rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
We've been holidaying in York this week, just the four of us.  At some point I may post photos but right now I never want to move again.  What we did:
  • visited York's Chocolate Story
  • found a local playground for the children
  • found a man blowing enormous bubbles near the Minster
  • had lunch in the basement cafe of the Treasurer's House
  • found our way to Rowntree Park, and back again via the Millennium Bridge
  • took an evening boat tour
  • visited the National Railway Museum
  • took the bus to Castle Howard and spent a lovely day wandering the grounds
  • had a delicious meal at Mason's with an incredibly nice server
  • visited all three of the Barley Hall, Richard III Experience & Henry VII Experience, and walked around a large portion of the city walls
I couldn't help comparing with Bristol a year and two weeks earlier: short version is I was much less breathless, but much more easily tired.  However, I did at least have more stamina than in Llandudno 2.5 months ago.  I did crash one day mid-week and had to spend most of an afternoon and evening zonked out on the hotel bed.  Sadly that was the day we went to the NRM: I left early and got very little out of the time I did spend there, so I think I will need to go back again sometime.

I think that was the last time I will ever book all four of us into a single family room for more than one night; we all need more alone time than was possible to achieve, and I'm giving up on all but essential plans for the weekend as a result, plus it gets ever harder to get the children to sleep when we are still awake in the same room. (And they still wake up at least an hour before I want to.)  I think either adjoining hotel rooms or holiday cottages / apartments are the way to go, even if it does cost more.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Thursday we travelled down, dropped stuff in the hotel, and caught a bus to the far side of the Gardens to walk back through them; we very deliberately stayed outside of glasshouses and mostly in less-busy areas, and finished up with time for a good half hour or more in the play area before closing.

Friday it rained a lot. I got in a bit of time with the children at a nearby playground before the rain really got started, and then we went to the Musical Museum shortly after it opened at 11.  We enjoyed the tour of their musical automata, and the performance by the resident organist on the Wurlitzer over our lunch, although both children got a bit bored at different times.  It's a nice little museum and well worth a visit.

We then ambled a bit further along the road and enjoyed the London Museum of Water and Steam, which was much more noticeably child-friendly, and also full of fascinating exhibits, and many rooms and staircases and ramps.  Charles was really into the various hands-on pumps, Nico was mostly into exploring every room and staircase and ramp.  We had foursies there and when it closed, made the very damp dash back to our hotel.  When the rain died down a bit, Nico and I ventured out on a mission to find me a spare pair of trousers (unsuccessful) and food for supper (successful).

Saturday morning we returned to the playground and then to Water and Steam.  The latter had various engines in steam over the day, and the tiny on-site railway had a little train running on it, more or less on demand.  We dragged ourselves away after lunch, and had a fairly tedious journey back across London and home to Cambridge where we all more or less went flop.

I did take some photos on both my phone and my little point-and-shoot camera, and at some point I may post my favourites, but sorting them out is another chore ...
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
notes for self about what we did on each day
list )
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
We spent most of a week in Sheffield, which was nice and sunny when we arrived and when we left, and rained most of the rest of the time. 

Our accommodation was a family room in a travelodge, very near the Ponds Forge swimming pool, which we visited several times and enjoyed greatly.  There's a little toddler pool (strictly under-8s, constant supervision), and a big main pool with an intermittent wave machine and a 'river' running all around the outside.  There are also two flumes but I was engaged with N on my first visit and they were shut on my second.  N went from terrified of the pool on his first visit to gleeful wading and sliding until he was turning blue with cold at the end of the last.

For getting around, we bought week-long "Citywide" (for adults) and "Getabout" (for children) train+tram tickets, which did the job nicely (except I made a mistake on the first day and bought the wrong sort for a day, which was nearly £20 we didn't need to spend, sigh).  Travel to and from was by prebooked trains, with sets of four seats reserved each way on the long leg from Sheffield to Ely.  Strictly, we don't need to buy a ticket for Nico as he is clearly under five.  Practically however, he doesn't sit on anyone's lap for long, and it's much easier to manage both the children if we have a set of four seats to ourselves, rather than trying to work around a complete stranger in the fourth seat.

Apart from swimming and riding trams, our main bit of tourism was visiting the Kelham Island Steam Museum, which was a real delight.  Charles was absorbed and looking around at everything for most of two hours.  Nico was particularly engrossed by a couple of the exhibits (one where you turn a handle to make light/move a train, another where you have to work out which additions to steel are appropriate for which purpose, against the clock).  He also loved watching a large gas-powered engine spinning, and did lots of spinning himself in response.  We made sure to time our visit to see the enormous River Don engine in steam, which held a whole mass of visitors completely enthralled.

We had a bit of drama in the visit at a point where I thought Charles was with Tony, and Tony thought he was with me, and of course he was with neither of us, having got engrossed in a particularly interesting exhibit.  I was helping Nico who was finding the steam-themed children's play area a bit too challenging, when a member of staff found me and brought me to a scared Charles in the reception area.  Both children promptly burst into tears and clung on to me while I simultaneously tried to soothe them, reassure the staff, and answer a phone call from Tony.  The museum staff were completely lovely about the whole thing, and I'm very grateful to them.

Sheffield being a lot closer to my mother's home than Cambridge, we took the opportunity for a day trip to Leeds midweek to meet up with mum and my stepfather Mick.  Mick's grandchild Sophie came with them, which suited both her and Charles very well.  We had lovely curry at Mumtaz (now licenced as 'Chandelier' to sell alcohol), and then ambled across for an hour or two in the Royal Armouries.  I confess, I primarily treated it as a free dry space with somewhere to sit down with my mother and Nico, though the rest of the party did some actual looking at the exhibits.   I mainly got to enjoy the amazing staircase lined with weaponry, while letting N wear himself out climbing it.

We deliberately didn't try to pack too much into any one day, and came home on Friday so as to have a whole weekend to catch up before returning to work.  As a result I'm feeling about as rested as I ever manage, given toddler.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
+ On Tuesday we found Nico has two more teeth, at the back of the mouth, making a total of 10
- Also we found he had an ear infection
+ Which we took to the GP surgery in Llandovery, who were willing to work with the railway timetable to give us an appointment yesterday morning
+ And prescribed antibiotics whrich have already had an effect within 24 hours
+ Meanwhile Charles went swimming for the second time and loved it

- It is our last day at Seren Loft
+ But the weather has gone back to gorgeously sunny
+ And it has been a good week

I've done a bit of study but not as much as I hoped; we've all chilled out quite a lot, we've had good excursions to Llandovery (x3) and Llandeilo and Llandrindod Wells, and we may even have some social time with our hosts this evening.

Travel tomorrow and a weekend to recover and then back to work / kidsclub / nursery respectively.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Last weekend we went to Paris for 4 nights, to kick off our family summer holidays. We managed to coincide with a peak in the local heatwave, in a hotel room without air-conditioning. Ouch. We managed, but it was hard work at times (loud room with windows open or quiet-but-roasting room with windows shut).

What we did in Paris )
We were back home before 7pm, and between us had just enough oomph to get unpacked and everyone fed and into bed. Although it was still warm in Cambridge, it wasn't as fierce as Paris had been, and our house is easier to keep cool than that hotel room.

We then had a couple of days at home before coming out to Wales for a week at Seren Loft. So far we are enjoying it very much - the hot weather was with us on Friday and the first bit of Saturday but we've had lots of rain since. I commented to Tony that my many childhood holidays in Wales have led me to associate "rain falling on wooded hills" with feeling relaxed and happy (so long as I am somewhere safe and warm looking at it). The children like the Loft a lot, and Charles is especially enamoured of the artists studio beneath it. I have brought my OU textbooks and am vaguely thinking of spending a fair bit of time in the studio studying while Charles Does Art, and Tony has lots of baby time.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Nights away: 3
Hotel rooms: 1
Towns visited: Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Rhos-on-Sea
Mines visited: 1x Bronze Age, 1x 1800s-present
Piers visited: 1
Transport modes: mainline rail, tramway, cable car, steam train, foot
Objects left on trains: 1x umbrella, 1x baby's shoe
Days without eating icecream: 0
Days eating icecream in the rain: 2
Play areas played in: 4
Paddling pools played in: 1
Changes of clothes required due to child faceplant in paddling pool: 1
Times baby scared me by falling over in paddling pool before deciding it was too cold: 2
Number of comments on baby's walking skills: >10
Number of compliments on adorable children: > 20
Photos: still on camera

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Charles's school is closed today for teacher training, so Tony & I are off work too until tomorrow. 2.5 weeks off - luxurious.

We saw lots of family and friends during the break:
Read more... )

I've spent a lot of time resting and reading, not entirely by choice, but clearly my body's way of demanding I recharge my batteries. I've been studiously ignoring my work email, but a couple of days ago my phone started demanding the password so I expect it has expired while I was away. I can't remember what it should be anyway (oops). So that's first on the to-do list tomorrow.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Last Sunday we were in Devizes and took a walk along the canal footpath to the Caen Hill flight of locks:

Caen Hill flight of locks

We saw a few boats moving through the flight and helped open/close gates a few times when we were at a lock at the right time. Charles was utterly smitten with this 200-year-old technology, and my own interest was rekindled.

I wondered if there's any sf/fantasy based around canals. Alt-history or post-apocalyptic canals are the most obvious but I'd quite like to read about high-tech canals. I wonder if the electric motors being developed for cars could be adapted to boats any time soon.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Eurostar check-in at Lille was deeply tedious. An enormous slow-moving queue, bottleneck apparently the metal-detectors. If I wanted to stand in queues for ages I'd fly. Then there was the rather scary incident when a group of stupid people stopped moving as soon as they got off the immensely crowded escalator. Following a large chorus of KEEP MOVING, DON'T STOP! from everyone on the escalator, they finally shifted themselves, but not before I'd been propelled into the wobbly old lady in front of me by pressure of people coming down behind. I think we were about 30 seconds away from something very nasty. Perhaps I should write a stroppy letter of complaint.

Letter of complaint number 2 will be to St Pancras station management, about the signs which direct you to King's Cross bringing you out on a busy road with no pedestrian crossing within 100 metres in either direction, and a helpful temporary barrier blocking the opposite side for about 20 metres. So you have to cross this busy road diagonally from where you've been brought, or massively detour.

On a happier note, we had a very comfortable and restful Christmas, and it was great to have some real quality time with the family. I have a lot of photos of Charles opening presents to sort through. He had a great second Christmas Day, totally got into it, charged around the place until late in the evening and generally had a whale of a time. We got many board books for him, plus a trolley of blocks and some nice clothes. I think Tony and I got some DVDs and booze as well. We left money with Louise to package and ship what we couldn't fit in the suitcase.

Christmas Dinner was a turkey, raised on a local smallholding. It was the hugest turkey I have ever seen - 11.6kg apparently (25 lbs in old money) - and after 9 adults had attacked it and had plentiful seconds, there was still more than half of it left. It was also extremely tasty (as were the various accompaniments), so more turkey for Boxing Day meals and sandwiches today was in fact lovely rather than boring.

We watched a lot of Hornblower, though as I kept getting distracted/drawn away by a certain small person, I'll have to do something about watching it properly. I've never actually got around to reading the books, but what I saw of the tv adaptations was exactly my kind of escapist drama.
rmc28: (charles-champ)
Just over 6 months old, but I have finally put up some photos from our trip to France in April, with separate collections for the signposted tumulus we stopped to explore, and the valley of monkeys.

As usual, most of the photos are of Charles.
rmc28: (happy)
Just back from a short break in Leiden, staying with Tony's ex-colleagues Dirk & Ardy, who were marvellous hosts and arranged for us to spend lots of time with other ex-colleagues Hari & Sander and Sander's family. Charles was somewhat trying, still very fond of the random piercing scream approach to expressing displeasure. If you have to go for long walks with a trying child in hopes of calming them down/sending them to sleep, there are many worse places than Leiden to do this.

Our outward journey started with a delightful interlude between Cambridge and London with a baby very like Charles but a few months younger; both of them seemed delighted to play around each other and occasionally grab at each other. In London we randomly met [livejournal.com profile] bugshaw and [livejournal.com profile] major_clanger, and were able to say casually that we were meeting [livejournal.com profile] nhw for afternoon coffee in Brussels. Which we did, and it went fast. Somehow we need to make time to visit Brussels rather than pass through it.

Nothing quite so remarkable happened on the return journey, although Charles did his best to charm the entire Eurostar waiting room and hid shyly from another toddler a little older doing the same thing. One of the onboard train managers managed to patronise us on both occasions she passed through the carriage: "There is a baby change compartment there" (yes we know, that's why I booked us seats here) and, upon finding Charles pottering in the corridor 2 seats away from us, and under our eye "is this your baby? - don't let him wander through the carriages when we're in the Tunnel". Grr.

Tony has been efficient with housework on our return while I settled Charles to sleep. I have tomorrow off work to recover from the holiday, then three days at work before we get back on Eurostar, this time via Paris for a week with Tony's dad in France.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Back to England on Saturday, changing in Paris is still awful. Family party in Beaconsfield on Sunday, my lovely sister-in-law Sarah is 30 today (which means I'm going to be 30 later this year, gosh). Got home about 9:30pm last night, up at 6am for work as usual this morning.

It was a lovely holiday, and a good, if tiring party yesterday. There'll be photos along eventually. [livejournal.com profile] james_r took some great ones which we saw on the way home. Apart from continuing to swim and eat too much, the main thing we did was visit Monkey IslandValley - La Vallee des Singes. Lots of monkeys and apes of different kinds, with territories mostly enclosed by use of water, and only the occasional fence. It's all buggy-friendly (or wheelchair friendly) and there are some play areas, but we adults all found it lots of fun. Charles was more interested in the humans than the animals, but I'm looking forward to regular visits as he grows up, watching him take in more and more of what there is to see.

The best mother-in-law in the world now has a blog: [livejournal.com profile] louise_e_f.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I'm visiting Louise (Tony's mother), with Tony, Charles, James & Rosie. The weather is unseasonably lovely and we've been making good use of the pool. Travel was by Eurostar to Poitiers and then a convoy of hire car and Louise's car to her ex-farm, now home and self-catering cottages in the depths of rural France.

We have been very lazy on the whole, some plans to set up wireless access to the cottage proved pretty much impossible to achieve on this visit due to lack of shops selling basic supplies - [livejournal.com profile] james_r can rant about the details. I have managed to find some lovely clothes for Charles, some fitting now, some for later. The French do plentiful clothing for children that is not pastel pink, pastel blue, white, or beige. Hurrah!

Other Charles notes: he has slowly come to enjoy the swimming pool, if we're careful about introducing him to the cold water. He has an elegant UV-protective swimsuit and matching hat and we try to keep him in that or in the shade. So far he has not got burned. He has enthusiastically munched on bread and croissants, and though he clearly likes crusts, they don't soften enough to go down properly, so we have banned them. I tried offering him some banana, and not only did he recoil, when I left the piece on his tray for later investigation, he picked it up and dropped it over the side of the high chair with deliberation and a look that said "I told you I didn't want it". He has been incredibly clingy to me for the first few days, though I am now allowed to leave him with daddy for a while without being pursued by sobs of abandonment, and he is slowly getting used to Louise again.

I'm off to eat some lovely food and perhaps accompany James to the local airfield.
rmc28: (happy)
Back from France after a few days visiting [livejournal.com profile] fanf's father. The break was lovely and we return with expanded waistlines, mild sunburn, 12 bottles of good wine, and greatly reduced stress levels in me (Tony wasn't that stressed when we went out!). Trains are the civilised way to travel, although the Eurostar terminal staff were approaching irritating queue lengths on the way out - we think because one of the screening machines was out of use. Which reminds me: in future, don't wear steel-toecapped shoes when walking through metal detectors.

We took travel Scrabble, which proved a hit. Photos will be online at some point.


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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