Saturday, July 26, 2008

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Our UK Vacay!! (LOOONG POST!)

I'm slacking in posting about this...mostly because I knew it was going to be a long post and wasn't sure if people would actually READ it! But anyways, we are back from our 10-day trek across the UK. We survived but most importantly, had a BLAST!

We had to get up at something insane like 2AM last Wednesday (the 9th) to get the van loaded, parked, and to the counter for our 6:40 flight. BLAH! Getting us all up and out the door was SO not fun! But we made it and I even had 15 or so minutes to grab some bottles of water before we boarded the plane to O'Hare. (yeah, we were running late...oops!).

Next came a NINE HOUR LAYOVER in Chicago. Yes, that's NINE HOURS.....3 tired kids. So in reality, that was more like 27 hours, kwim? :P BUT, they all took naps at some point, and Karl's students really surprised me by stepping up to help babysit and keep the kids all entertained while we waited for our flight to London. Hooray for the teenagers, who had WAY more energy than me to chase 3 kids around the international terminal! We were a group of 41, so there were plenty of people for the kids to talk to and play with during those 9 hours....thank heavens!

So our flight time finally came, and the flight itself was uneventful. Karl told everybody to sleep since the instant we cleared customs in London our tour started. Nobody listened....not when there's free in-flight movies (or in Alaina's case, the Disney Channel!) to watch......Zach dozed off, but he never 'slept' like I was hoping, which meant I got zero sleep on the flight as well. We landed at 6AM local time (midnight back home) and after a long bathroom stop to brush teeth and such, gather our luggage, we met our tour director, got on our bus, and we were off!

First thing we did was drop off luggage at our hotel, which required driving through downtown London during morning rush hour....YIKES they drive CLOSE to each other! Once we got the hotel thing squared away, we took off for the nearest tube (subway) station and did a walking tour of the city. We ate lunch in Trafalgar Square, walked around Covent Garden (where Matthew was very intent on catching a pigeon....he never did, but he sure tried!)

walked past some memorials and houses of people and stuff I can't rememember...( 4 hours of sleep in the past 48, give me a break!)

We ended up at the London Eye in mid-afternoon. Karl was beyond thrilled (sense the sarcasm? He's deathly afraid of heights!), but he did very well on the ride, and I of course LOVED it....took tons of pictures, glare or not.

After the Eye, we had some free time before dinner, so Karl, me and the kids just walked around by the Thames (not a bad way to spend some free time really, huh?) and made our way toward where we were having dinner. We were exhausted, but kept on going! Dinner was near the Tower of London, so I took lots of pictures of that. After dinner, we went on a Jack the Ripper tour, which Karl was really looking forward to.....then finally back to our hotel to crash around 10PM. I don't even remember putting my PJs on, I was that tired!

The next morning, we had a bus tour with a local guide, around various landmarks. Then we watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. That was cool!

Then we were on our own for lunch and the entire afternoon...woohoo! I insisted on going to King's Cross Station to see Platform 9 3/ we did that...
Then I wanted to see the Diana memorial fountain, so we went there....

Then we found a blue police call box (Anybody but us watch Dr. Who?) and posed with that......After dinner, some of us walked across the river to see the Globe Theatre and take some pictures of that. Then, bedtime!

Day 3, we got on the bus and headed out of London, north into Wales. LOTS of great scenery on the way there obviously. Toured Oxford University, then Stratford to see Shakespeare's birthplace and Anne Hathaway's birthplace (No, NOT the girl from Get Smart and the Princess Diaries......)

Here's where Shakespeare was born:

And this is Anne Hathaway's home...

Stopped at Beaumaris Castle to explore (we saw lots of castles on this trip!)astles on this trip!), and had a pretty low-key night at a really nice hotel in Mold (I got yelled at by our guide for pronouncing it're supposed to say it like "mauld"....whatever!)....Karl and I took one of the other adults up on her offer to babysit and we hit the pub at the hotel with some other adults. Adult time, yay!

Day 4, we were driving again, this time to the docks in northern Wales. Ate lunch at this city that has the world's longest name. I can't even begin to spell or pronouce it...but I took a picture! And I got out the video camera to get a local to say it for me. And I still don't get it. But whatever....yummy fish and chips (which was the same lunch I had for half the trip... I never got tired of it!).

Then we boarded our ferry (small cruise ship really) to cross the irish sea into Ireland. Nice relaxing afternoon at sea. We camped out near the kids' play area and arcade....most everybody else found a couch to pass out on! :)

Once we got to Dublin, we got checked into our hotel and walked down the street to dinner. And the kids asked if Sue could babysit them again, so we said, "SUUUURE!", and Karl and I headed downstairs to the hotel pub again!

Day 5, we had a guided bus tour of Dublin. We went inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, and saw lots of other local places (and no, I didn't go to the Guiness factory...I saw it though!), saw the Book of Kells, and did a lot of window shopping! We ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, paying way too much for our food and t-shirts, but ah well.....

inside St. Patrick's Cathedral...

We spent the afternoon in a park, letting the kids burn off some steam/sugar/energy. The night was another low-key one....we were tired and went to bed early instead of hitting the pubs.

Day 6, we boarded the bus and headed south down through a bunch of different counties (no, I don't remember them all!), stopping at Cashel Rock castle to climb around and take pictures.

Then we went to Blarney Castle, where Alaina and I kissed the Blarney Stone so we could get the gift of gab (like either of us need it?). Karl chickend out (scared of heights, remember?) at the last second (I wasn't surprised, just angry because he wouldn't take pictures either! so I made him buy the ones they took for 20 euros...ouch!) and Matthew was too little (they said you had to be 8, but I gave Alaina the look of "you'd better not correct me!" and assured the guy that Alaina was indeed 8!). Then we ate lunch at a local pub and did some shopping at the local woolen mills. I paid an insane amount of money for a wool sweater. I think I'm going to be buried in it, as much as it cost. But that was my big splurge. :P And it's beautiful. :)>

Day 7, We started the day with a wagon ride through a national park in Galway, which the kids LOVED. Then we walked around Ross Castle and then cruised the lake next to it....gorgeous tour on the pretty!

Then we did a drive around the Ring of Kerry....again, more amazing scenery. I think our kids and all the others fell asleep during those 5 hours on the bus.

This is Torc Falls......pretty, huh? My photography skills are "calendar worthy", don't ya think?

We stopped in lots of places to take pictures, and in another place to see a sheepdog demonstration, and in a bog village to learn about bog (it's about as exciting as it sounds!) which was fun.

This is a big pile of bog. I know what it looks like, but it's not THAT! :P

Then later that night, we had sitters for a night out at an Irish singing/dancing show. I even got the guy's autograph, how exciting!

Day 8, We went to Bunratty Castle, which was the only castle of all that we visited that had anything on the inside, so that made it very special!
Then we did some more window shopping and after dinner, went out again with some other grownups to get an Irish Coffee (I'd been putting off the local delicacy due to my hatred of coffee...not the whiskey! hehehehe)

Like my hat? Irish wool, another "bargain" I couldn't resist!

Day 9, went to Dunguaire castle (pronounced "dun larry", had I not taken a picture, I'd have never spelled that one!).....more pictures!

Then we headed toward the Cliffs of Moher. And I wanted to cry. We got out of the bus and it was pouring down rain and so foggy you couldn't see anything. This was one of the big things I was looking forward to taking pictures of....and you couldn't even tell we were THERE! :*( So we went inside and I bought a bunch of postcards to have pictures of what the cliffs were SUPPOSED to look like to at least be able to scrap being there. Then as I was paying for my postcards, the cashier said that the fog was lifting, so I dragged Alaina out there to take pictures (the boys stayed in the bus) and got a FEW shots taken before the fog rolled right back in. *sniff*

Exhibit A: The total "whiteout" fog when we first got there...
Exhibit B: As good as it least you can SEE the cliffs!

And this was our last night in we could've gone to bed early to be ready for the trip home......but I think we ALL ended up in the hotel's pub! :P Had to leave Ireland in style, right?

Day 10 (I've obviously misnumbered somewhere along the line, 'cuz this should be day 11, but I'm too lazy to figure it out) we left the hotel at 6:30 for the airport in Shannon. Got through security okay, but they confiscated the rocks Alaina picked up on the beach, saying they could be used as weapons.....ooookay......and yet they gave us real silverware (including KNIVES) on the flight. uhm...yeah. glad they confiscated those rocks! But one of the coolest things happened just before our flight.....Matthew took off ahead of Karl and ended up in the cockpit of the plane with the pilots. Not only did they let him sit in the captain's seat and let me take pictures of him, but the captain let Matthew do the announcement for the was SO CUTE! "Good Morning ladies and gentleman, welcome to Continental flight 25. Our flight time today is 6 hours, 56 minutes. My name is Matthew and I'll be your captain today, so don't worry!".......all the flight attendants were cracking up and we got a big round of applause as we finally got to our seats. too fun! The trip home was uneventful as well........just about everybody slept the entire time!

So our England/Ireland trip was a lot of fun.....a very hectic schedule, especially with little ones along. This was my 10-year anniversary present, and it was wonderful. Everybody had fun, I got TONS of pictures (over 1300!) and we made lots of friends amongst the adults along. Now that I know such a trip is survivable with the kids, I can't wait for our Italy/Greece trip in '09!