States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving (from the Pilgrims!)

This was a very easy day as far as baking/cooking was concerned. The campground hosted a huge Thanksgiving dinner, they provided the turkey, ham, rolls, plates etc, each family just had to provide one side, appetizer or dessert to serve 4-6 people: easy! I baked scones in the morning while the Dads took the kids to the pool.

Lunch was served at noon, we were entertained in line by the balloon guy - he gave me his amazing frog hat, promptly stolen by Jake!

We were on the beach by 1pm, so it was not a long drawn-out dinner by any stretch of the imagination! It was a beautiful day though, the sun came out and hanging out on the beach was a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

We did manage to get a family photo, thank goodness, as a while later, Nate, jumping waves in the ocean with the rest of the kids (by this point, Becca had sensibly changed into her swimsuit), fell in, completely going under water. It was chilly! Nate, being Nate, still came up smiling, gripping his orange spade, walked out towards us, beaming away, he just kept on walking right on past us, right towards the shower block!

Pirateland Campground, week of Thanksgiving

The weather wasn't particularly great the first few days we were in Myrtle Beach, naturally that had little deterrent to the kids, who are a hardy bunch indeed. Caitlin, Becca and Nate decided to brave the chilly water of the outdoor pool and lazy river and seemingly happily floated along on their tube around the 'river', while I stood, wrapped in a blanket, watching them!

The Opelas arrived on Wednesday afternoon, I made sure that we had finished school and we were all thoroughly looking forward to 4 days without school or work. Dave was able to finish a couple of hours earlier as well, which made for a very relaxing start to the holiday weekend.

From Swansea, SC to Myrtle Beach, SC: Nov 22nd

As the crow flies, the route was short, unfortunately, with camper in tow, that's a 4 hour journey! Regardless, an early leave meant an arrival right after lunch - always much more pleasant to set up in the light.

I was able to do a grocery store run and the kids and Dave enjoyed a swim in the indoor heated pool, apparently it was almost hot tub like temperatures, so they were very happy and eager to go back again.

We were camping just a few sites back from the beach, which was wonderful. It was great being able to wander down to the sand. We could see the kids playing from our site as well, so they were able to run down there and play without us occasionally. Of course, they loved that!

Monday, November 16, 2009

River Bottom Farms: week of November 16th

The children are so excited this week as there are 2 other homeschool families currently living at this campground. The girls are especially thrilled as 11 year old, Jen, has an American Girl doll with multiple accessories and has a very similar playing style as them. Her brother just turned 6, so Nate has formed a good friendship with him already - he just loves running around the huge playing field, up and over the playsystem. They are ensuring that school work is done efficiently and quickly in order to rush out and play with each other - it's a win-win for everyone!

The week carried on in much the same vein, lots of playing outside in the afternoon, happily entertained with their friends. We also managed a walk/bike ride down to the river and Jake did some fishing.

We spent one evening at the communal fire pit with the other two families, which the kids of course thought was wonderful. It was such a relaxing week, tough for us all to leave.

The most exciting part of the week for Jake though, was the debuting of the Wii! Dave had received this as a gift on his 10 year anniversary with his company. We hadn't even unpacked it at the time as we were preparing for the trip, we figured we'd bring it out when we were somewhere quiet and needed a little something to do - well, we're constantly busy and there always seems to be something to do, so we just hooked it up and let them know that it was there to play with now and again!

Jake can't wait to share this exciting news with his friends, now we have to figure out how they can connect and play with each other online (clearly I have absolutely no idea and am leaving that particular technical 'need' in the far more capable hands of Dave!).

Congaree National Park, SC: November 15th

Although it does make for a busy weekend, we have fallen into a bit of a routine of visiting a National Park on a Sunday so that Dave does not have to take time off work and school life is not interrupted during the week.

It was another beautiful day, shorts were apparently the order of the day but I had a mosquito fear and kept my trousers on!

Congaree was a good 45 minute drive away, through some very interesting areas and neighborhoods. There were huge houses in the middle of nowhere, followed by trailer parks, run down shacks, large factories, more large houses, double-wides, it was amazing to see the variations of life in a relatively small area. Also, where Illinois was the state for corn and Maine had its wild blueberries, here, we are seeing field upon field of cotton - now we're know we're in warmer climes!

Congaree is essentially a preserved floodplain, as untouched as possible, allowing nature to run its course. There is an enormous diversity of plants, trees and wildlife. The Ranger was excited to tell us that for the first time in over 4 years, they were experiencing severe flooding - it is the flood waters that deposit nutrient rich soil as the waters recede, so flooding is good. However, it also had an effect on the boardwalk around the Park, the majority of the lower boardwalk was completely underwater so we were only able to walk part of the loop out to Westin Lake. As Jake said, it really wasn't so much of a lake, as a continuation of the floodplain at this point!

The children completed the Junior Ranger program, learning more about the Park and had their names announced over the loud-speaker in the Visitor Center; they liked that!

From TN to SC: November 14th

Packing up the new camper is a lot less stressful than the old one. Due to preparation the night before, we were ready to roll out of the campground before 9am. We knew it would be a longer drive than google maps predicted due to a rock slide along the I40 a couple of months previously. However, once we started going, we realized the camper was having sway issues. We’re still not entirely sure why, as we don’t feel like anything changed from the previous weekend to this one, when we had a good run from VA to TN. Regardless, we had to stop a number of times in an attempt to fix the issue. It did finally seem a lot better and the afternoon drive was less stressful than the morning.

With the addition of the extra stops and the huge detour, we did not arrive at our campground: River Bottom Farms, near Columbia, until almost 6pm – it was a long day in the truck but everyone did well. Today’s movie viewing was Nanny McPhee and Curious George, as well as the obligatory German shows, as the kids are learning German as part of their curriculum. It’s fun to hear them talking German with one another, they often come out with German words now. At the music session last week, we met a Swiss German speaker and Caitlin told her: “Ich bin Caitlin, wer bist Du?” She responded: “Ich bin Irene.” Caitlin really got a kick out of the fact that she’d been understood and received a reply.

So, South Carolina: state number 21 since we began the trip on August 1st – that’s not bad, lots of big ones to come though!

Cades Cove and Grotto Falls, GSMNP: November 12th

Thankfully Thursday dawned beautiful, clear and bright. We headed to the Sugarlands Visitor Center with the completed Junior Ranger books, which the kids had begun on Sunday and continued to finish during the week. We met with a very informative Ranger: Brad. He answered question, after question, from Jake and Caitlin, nature, and all that it involves, is so interesting to Jake, he really absorbs everything he hears and reads so many books that he can hold great conversations with people. The kids did eventually get sworn in as Rangers and we were also sworn in as ‘Not So Junior’ Rangers and received our certificates and badges as well – who knew?!

We left the Visitor Center and followed the road to the Cades Cove loop. This 11 mile loop follows a trail around various churches and houses built and used by the small population living in the area in the early 1900’s. We were on the look out for bears all day, but did not see any, there were a number of deer, horses and wild turkeys though. The roads were waterlogged in places, due to the rain – the flip side of this were the large numbers of trickling waterfalls the rainfall had created: beautiful.

Everything throughout the day took rather longer than we had thought, however we were still determined to hike to one of the waterfalls. We headed back into Gatlinburg and drove up the smaller loop road (the road less traveled!) to the Grotto Falls lot. The hike was 1.4 miles each way over reasonably tough terrain, lots of roots and crossing 4 fast-flowing creeks. Amazingly no-one fell in, although I slipped and came close to taking Dave in with me – even that possibility that I was almost in the water brought huge smiles to the children’s faces, hmmmmm!

We saw bear poop and a tree with large claw marks (biggest scratching post ever!) but thankfully, no bears, despite the Ranger warnings that bears had been spotted in the area, again, we were on the lookout.

The Grotto Falls were great because we could actually walk behind them, which of course, was so much fun and hugely appealing to the kids. It was worth the speed march up and back, we got to the car just as the sun was setting, another 10 minutes and we would’ve been coming down in the dark (we did take flashlights just in case so we weren’t completely irresponsible!). It was somewhat of a precarious drive down, back around the loop though – those roads are extremely narrow with quite a large drop-off on one side. It was admittedly somewhat of a relief to reach Gatlinburg again!

Mountain Music, Jam Session: November 11th

Another day of unceasing rain left us inside once again. In the evening though, the campground hosts invited us to come and watch a mountain music jam session that they hosted each week. It was really good fun, musicians came from around the area with their instruments, including: guitars, banjos, harmonicas, penny whistle, spoons, washboard, double bass, wash-bucket string bass. They sounded amazing, it was brilliant to watch. They even allowed the kids to get involved, they joined in for a couple of songs, playing the wooden spoons (Caitlin now wants a set for Christmas!). It was a wonderful end to a rainy day.

Dixie Stampede: November 10th

We are in Dolly Parton country, so while we managed to avoid a visit to Dollywood (the high price was a big turn-off), the lure of Dolly’s big Christmas Show, the Dixie Stampede, on the outskirts of Pigeon Forge, was too great. We had spent the entire day inside due to the incessant rain, so Dave called and managed to get us seats on the front row, thanks to a cancellation. We were surprised that they were fully booked on a Tuesday night, and even more so, once we arrived and realized that fully booked meant an arena full of 1,000 people!

We were treated to a wonderful trio playing music in the pre-show, before heading into the enormous arena and taking our dinner seats. The show was great, the kids were excited to be able to eat their entire meal without utensils! Becca and Nathan were chosen, with two other children, to go into the arena and chase chickens (yep, run after chickens to encourage them to cross a finish line…..!) as part of the show. The horse stunts, costumes and glamor of the entire show was spectacular. We had a really good time.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN: November 8th

This is the most visited National Park in the country, it's quite spread out, although the Ranger commented on how small of a park it was! We bought the kids' Junior Ranger books and set out in search of answers. After a stop by Little Pigeon River for lunch and rock climbing, we continued on.

Our intended destination was Cades Cove but map reading skills weren't at the fore, and we ended up close to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park.

It actually could not have been more perfect, the day was glorious, clear and beautiful. The information pack stated that on a good day, 360 degree views were afforded but on a cloudy day, visibility was pretty much zero from the observation tower! We made the half mile trek up the extremely steep path, stopping frequently for water breaks - it sounds far easier than it was!

The views at the top were well worth it though, the Smoky's are so beautiful, just mountains for miles and miles. The Dome is actually in the state of North Carolina, so we crossed another border and checked off another state on our list of 48, I think we're up to about 20 that we've physically been in since the start of the trip in August.

On the way down the path, a black bear darted out from the reeds above us, crossed our path, directly in front of us and jumped into the tall, grassy reeds, heading down the mountain - it was certainly an exciting moment. The couple ahead of us, started running down the path, while our kids ran towards the point where the bear disappeared! I guess we need to go over bear safety with them a little more carefully! There was no time to grab the camera, it literally disappeared in the blink of an eye. We could hear it rustling around for another 5 minutes but then it must have headed off as we didn't get another glimpse, other than an ear in the distance - it was cool though, to have been so close to it.

The sun was beginning to set as we were leaving, so we got a few more great shots of the mountains - how many photos can you really take, we're not quite sure when to stop, there's always 'just one more' to try and preserve the moment.

We stopped at Newfound Gap on the way down, which houses the official border sign of TN and NC. It is also the location of the first observation tower, built by the CCC around 1930. The CCC was set up to employ men, by the government, to give them jobs and money in an attempt to rise out of the great depression. Evidently much of the brickwork, walls, roads etc around this National Park are in large part, thanks to the work of the CCC laborers.

We stopped in Gatlinburg for dinner. This is an extremely tourist-oriented town, so no problem at all finding somewhere to eat! The Christmas lights were all on already so the drive through town and back to the campground was very pretty. The campground is a good 15 minutes outside of Gatlinburg, which is just fine by us, no need to be in the midst of touristy-kitsch!

Tennessee: November 7th

We got a bit of a later start than planned and then spent way too long at our lunchtime stop, buying all sorts of last-minute items that we realized we'd either forgotten or needed for the new camper. Unfortunately, this meant arriving at Smoky Bear Campground in the dark, this is far from ideal when dealing with hilly, winding roads in the dark with 4 bikes strapped to the front of the truck - I'm continually so impressed by Dave's ability to navigate through all of these things (although even he was glad to finally get here!).

Virginia: November 3rd-6th

We stayed at the 'Jellystone at Natural Bridge' campground. Needless to say, it was extremely quiet during the week. I guess the Snowbirds have already begun their migration south! It wasn't the original location we had planned on, however, many campgrounds closed on October 31st and this was one of the few still open in the area. As it happened, this was a fantastic location. We were extremely close to Natural Bridge, one of the (self-proclaimed) 7 Natural Wonders of the New World. It was an impressive sight and the ticket price covered a mile walk beyond the Bridge to an Indian Village, across the Lost River to the Lace Falls.

We spent Thursday afternoon wandering the trail, asking questions of the volunteer on duty and the 'Indians' in their camp, playing Pooh sticks on the small river bridge and stopping to draw the bridge as part of our art lesson for the week - a surprising amount of concentration given by everyone on all of the above. George Washington surveyed the Bridge when he was 18 years old and his initials are carved into the wall. We are learning a great deal about the life of George Washington on this trip, he was involved in quite a lot!

The ticket was good for 48 hours and also included a visit to the Wax Museum and Toy Museum, so we returned after school on Friday. The historical story of the area in wax figures was very interesting and ended with a number of past Presidents on display in the foyer, before entering the theatre to listen to a retelling of The Last Supper, complete with Jesus and His 12 disciples at the table. Even Caitlin commented that she was glad we were Christians because there was so much religion involved in everything we were seeing - I guess we have entered the Bible Belt of America!

The Toy Museum wasn't as impressive as the Wax Museum, but Jake and Caitlin were still interested. The Family who owned everything have many toys on display, collected over the 100 years from 1900 to 2000. Most things were still boxed and evidently the displays change, based on theme. Jake lingered longest around the Star Wars exhibit.

In the evening, Dave took the kids back to hear the Story of Creation, put to lights and music at the Natural Bridge, so he did not see it in daylight but it was quite spectacular in the dark by all accounts. It was a chilly few days in Virginia, coats that we had not worn for months were brought out of the closet, we didn't even have a fire at this first campground: too cold!

we were here, now we're gone.....

Back for a frenzied week in Blue Bell - wow, a lot happened and we're still trying to catch ourselves up!

Dave took Monday off to tow our fully unpacked camper to Baltimore in order to trade it in for a newer, slightly larger, model: another Outback, this time, a 2010 301BQ. He returned with it just in time for a somewhat late bedtime for the kids. Sam and JD were incredibly patient and understanding the whole time we were back, while we took over the house with 'stuff' and kids!

The new camper is wonderful, it still has the quad bunkhouse for the kids, but the living section is much larger, thanks to a 4ft slide-out all the way along the dinette and sofa. The bathroom is pretty much unchanged, the most exciting addition for us though, is that we have a bedroom - with a door! The bedroom also now houses the washer/dryer, thanks to some serious modifications completed by Dave with Bob's help. It really is incredible how much just a few extra feet of space here and there, have made such a difference.

During the week we were back, the kids had playdates, Jake & Caitlin completed their state standardized tests (required for 3rd & 5th grades), we caught up with the neighbors, enjoyed meals with friends, endured doctors' appointments, watched the Stony Creek Halloween Parade, went Trick or Treating, spent time with our 'renters' and generally managed to enjoy ourselves, despite late nights, schooling, work and a lot of hard labor (on Dave's part rather than mine!).

It was great to see so many friends but also good to finally get back on the road, it was a few days in the anticipation - we were supposed to leave Sunday (we knew that would be unlikely after a party at Kristen & Dennis'!), then Monday (glad that didn't happen, spent a lovely afternoon on a field trip to the zoo with Sam and the girls), finally Tuesday afternoon, we departed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunday October 25th: back to the US

So ended another visit to England, four weeks, many houses, lots of delicious meals and yummy treats – this is the one time I don’t mind visiting supermarkets: temptation is everywhere!

Due to the time change, our flight thankfully wasn’t as early as it appeared. However, we hadn’t factored in that it was half term and many families were heading Statewards for a week. The lines for check-in and security were long, unfortunately meaning we were unable to enjoy breakfast with Debbie, Jonny, Jasmine and George. In fact, we didn’t really enjoy breakfast at all! By the time we cleared everything, there was enough time to eat one sandwich before boarding the full flight.

It was probably the longest flight we’ve ever been on from Manchester to Philly, there was quite a lot of turbulence and obviously a lot of headwind. I can’t think how many times I silently thanked the makers of inflight entertainment via individual, pausable, screens! The kids exhausted their movie and TV selections and began rotating through them again. Dave managed to watch 3 movies and Jake started in on the History Channel documentaries, pausing them frequently to appraise me of interesting and fascinating facts – I learnt more about the make up of Hawaii than I’d ever known before!

So, we’re home, albeit, briefly.

Final week in England

Back to stay at George’s, forcing him out once again. He does go willingly, very generous of him to have given up his house for 2 weeks while we were visiting.

Once again, after school each day, we saw Debbie and Jasmine, another trip to the pool with them, a visit to the library, soccer for Jake with Jonny and his friend, completion of the papier mache plates – they came out brilliantly, we were very impressed. The week went quickly.

Our evenings were also quite packed. We had fish and chips (visits to England tend not to be remembered for their high amounts of healthy eating, just for us to be able to have things we can’t usually get, you know, like delicious, creamy, Cadbury’s chocolate!) at Debbie and Jonny’s along with Jonny’s family. Dave stayed to babysit for Jasmine so they were able to go to a movie. Debbie kindly babysat for our four on Friday night so we actually went out together, had a pint in the pub, dinner and saw Couples Retreat at The Trafford Center – funny movie, would recommend it for a light-hearted, predictable, comedy.

We spent Thursday evening with Ben and Liz, these are the times when owning a Wii really come into their own, unlimited entertainment for Jake! The younger kids sat and watched a movie quietly after their dinner and we were able to sit and chat – we have such great friends here. I wish there was a way to more easily travel between the UK and US: faster and cheaper would certainly be better!

We headed out to Warrington on Saturday to have lunch with Kaz and Steve in their new house. They have a gorgeous new abode, part of a converted manor house, it’s wonderful. Their garden joins an enormous field, potentially hours of fun for kids who love to run; unfortunately the day started out raining and didn’t clear up until we had to leave. We did get outside briefly for a game of tag, but had to leave in order to return the rental car in time.

Sunday October 18th, Nottingham

There are so many people we would love to have seen whilst we were in England but unfortunately, time just wasn’t on our side. We had decided that this time, we’d limit ourselves to two different sleep sites, thereby eliminating the need to unpack and repack constantly. It worked out very well, we never felt too stressed or rushed but it certainly limited us on how many people we were able to catch up with.

Leaving Mum and Dad was extremely tough, although we’d got quite a lot achieved, we would love to have been able to do more for them. It was hard leaving too, knowing that we will likely not see them for over a year. Once again, thank goodness for the internet and all that it brings in the form of webcams and easy, cheap, conversations.

We stopped at Paula and Daniel’s for a delicious lunch, their ‘baby’ certainly no longer a baby, he and Nathan had a lot of fun playing together. Rachel and Jim also brought their two girls over so we had quite a crowd, noise levels were raised! It was wonderful chatting with the girls and catching up, although we only see each other once every couple of years, there’s never a problem picking up from where we left off – I’m sure the boys will attest to that!

Our dinner stop was with Andrea and John, we got to cuddle their gorgeous new Grandson before he went home, always a bonus! As always, they create such a relaxing environment to chill out in, it’s very difficult to leave. We had to tear the kids away from the wii and a movie with nothing but the enticement of a 2 hour drive home – woohoo! We got onto the M6 at 10:45pm and bam!: bumper to bumper traffic, not so good. Thankfully Dave chose the ‘good’ lane and we were able to merge nicely back into the single file of traffic after 20 minutes, had the potential to be a lot worse, we were much relieved.

So, back in Timperley: another late night and needless to say, school the next morning was not a pretty experience. I know, we bring it on ourselves!

Saturday October 19th: Debbie’s

We always try to fit in a visit to my cousin’s house as her boys are similar ages to Jake. They have fun together and enjoy the same things: soccer (OK, football), wii, playstation….

Debbie and Kris are just lovely, so sweet and kind, very easy-going, so glad to have them in our family. For some reason, the GPS routed us right through the center of London and by the time that I realized we were on the North Circular and not joining the M25, it was all too late. On the plus side, we did get to see Lord’s Cricket Ground and Marble Arch and have an interesting (read: locked doors and don’t make eye contact) drive through Brixton and Peckham!

All in all, a wonderful day and a journey home (yep, another late one…..) via the M25!

Wednesday October 15th: London

It’s been a while since we were in London, Caitlin was a baby when we visited for the day with Karen – it’s still busy! Helen had hoped to join us for the day but was still recovering from a very nasty stomach bug which had knocked her out for the previous couple of days (we were extremely sympathetic but, by the same token, followed her around diligently with antibacterial spray in hopes of avoiding germs – no one else succumbed, so I suppose we succeeded.).

We decided it would be cheaper to drive to a tube line, rather than get the train from Letchworth Garden City. Unfortunately, parking around the Stanmore tube line was rather challenging, we ended up finding a cheap lot a little further away, which worked out so much better in the long run – funny how that goes!

We got the Jubilee Line (kids were fascinated by the many interlinking lines on the tube map, it was good for them to figure out where we needed to go and which lines we needed to take.) to Green Park and walked to Buckingham Palace in preparation for the Changing of the Guard. We were rather surprised at the number of people already waiting, in many places 6 lines deep. It was exciting to see the Royal Standard flag flying, indicating that the Queen was in residence, although Caitlin was disappointed that we wouldn't actually be seeing her! We found a pretty good spot and were able to see the New Guard coming in, led by their dog mascot and followed by the band. We waited in a different location to see the Old Guard coming out, complete with kilts and bagpipes. We followed them down Pall Mall to St James’ Palace. Nathan was enthralled by the horse pooping, who continued to walk, while going to the toilet, too funny, happened to get it on video as well so we’ll be able to relive that again in all its glory!

Dave had read online that the best place to get photos with the guards was at the front of St James’ Palace as it is typically not crowded. Once again, he found great info, well worth a bit of researching in advance. We got some good pictures standing next to the unmoving guards, lots of chatter about that afterwards: how often are they allowed to move, exactly how long do they have to stand still, what happens if they need to scratch an itch – you get the idea??!

We got back on the tube to Westminster, coming out of the station across the street from Big Ben and right next to the River Thames. We had a wonderful view of the London Eye from across the River. We bought lunch from a vendor and wandered across Westminster Bridge towards the Eye, looking back to see the Houses of Parliament.

Although it appeared to be busy, we had no trouble getting tickets for the Eye and climbed aboard our ‘pod’ for our ‘flight’. I have to admit, once again, my fear for the kids’ safety left me riveted to the middle of the pod! They, conversely, remain totally fearless, leaning out against the windows and calling out and pointing to sights they found fascinating. ‘The Gherkin’ is a new addition to the London skyline since we last visited, we knew exactly what it was, having just seen its Lego version in Windsor! Becca’s most exciting (to her and Nate anyway) was a playground near the base of the Eye – guess where we were headed upon ‘landing’?!

Other than the playground (which was actually pretty cool, a few different playthings and obstacles to hold their interest), we also saw the London Eye 4D movie, free with the purchase of an Eye ticket. It was short, only about 5 minutes, but gave a neat overview of flying across the city.

Rather than take the tube to Tower Bridge, we caught a river taxi which took us along the Thames, past various famous sights – it was rather chilly but a good way to see some sights quite quickly, Caitlin was more interested in locating the heater. Our approach to Tower Bridge took us past an enormous battleship, of course, Jake’s interest was piqued.

Tower Bridge is such a spectacular site, we were excited to get off and see the Tower of London too. Rather than spend time going in and taking the tour (the kids were beginning to flag somewhat), we wandered around the outside, reading all the informational signs and figuring out where the moat would have been, who lives there now and playing: who can spot a Beefeater (the protectors of the Tower). We did manage to see one of the Beefeaters along the drawbridge into the Castle. It was very interesting to read where prisoners would have been taken all those years ago, where beheaded heads were placed on spikes, the infighting within the families in power at the time. London has so much wonderful history and although Jake really loves to read more and more and absorbs everything, the younger ones were getting to the end of their patience levels for the day.

We opted to leave the city center and get the tube back to Stanmore before rush-hour really started, particularly as this was the night England were playing at Wembley Stadium. Along the main street, we stopped for dinner at a Pizza Express – what a great kid’s menu: 5 mini courses, including a Bambinoccino at the end of the meal! They were all thrilled: a cute tiny cup and saucer, filled with frothy milk and sprinkled with cocoa – they felt quite grown up, sipping their ‘coffee’.

It was another late night by the time we got back to Mum and Dad’s but well worth it. An enjoyable day out with, hopefully, quite a lot learnt.