Friday, September 10, 2010

Holiday, part 2

We didn't stay with MIL this time, partly as the warden in her sheltered housing wasn't too happy at having the camper van parked in the car park overnight and partly because MIL lives in a very small 2 bed bungalow and we are now one extra.  So we were booked into a campsite called Thornton's Holt a few kms away.  We also got Chris Evans put onto MIL's car insurance so we could borrow her car for the week.  She is going through a tough time at the moment which means that she isn't comfortable using the car, so there was no problem with us using it.  Even though there is a good bus service into the city from the campsite, this was one instance where I was glad that we had a car. 

On Saturday we took a trip to a working inner city windmill and science centre.  It was free entry so I had no problem with buying a couple of bags of flour and a book about the original miller and scientist and mathematician, George Green.  The science centre was very small but well thought out, and the sort of place I could see us returning to regularly if we lived in the area each time we'd learnt the theory behind each principle demonstrated.
No idea what happened on Sunday, but on Monday we had planned it so that Chris Evans had a bottle of expressed milk and was going to take Dr John and Pip to the caves under the city whilst I went shopping for clothes but the cave tour was at 12 and Chris Evans thought it might prove a little tricky if Pip woke up in the middle of it, so they tried the castle but that is closed on Mondays so they came and met me for lunch.  At that point I'd only been to the market for some material and haberdashery and I also got a first piano book for Dr John and grade 1 and 2 pieces for me so I can see what level I'm at.  
I was grateful for their company in the afternoon as Dr John is a great clothes shopper, always picking great things for me, and Chris Evans isn't bad either.  They are both better than me at finding clothes anyway!  I hate clothes shopping.  So I came away pretty happy with a few sale pieces from Monsoon.  We then headed over to SIL and BIL's for a bbq.  BIL is Star Wars mad and is keen to indoctrinate Dr John with the ways of the force.  I'm not too sure how happy I am about that, but there doesn't seem much stopping it.

On Tuesday, Chris Evans and Dr John seemed to properly develop their colds, so it looked like we were going to be unable to take advantage of the heated swimming pool on the campsite.  We have tried formal swimming lessons before when Dr John was much smaller which were a disaster and we decided that maybe he would suit learning with us informally, but we have been so rubbish at going that maybe it is time to rethink that strategy although that would be another after school activity to try and fit in.  Anyway, on Tuesday we headed back into the city to attempt the caves again.  Underground is one of my least favourite places to be, so Pip and I went underwear shopping in M&S whilst the boys finally did the tour.  Dr John seemed to enjoy it and I got told various snippets about it although I think I will see if Chris Evans will blog it for any more detail than that!  That night Pip had caught the cold too so she just wanted to comfort feed all night so I didn't get much sleep.  

The next morning I was able to get an hour or so's extra sleep whilst the others went to the playground and in the afternoon while Dr John stayed with MIL, we took Pip to visit grandma (Chris Evans' grandma) who is staying in a respite care home while MIL sorts herself out.  Then back to the camper van via Morrisons to pick up a roast chicken and salad and a couple of other things to take back to Switzerland like spaghetti hoops and monster munch (good healthy stuff!) which we take back as a treat. 

Thursday saw us saying goodbye to MIL and making our way down to Dover.  We had booked passage on a ferry on Friday morning but when we arrived at the port at 5.45pm we thought we'd see if we could get on a ferry then and stay in Calais overnight rather than Dover.  We had to pay a bit extra as it was outside the 2 hour of our booking but figured that it was worth it as we could eat on the boat and wouldn't have to get up so early the next day (not really an issue for me, but always a bonus for Chris Evans!).  So, after my last fish and chips for a while we arrived in Calais.  By this point I was developing a sore throat and losing my voice so was glad that we quickly made our way to a camper van park by the beach and within a couple of kms of the docks and settled down for the night.  We awoke to a ticket on the windscreen for 7 Euros for the priviledge of staying the night, so paid that and went on our way.

6 & 60

The next day we walked into town and grabbed lunch in a local cafe.  Dr John had his first taste of a 'proper' sausage roll and wasn't too impressed, although did like the softness of the bread in his sandwich.  Its the little things.  We then went to Sainsbury's for things for Dr John's birthday bbq and got lost in it and apparently thats not even a big one!  You can tell we've been in Switzerland a long time!  

By the early evening, excitement had reached fever pitch.  After all, its not every day you turn 6.  Dr John shares a birthday with my mum too and it was going to be her 60th, so extra reason to get excited.  
The big day dawned.  With a not too early start celebrations commenced.  There was the general chaos of present opening during which Dr John received some lego, a James Bond dvd and secret spy stuff to satisfy his current career choices (lego mini figure creator, dvd producer and secret spy, all in one day - he's going to be a busy lad!) amongst other gifts.  Then everyone helped prepare for the party, only stopping for the early arrival of my sister and family and more presents (more lego).  Just about all my maternal aunts and uncles came which was nice to see them all together.  Dr John remembered a couple of them but to be fair he's only seen them a couple of times when he was very young. 

I would say that the party was a success.  Dr John had great fun playing with his cousin Suzanna*, who is 4 and also home educated, and there was a lot of chatting and eating and cooing over the baby.  The cakes, which I'd had to ice due to the original baker going on holiday, were extremely yummy and I think everyone went home happy.  My sister and her family stayed the night which was good fun, although I don't think we should've stayed up until 1am playing Lego Harry Potter on the Wii!  

The next day we pottered about playing and chatting and then we all went to a local pub for dinner which was lovely until an incident spoilt things and we went back to my parents rather abruptly.  A shame as it seemed to take the shine off our visit.  But thats families I guess. 

The next day, Thursday, Chris Evans and I went with Pip to the city to do some shopping (I was really overwhelmed by the size of everything and the number of people) whilst Dr John stayed with my parents and watched dvds and ran them ragged. Thursday evening was spent packing the van in preparation for our trip up to the midlands to visit MIL.

On the Way to the UK

On the way to 2 weeks in the UK we stopped at Le Musée de la Grande Guerre in Peronne. Did the pond walk which was so well signposted we (wrongly) assumed it was worth doing, but was literally walking round a large pond, not even with a path, and there was so much dog poo about.  
Then we went into the museum as soon as it opened as we didn't have much time to look around and get to the ferry before it left.  The recommended time to look around the museum was 2 hours and to be honest I'm not really sure where they got that figure from.  We only took 30 minutes and even taking into account that Dr John flits about a bit, on my own it wouldn't have taken 4 times as long.

We had a disaster in the gift shop.  Dr John picked up a cup to show it to me and dropped it.  I offered to pay but it was okay as it was covered on insurance.  I was almost upset by it as it was part of a set of two and I quite fancied the other half but didn't think Chris Evans would've been too happy about it! 

They had exhibits of the different costumes and equipment which was really interesting as everything was explained in good detail and was laid out on the floor (albeit recessed and alarmed!) so that even littlies could see everything.  It was really well arranged and Dr John was interested in a lot of it, especially the guns.  I think he's really reaching an age where he can appreciate exhibits more.  I still have to speed read the descriptions and summarise as he won't stay still long enough for me to read anything out but at least he will listen to some of it!

We arrived at the ferry 2 hours early and were allowed on an earlier crossing. Funnily enough my mum and dad were crossing the channel with P&O too (they had gone on a weekend coach trip to Paris) but if we had gone at the same time as them we wouldn't have made it to their house the same evening.  As it was their ferry was changed to 30 minutes earlier and we arrived at their house just over an hour before them.  Luckily they don't live any further away as Pip had just about reached her travelling limit.  At least Dr John was able to see his grandparents that evening as I think he would've been very upset if not.