Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Our UK Trip

Monday, November 28th, 2011

We’ve been in the UK about a week now. Here’s what happened so far:

The flight was good because it wasn’t full. There was a spare seat next to us which meant the kids could both stretch out a bit and get some sleep. American Airlines has a new policy (brought on by some overly-litigious employee/customer, no doubt) that their weight limit on strollers for gate checking is 20lb. Any stroller heavier than that must be checked at the checkin desk, and ours weighed in at 22lbs. Never mind that Micro-elbeno weighed 3 or 4 lbs heavier than we know him to be on the same machine, or indeed the observation that they have a financial incentive for the machine to deliberately over-read and there is no apparent regulation. There’s no arguing with checkin desk automatons.

Our rental car is a Peugeot 3008 diesel automatic, and after about 20 minutes on the road I was used to UK driving again. The transmission is pretty sluggish though – it takes a second to respond to putting your foot down.

The first night we spent in Woking. After getting to our hotel, I took a quick shower and took the boys out to get some air and see the delights of Woking town centre – viz, a statue of a Martian (HG Wells was from Woking, their one claim to fame) and the Peacocks centre, with its huge Xmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling and occupying the central part of the mall. Mrs Elbeno rested a little and showered, and my parents, my sister and her husband and new daughter joined us for dinner in the hotel – quite a passable meal. Mini-elbeno enjoyed dessert.

Next day, we headed off to the Southwest to visit more family and friends. Down the M3 and the A303, our first stop was Wincanton where we visited my aunt and her family. We also stopped in to see both my Grandma and Grandad who are temporarily in separate care homes – one in Yeovil and one in Langport. They were both thrilled to see the boys – it was the first time they’d seen micro-Elbeno. It may be the last, so I’m glad we were able to stop by each of the places for a half hour. My grandma is in the end stages of heart failure, and while my grandad seems physically fit, he is 92 and the journey from health to illness can be quite short at that age. They have both lost significant short term memory ability, but they remembered us, including mini-Elbeno, and they knew who micro-Elbeno was too. Even though we had the same conversation 5 times, it was nice to be with them and see how happy they were to watch the boys playing quietly together.

Leaving Langport, we went further down to the Southwest to stay the night in Exeter. We had dinner at a pub called The Barn Owl right next to our hotel, and the food was pretty good. Against all odds I actually remembered the PIN for my UK credit card – a PIN which I set at university when I got the card, and which I have never used until now.

We were in Exeter all day Wednesday, where we met up with my old friend David. He has two boys as well – the older about a year younger than mini-Elbeno, and the younger one almost exactly the same age as micro-Elbeno – and independently named the same! The boys had fun playing in the morning, and then we went to lunch at my friend Lawrence‘s house. Lawrence fed us pasta, and we had a pleasant lunch conversation, then he kindly signed a few of his new books for me. Back at David’s house, the boys played some more and we had dinner after David’s wife got home from work – chicken Kiev, new potatoes, broccoli and leeks. We were introduced to a kid’s show called The Night Garden – a spiritual successor to Teletubbies – and David’s kids went to bed, and we went back to our hotel.

On Thursday we drove back up country to our rented cottage in Chipstead, near Redhill. We stopped on the way to spend half an hour at Stonehenge. Mini-Elbeno enjoyed the audio tour, but the thing he remembers the most is the warning at the end to return it lest an alarm sound. Anyway, we had lunch at a cafe in Andover and got to the cottage in the late afternoon. My parents and my sister came down and the girls had a night out while my dad and I looked after the boys.

Friday was the day that everyone had taken off work to prepare for the Thanksgiving feast on Saturday, so we headed to my parents’ house to be with the family. Most of our time was spent looking after the boys though. We chilled a bit and visited the local park to let out some energy. In the evening I went out with my dad and my brother and sister. We took the train to London Bridge and ate at a restaurant called Roast. I had a scotch egg with piccalilli to start, followed by roast belly pork with mashed potatoes and applesauce, also carrots and a nice apple and celeriac salad with candied walnuts. Dessert was apple crumble with custard. I was digging in the crumble and thinking, this is a tough apple, but I managed to slice off a bit with my spoon. After chewing it a bit I realized it wasn’t an apple at all, but rather a lemon. I was chewing a sizeable portion of lemon peel. I swallowed it, dug out the huge piece of lemon from the crumble, and continued. Everything after that rather tasted of lemon…

On Saturday, Mrs Elbeno did a 9 mile run in the leafy wilds of Surrey, and after that we headed to the parents’ house for the traditional Thanksgiving celebration. In the end there were 23 people who I will list here for my own future reference: Dad, GJ; the four Elbenos, Cara, Garth and Olivia; Alexander and Georgie; Anne, Joanne and Duncan; the Parry-Clarke clan including Georgie and Ben; Helen, Luke and Tom (who arrived a little later). We all feasted in a marquee in the garden – the usual excellent food with plenty of leftovers!

Sunday morning, we got out of the house and went down to Brighton to see our friends the Boards. The small Elbenos had fun playing with the Boardlets and then we went to Brighton Marina for lunch at Pizza Express, an old favourite of Mrs Elbeno’s. Leaving Brighton slightly later than planned because of micro-Elbeno’s temporary loss of a shoe, we arrived at Olivia’s christening a bit late. Luckily we didn’t miss anything important – we arrived in time to see everyone and eat more sandwiches and cake. On Sunday night Cara, Garth and Olivia joined us for “dinner” of leftover sandwiches and cake and a few games around the table.

It’s now Monday morning and today we’re going once more to see my parents and up to London to the museums. Tonight will be our final meal with the family and then tomorrow we’re back home on the plane – just in time, I hear, to miss an airport workers’ strike which threatens 12 hour flight delays! The weather here in the UK has been kind to us and our cottage has been a good place to crash and even do some laundry, although we haven’t figured out the arcane controls for the underfloor heating system. We are now content just to let one room be hot and one cold, even though all of the controls we can find claim to be set to the same temperature.

I’m not really looking forward to the flight home (small chance of a spare seat again, I think) but I am looking forward to the comforts of my own home and even to seeing what’s gone on at work since I left…

I’ll supplement this epic post with pictures once I get home and can get everything sorted out.

I’m still alive – here’s the latest

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Hi there, so much to report since the last update.

First, we had the single-car garage (which was being used as a junk storage space) converted into my office/cave. The contractors did a really good job for less than we were expecting. I uploaded some flickr photos of my new cave. You can also see that I got a new monitor, a Dell U2410. I flipped my other monitor to portrait mode for the extra height for text applications.


Next, mini-Elbeno and I took a trip to London! (Leaving Mrs Elbeno and micro-Elbeno at home). We had a flying visit (Thursday to Tuesday) for my sister’s wedding. It was great to see all the family and have a good time. The chap dealt pretty well with jet lag, and we just took things at our own pace as far as bedtimes. Of course we were partying the night of the wedding and in general the jet lag worked in our favour, keeping us up into the night.

The ceremony itself was pretty traditional Anglican: 1 Corinthians 13, Pachelbel’s Canon and Ave Maria all made appearances; and I’m sure ministers are required by law to start by saying that Jesus was a guest at a wedding (in Cana). Mini-Elbeno was the ring-bearer and I ushed, which gave me a good chance to hobnob with old friends and fam.

While in Blighty, we also got to visit some old friends in Brighton, ate fish and chips and “proper” Indian food, and finally met my brother’s GF who we’d only seen before on the webcam. The flights were long of course but we got by with the in-flight entertainment (e.g. Outnumbered and Playhouse Disney) and the food was actually edible, even quite good! Air New Zealand – would fly again.

Soon after we got back, the next event was the school social: the annual get-together and campout that mini-Elbeno’s school does. Each family is invited to do a short skit, presentation or similar to tell everyone about themselves and what they did over summer. Our chosen effort (old movie fans that we are) was a rendition of Make ‘Em Laugh, that tour de force from Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain. Here’s our take on it.

That’s about all I have to bring you up to speed on today except to mention that it’s October again and that means the Interactive Fiction Competition is underway. I’m enjoying the first one I tried although it went in a different direction than I first expected.

More soon. Blizzcon is nearly upon us, and it’s going to be awesome. Plus, I have a special keyboard coming to me by mail; I’ll let you know all about it when it arrives.

End of the Vacation

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Sunday was another rest day: we went to Crystal Palace Park in the morning, and in the afternoon we had a birthday tea to celebrate the family birthday coincidence. Monday was my actual birthday, and now that half term was over, we headed back to the Natural History Museum for a much better look at the dinosaurs and other exhibits. Mini-Elbeno loved every minute of it, and fell asleep on the train on the way home. This meant I had to carry him up about a quarter mile of very steep hill.

Tuesday, my former french teacher came to lunch, up from Exeter, and we had a great few hours talking about old times and catching up. He was kind enough to bring a couple of his books along as a gift.

We did most of our packing on Tuesday night, finishing up on Wednesday morning, and we had an extra piece of baggage to bring back because of mini-Elbeno’s new rocking horse (a gift from the grandparents). The flight went as smoothly as expected, but we accidentally picked up the wrong piece of luggage from the carousel! Luckily we noticed before we left the airport, but since we’d already gone through customs and immigration, we were not allowed back to collect the right bag, and had to wait for the airline to take it through customs and bring it out.

Anyway, we got home around 7.30pm, unpacked and went to bed. Woke up at 1.30am of course because of the jet lag!

London Calling

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Here’s how the holiday has been so far:

Arrived Thursday afternoon after taking off Wednesday night. Spent the first evening chilling and getting over some jetlag. Friday we headed to Greenwich, walked through Greenwich park and looked around the Royal Observatory. Didn’t have time to see a planetarium show, but took a picture of mini-Elbeno standing astride the meridian. He also had fun playing in the playground in the park. Friday was also Grandad’s (my dad’s) birthday, so we spent the evening with family. Mini-E received a gift of a rocking horse which he named “Caballo” and took to immediately.

Saturday we went to Battersea Park Zoo, a small affair which was quite enjoyable for the small chap. The weather was windy, but sunny. Sunday we headed up to town again to take in the museums, although they were packed because of the wet weather and the fact that it was half term. We did get to see a few dinosaurs, but spent longer getting lunch than actually enjoying the sights. Picked up a small stuffed triceratops for mini-Elbeno which he has named “Af”.

Monday was another very wet day, and we went to the Horniman Museum which is right on our doorstep, and which has been improved over the last couple of years with a lottery grant. It’s great for kids, with a hands on area of stuff they can play with, and also an aquarium in the basement and a section with weird musical instruments they can play with.

Tuesday we went up to town on the train and met a friend for lunch at St Pancras; we went to the Zoo in the afternoon, which stayed dry. Wednesday we met another friend (Mrs Elbeno’s old boss) for lunch, this time in Pizza Express in Greek Street. In the evening a couple of friends (more old work colleagues) visited us.

Thursday we all travelled down to the Westcountry to see my grandparents, mini-Elbeno’s great-grandparents. It’s about a 3.5 hour drive down the M3 and then across Salisbury Plain, passing right by Stonehenge. They were all fine despite a slight medical scare earlier in the week. Friday was another rest day: my brother arrived home from his year out in South America, and we went to the local park in the afternoon to let the littl’un let off some steam.

Saturday (today) we headed down to Leeds Castle. Saw a jousting tournament and falconry display which were both cool; took a look at the aviary with its toucans, macaws and various other colourful birds; and made our way through the maze to the centre and then down into the grotto and through the underground passage back to the outside. It’s a very nice maze.

That’s it so far. It’s a packed schedule and we have more to do in the next few days.

A few trip pics

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Roadside Saguaros


Crescent Moon, Desert Sunset