Every night when I go to sit down and write my blog posts I’m usually so exhausted that I have passed out by 8:00pm. It could also be the jet lag, or the fact that we have barely stopped since arriving in the country… Who knows these things?
Upon leaving home, we realised that, in wanting to make the most of the trip, I had booked us on a 6:00am international flight. No worries, except that we couldn’t catch the local transport bus from home to the airport because the first bus in the morning gets there at 5:00am, and Emirates were closing checked baggage 90mins before the plane left… FAIL! Solutions focused, as usual, we decided to catch the last bus the night before and then just hang out at the airport (also, because then we could stay up all night, sleep on the plane and then we would be prepping ourselves for jet lag!). Best laid plans and all that… So anyway, we hung out at the airport overnight. We played video games and read books and things while we waited to check our bags. We may have had a little nap each. We were exhausted by the time we were boarding. And then we slept. For about 30 minutes. I won’t give you a play by play of the plane trip. Emirates were great, we had three seats to the two of us on each leg (which was great!). We didn’t sleep a huge amount, and we were pretty tired by the time we got to London. Upon arrival at the mother country, we were stopped by about three lots of tourists asking for directions (which, to be honest, was pretty funny). We commandeered ourselves some Oyster cards, and jumped on a train out of Gatwick. Arriving safe and soundly (and delivering some hearing impaired tourists from Italy) to Whitechapel, we walked to the Airbnb. The room was fine, it was like a little share house (very happy we were not on the fourth floor with the narrow staircase and no lift). We grabbed a light snack and headed off to bed at 9:00pm.
Daily gratitude: finding our bed with little fuss and being able to sleep lying down.
Day one we were awake by 5:30am for a full day in London, we got up and had left the house by 6:15am, and stopped at this tiny little cafe on the corner of our street for breakfast. We had delicious breakfast rolls with bacon, egg and hash browns with BBQ sauce, toasted. They were so good. Then back on the tube to Westminster to start sightseeing. We walked for over 13km that day and saw a huge number of sights: Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, London Eye, Australia House (I so desperately wanted to take photos of the place that was Gringott’s in the HP movies), Buckingham Palace, St James’ Park, Marble Arch, shopping in Piccadilly near Soho. We caught a black taxi to the British Library and saw original manuscripts and letters from Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. We saw the original Magna Carter (and the decree from the Pope announcing it null and void several weeks later). Then we went to the History of Magic: 20 years of Harry Potter exhibit (hubby kindly suffered through my vast excitement through the (very) many rooms. Exhausted after this, we trained back to Whitechapel, picked up dinner and went back to the house and then passed out for several hours.
Daily gratitude: I very nearly cried when viewing the da Vinci and Shakespeare papers, they were so amazing.
Day two we went and picked up the hire car from Paddington, which meant heading back onto the tube with our suitcase and backpacks again. We then wound our way through south London (where we decided which suburbs we would live in based purely on the buildings as we drove through — Bayswater, Paddington, Clapham and Battersea were in from memory), and went off to visit Kent, where the husband’s mother was born. We ended up in Maidstone, as this is where the Kent County Council is located. After making friends with the girl on the reception desk and the security guard, we wandered down into the village and hubby checked out a gaming store, then we bought some postcards and had lunch at a proper fish and chips shop (with salt and vinegar on the chips). Kent was very pretty, with a street artist making a sand statue of a pig and her piglets on the footpath, and some beautiful buildings too. A few wrong turns on the way out and we were finally on our way towards Stonehenge, except we had a few more wrong turns along the way, and so it was getting close to closing time as we neared. We decided to spend the night at Basingstoke instead, and so I booked us into the local Travelodge. Although I was still awake at 3:00am, so we had a cuppa and then went back to bed and tried to sleep.
Daily gratitude: King size Travelodge bed was the best bed of the trip to date.
Day three commenced (for the second time after our 3:00am cup of tea) fairly late for us. We hit the road and arrived at Stonehenge about 10:00am. I cannot stress how the temperature changed from at the exhibit and the buildings (cold, but reasonable), to out in the field near the stones (icy, freezing, felt like it could snow). However, this did not take away from the pure amazingness of the stones, and the history behind it. I’m actually kind of speechless about the magical feeling you get from Stonehenge, it’s kind of surreal. We caved and bought the headsets that tell you all the background, and spent about an hour walking around the field soaking up the history. It was so amazing. Also, because the weather was so miserable there were hardly any people there, so winning! After this we traveled the remainder of the way to Cardiff (with some pretty spectacular scenery along the way). Cardiff was also beautiful, and we arrived at the palace with about two hours before closing time. After meandering through some crazy-old, historic and aesthetically pleasing (and awesome) rooms in the summer palace, we walked the battlements, read about how the castle became a bomb shelter during World War II, and walked the MANY stairs to the very top of the keep. It was lightly raining the whole time, and the stairs were steep and very narrow, so I was not having a very fun time climbing back down (mild panic ensues). However, the grounds were lovely, and they had more squirrels, so what was not to like?! As we were leaving the castle (right on closing time of 5:00pm) we walked out the huge gates and kind of stopped dead in shock, as there were thousands of people just streaming past, shouting and laughing. It was kind of like being greeted by a very disorganised (and at times a little drunk) parade. We were swept up with them all (thankfully they were walking the same way as our car was parked), and we discovered that there had been a rugby game on (Wales vs Georgia). We made our way back to the car, giggling at some (very drunk) women who had fallen down in the street (blocked off for the game) and were cackling so much they had dropped all their shopping and couldn’t get up. Instead of helping their comrades, the others were too busy taking photos of them, I’m sure to use for blackmail later. We then traveled on to St Athans and had a very pleasurable evening.
Daily gratitude: Stonehenge. The electric shower at the Airbnb (WOW).
Day four was another bright and early — I was awake at 3:00am and then again at 5:30am (no more sleep after that second one). We hit the road fairly early and made it to Chester Zoo just after midday. We stopped for a bite of lunch at the restaurant before walking through. We saw a massive number of animals, but the best exhibits were the butterflies, the bats, and the panther (he was so beautiful!). Chester Zoo has been on my to-do list for at least the last decade when I learnt about all the conservation work they were doing. I regularly check in on their Facebook page, and look at all the little ones being born there. They admit when an animal has passed away and responsibly deal with criticism of zoos in general. They also did not disappoint in person. I loved it, even though my feet were absolutely killing me by the end. We then made our way a little bit east and are staying in Northwich tonight. The bed looks like it could possibly beat out the Travelodge one too!
Daily gratitude: The pure magic of the butterfly exhibit. Just amazing.