Belfast, Northern Ireland

 

Good morning 🙂  Just a quick note about Belfast.  What a great city!  Keeping our step count up, we trekked around the city, and only took two busses for the day 🙂  We are big CS Lewis fans, so we spent a bit of time checking out the area he grew up in, the church he was baptized in, and the CS Lewis Square.  We also took a tour of the Belfast City Hall.  Lots to see, but we kept it simple and relaxing.  We are having a lot of picnics, and carrying snacks around in our backpacks to keep the boys happy, as they eat (graze) pretty much all day 😉  We stop at a grocery store pretty every day for picnic foods, and then either eat take away or stop back at the grocery store to pick up food for supper.  Getting into the groove of things now that we have two weeks under out belts!  Until next time…

Ireland-Dublin, Cork

Good morning….it’s an early one today.  We are currently on a StenaLine Ferry, cruising across the Irish Sea from Belfast to Cairnryan, and then on to Glasgow.  We spent the last week in Ireland, and it was fantastic!  The apartment we had in Dublin was in a very central location, and we decided to just walk around for the day that we were there.  It started out as a rainy cool day, but by the afternoon it was sunny and warm. The tour highlights included: Ha’Penny Bridge, Temple Bar area, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral (where the boys were more interested in playing at the park than looking at the architecture), and Guiness Storehouse and area.  Another day with lots of walking, but it was a short one (3 hours wandering), and we all really enjoyed going back and relaxing in the apartment, having a kitchen to cook in, and lots of space to spread out in. Dublin was a lot of fun, and we would have loved to stay, but it was on to Cork after spending two great nights in Dublin.  We took a beautiful train ride through mostly country down to Cork, where we stayed in the dorms at the Unitversity of Cork.  We had a three bedroom dorm, with kitchen and living room, and a nice green square right behind us, and a HUGE park across the street.  It was a bit of a walk from town, but amazing location for the boys, as they spent every day over at the park running around and playing with other kids.  We spent quite a bit of time at Fitzgerald Park, which are the old Exhibition Grounds for the city.  We did a bit of a walk around town, checked out St Finnbarre’s Cathedral, Elizabeth Fort, the UCC campus, and my parents toured the Cork Gaol (jail).  We spent Saturday morning at Blarney Castle, where Nate, Isaac and I kissed the Blarney Stone, but it was a little too high for everyone else in our group.  I must admit, it was definitely not my happy place at the top of that castle!  Lol…really narrow walkways at the top, and not very high walls around you.  But we did it, and it was fun, but I think the grounds around the castle were my favourite part.  So green and lush.  Lots of ferns, vines, ivy, etc.  The boys liked the caves under the castle, and the Blarney river.  I think they would have gone in if we weren’t there telling them no 😉 Again, wish we could have stayed longer here….especially when on the last night, Jo and Isaac made some friends with kids who had just arrived at the University.  At 10:30 I told them they had to come in, and the kids were still talking to Jo and swapping jokes with him through the window into our living room.  Sooo fun!  Anyways, next post will be a quick one about Belfast.  Hope you are all doing well!  Until next time..

 

Harry Potter Studios and Cambridge

So I know Harry Potter and Cambridge don’t really go together, but in this blog, we will put them together for the sake of saving you all from reading two separate entries.  We went to the Warner Brothers Studio in Leavesden (about an hour train ride from London), on the Friday evening.  This is the studio where the Harry Potter movies were actually filmed.  I don’t want to ruin it for people that haven’t gone, but the way they let you into the sets is amazing!!  It was so cool to see the props, sets, and how small the spaces are that the actors were working in.  For me, I loved every single part of it, (the Gryffindor common room, the Burrows, the outside scenes), but the coolest part was the Hogwarts Castle miniature that they used for all the outdoor panoramic shots.  So cool to see it in real life!!! The boys thought the real life Chess pieces were cool, and I think they really enjoyed flying on a broomstick through the Harry Potter scenes 🙂 Anyways, onto the next day….we headed up to Cambridge to see some famjam from back home, and take in the sights.  We had a great day, even though it was a bit overcast.  I think we saw pretty much every building of significance in town…although I couldn’t tell you how to do it again if I tried.  Ruth and Mark were great hosts, amazing tour guides, and the boys were pumped to have an older cousin to hang out with.  It’s also always nice to meet up with a familiar face along the way!  We walked all around town and then had a nice picnic before we hopped back on the train to London.  Another great day spent with some great people!!! Thanks for checking in; until next time…

 

London, England

I really don’t think I can write everything about our week in one post, so I’m going to split it into two.  We stayed in West Kensington, London for the week.  From there, we did a couple day trips, (one to Cambridge, and one to Chartwell), and spent a couple of days just walking, bussing, and training around London.  We lucked out on our first day in London by seeing  the changing of the guard at the less crowded St. James’ Palace.  We weren’t planning on being in the area, as we were heading to the Harry Potter studios later that day, but everyone felt like exploring, so we headed out to see what we could see.  Anyways, we arrived at St. James Palace just as the ceremony was beginning.  it was pretty cool seeing the guards, horses, and watching this ceremony taking place from where it starts.  From there we walked over to Big Ben, Parliament Buildings, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, and then walked back to Buckingham Palace before heading north to the Warner Brothers Studios.  Again, the boys, and Grandma and Papa did quite well with all the walking we made them do.  We ate on the go, and I am ashamed to say we did eat at McDonalds today….lol 😉  We spent another day in London at the end of the week.  This was spent exploring the Churchill War Rooms…bunkers under the 10 Downing area that Churchill used during WWII to direct the war from.  There is SOOOO much history here, that we really couldn’t take it all in.  It was a great place to spend a few hours learning about WWII and the important part England played in it.  From there we headed over to the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge.  Walked around the castle and across the bridge and took in some more history that just blows you away when you think of how much happened here.  We ended the day bussing back to Trafalgar Square, and then walking up to Piccadilly Circus and going to “the best toy store the boys have ever been in”: Hamley’s.  It was awesome 🙂  Check it out if you’re ever in the area 😉   Anyways, we are still all doing well in terms of homesickness.  Isaac has been facetiming and messaging with friends back home, so thanks to everyone for letting your kids chat with him.  Josiah has been making friends on every part of the trip.   (Actually on the cruise, someone head me say his name, and she said: “so that’s Josiah; my kids have been telling me all about him and his brother ;)” )  He talked to a lady on the ferry to Ireland yesterday, and she was very gracious in chatting with him and listening to his stories and answering his questions.  She even ran back after disembarking and gave us her phone number just in case we needed anything.  That’s one thing that I do love about travel….talking with and meeting amazing people that are so excited about sharing their city/country, etc with you and telling you what to see and do.  And giving you their phone number “just in case you need anything.”  Until next time….

 

Transatlantic Crossing Aboard the Queen Mary 2

All I have to say is if you ever get the chance to cross the Atlantic on the Queen Mary II, don’t hesitate…do it!!!!  Being first time “cruisers,” we had no idea what to expect….would we like it? hate it? get seasick? feel claustrophobic?  want to get off after the first day? The answers are: loved it; I was the only one that felt a little seasick when in the interior parts of the boat, but as soon as I could get to a window or out on the deck, the sicky feeling left; did not feel the least bit claustrophobic at all; and did not want to get off after the week was done 😉  Anyways, we had a great crossing…very calm waters, met a lot of great people, and did a lot of relaxing and chillaxing.  The boys went swimming every day, made a lot of friends in the pool and at the kids club, ate their weight in food every day, and even got in some reading and journalling.  Nathan and I really enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere onboard, talking and visiting with fellow passengers, having tea every afternoon, lounging on the back of the boat, and the variety of onboard entertainment to choose from.  Josiah met Dr Robert Thirsk, a Canadian astronaut that has been in space, and took tomato seeds up to see if there was any difference between plants that grew from seeds that had been in space, and seeds that had not…Josiah’s class got some of the seeds and planted them this year.  We also went to some of Dr. Thirsk’s lectures, and learned quite a bit about space travel, the effects it has on the body, and different things that space travel has taught us.  Isaac got a lot of reading in, and had fun running around with a couple of friends he made.  In terms of weather, we had a few gray and foggy days for 4-5 days in between leaving New York and arriving in Southampton, but we got out and walked laps on the promenade deck every day without getting wet or too cold.  The ocean was pretty calm too, and the rocking of the boat was barely noticeable on most days.  Oh, and the food…we all ate way too much, but it was sooo good.  Buffet, formal dining, snacking; you name it, they had it.  And the service was amazing too!   So, all in all, we really enjoyed the cruise across the Atlantic, and were sorry to see it end; but we made a few friends, and will hopefully run into them again at some point along our travels 🙂  Thanks for checking in.  Until next time…

 

NYC Baby!!!

What a great day exploring NYC!  Nathan and I have been here a few times, but the boys hadn’t been yet, and my parents were here about 44 years ago.  We stayed in Staten Island, and took the ferry across into Manhattan this morning.  I’ve found this to be the easiest way (for us) to get into the city without driving.  Anyways, we hit the ground running, and walked up Broadway to check out the 9/11 memorial.  This is always a sobering place to be, and I think the boys really took it all in as they walked around and listened to some of the stories from that day.  We continued on up to Times Square (yes, we walked the whole way), and of course had to stop in at M&M’s World.  The boys were real troopers, and had enough energy to keep walking to Central Park, where they ran around like crazy (couldn’t even tell they had just been walking for the past three hours). Looped around back to Rockefeller plaza, Empire State Building, and then caught the subway back down to the Staten Island Ferry.  We had great weather, and according to my dad’s fitbit, did over 30 000 steps.  I must say, I am really proud of the boys (and my parents 😉 ) for doing all that walking without (too much) complaining.  I think both boys were quite impressed with their first taste of the Big Apple.  Scroll through the pics below to see comments of what is happening in them.  Until next time…