Cadbury World

Playing a little catch up here but thought I would post about a day trip I did with the kids before we left the UK.

As a true Brit, I am a chocoholic.  It’s a problem.  My whole family is addicted and the British definitely have a weakness for it.  Cadburys is our chocolate of choice.  Having lived in the US, we’ve struggled with brands such as Hersheys…a chocolate made from sour milk.  The Americans I would say, are less of chocolate people but more candy and sweet treats such as donuts to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Anyway, I had promised a trip to Cadbury World for the kids.  A day surrounded by our favorite chocolate…!  What could go wrong?

What a disappointment!   While I was fully aware this was NOT a tour of the factory, the entire experience was dull and tired.

First off, its most definitely geared to kids ages 2-7.  The ‘Tour’ was old and felt tired.  Antiquated in parts and then just a very long walk around the outskirts of the packaging plant.   The make your own chocolate was a small paper cup of melted chocolate with a couple of toppings thrown in….and so on.  Just disappointment at each turn.

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making your own chocolate

There was a ‘ride’ that looked like it was from the 1970’s and a new 4D cinema experience.  This was fun but it felt it was just 3 minutes long.

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On the tour

Costumed characters looked bored and it all seemed a bit awkward.

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Characters at Cadbury World

In my research before we went, I was excited to learn more about the town of Bourneville.  The town created by Cadbury to house the factory and workers.  Some great history.  Cadbury created a town, housing, recreational facilities and more to care for the well being of all those that worked for him.  As he was a Quaker, no pubs were established and to this day, there are still no pubs in the town.  There is a small museum detailing this history as part of the tour.  This was the most interesting aspect of the day (well for me anyway).  In past years, they would include a map of the Bourneville campus allowing you to walk around to view and appreciate this history here.  This year, they have removed the map from their tour pamphlet (I asked a member of staff to dig a map out for me).  With this and how poor the day was, I couldn’t help think that perhaps this tour is winding down, soon to close?.   As we know, Cadbury was bought out by Kraft.  The sense of family pride is no longer there and sadly the experience screamed of corporate, waiting for another necessary budget cut.

Were the kids disappointed?  Yes. Would we go again?  No.  Can you get a much better deal on Cadburys at the Co-op?  Yep!

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‘Home’ again

To follow up on my post on Leaving ‘Home‘, we are Home again!

We did it!  We did something different and had an adventure.  Many memories made and treasured and very lucky to have 2 homes…

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We cant really complain about being home, we do live in a beautiful part of the world – Maine.  Freeport to be exact.

Re-entry has been pretty smooth.  The actual day of travel ran like clockwork (I’d like to think that was due to my amazing organizational kills :-P)….travel to airports, pet check-in, people check in arrival in US and so on.   As we had rented our home in the US for the last year, friends had kindly been in to manage any needs at the house before we arrived….also, some friends were under instruction to make beds, stock fridge and get pet food in for our return late that evening.  Thankful for this as we rolled in late and could tumble straight into bed.   Also thankful for the numerous friends willing to stay up late to collect us with our baggage.  As mentioned previously, Icelandair has a generous baggage allowance.  2 x 23kg bags per person….so in all, we had 460KG of luggage (excluding ‘packed to the gills’ hand luggage x5!).

Despite my sadness of leaving England, its always good to be home.  Nice to have your things around you and that settled feeling.  The kids were excited to begin pulling their things out of storage.  It wasn’t long before toys and books were unpacked.

I was anxious to get the kitchen unpacked.  I had missed these items the most.  Managing with just essential kitchen items in the UK had become frustrating at times.  In addition to these, having appliances back!  Dishwasher!!  We’d been without one for 14 months. Obviously, a material luxury but the kids were thrilled to throw away that washing up roster 🙂   Fridge!!  We struggled with a miniscule British fridge for about the first 5 months.  I ended up buying another fridge in the UK as for a family of 5, the coolbox we had just wasn’t cutting it.  Also having to get onto my knees to peek inside was getting old (just like my knees!)   The UK is awash with charity shops so picking up a used fridge (Bosch no less) was easy and resale was even easier!  Last, but not least, a tumble dryer!  We didn’t invest in one on the UK (mostly as there was no place to put one in the house) and with it being one of the wettest years on record (2015), we missed the ease of drying the laundry.  The days became a battle with the weather.  Getting any laundry outside in the dry moments and dragging it all back inside for the wet moments.   I could never get anything completely dry and I couldn’t stand laundry on all the radiators!

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Ahhh….how I missed you 🙂

A non kitchen item I was pleased to see was my closet (wardrobe!).  In fact, all our closets.  The UK house had NO storage space whatsoever.   What pieces of furniture we had, we packed full. In fact, we little storage in our bedroom, opting for some plastic totes to hold our items.   Not ideal, but again, wasn’t worth investing a lot of money.  Coming back to a huge walk-in closet was bliss.  But now, we debated do we even need it?  As you see in the photos below, the clothes shown is all we took to the UK.  And then, we only wore half of them.  So do we really need any more clothes? Or storage for any more?.  As I write this piece, clothes we left in storage have been unpacked….and most have gone to charity.   We have learned to live with so much less and its refreshing and liberating.  Which makes us wonder…do we need all this stuff – clothes, things, anything?   Life takes over and you accumulate and settle.  We were happy and enriched with less and on the move.   Time will tell if we ever fill these closets again!

Our home withstood renters well.  We were lucky…..but the garden not so much.   I didn’t take any ‘before’ photos but here’s a shot of one of the twins holding a weed she pulled up.   Thankfully now we have it restored back to its former glory allowing us to enjoy the final days of summer and into the Fall.

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For everyone in the household, they’ve slipped back to their old lives easily.  Kids back in schools with all their old friends.  Husband back in the office, pets back to their favorite resting spots in the sunny garden.   What we do know is that despite being away, nothing really changed….except for us.   Everything and everyone around us has remained constant.   Reassuring and easy in some respects but I wonder if we will long for more change in our own lives.   In this journey, we taught the kids that change is good and not to be feared.  I hope they hold onto that as they grow into adulthood.   For now, I need to live by my own words and be comfortable with the fact that  I have not returned to the life I had prior. For me, the adjustment back home is greater.  I no longer have an office to go to, colleagues to socialise with.  Nor do we have the big trip to plan for.   So what next?  I’m not sure but happy to be home and so is Chester…

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Leaving ‘Home’

So its been awhile…and a lot has changed in our world.

Over the last 2 months, we’ve packed up one home and returned to another.   Its been busy and despite the lack of posts, we managed to squeeze in a little more travel before we changed worlds.  Those updates to follow.

Since we made the decision to return to the US (here), we kicked into moving mode.   We halted all purchases unless it was critical (such as food!), we began to pack up our belongings and anything not coming with us was to be sold/ donated.  We arrived in the UK with 10 pieces of luggage.  It was our aim to leave the UK with the same 10 pieces….and we did!  Contents differed slightly and brought back lots of momentos, but essentially, we traveled with just our bags.   Icelandair has a great baggage allowance which we used to its maximum!

I single handedly packed up our home over the last few weeks.  It was good to keep busy and have a focus and the prospect of leaving was depressing.  Thank heavens for Facebook groups for selling items.  Between 3 separate groups – I sold EVERYTHING!  Down to the cutlery in the drawers.   I honestly think we broke even in our home furnishings.   I priced to sell, built up a reputation of good quality and people were clambering to get a deal.  At the same time though, it was heartbreaking.

We got to the point where we had nothing left….what you see here was it!   The TV was sold at this point but not yet delivered…

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Packing to return to the US was much more difficult than packing to go to the UK.  Difficult in terms of needing to find a home for everything (no default of ‘put it into storage’), but mostly difficult as it marked the end of our adventure.   We knew a year (14 months in total) was probably not long enough, but it went by too fast.   Our year was up.   We did so much and including our planning, we had so much to look forward to for such a long period of time.  Now it was over.   We all held a certain level of excitement to come back to the US, the kids especially, but to be leaving family again was hard…so difficult.

We spent as much time with family as we could in the final few weeks.  With special time planned to make the fondest of memories.  If nothing else, the kids built strong bonds with family members allowing them to feel they belonged to a large family.

In addition to people, we had pets.  Sadly only 2 to make the return journey (the third was carefully boxed up in hand luggage).  No-one wants to put their pets through any stress, and knowing it would be a stressful moving day for them, I knew that it was important to keep them with us (vs re-homing).   Sure enough, they bounced back pretty quickly and have settled in well again back at home.

The process is much more simplified on a journey into the USA than into The UK.   A process I could manage myself but nonetheless, I worried about their travel. We booked the pets on Virgin Atlantic.  The outbound journey was smooth and hoped for the same on the return.  They were beyond excellent!  They eliminated the stress on my side with friendly and efficient service.  Also super flexible with us as we decided to hang out with the dog a little while longer before he was crated.   Additionally, they arranged for the Heathrow Vet to stop in and issue a passport for the dog.  It wasn’t needed but just in case we came back anytime soon :-).   Bizarrely, this service was HALF the price as if i had done it at our local vet.   For what should have been a highly stressful time, it proved to be a straightforward and laid back process.   For anyone considering pet travel, Virgin Atlantic comes highly recommended!

Even the cat got packed up (she had a temporary home for a couple of weeks)…..its was exhausting work for her too..:-)

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As we left the cottage, we took a few photos for the memory book.  We were very happy here and already miss the cosy nature of the home.   We even miss our friendly ghost (or so we thought there is there).  Its hard to tell but every time we went away, the new net curtains in a  front downstairs room were pulled down!  It was once a main room of the cottage that looks directly into the street.  I am sure our friendly spirit didn’t like the view obscured!  Aside from those times and her gentle hand on my shoulder one night, she was never really a nuisance!

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On our final stroll through the village, the sun was setting.  A poignant end to our time in this beautiful place.  One could say that life is about the journey, not the destination.  This time, I wish we could have lingered a little longer at this destination..

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Studland Beach – Dorset

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View of Old Harrys Rocks from Middle Beach, Studland

Its been a busy week with family visiting…a lot to write about and STILL behind on prior travel I’ve wanted to write about!

So here’s a quick one as I wanted to share a new place we visited this weekend.

Taking advantage of the lovely weather we’ve had in England this week, we’ve done a number of beach days.  One was spent at Studland Beach on the South Dorset coast.

Studland is a National Trust Property and they maintain the coastline nicely.  As it is a NT site, having a membership is helpful as the car park is then free (usually £6).  There is no additional charge for the beach.

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We visited Middle beach.  There is also a South Beach (with a great coastal walk to Old Harry’s Rocks) and a Knoll Beach….one section of the beach is also for naturists (further on the north side).

Middle Beach offers a nice sandy beach, toilets, cafe and ice creams!

Of course, with the weather being perfect, it was very busy.  Space on the beach was at a premium but we managed to find a spot and settle in.  In fact, we stayed all afternoon and opted not to make the walk to Old Harrys rocks this time.

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As you can see, dogs are allowed on the beach.  They need to stay on leash but we swam our guy far out and took him off leash so he could swim.   The water is shallow for a log way out so its perfect for kids and dogs alike!

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Family Frisbee

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Family swim

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Great game of frisbee with the dog

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One year on…

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We embarked on this move with a one year time frame in mind.    To take a break, connect with family and do something different.

The kids signed up for ‘just a year’ and have seized every moment based on just that.

So now what?  We have had an amazing 12 months.  We’ve done a lot and the kids have grown in so many ways.   Daily we point out their achievements, big or small, and even tomorrow we will attend an awards ceremony where our oldest will be honored by her school…bearing in mind she has only been there for a year she has so much to be proud of.

Its been a gut wrenching decision but we will be leaving the UK and moving back to the USA.  Its complicated so its the easiest path at this time….but every single one of us has a heavy heart….:-(

Seven one way flights are booked (5 people, 2 furbabies), we are beginning to pack up the cottage and have begun to say our goodbyes.

We have a few more weeks left on the island so we will surely be making the most of it.   Look out for final UK posts and then more about our life back in the USA!

What we do know – we are ‘Always Home’ on either continent.

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Maine Botanical Gardens 2014

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Corfu June 2016

London – Sky Garden

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So we’ve spent the last few weekends in London so I have a few more posts to write.  In particular order, I will just cover a little of what we have done as we’ve had some enjoyable experiences.

Yesterday, we went to 20 Fenchurch Street, the official name of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building.

We’ve admired this building all year and I think I can say its my favorite modern building in the city.  Growing in popularity is the 3 story Sky garden at the top of the building – floor 35.   I have tried to get tickets in the past but they go quickly.  This time, luck was on my side.  With friends visiting from America, I checked in at Sky Garden website (here) 3 weeks prior to their trip to see tickets available.   The website has a 3 week leadtime for booking so sometimes can be tricky to plan.   I managed to snag the tickets we needed so I was thrilled.  It has been on my London ‘must do’ list for some time.

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View up 20 Fenchurch Street

It’s easy to find and easy to access.  Security was swift and efficient and in no time, we were on the 35th floor looking out over London.  Note – the views are great!  And when you compare to the London Eye (£25) and the Shard (££), considering this is FREE, its probably all you need.  In fact, I would even argue it was better than the Eye.

I loved the view of the Tower of London….a favorite place of mine and new vantage point.

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Tower of London

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St Pauls, BT Tower, City of London

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West London

The gardens are mostly green but lush and nice to wander around.

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View from Garden overlooking main cafe/ vista

 

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The Tower boasts a couple of cafes and a restaurant.  We sat in the window with afternoon tea jut taking in the view.  It was perfect.  And because they limit the numbers up there, its not crowded and has a lovely spacious feel.

If you’ve not done it already, plan ahead and visit the Walkie Talkie!

Take That!

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Horribly behind on posting but this is a quick one I wanted to share!

This last weekend, we went to see Take That at Hyde Park, London.  It was part of the British Summertime Festival presented by Barclaycard.

It was the kids first real concert and TT didn’t disappoint!  Wow!

We snagged a fairly decent spot early on and didn’t move all day.  The festival offered 2 other stages and some activities and lots of food stands.  But TT fans are die hard..they are there to see TT and really no-one else.  Strategically, we managed our space all day (alternating folks on food and toilet breaks) and the wait was worth it!

I’ve been to a good number of TT concerts and this is the first time LuLu was present for Relight my Fire – needless to say, crowd pleaser.  Also fun to have Sigma on stage for their current single Cry.

Supporting bands included Ella Eyre and Olly Murs who was surprisingly good.

Not sure where we will be living next year but hope to catch the boys on their 25th anniversary tour.

 

Sports Day!

This last week, the twins experienced their first sports day.  I find it a very British affair.  The Americans don’t do sports day like the Brits do.  In fact, the Americans don’t consistently do sports day so the whole thing was pretty new.

Sports day is serious business here.  Highly competitive, organised with military precision and House trophies up for grabs!

Already at a disadvantage with no egg and spoon experience, they went for victory in every race!  As expected, we came dead last in the egg and spoon 🙂

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Dropped egg!

A surprise win was the sack race for one of the twins.  Technique was stellar and she romped home to victory!

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Victory!

Race of the day was Obstacle course….twins in heat together (possible recipe for disaster) and neck and neck the whole race for a joint first…made for a much better conversation over dinner!

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Twins – neck and neck – same pace and technique 🙂

So a great day for the memory books and another unique experience of living in England!

 

History in action – Bletchley Park

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So this trip actually happened last fall but I try to play catch up when I can – mixing new adventures with some of our older ones!

For those of you that don’t know, Bletchley Park is/was home of British codebreaking and a birthplace of modern information technology. It played a major role in World War Two, producing secret intelligence which had a direct and profound influence on the outcome of the conflict.  Those that worked at Bletchley through the war were the unsung war heroes, that only in recent years has the nation become aware of and recognised for the role in winning the 2nd world war.  Not only did they help defeat the enemy but they saves countless lives in the process….all through brains vs brawn.

Bletchley has been restored and is now a museum dedicated to all those that lived and worked there.

This particular visit was a special occasion for us.  As it happens, we know a code breaker!

My sister in laws mother  was an original code breaker at Bletchley back in 1943/4.   Her story only came to light in the past decade or so.   She married, raised a family and lived her life without telling a soul of her war efforts and the role she played.  Sworn to the Official Secrets act when she signed up for Bletchley, she maintained her silence for decades.   No surprise really when she recounts the story of joining and signing up….pen in hand and a revolver on the table in front of her, reminding her of the severity and importance of the situation!   Not even her family knew, telling her parents she was working at a clock factory.   Edna was recognised as being particularly bright by her current employer at the time, thus recommending her for the job.  Her travel to Bletchley was secret – cars and trains with no idea of destination and finally arriving and understanding the task at hand.

Many many folks worked at Bletchley and was a community within itself.  Edna worked in the now famous Hut 6, breaking codes related to imminent threat.  What a treat to visit this iconic location with her.  We entered Hut 6 and Edna showed us around even taking us to her office space and desk/ machines.   She was also kind enough to bring morse code and other code breaking info with her and showed the kids how to use the machines!

We accompanied Edna to a Veterans reunion.  We got to hear more of her stories as well as others.  Sadly, not many veterans are still with us and many went to their grave without ever disclosing their war efforts.   About 10-15 years ago, the Bletchley workers began to be recognised thus Edna’s story coming out.  Even then, some veterans opted still not to speak due to their loyalty to the country.

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Veterans at Bletchley

Stories of a time gone by not only included of breaking codes but also of life at Bletchley, socialiszing, work (they worked very long hours through the night at times), and stories of finding Churchills cigar butts in the hut after secret nighttime visits by him.   A particular poignant story shared by Edna is picnicing with local servicemen one weekend on  a rare day off.   The men were off to battle… ‘see you soon’ were the servicemen’s words as they left.  Edna knew of the battle they were to head to and knew she was never to see them again.  The work was difficult in so many ways.  They had the codes in hand and used them over years to defeat the Germans, but not everyone could be saved.

So as we know more now, and code breaking has become the feature of a couple of blockbuster movies, being at Bletchley allowed us to become fully immersed in the history.   We watched the Imitation Game with the kids before we went so they had a good basic understanding of Bletchley…..much easier than text books and a history lesson.  Funnily enough, we are currently settled just 2 miles from Sherborne so references to Sherborne and the Boys school also was of interest and we often walk past the Alan Turing building at the school.

Additionally, when we went, Bletchley had a large exhibition dedicated to the Imitation Game which the kids also enjoyed.  The movie definitely helped with the younger ones maintaining engagement.

Bletchley is a full day out.  So much to see and experience and quite interactive. The history is captivating and for science and maths buffs, you’ll love it.

 

 

Cornwall – Carnewas

This is a follow up post to the Watergate post yesterday.   We rounded out our day after the stroll along Watergate Bay at another National Trust spot further North along the coast (just a few miles).   This was Carnewas.   This is home to the famed Bedruthan Steps.  Sadly we didn’t go this far as the crew was tired but for a short distance, the rewards were plentiful.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!

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Idyllic setting

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Views from the coastal path

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View south down the coastline

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Playing with camera filters allows for  moodier shot