop in the covered market and couldn't resist.  The simple things are sometimes the best....

Pieminster Pie Shop
Our trip was coming to an end but Gran had one final surprise planned for us - Giffords Circus.  The circus is very traditional with an intimate big top tent and no animals apart from a few horses and dogs.  Everything about the circus harks back to an old fashioned traditional form of the art.  Even the their vehicles were traditional...

One of the caravans for performers 
An acrobat performs for the crowd
What a fantastic time we had and one Lily and Gemma will remember for a long time.  They both kept journals of the trip which will be fun to look back on when they get older.  Unfortunately we had to leave and many tears were shed all round...

Sometimes it is hard to leave

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