Sunday, July 31, 2022

England Trip 2022

Summer 2022 saw us heading to LAX's international terminal for the flight back to England.  Having last visited over five years ago in Summer 2017, we wondered how much would have changed.....

After a smooth ten hour American Airlines flight consisting of movies and broken sleep we were greeted with views of the river Thames on our approach into an unseasonably hot Heathrow Airport:



FairFord Air Show

Our arrival coincided with the bi-annual Fairford International Air Show weekend, which is just a short drive from Granny and Grampy's house.  So we braved the hot temperatures, packed a picnic, chairs (and umbrella for shade!!) and headed to one of the nearby fields to watch some of the show.  While watching the loud air displays by the Italian and Korean airforce Gramps treated to 99 Flakes and a slushie drink for Gemma...





Messin' About on the River

Thankfully a few days later the weather had cooled and we headed out for a day on the river Thames.  We picked up our boat, "The Dawn Walker", from Buscot and headed downstream.  The boat was electric which made for a quiet and very pleasant trip (except when Gemma was driving!!).  We had to navigate several locks on our way which made for a few stressful moments but we survived and managed to stay afloat.

We made it as far as Radcot bridge where we moored up for a picnic lunch and then headed over to the Swan Inn for much deserved beers, Sprites and Hula Hoops.


Shortly after taking the below photo the famous Abingdon School boater (straw hat) blew off Grampy's head and into the river.  Luckly due to skilled boating skills Sonny Boy was able to perform a U-Turn and the boater was fished out seconds before sinking... phew!


Swans near the Swan Inn hoping for a bite of picnic lunch, they started hissing at us when we shooed them away.


After arriving back at Buscot and returning the boat we headed to the local tea shop for cream teas and found this old phone box that has been converted into a mini library.


SS Great Britain in Bristol

Granny and Grampy's friend Stephanie is a volunteer docent at the museum for the SS Great Britain ship in Bristol.  So we went for a day trip to visit and were treated to our very own private tour.


Designed by British engineer Brunel, the SS Great Britain was built in Bristol and launched in 1843.  At the time it was the largest passenger steam ship in the world.




Center Parcs

The next Friday we headed out for a three night stay at Center Parcs Longleat.  The car ride was about three hours.  Center Parcs is a holiday village located in a forest in the south of England.  Guests stay in wooden cabins, which contain a kitchen, bedrooms and even a sauna!


The cabins in the woods:


Inside our cabin:


To get around the park we all rode bicycles as cars are forbidden during your stay.  It was a short ride to get to the different activities including the main water park, mini golf, tree adventure and sport center.


The water park outdoor rapids was everyones favorite:



Granny and Grampy booked several activities for us, first up was the tree adventure where we had to climb from tree-to-tree on ropes and swings.  To get down at the end we had to take a long zip line over the lake.  There were two zip lines so we got to race each other.



Next up was the Aqua Park in the lake.  This was a large inflatable obstacle course that we had to swim out to reach.  Fortunately we were able to wear wet suits so it wasn't too cold and we had fun pushing each other off and bouncing around.



The next day we all made our way the the mini golf course for a game through the trees.  The course was fun with lots of obstacles in a medieval theme including a dragon.



In the afternoon we made our way to the sports center to check in for the rock wall climbing.  There were many different rock walls to try each with varying difficulty and themes.  We even got to race each other with a head-to-head challenge.




Stone Henge

Sadly the Center Parcs weekend came to an end and after a breakfast at the pancake house restaurant, we headed home.  The route home (the dreaded A303) took us past Stone Henge so we pulled over to pay a visit.

First stop was the visitors' center to learn about the history and origins of the stones.  Then we boarded a bus which took us out to the Stones to see them in up close.


We had fun posing in front of them and all wondered how they were able to be built thousands of years ago.




London

To give Granny and Grampy a short break from our whirlwind trip we packed up our bags again for a short break to London.

We took the train from Swindon to London's Paddington station, first stop being the obligatory Paddington Bear tribute:



After checking into our hotel near the station we headed out to take the underground to visit the London Eye and the London Dungeons.

The London Dungeons takes you on a group walking tour though an interactive scary experience with real-life actors.  We saw Sweeny Todd's barber shop, Jack the Ripper, Guy Fawkes and many other characters from London's history. 


We then joined the queues for our "flight" on the London Eye for views over the London skyline and famous sights:


After landing from the London Eye we walked along the river bank and crossed the Thames with views of the Houses of Parliament.




We even stumbled upon the Benjamin Franklin house and paid our respects to one of the founding fathers who lived here in the 1700s:


We then had fun watching the performers around Covent Garden, shopping in the West End before dinner at Pizza Express and catching the Tube home. 


The next day we made our way to the British Museum.  After entering the museum we were very impressed with the huge glass roof covering the central area from where all the exhibits can be accessed.



First stop was to see the famous Rosetta Stone and try our hand at Egyptian Hieroglyphic translation:



We spent several hours at the museum viewing Egyptian mummies, the Elgin Marbles and many Greek and Roman artifacts but barely scratched the surface of  everything on display. 



On our way home we had to visit platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross station, no sign of Harry Potter though...


On our last day in London we came across a Paddington Bear Lego exhibit in a park near our hotel.



Lily's number one request for London was to visit the Brotherhood Games Pokemon card store in Bermondsey.  After making some rare Pokemon card purchases we took the tube back to Borough Market for lunch:



It was tough choosing what to eat with so many options available but we decided to go for Tacos and see how they compared to California's.  We were impressed although they were a little spicy.  We also couldn't resist the artisanal doughnuts from one of the bakeries.



After leaving Borough Market we walked back along the Thames riverbank and stopped for drinks at one of the pubs to re-create the famous Gemma eating a lemon photo from 5 years ago:


Refreshed on Sprite and Pimms (Dad) we crossed the Millennium Bridge to see St Pauls Cathedral.  Time was short so we didn't have time to visit inside, maybe next time.



For our last few hours we took the Tube to Oxford Street to buy some last minute souvenirs and visit Selfridges before taking the train back home.  We had a great time in London and cannot wait to come back and see more.


Family Visit

On our last day before heading home Granny and Grampy had arranged a family get together to see Dad's cousins at a pub.  It was great fun to catch up with everyone and especially to see how all the kids had grown up.

The pub was also hosting a local bird sanctuary that was exhibiting some of the birds they had rescued.
 




Sadly our trip to England had come to an end all too quickly and it was back to Heathrow for the flight home.

Thank you Granny and Grampy for hosting us, we all had a wonderful time and can't wait for the next visit.