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Loire Valley!!

Yesterday we arrived in Chennonceau – in the Loire Valley. This is our first hotel with a pool. As we drove up – the boys grabbed their suits and were in the pool before we had even parked the car.  It is a beautifu old hotel with a pool and pretty garden. We even have a large suite with 2 rooms and a living area. It is great!

It is about 50 yards away from a pretty chateau – Chennonceau. After dinner Alex and I walked down to the Chateau. They have a night time vist with lights shinning on the castle and the gardens. Very nice. It stays light here so late that you have to wait until about 11:00 for it to get really dark.

Today –  we got chocolate croissants from the local pattiserrie for breakfast and had a nice late start to the date. Rich went into town to do laundry and I went swimming with the boys.

Then we all visited the Chateau in the day. RIch and David were slightly unimpressed because there are no battles or wars associated with the castle.

We rented a row boat and rowed around the river by the Chateau for awhile. I demonstrated my tremendous rowing ability and David was a quick learner as well.

We had a fabulous dinner in our hotel last night – but it was a bit dicey with the boys. They aren’t quite used to upscale and we were lucky to make it through without Alex spilling or breaking anything!  We decided on a more casual place tonight – and it was nice.

It was nice to have a day with no driving!

Rowing on the Lore.

David intent on learning to row. We only crashed once. Alex’s comment — “Some of the passengers are nervous!”

Chateau Chennonceua

Normandy Beaches!

Today was a beautiful day. We had croissants and hot chocolate for breakfast.

Then Richand and David took off to view the Bayeux tapestry. A very old tapestry that tells the story of William the Conqueror. They both enjoyed it and Alex and I enjoyed walking around the narrow streets of Bayeux looking for chocolate.

Then we all headed out to the coast to Arromanche to visit the beach where the British built an artificial harbor in preparation for the DDay invasion. An interesting museum and pretty beach. There are still remnants of the harbor on the sand.

After lunch the boys had a great time swimming in the ocean and even made friends with a couple of German boys also visiting.  Actually moving to watch them playing together amid the remainder of the port and imagine the different scene on that beach so many years ago.

The boys are writing in their journals (not happily – but doing it anyway).  Now we are off to find a place for dessert and to bed early.

Tomorrow — to the Loire.

The boys on the beach at Arrormanche. The structure behind them is a remnant of the artificial harbor built by the British to aid in the DDay invasion.

Goodbye England — Hello France!!

We left England by ferry yesterday and waved good bye to the white cliffs of Dover!  Very nice ferry ride and entry to Calais!

Nice to be in France – but the most joyous event of the day – perhaps the trip – was to find out  – our renal car had been upgraded to a midsize WITH A GPS system!!!!    We call her Bessie and she did a FABULOUS job of getting us to Bayeux.   What a relief. I didn’t have to look at the map once and Richard and I could actually converse without worrying about finding the next route. It was wonderful! 

Had a nice dinner and good wine in Bayeux. The boys have gotten into the spirit of learning French and even conversed with the waiter a bit.

Today Rich and David are going to see the Bayeux tapestry and then we’ll all go visit the invasion beaches and a WWII museum. With Bessie  – I am confident we’ll find everything!

Off to breakfast of chocolate croissants and cafe ole!  We will miss the English breakfasts!

Good bye England! 

In Crediton!

A quick (1 hour) drive to Crediton yesterday where we met up with Richard’s friends Robin and Jean Langhorne. They are a wonderful older British couple. Jean looks a bit like the queen.  Robin was a history teacher at the local school – “Queen Elizabeth School” – where Richard worked with him for a semester in 1980.

Robin took David and Richard on a tour of the old church in Crediton. The church dates back to 1100.  They had a sword from 1640 that David was allowed to test out.  Robin is a wealth of information on English history and tells it with a wonderful flair and his deep English accents makes it even more special. David was enthralled.

Alex – not quite the history buff – was content to play at the local playground and met some British playmates.

We went back to the Langhorne’s home and Jean had tea waiting. A delicious affair that included lemon cake, chocolate biscuits, shortbread, bread butter and jam, fruitcake and of course plenty of tea.  It was a hot  afternoon and I wasn’t interested in hot tea – a cold drink sounded better to me. She thought that very odd. “No tea?? She looked at me as if I was off a little.

After our vist with Langhornes we checked into a wonderful B&B on a working farm  – 90 cows – and you can tell by the smell!  It is a big farm house with a fabulous view of the green valley.   The boys loved wandering around looking at the barn, the cows and the big tractors.

Alex was in heaven when he met up with the farm dog – “Rosie”.  Alex and Rosie played together for several hours.  Rosie was exhausted – but Alex – who never seems to run out of energy was still raring to go.

In the morning the owner served cereal and fresh fruit and juice. Then she offered: eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, broiled tomatoes, hash browns, beans, and toast. She said “Just tell me what you don’t want.”  Richard said – “I’ll take it all – except the beans!”  He is really enjoying the big breakfasts!

The boys and I had a nice walk down the country lane to a river – where they soon stripped to underpants and went for a quick swim.  Great spot.  

Back in town we took the Langhornes to lunch at “The New Inn” – odd name for the Inn built in the 1200s.  We had roast beef and yorkshire pudding and for “pudding” or “puds” as they call it on the children’s menu, we had a choice of chocolate mouse, lemon ice cream or hazelnut merinque among other things.

Afterwards more play time at the park where David made a friend named Jack.  We had plans to meet up with the Langhornes later to feed the ducks at a pond. David invited Jack along. Jack said he’d ask his grandfather to take him and hoped to meet us there. We didn’t expect him to actually show up – but once we got to the pond there was Jack with his grandfather who,  it turned out, was a good friend of Robin. The three boys had a fun feeding the ducks. We also got to watch a cricket match for awhile. I’m still not quite clear on the rules – but it was so perfectly British to watch the teams all in crisp white outfits playing cricket out in this beautiful green area.

Well – tonight is our last night here in Crediton. We hope to be back again someday. David and Jack have exchanged emails and plan to correspond.

Tomorrow – we are off to Eastbourne. It will be a 4 hour drive. Our number 1 priority is to find a laudromat!  Oh the joy of packing light!

We are enjoying your comments!

The Langhornes

David trying on helmet during the tour of the church – founded in 1100!


View fom the B&B

Alex and Rosie the farm dog.

Walk down the lane

Pants off – time to swim!

In Taunton

We have been in Taunton visiting Richard’s friends Andrew and Helen the last few days. They have been incredibly hospitable to us and have taken us touring and had us to dinner every night. It is great to connect with frieds after being on our own for a week. We have loved the home cooked meals! Especially the “puddings” – desserts! Helen made delicious homemade ice cream and we had strawberries and double cream which was great. Andrew said during Wimbledon it is tradition to eat strawberries and cream.

Helen even did did our laundry, hung it to dry and returned it to us neatly folded. She asked me if I would like it ironed. I say – “Of course!!” – no just kidding. Our clothes would go into shock if they were ironed – it has never happened to them.

We are staying at a great Bed and Breakfast about 1 mile from Andrew and Helen’s home. We can walk to their house for dinner and it is a pleasant walk home through a pretty neighborhood.  The traditional breakfast here is eggs, canadian style bacon, baked beans, roasted tomatoes and very strong coffee. Big breakfast!

The first day here Richard and David took a day off and rested. Helen, Alex and I took an old steam train to visit Dunster castle which was fun. The next day we all went to visit the SS Great Britain in Bristol.  Took the train and then walked through Bristol (got lost many times) – finally found the ship. It was launched in 1853. Looked quite luxurious for its day – if you were in first class at least. I wouldn’t want to have travelled back in steerage. ugh. Boys had fun running around the ship.

Today Richard is off with Andrew and the boys to visit the RAF museum. I am staying home and relaxing. It’s nice to be alone for a bit.

We’re taking Helen and Andrew out to dinner tonight. Looking forward to steak and kidney pie and some good ale. Laura – her eldest daughter will babysit our boys. Even better – a night with just adults!

Tomorrow we leave for Crediton to see Richard’s friends the Langhornes. It will be sad to say good bye to Helen and Andrew – who will do our laundry??
Alex and Helen on the steam train to Dunster.

Alex and Helen on the steam train to Dunster.

Waiting for the train to Bristol

Trying on hats on the SS Great Britain

Lost in Bristol

Helen, Timothy, Rachael (Tim’s girlfriend), Alex, David, and Laura.

Day 5: Last Day in London!

Well – our last day in London was good and bad.  First the good. We actually got up at out by 9:00 – which is quite early for us. Had a delicious breakfast in the city. Eggs and Rashers – which is bacon or sausage -not sure which. Then we hopped on the double-decker sight seeing bus for a tour around. It’s great because you can hop off anytime you want to see a sight and then hop back on later.

Only problem….. you *need* to hang on to your ticket. Oops. We hopped off to visit the Imperial War Museum (great time!).  Hopped back on over to the Tower of London – wonderful tour! 

And then – bad news – no more ticket.  Worse news – David lost his iPod.   Seems all that hopping is not so good for keeping things in your pockets.  Poor David – this morning he received a stern lecture from Richard – “You can take the iPod for the day – but if you lose it – it is *gone* – you’ll never be given another.”  Oh dear. A painful life lesson was hopefully learned today.

Other than lost tickets and treasure and paying $6 per bottle for 4 bottles of water when we were thirsty – it was a great day!

London has been great – but  I think the boys are ready to slow the pace. Tomorrow we drive to Taunton to visit friends. I’m sure the adventure of driving on the left in unknown teriitoy with me navigating will be just the calm, quiet day the boys need. Sadly there willl be no iPod to tune the world out. More of the adventure.

David on the hop on hop off bus. Where is the iPod??

Changing of the guard

David, Alex, and Rich volunteered to be soldiers at the Tower of London



Day 4: HMS Belfast & London Bridge Experience

We got a late start today. Richard slept until 11:30 and then we decided we needed to do laundry. The laundry machine takes over an hour to run!  Finally got on our way and made it into the city.

We took of a tour of a great battleship and then decided to take the “London Experience”.  A tour/show about London Bridge.  I thought it was very lame – but the boys enjoyed it and Richard actually liked it.

We enjoyed walking over London Bridge – which doesn’t appear to be falling down. A long tube ride home and dinner near our apartment.

Our plan is to get an early start tomorrow and make the most of our last day in London!  We’ll see….

On London Bridge

Hanging out clothes to dry in the back of our apartment. Oh the joy of packing light!

Day 3: Playground and Lord of the Rings

We went back into the city again. We are getting good at using the subway.  Rich bought oyster cards so we just swipe the card which is nice.  Boys go free – so they have to go through the gate with us. But the gates close so quickly we can barely make it through without it beeping and making a big scene. Rich and I have a contest to see who can get through without a beep. So far, I keep losing.

Rich and David went to “The Lord of the Rings” play today. In Richard’s words: “It was a magical experience.”

Alex and I went to Hyde park and Kensington gardens and found the Princess Diana playground. It was wonderful. A pirate ship, sand, tee pees, suspension bridges and ice cream. Alex was in heavan. I got to sit on a bench and visit. Met a guy from Seattle who is living in London for awhile.

Then we all met up at Trafalgar Square.  Thought we’d meet on the steps – hmmm – seems a few other people had the same idea!

Pancakes for dinner!

Day 2: In the City!

We had our first day in the city!  Took a bus and then the “tube” and finally got to Trafalgar Square.  Lots of pigeons that Alex loved to chase.   Had a good lunch in “The Crypt” then took the London Eye for a ride.

The London Eye is a big ferris wheel thing only instead of seat there are enclosed capsules.  David had a great time taking pictures.  We now have 100 photos of the people below on the ground. 

After the riding the eye – we took the subway to the war cabinet rooms and Churchill museum.  It was a wonderful museum. The cabinet rooms are underground where Churchill met with his staff to conduct the war. The rooms were restored to exactly the way they were during WWII.  They gave you a headset to listen to a guide to museum. It was excellent. The boys enjoyed it and Richard loved it.

At this point David was done for the day! He said “I’m hungry, thirsty, and tired — my feet hurt and I WANT TO GO TO BED!”  We got the feeling he didn’t want to go to another site. So home it was on the tube where they both promptly fell asleep.

After an hour relaxing in the apartment – we walked across the street to a great Italian restaurant. So far in England we have had Thai food and Italian food!

It is now 8am day 3 and David is still sound asleep. Alex is up and ready to go! Alex had the best transition of anybody. No problem.

Today’s agenda – “Lord of the Rings” for Rich and David and Science Museum for Alex and me. It’s raining!

London Eye

David’s photo of Big Ben

Wonderful museum! Richard’s favorite visit of the day.

End of a long day. Guess who is ready for bed?