Thursday, 31 December 2015

Wet but regal!

Unfortunately the weather wasn't as nice as when Elizabeth visited the Peak District, but we still enjoyed ourselves.
Stopped off at an embroidery shop just outside Matlock, it turned out to be owned by a New Zealander and would say she will be pleased Diane dropped by!

Visited Bakewell and purchase the famous Bakewell tarts.

Then onto Chatsworth. Even though the weather wasn't great, we still got to experience the grandeur of the place. At this time of the year, Chatsworth is decorated for Christmas. This year the theme is "The wind in the willows". There was so much going on it was a case of not knowing where to look first. A magnificent house, words can't describe.
 By the time we went through the house the rain had set in, but that didn't stop us doing a small wander around the grounds, to check out the cascade waterfall and to the stables. It was back to the car to have a coffee and Bakewell tart. Popped into the Chatsworth farm shop just for a final look around before heading to our B&B at Eyam. Difficult to find a place for dinner but we are booked into the local 15 minutes walk away. Off to the pub!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Shakespeare's Town

The morning started with a hearty breakfast at our B&B.

We found out we were within walking distance of Anne Hathaways house, so decided this could be our first stop of the day. It was a lovely walk to the house, we past by several thatched roof houses along the way. We arrived at the house right on opening  this meant not many people around, so we could enjoy looking around the house. We purchased a ticket which allowed us to go to 3 other properties besides Anne Hathaways house. 
After enjoying the wonders of Anne Hathaways house, we walked to Halls Croft. This is the property which was owned by William Shakespeare's daughter and her husband. 
It was then onto Harvard house, with a few stops along the way to do a spot of shopping. The busiest visit of the day was the birthplace of Shakespeare, here we had a bit of a queue to view the house. We had somehow missed the church and grave of William Shakespeare, so we retraced out steps and found the church where Will was buried. 
We then wandered along the banks of the River Avon back into town having dinner at The Garret Inn the oldest pub in Stratford. 

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Road trip has began!

Up and away from Virginia's just after 9. 
We managed to negotiate our way onto the M20, then to M40 which took us through, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and finally Warwickshire. 
Our first port of call for the day after near on 3 hours was Burford. We were very lucky getting a car park on the Main Street and judging by all the traffic which continued through the town the whole time we were there, we were extremely lucky. 
Burford is one of those picture postcard villages in the Cotswolds. It was selected as a stop, due to Cook family tree originating from this area. We spent a lovely few hours wandering around the town, having lunch in a lovely little bakery which had been in existence since 1870.
From Burford we travelled a few more miles to Bourton on the Water. Again luck was with us and got a park on the Main Street. We became one of the many tourists wandering around the town, taking in the sights and shopping along the way. There was a novel Christmas tree which was in the middle of the stream running though the town. Again a better looking tree than the one in Trafalgar Square.
Had forgotten how beautiful the Cotswolds stone is, makes the villages look so beautiful and inviting.

Afternoon tea stop was in the car with coffee and a Lardy cake. This pastry/cake was the size of a lunch plate so certainly one to share.

From here we headed to our stop for the next couple of nights Stratford upon Avon. Found our B&B without a hitch. Received a very friendly welcome. Our bedroom is downstairs and right next to the breakfast room. 

The town is only about a 15 minute walk from the B&B, which will be handy for our endeavours tomorrow. After getting settled, we walked to Morrisons getting our dinner. 

Monday, 28 December 2015

Magical Mystery Tour

Today being another holiday it was a late start and a decision to take the family on a magical mystery tour. With thermos packed and all loaded into the car we took off, going right out of the gateway and past Luke’s school and Canterbury rugby club. Driving down country lanes the guessing of where we were going were from the sublime – Leeds Castle (we went there last time Diane visited), Badgers Hill to the ridiculous (France on the Eurostar-Diane’s guess, as we started to see signs for Ashford International Station). Eventually we ended up at the Ashford Designer Outlet centre where Mark and the children headed for the playground and the ladies wandered the shops browsing, observing bargains and making a few purchases along the way. When we finished the tour we were advised that the younger members of the party had already eaten at a non sandwich venue, so a trip around ASDA to find lunch items for the adults ensued. As well as these we purchased wrapping paper which was marked £1, but we paid 50p so a bargain all around.

All aboard for stage two of our tour and we were looking for a windmill to find out lunch spot. The village of Woodchurch was our stop and we found a seat to put our lunch on, the kids had a play area and a cuppa later we set off for a walk around the church – some of which was 14th century and up the muddy path to the windmill (much later construction). Next stop was a drive through of the village Hamstreet to see if we could find the church mentioned in Wikipedia but we think it must have been amalgamated or something as we could not find it.

Driving home again we ended up coming in the back way and doing almost a loop of the Kent countryside. A great day out, quite warm but breezy at times and entertaining for the most part. A roast dinner was the climax of the day with the kids early to bed and us starting to pack for our road trip tomorrow.


Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas Day!

After much anticipation the day has finally arrived!

Santa left chocolates on our pillows.

There was a bit of a rugby scrum at the top of the stairs at shortly before 8am. Christmas carols were sung while waiting for the stragglers to arrived (Stephanie and Diane)

The Santa sacks were the first to be attacked. We were very lucky as not only did Santa stop by the bedroom but he also delivered some more to the lounge.
How lucky were we!!
There seemed to be plenty of parcels to be open, with the finale of 3 tablets being unwrapped. 

Didn't see much of the kids during the day.

Virginia prepared a lovely turkey dinner with the trimmings.

Lunch and dishes done in time to watch the Queens speech. The rest of the afternoon was spending watching Christmas movies and eating chocolates and some did end up inspecting the inside of their eyelids. 
The kids headed to bed about 8 which left us to watch the much anticipated Downton Abbey Christmas special.

Run up to Christmas

Wednesday and Thursday were spent around Canterbury, with some shopping and chores on Wednesday in town. We walked to town about 20 minutes to meet Virginia and choose a present for Mark and Virginia from the kids. While Stephanie met with Virginia, I took the kids looking at the Christmas market for ideas and also Primark as the idea for Mark was a tie. No serious contenders so we looked at a superman belt and chocolates perhaps.
Meeting up with Virginia the kids could not keep their lips zipped so surprise value was out. We took Stephanie to show our choices and made the appropriate purchases. I looked around the Canterbury cathedral shop as well. Pasties for lunch followed and then we walked back home, ready to wrap the presents and hide under the tree. 
Thursday being Christmas Eve, it was a case of keeping the kids occupied as they were very excited about Christmas. Sometimes wonder if we were ever that excited. 
We also picked up the hire car this morning, a little adventure in itself!

We headed into Canterbury just before midday, after going for a walk with Mark and children around the area visiting Luke's school.
Our aim was to go to the cathedral Carol service. Last time we went we were able to get tickets, this year it was on a first come first served basis. As we were about to line up, it decided to bucket down. A quick umbrella purchased was required. 
Patriotic umbrella purchase to hold off the rain.
Turned out we only stood in line for less than 10 minutes, due to the rain the doors were opened early. Did mean we were seated by about 1.30pm with the service starting at 3pm. However, the benefit was good seats, so we could see everything going on.
It was a lovely service, the choir was amazing and the venue just added to the majesty of it all. 
The service went for hour and half but well worth and a fabulous way of starting the Christmas festivities.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Kids Day Out

Today we had a day in London with the kids (Luke 11 Callum 9 and Emma 6)

Left Canterbury just after 8.30am where it was raining, thankfully when we'd got to London, there was a bit of blue sky and apart from one brief shower it was fine the whole day.

The aim of the day was a visit to The Tower of London. It has been many years since either of us had visited, so it was as much as a treat for us as the kids. After the train it was a bus ride to the tower, going past various landmarks along the way.

Arrived at tower and had to queue a short time for tickets, collected  kids activities books then off to the tower. We had decided the first point of call would be the Crown Jewels. Very lucky as there was no waiting. We made our way through the display, finding the various items as required by the activity book. Think we were all in awe of the sparkles, even the boys!

From the Crown Jewels and a quick look through the gift shop we headed to the tower, which Emma had spotted on the way and thought it might be a good one to visit. The Bloody Tower, turns out later she just liked that it was through the the tower of torture, which I noticed kids moved through quite fast.

We then took a beefeater tour, which provided us with some interesting information and jokes along the way. At the end of this, we had all had enough of blood and gore, so a quick viewing of the armoury and then off to find lunch. 

We got lucky on our bus trip back to train station, as we got to ride on one of the original double decker buses. Made a stop at Trafalgar Square to see the Christmas tree. Must admit the tree looked somewhat thin and not quite the standard you would expect, perhaps it's been a bad tree year in Norway!!

The train journey saw both Emma and Diane fall asleep. A big day for all!!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Visitors and shopping

Today was a quiet start as Mark went off to work and we prepared the house for small visitors.  Rosalind and her two girls came for a Christmas visit.  After initial shyness wore off the children all played well together while us big girls had tea and chat.
Lunch was a selection of tasty nibbles then all bundled up to go into town and do the chores, bank, post office, supermarket,etc.
The rain held off while we walked into town, but the wind was brisk. The post office saw us post christmas cards then onto looking for the bank and card factory. The Christmas market looked exciting but only a quick browse and a sniff of the sweet peanuts with a promise we would get some on the way home. After finishing chores it was time for the eggnog and gingerbread lattes at Starbucks, very yummy.  Home we then wandered via Wilko (just to show Diane the shop) and Waitrose (because you never know what bargains will be had, Virginia). The rain had then started so we walked briskly up new Dover road through the pass and home where a cuppa was programmed.
IKEA for dinner (Swedish meatballs) with pecan and apple yummies for dessert.  Diane then watched the BAFTA celebrates downtown abbey show while Stephanie turned in early. A nice relaxed family day before Christmas. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

A windy Day at Englands Defences

OThe day started watching the antics of the squirrel that lives in Mark and Virginia's garden!

Then it was off to visit Dover Castle for the day. The weather was fine, but you needed to make sure the old wig was nailed down as very windy at times. 

Went through the secret wartime tunnels, where we got to see, hear and feel the danger as the 1940 evacuation of the troops from Dunkirk was brought to life. This event was the turning point in the role the tunnels played during WW II.

Next on the agenda was lunch. We had a picnic lunch finding a sheltered nook, as the wind had increased during our time below ground.

After lunch we headed off to look through the the castle. We were lucky enough to have some live performers moving through the various rooms of the castle. They would explain what would be happening in the particular room in preparation of the visit of King Henry II.  In the Kings Chamber, Luke and Virginia were lucky enough to participate in the play. Luke taking a major part, we were a little confused, as Luke did start the play using a Scottish accent but it seemed to disappear along the way. At the end of the play we all had to take part in the Christmas dance. Stephanie did ask Luke why a Scottish accent, reply 'oh can't do any English accent', he was quite surprised when he found out his normal accent was English! 

We visited St Mary in Castro church which apparently is the finest late Saxon building in Kent. 

The Castle and surrounding buildings have gone through substantial restoration over the past years.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

On our way part 2

Boarded flight all going well, then got told flight take off delayed. Deja vu! 
The loading lift was broken but this meant it was stuck to the plane, had to wait for technical team to come and fix then they could continue to load. 
One hr 5 mins later we finally departed.
No upgrade but we did get 3 seats between us and also some extra goodies courtesy of one of Stephanie's client. We both managed to get some sleep although it was an extremely bumpy flight. 
Arrived in LA late, got through the increasingly confusing transit reboarding. 
At this stage flight is 50 mins late leaving!

Flight through to London uneventful, unfortunately didn't get the the extra seat between us this time. Not able to have much sleep on this leg.
We arrived in London a little late, but we were on the road to Canterbury just over an hour after landing.

Friday, 18 December 2015

On our way!!

We have had an interesting start to our holiday. Had it all planned we would basically arrive at the airport within minutes, but you know what they say about best laid plans!

Stephanie's shuttle arrived15 minutes early and Diane's plane left 2 hours late!!!! At one stage we weren't too sure if Diane would actually make it to Auckland today. But it an answer to prayer, the plane took off and Diane finally touched down in Auckland at 8pm.

By that time Stephanie had made herself comfortable in the lounge and had a much needed welcome drink waiting for Diane.


Waiting for Diane

Finally arrived 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Christmas has come early!

The unwrapping has started (getting in practise of things to come!)

Dinner this evening was shared with Stephanie's mum and dad which was a nice end to a wet and windy afternoon.  
We had presents to swap so it was quite exciting with tea cosies, hot water bottles, shortbread and colouring books in the mix.

The packing is nearly done, just the final odds and ends for the road trip to add. 

This week it will be time to contemplate duty free and in transit shopping!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

15 sleeps to go

The movies are chosen - its a choice between hot bodies in Magic Mike (Diane's choice), the emotions of Inside Out, Minions wrecking havoc, and the Man from UNCLE (Stephanie's preferred eye candy!). We hope that there are no dodgy screens in sight and can watch a whole movie without going to sleep.

Why is it, you can sleep during a movie, but not sleep at sleep time!

We still have our fingers crossed for the upgrade so here is hoping that we get a special treat to start our flights. We do have lounge passes, so can use them to while away an hour after the duty free shopping.

Is it a shame that we can't see the menu option? Or is the surprise worth waiting for anyway? Diane remembers when booking a vegetarian meal meant it came out first and you could be asleep before anyone else was served. This was in the days of the one movie choice - oh those were the days :)