10.05.2010 - 06.06.2010 25 °C
We arrived in London after a wonderfully exciting delay at Miami airport. After boarding the plane, moving away from the airbrigde, they had to confirm some maintenance paperwork. 3 hours sat on the tarmac without much air con was not fun! Not a good end to the South American adventure, but it was our only delay in 3 months of travelling.
A couple of days around the house in Sevenoaks with Sarah's parents was relaxing. A great highlight was the trip to Blue Water (massive shopping centre), to purchase a dress for the Fiona's wedding that weekend. Seth decided to buy a new pair of jeans and jumper as it was freezing and the options he had with him were slim (meaning not that many, not too small). Seth was then sent to the cinema to see Iron Man 2. After the film, he was very confused that the dress hadn't been bought in that time (it was only 2 hours!!), but after a few grumbles we finally got home with a dress and a pair of shoes.
The next day we flew to Edinburgh for Fiona and Strat's wedding. It was even colder in Scotland than it was in Sevenoaks! We stayed at Lucy's, and the first night went to meet the bride and groom and a couple of the Kiwi friends in a pub in town. It was good to see the happy couple before the big day. We went to the 'old man' pub next door to the original venue, because it was too noisy... geez we are getting old!
The next day we had lunch with Sarah's Aunt Moira and Great Aunt Nessie. It was lovely and Dan (Lucy's boyf) had booked us a table at the restaurant where he works, it had a great view looking over to Edinburgh Castle (and he got us the best table too) so it was idyllic. Nessie turns out to be our most avid blog-reader! and seemed to have most of the blog memorised. Moira would print it for her each time to read at home (... sorry trees). She is able to recount the whole trip and even correct us when we got things wrong!
We went straight from lunch to pick up Seth's tuxedo from the hire shop. Short story is that Moira had been in Oz last October, we planned ahead and she took a suit back to Scotland for the wedding. But then we got the invite in March and it was black tie. Bugger.
From town we went to visit Kirsty and Paul's and met their gorgeous daughter Ellie. We sat around the house all afternoon with Ed and Jolene, who were up from London for the weekend. The girls all went to Uni together. Afternoon turned into dinner and a great evening of recounting Uni stories by the girls and eye-rolling by the boys. We arrived back at Lucy's late with a few more beers under the belt.
Saturday was the wedding and we met more of Sarah's friends in a restaurant for lunch prior to heading to the wedding. Lunch was a good start and there was already some serious banter occurring around the table. The eight of us then got into a maxi taxi and headed off to Harburn House for the wedding.
The wedding was lovely, with Fiona looking gorgeous and Strat looking very handsome in tartan trousers showing his Kiwi/ Scottish heritage. A piper piped them in (how else would it happen) and then the simple and moving humanitarian ceremony proceeded, with readings in many languages we could not understand including Maori, Belgian, Scottish (which Seth even needed translated). It was a great ceremony, very personal and heartfelt.
The reception was held in a large marquee in the grounds of the house, the venue was gorgeous, perfect blue skies... if a bit chilly! The speeches were on prior to the meal and they were all very funny and both the bride and groom looked nervous at the right moments as stories were told about their past. But of course alongside the jokes and innuendo there were lots of wonderful things spoken about both of them. The cutting of the cake was humorous given the cake was a depiction of the meeting of the bride and groom. Strat (the Policeman) found Fiona (a friend of this brother's girlfriend), in the spa on his return from work.... erm.... nothing more to write about that meeting in this public forum.
The meal was wonderful and as everyone got to know each other as we ate it was clear the festivities to follow would be fun. The ceilidh started the dancing with a bang and continued whilst a few took up station at the bar. The photographer had set up a funny photo corner and as more booze was consumed, the photos got sillier, with wigs and hats. Some, drawn by the camera may have spent more time in the corner than anywhere else (Lucy and Dan!).
The buses back to town arrived at midnight, which seemed very early so the committed stayed on for a few more hours, drinking and dancing until the taxis arrived and the bride and groom needed to retire to the bridal suite. The taxi ride back to town was supported by a few bottles of beer and champagne grabbed from the bar on the way out. The driver joined in the singing on the way home, if not by choice, by necessity. The dancing and drinking continued at Lucy's until the early hours of the morning.
On Sunday, we ventured out to watch Dan's soccer Cup final. They won and the captain, no other than the man himself, held the trophy high to the cheering crowd. We then headed to Fiona's parents for a BBQ. It was very different to the day before where all of the girls were dressed up, drinking and fancy free, they were now carrying bags of nappies with children running around and babies needing feeding. A big change, but lovely to finally meet all the little ones that have either been born since our last trip or grown up so much since then.
The only negative of the whole weekend was the ash cloud that had once again closed airports around Europe and threatened to derail our flight home on the Monday. We were fine, but the bride and groom not so and their flight to Italy was cancelled, so they hopped on a train and headed the highlands! Lovely, but not quite Italy.
At 4am the next morning Sarah's father drove us 2 and Jill (Sarah's sister) to the airport for our flight to Corfu (once again lucky to be flying with ash and strikes ruining a lot of holidays). We arrived with no accommodation to a cool and rainy Corfu. We go the bus out to Paleokastritsas, a small village in the west, which was very picturesque (apart from the weather). Seth sat in a restaurant over looking the bay and had a bite to eat Jill and Sarah went searching for a place to stay. Seemingly, he was looking after the bags, not being lazy!
We (they) found a great two bedroom apartment 100m from the bay and we spent the first day, which turned out ok, with a bit of sun hanging around our little village drinking beers in the afternoon sun.
Day two found us hiring a car. Jill was the only one allowed to drive as it was only international or EU drivers licenses. The only issue was that she may have her license but has driven less than five times in her life (London lifestyle). After driving away from the hire shop nervously (the car was a manual and we were onthe wrong side of the road), she turned out to be not too bad!
After driving to first beach, which involved a few tight, twisty roads, Seth got scared by all the weeds on the side of the road whipping the passenger side of the car and swerving onto the wrong side of the road with each gear change and he decided that Sarah would be a better option as driver and we would all just pretend she was Jill. The above maybe a bit one-sided so it should be said that Jill did drive well for someone with her experience (says Seth).
The first beach turned out to be popular witht the naturalists, meaning no-one had any clothes on. Quickly moving on from there we went to another beach where readig books and sleeping on the sand was a little more comfortable. The sun was out, although the water was freezinfg and when a cloud came over once every five minutes it was almost cold enough to put your tshirt back on.
From that beach we went to a little village on the top of the hill for lunch and then to a lovely little beach which we had all to ourselves. Sarah hired a surf ski which both Jill and I had a little go on, the water was chilly, but was 'refreshing' and beautifully clear. Jill was the only one not to get in the water and have a proper swim (turned out this was the case for the whole time in Corfu).
Every afternoon was filled with beers and discusson about where dinner should be.
Day three found the weather really set in. It was raining pretty constantly but we headed out for a walk up to the monastry at the top of the hill. It was very pretty but we did have to have a beer in the cafe as a proper rain storm blew in whilst we were up there. We headed down the hill in what we thought was a break in the downpour, only to get soaked! The spot of rain, turned into hail stones the size of marbles and we found oursleves confined to reading books on the balcony for the rest of the afternoon.
The next day we got the bus into Corfu town as there was a parade on - for a Name Day (Helen and Konstantinos). There were marching bands and every school on the island must have had kids in the parade as it was a never ending stream of groups marching with their banners. We walked around town, looking at the old fort, lunching in the main square and having a drink at the port, before heading back to our apartment, (we had the whold little resort to ourselves the whole time!).
We awoke on the final day to probably the sunniest of the four we were there. We had just enough time to get photo and get on a bus back to the airport to fly out back to London. True to form Sarah's Dad picked us up from the airport. This being his 5th trip to either Heathrow or Gatwick to pick up or drop us off in the two weeks we had been here, very considerate and committed! The headlines in the English papers were not very comforting given they had just had a few very unseasonably warm days.
We stayed in Sevenoaks on Saturday night and had a family meal at home and then on Sunday we headed to London with Jill. We met up with Lucy and Sara (another Sara) who were friends of Sarah's from Sydney. We walked around Greenwich Park with their two dogs and then got sushi from the markets and ate it by the Thames.
We then went onto Sara (yet another other Sara) and Jason's for a BBQ. Shona joined us and later Pablo (one of Sara's Uni mates) came along as well. We sat in the garden enjoying the sun and ate, drank and laughed for about 12 hours. Time flies when you're having fun, drinks and food!
On Monday we set off with Neil and Helen (Sarah's Dad and Mum) to Oxfordshire for a few days. We stopped at a great little village pub and had a lovely meal and then headed onto Heythrop Park which was a great old manor house with grounds that have been turned into a championship golf course. Sarah's Dad was having a little trip down memory lane as the estate used to be owned by NatWest as a training venue and he had frequented it in the 80s and 90s, in the good old days when the bank had money to own these kinds of things!
The main house was amazing with huge rooms, stately staircases and idyllic garden outlooks from large windows. The 'wings' which had the bulk of the accommodation in them were a litttle less stately, but had everything for a comfortable stay. Along with the golf course, a new gym and leisure centre had been built which we enjoyed. A bit of cardio followed by a swim and steam. All very nice. By dinner it was time to set out looking for a pub in the woods that Neil remmbered. Although we found a great place for dinner it was not the pub in question.
The next day we went out to check out the small country villages in the Cotswolds. After stopping off at the Rollright Stones (a very poor cousin to Stonehenge!) we went to a few villages but decided the winner was Lower Slaughter with a lovely little stream and mill. We had lunch in Broughton on the Water which was claimed to be the best by all the locals but although it was pretty it was overflowing with the midweek senior citizens crowd. There was not one spot of vacant lawn that had not been tainted by a wheelchair, walking frame or shuffling footsteps.
We headed back to Heythrop for a twighlight 3pm tee off. The golf pro came out to the first tee with us to ensure that we weren't hacks and proceeded to add greater pressure to the first hit of the day. The course was very nice but being new it was designed for buggies, which Neil and Helen do not approve of. So we found long walks between holes but it was a fun first nine holes with Helen and Seth versus Sarah and Neil, which resulted in a tie.
Neil and Seth played the last nine alone with Helen being caddie and Sarah ducking off to the gym. Neil easily won the last nine holes with Seth losing 2 balls on the last hole alone! We finished at 8pm (of course in England it is light until 10pm). We rushed out to dinner knowing that most village pub kitchens closed early. The exciting news was that we found the little pub (that Neil had been looking for, although it wasn't really 'in the woods', or 'walking distance from Heythrop', which had been our only 2 clues), but the kitchen closed 15 minutes earlier!- and it looked like a lovely pub too! We were then forced to head into Chipping Norton to find a pub kitchen open a bit later, which we did by just 10 minutes.
The next day we headed back to London but first via LegoLand. Sarah had been dreaming about going there since she was ten. Unfortunately on arrival and checking the cost of entry (38 pounds each) it was decided by Neil, Helen and Seth that even the two for one vouchers did not justify a visit. We were also aware that we did not have a child under 10 which every other person entering appeared to be escorting. Sarah managed to hold back her tears and we headed off to Windsor Castle instead, promising her we would return.
Windsor was a pretty town and we had lunch on the Long Lawn, in front of Windsor Castle, we weren't sure if the Queen was home, but didn't see her. We just wandered aroudn the outside of the Castle, rather than joining the oldies inside.
We then purchased some bird food and Sarah and Neil were feeding the swans on the river, with Helen and I taking photos but not too interested in the nasty, greedy creatures.
Two days back in Sevenoaks gave Seth the enough time to watch some movies and Sarah enough time to get frustrated with him. We went to he driving range and hit a few golf balls and also visitied Helen at her new offices. Luckily Neil had put Sarah on the insurance for the MG (Seth was upset that he is obviously trusted with the daughter, but not to with the car!) but we cruised around with the roof down and our jumpers on. On friday night Sarah's cousin Laura came down with her new fiance Ali (our first time seeing them since their engagement). It was great to catch up with them and as we will unfortunatley not get back for their wedding in August it was great to here about the extravegant plans for a cathedral ceremony and castle reception in Scotland!
Good to see people appreciating their gifts from Bolivia!
Saturday found us returning to London for round two. We went to the Bok Bar in Covent Garden to watch the Super 14 final where Jason found us once he had finished some work at the 'Pokemon World Championship' - loser. We then went to Jason's and had a quiet night chatting with Lucy who was down from Edinburgh and ordering pizza to eat in. Maybe another indication that we are getting old as none of us were that interested in venturing out.
On Sunday we went to Streatham Hill to see the newly renovated house of Ed and Jolene and catch up with more of Sarah's Uni friends. The house was lovely, the BBQ was excellent and Ed only lost points on the weather! It wasn't that bad as the girls, led by the Shona, chased the sun down the backyard as it retreated behind the neighbours wall. A late arrival by Buzz and Jon, meant a second round of the BBQ and drinking and chatting until the wee small hours. Another night spent in someone's house and not in a pub reinforces the mature choices displayed by the group present.
Monday was the bank holiday and we got up late. Ed, Jolene and us then met Jill at the movies in Brixton. We had decided on 'The Bad Lieutenant' which, lets just say was odd! We then went for Turkish dinner and as the public servants (Jill and Ed) had Tuesday off also we went to the bowls club for a few beers. The final destination was Jill's new house where she lives with two friends before we headed back to Sevenoaks for the last two days of our stay in the UK.
A final family dinner with Jill, Neil and Helen at a local pub on Tuesday, and then packing on Wednesday rounded off a wonderful stay with the family and some great catch ups with the UK friends. On Wednesday we headed to Heathrow for the last time on this journey (to Neil's relief) and got on the flight to Singapore!
We arrived in Singapore to some hot, but not too hot weather, which was nice. We were staying with friends, Dougie and Caroline and their kids (again! but this time Seth didn't bring swine flu). They have moved house to a beautiful place with a huge pool and it was lovely to sit outside in the warm evening and have a BBQ, it was as if we were back in Brisbane on a summers evening (but without the maid!).
The next day was pretty chilled out, just hanging in the pool with Lulu and Bella, reading stories and brushing up on our colouring-in skills and having a litlte look in the shops of Orchard Road.
On the Friday night we went out for dinner and had a fab Chinese meal at Boat Quay, it was a perfect spot overlooking the river, the food was great and not too expensive (as much of Singapore can be). The Quay was alive and bustling with restaurants and bars. After dinner we headed off to the BQ bar, where beers were about $15 each, not the best place to have too many, but we did anyway!
We were the last people to leave the bar and infact the whole street, the bar staff were pleading with us to leave, but we weren't going to leave a half-drunk-$15 beer! But after the obligatory stop at McDonalds we headed home and to bed (at 4am). The next day the Isles family headed to see 'the Gruffalos' - a kids show, but they only just made it there, with Dougie having to have a little stop on the way, because "daddy had a sore tummy!". oops.
While they entertained the kids we headed out for breakfast in a very Sydney-like cafe tucked out of the way in Robertson Quay and met a friend from Sydney Rachael, who had exciting news that she was pregnant, which was great to hear.
The afternoon was spent snoozing, playing the pool and going for a walk in the Botanical Gardens, which was a nice relaxing way to spend the last hours of our adventure! At 7pm we headed to the airport and back to Brisbane. Boo!
We arrived back into Brisbane after a horrendous, kid-screaming flight (- the worst of the whole trip!) to a beautiful sunny, winters day. Our renters had left the house in great shape and we started to unload some of our belongings, but not too many, as we are so used to having only a few clothes to choose from that it seemed a little overwhelming to fill up the wardrobes!
Since we have been back people keep asking us what our best bits were, but we can't compare them as we did so many different things, so we have made a Top 8! (in no particular order):
Torres Del Paine National Park
Bolivian Salt Flats
Inca Trail and Macchu Pichu