A Travellerspoint blog

Guten Tag Deutschland!

First stop Cologne

After a slight detour to a “Gaswinkle” to pick up an adapter for our safefill gas canister we were Germany bound!

It was a gorgeous day and soon after crossing the border we stopped for an ice cream at a lay by.

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We wanted to head straight to the Mosel River upon the recommendation of Claudia and Mike but after a sat nav mishap we ended up pulling into “Campingplatz Stadt Koln” just outside of Cologne. We were absolutely delighted at our spot which had a spectacular view overlooking one of the city bridges while being right beside a cycle path which led into the city. Soon after putting the boys to bed there was the most spectacular thunder and lightning storm with huge, heavy rainfall. It was so brilliant that we decided that we had to run around in it so we got starkers and did exactly that! Absolutely everyone should run naked in a rain storm at least once in their lives!!

IMG_0165.jpgShower bath!

Shower bath!

The next morning the weather was still a bit dubious but we had to take advantage of our location so we saddled up on the bikes and cycled into the city.

IMG_0189.jpgSteep steps to get to Cologne!

Steep steps to get to Cologne!

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It was a brilliant ride and we made it, dry, within half an hour. We cycled around the city and saw the awesome Dom cathedral and grabbed a bite to eat before cycling back feeling so happy about our unintentional detour to Cologne.

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Beer o'clock!

The four conquerors!

The four conquerors!

Posted by bywaterbyland 02:02 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Jup Holland!!

OUR PICCIES FROM THE FIRST LEG OF OUR EUROPEAN ADVENTURE WERE LOST ALONG WITH THOSE FROM OUR UK LEG. FINGERS CROSSED WE CAN RECOVER THE DATA AND UPDATE THEM SOON!!

Wednesday 2nd July – Harwich – Rockanje!

After a late night last night trying to get our last minute bits and pieces sorted our 6am alarm clock was a bit of a shock to the system but one that was quickly overwhelmed by excitement for our adventure ahead. We ate a super quick breakie while the boys were still sleeping and then transferred them, in their slumber, to their car seats so we could head to the ferry terminal. We were all buzzing to see the MASSIVE Stena line ferry that, to Mylo’s delight, would be our “pirate ship” for our journey to Holland. Jeremy had had the sense to book a cabin and it felt like sheer luxury to have our own space and ensuite bathroom with SHOWER to luxuriate in while at sea. I did just that, partaking in a bygone routine of hair washing, skin cleansing, exfoliating and shaving to the point of having wrinkly water toes but it was amazing. We took turns having naps as unfortunately the boys rhythms didn’t co-incide but I lucked out with the timing taking Felix to lunch accompanied by a large glass of Sauvignon to be enjoyed before my nap. Mylo loved the ferry, especially the kiddies area which was well stocked with bits and bobs to keep him pre-occupied for long enough that he didn’t want to leave.

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We arrived at the hook of Holland at around 4pm and J took to the wheel. To our dismay our sat nav wasn’t giving us European maps but J managed to plug in our destination using GPS co-ordinates and there we were, actually driving (on the wrong side of the road) on the continent toward our first European destination!

The area that we arrived into was a really interesting blend of contrasts; stark industrial with warm, homely residences, with rural settings (ponies being groomed in paddocks right between the houses and the motorway). One thing that was immediately apparent was the cleanliness and the care – peoples pride for their homes was so evident, mostly demonstrated by their PERFECT gardens. Some areas felt like they were straight from a story book with perfect boarders, manicured lawns and colourful but understated shows of colour. It felt like people here were accustomed to making the absolute most out of any space made available to them.

We arrived at our site at around 6.30 by which point the gates were locked and a contact number was pinned to the door for late arrival visitors . Alas, the number did not work. Both boys were shattered from all the excitement and we were not much better so were hugely relieved when a fellow guest who I hunted down came over (with his phone) to suss things out. In the interim J had somehow manged to find a number that did work so the gates were opened and we were given directions to our pitch. 45 minutes later we managed to find it as we had been told the wrong place but this gave us a chance to get a feel for the site and chat to some of the other campers. The set up accommodated mobile caravans, static caravans for seasonal holidaymakers, little villas/apartments and campervans. Mylo was stoked to see a brilliant playground with a fantastic object that is best described as a cross between a trampoline and a bouncy castle! It was so much fun that we had to give it a name, HAROLD!! After all the excitement of the day we were all utterly shattered but felt SO excited (and rather amazed!) to be here.

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Thursday 3rd July - Rockanje

Our first full day in Europe!! We made a decision last night that today would be RELAXED, without agenda. It felt pretty amazing waking up and realizing that we were actually here, that our first leg has indeed begun. Last night Mylo was very upset not to have been able to go to the pool so after an awesome cooked breakie from J we headed straight there after a jump on Harold (!) Mylo was right in the water, slowing down only to hug the giant turtle that decorated the water slide.

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Since stopping Mylo’s swimming lessons when I went back to work his confidence in the water hasn’t been great so we were SO relieved to see him splashing about with utter abandon. Felix had his first proper swim! I forgot to pack swim nappies so was a tad embarrassed when he peed all over me and the pool edge through his togs while we were talking to another mummy but she was so lovely she politely ignored the puddle  He LOVED putting his feet in and splashing about but mostly I think he was entranced by Mylo running around, squealing with delight and being generally bonkers! It is so amazing to think of all the firsts that Felix (and Mylo) will have on this trip. I feel so privileged that we can share them as a family.
Both J and I managed some lengths in the big pool after having both Felix and Mylo join us in the water. It was so much fun having a squishy, squirmy, slippery little one hold on SO TIGHT while swimming in a big pool and made me feel even more the protector. I remember clinging to my Dad in swimming pools when I was little and always feeling so safe so it is nice to we're giving our kids that same feeling too :-)
After our swim I sorted out a quick lunch and then both Felix and I had a nap which I really needed and did make me feel as though I was on holiday. Even though it was almost 5 the weather was gorgeous so we saddled both boys up on the bikes and headed down to the beach. As it was the first time Felix had been on the bike it took us quite some time to make sure he was comfortable and safe, and even though the prep was probably about 45 mins for a 5 minute bike ride, it was totally worth it!!

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I rode with Felix and J with Mylo and it felt really wonderful to all be out and about without being reliant on our van or our buggy. The beach was just lovely, HUGE with stretches of sand and nice calm water. We didn’t go in but put our feet in the water and had an ice cream to commemorate the journey and headed back to the van.

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Ice cream + no nap = Mylo melt down so we hurried to get both boys down after dinner and were somewhat relived when the curtains were finally pulled. Our neighbour must have sensed our stress so offered us a dark German beer which more than hit the spot. All we had to offer them was Gin (but no tonic!) and as it so happened this was a bit of an icebreaker as it lead us to sitting down and formally introducing ourselves to Mike and Claudia, whose favorite drink just happened to be Gin and water!! It was lovely to be able to have some social time and we were able to spend some time planning our upcoming German leg of our journey as they so kindly gave us a map and some brilliant recommendations. They also gave us some mozzie repellent spirals which am sure will be an absolute necessity in months to come.

Friday 4th July

Mylo was delighted to see Mike and Claudia and spent most of the morning playing with them and their egg timer as we prepared for our trip into Rotterdam. They very sweetly gave Mylo the egg timer as another parting gift as they were leaving that day. We were sad to say goodbye as we could have not hoped for lovelier neighbors but felt so lucky that we had been paired together 

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Mike and Claudia

As exercise has been few and far between since we left our place in London we both decided to swim some lengths before we went which was brilliant and very much needed and reminded me that we must, one day, have our own pool 
It was a very easy ride into the centre of Rotterdam and we immediately found the tourist info desk and got a map and a suggested itinerary for the day.

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We followed it to the street; through the shopping district, past the amazing architecture of the tilted cubed houses just by Blaak station, down the canal toward the water taxi, but then we found Vessel 11, a STUNNING old boat that had been converted into a bar/cafe/restaurant and who’s deck called us to come aboard and abort our schedule. When we walked by Mylo said “please can we go on that boat?” and we could think of many reasons why that was a marvelous idea. It was SO COOL, it felt interesting and quirky and unpretentious and that we had found a wee treasure. To top it all off, after we had both ordered a stein of beer the waitress told us there were swings, yes SWINGS up stairs on the deck!!! I was up there in a flash and Mylo had to wait while I tested them out first, for safety of course  There were two single hammocks suspended from massive hooks on the boat and it quickly became one of my favorite things EVER (and that is saying a lot ....) It is agreed that our main form of seating in our forever home will indeed be of the hammock variety

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 After several hours of swinging and sipping we swayed along the harbour and over the bridge “Erasmusbrug” and took in the awesome scale of this impressive port city. There is clearly so much going on here but it felt completely void of the frantic rush of London. Perhaps it is because of the number of people on bicycles – not the head down, shoulders hunched, thighs pumping type I have become used to in London but the sit up, carry your kid, or adult friend on the handle bars or back (or indeed both!) style that moves this city. Since being in Holland the amount of cyclists has been pretty hard to ignore and I absolutely LOVE the fact that so many people, very young and very old and all ages in between are outside, using their own energy to propel their momentum and getting fresh air while they are at it. From what we have seen so far cycling is as much a part of the Dutch transport system as driving or buses or trains, as a pedestrian tourist however it does take some getting used to, certainly when needing to look the opposite way when crossing the street!
We went for dinner along the stretch overlooking Rijnhaven which would have been a lovely evening were it not for an overtired toddler. Argh it does get tough, on him and on us, not having a formal routine and there are some nights that we have to pay for that and this was one of them. Enough said. Both boys fell asleep in the van on the way “home” to our campsite which was rather a relief. A large glass of wine rewarded us upon arrival.

Saturday 5 July – Rockanje – Bilthoven (Utrecht area) via Brielle

We had gone to bed with heavy rain and it was still pouring when we woke up which, to be honest was a bit of a relief as the past few days had been hot and sticky which, with three sweaty boys and no washing machine, necessitates a break  Due to the rain we ate inside for the first time in ages which takes even more strategy than normal; mini wheats vs wheat-bix to avoid mess, Felix before Mylo to pre-occupy Felix’s hands, water after eating to avoid smashing of water bottle into full bowl of cereal blah blah and after not too much of a mess drama and packing up we got on the road.
We decided to visit Brielle on the way to our destination for no particular reason other than we had seen signs and I managed my first parallel park only to be told that a more preferable spot was over the road. My initial effort shattered me so I gave J the pleasure of delivering a 3 point turn to get into the new space. It actually turned out to be quite a good thing that we relocated as we ended up by a gorgeous canal which we walked along before heading up the main street. There was bunting everywhere and a fabulous feel to the place.

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I am sure there would have been a huge amount more to see than we did but it was nice not having any agenda or guidebook and just wandering about. The heavens decided t open while we were walking so we nipped into what looked to be a traditional restaurant for lunch which was, um, pretty traditional I guess? Jeremy’s sausage (?!) was certainly more European than English accompanied by a massive pat (J’s description) of mash and sauerkraut. Mmm. While eating our lunch an incredible Opera singer broke into song from a balcony overlooking the square in which we were eating. Her voice was incredible, it was such a privilege to be there to hear her performance.

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On the walk back to the car we visited an AMAZING deli which was a cheese lover’s heaven  The man who served me was a darling but perhaps slightly taken aback by my enthusiasm for his cheese!! Honestly, my vocal signs of approval were entirely justified, it was damn good cheese.

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I bought both types that I tried, one mild and one strong + some pesto and cold cuts as well as a bottle of red that he said would match the cheeses well and we left feeling very excited about our alfresco date to come! Because I’d just purchased more cheese than would be fair for any dairy intolerant fiancée I agreed to forgo a detour to Gouda. Probably a good thing too as my wedding dress is not going to like all of this European indulgence ....
It was only an hour and a half drive further to our campsite in Bitricht and upon arrival we realised that there were some campers here in an ENTIRELY different league. We LOVE all things camping but we are mere novices compared to the insane preparation, organisation and execution of these Dutch camping Samurais. To my delight, bunting was draped everywhere and sofas with coffee tables, flower filled vases, and literally the kitchen sink filled the front room of the awning add-ons. Impressive stuff indeed.

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Mylo was DELIGHTED at the presence of not one but two playgrounds AND another Harold. Fun times ahead :-)

Sunday the 6th of July

Woke up feeling sick so spent most of the day in bed. Jeremy did an amazing job looking after boys, sorting out dishes, preparing lunch and dinner so I caught up on some sleep and woke just in time for some fizz (to ease the tummy of course) with dinner. The heavens opened and we had a LOT of rain but it was actually lovely, it felt all cosy inside. Managed to squeeze in a load of washing and a breaking bad!!

Monday the 7th of July

Woke to a gorgeous day after a more than decent sleep in (8.30am!!) and feeling restored after my much needed r&r yesterday. Jeremy made his famous pancakes which I’m pretty sure are my favourite food so our day certainly couldn’t have started any better. Once again Mylo had befriended our neighbours, taking a shine to the lady who he called a “granny” which was both correct as her children and grandchildren had been visiting the day before, and adorable as we knew that he had been missing both of his grannies. As I had not been particularly sociable yesterday I had not had the chance to speak with them but went over for a chat and realised why Mylo had warmed to them so much. I had been concerned that he had been a wee bit too sociable as, like his mamma, he can talk rather a lot, but when we asked if they needed some quiet time they assured us that he was fine to stick about. They had a dog called Daisy, a lovely golden retriever who Mylo introduced me to, it was lovely to see how comfortable he was with her given that not too long ago he was terrified of dogs.
We had heard that Utrecht was well worth a visit so we decided to head in after some much needed exercise and a shower. The station was either a 20 minute or a 40 minute walk away depending on who we asked so dear Fred, our lovely neighbour, offered to give us a lift down in his car. We graciously accepted and managed to JUST catch a train to take us to Utrecht Centrum.

Train into Utrecht

Train into Utrecht

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Soon after leaving the station we found a little kiosk selling tickets for a canal boat tour which we thought would be the perfect way to see the city so booked ourselves on the next boat. It had an open roof which gave us a panoramic view of the streets above and huge windows to each side to allow us to see the canal and all of the restaurants, cafes and bars right beside the waters edge.

We immediately loved the city, it felt quite similar to Amsterdam but not as busy with tourists but with the same charms like the bicycles stacked up on every corner, the colourful flower hanging baskets, pungent coffee shops, and people who seemed warm hearted, chilled out and happy to have you in their presence. The number of people who greeted us with “hallo” or a lovely smile was so touching, people really were so friendly and I don’t think I saw one grumpy or sad face!

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After the canal boat tour, upon our guides’ recommendation we found “Walden” restaurant which was located right under the Domkerk church in the square.
The Walden restaurant

The Walden restaurant

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The Dom is a tall, gothic, impressive building which we approached via a gorgeous archway flanked with cafes and restaurants. While the restaurant wasn’t particularly well equipped for kiddies as far as high chairs and menus went, we were SO well looked after with our waiters offering us pillows to bolster Mylo up in his seat, a kiddie sized selection of food instead of a big main and some Dutch souvenirs; a footie shirt and an orange pointie finger to ensure we support the Dutch team with a “hup Holland” at every game 
After dinner we walked along the canals and soaked up the atmosphere. We both agreed that this is somewhere we could definitely live. By the time we got on the train it was 9.50 which we both felt was far too late to call Fred to ask for a lift as he insisted we should. We were really happy to walk home but when we got off the train we saw Fred, waiting for us at the platform. I nearly burst into tears I was so touched. He didn’t wave or make a big deal or anything, he just said “I thought you must be tired” and assured us that he was not and that he had just got there (we will never know how long he had been waiting). In the car I told him I was completely overwhelmed and he said “it is good to be overwhelmed, and always better to be overwhelmed by kindness than bad things”. And of course it is. He brought us home – literally to our door – and then re-parked by his tent door a few meters away. Thankfully we had found him a bottle of NZ wine at the local supermarket so was able to give him that but I don’t think any gift would have expressed how grateful we were, it was just such a kind, lovely, fatherly thing to do.
Despite it being 10.30 by the time we got in the van the boys were absolute angels. Felix actually broke into fits of hysterical laughter which could have been exhaustion but concerningly could have also been from wafts of Hollands finest?! Whatever it was he thankfully went down really well as did Mylo who I snuggled with in his bed before he finally dropped off beside me.
A really beautiful, perfect day that has left me feeling very humbled and blessed for all that we have and for all of the gorgeous people like Fred and Marianne in this world.

Fred and Mylo :-)

Fred and Mylo :-)

Cuddles with Fred

Cuddles with Fred

Tuesday the 8th Bilthoven – Winterswijk
We needed to get an adaptor for our “Safefill” Gas canister and J had found a dealer on the way to the German border so we headed in that direction. We hit some crap traffic on the way which meant that we would not make it to the dealer before closing so we agreed to book a site close by which would enable us to visit the dealer the next day. We pulled up to “De Twee Brugen” and we immediately decided htat we needed to stay for more than one night. The campsite was HUGE, with an indoor pool, outdoor pool, waterslide, bowling alley, a MASSIVE Harold in a big playground, a restaurant and an animal farm complete with Deer and a peacock! We lucked out with our camping spot which looked right over the animals farm and we had our own sanded play area that we let the kids use too ;-)

Our awesome possie

Our awesome possie

Breakie with a view

Breakie with a view

Our deer neighbours

Our deer neighbours

Our own private playground :-)

Our own private playground :-)

Before bed we all had a boogie to Al Green and both Mylo AND Felix demonstrated their inheritance of their parents love for music and real groovy moves ;-) Rainy night = cosy dinner

Rainy night = cosy dinner

Grooving to Al Green before bedtime

Grooving to Al Green before bedtime

Wednesday 9th Winterswijk

It had been raining seriously hard overnight and showed no sign of letting up so after some chilled out time in the van we headed for the swimming pool.
Good morning!

Good morning!

Mylo lifts!

Mylo lifts!

It was so much fun, both boys had a brilliant time and Mylo’s confidence in the water seemed to improve even more. Later that evening the rain let up so we all went for bike ride and realised the full scope of the campsite and had an even greater appreciation of the gorgeous surroundings that we had lucked upon.

Could I be any cuter?!

Could I be any cuter?!

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IMG_0105.jpg captionIMG_0106.jpgIMG_0107.jpgMaking the most of the dutch countryside

Making the most of the dutch countryside

After dinner at the restaurant Mylo had a turn on the giant Harold. It was still very wet from the rain and Mylo kept on slipping down the side at which point J decided the best option was to throw him on like a sack of potatoes! Poor Mylo landed with a giant bounce on his tummy the slipped all the way down again which, i have to admit, was pretty hilarious to watch. It In the end J had to clamber up with him and after much slipping and sliding and hysterical laughter (mainly from me!) they stood, triumphant, having conquered the mountain of Harold.

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IMG_0125.jpg captionIMG_0126.jpgHarold!!

Harold!!

Fun fun fun!!

Fun fun fun!!

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Posted by bywaterbyland 08:18 Archived in Netherlands Comments (1)

From Stoke we begin


View Our adventure begins! on bywaterbyland's travel map.

Tuesday 17th June

My parents had been the most amazing hosts and allowed us to really wind down after one transition and gear up for the next. After almost 2 weeks we packed up the van and said our goodbyes.

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The desperation to get on the road had left us feeling somewhat shattered and a tad frantic and it took about 20 miles for that to ease enough for us to finally realize “we have done it! We are ACTUALLY on the road and officially “tourers”! It felt absolutely amazing to be together, in glorious sunshine, driving in a pre-determined direction but without a known destination. The beauty of the countryside was soon upon us and the excitement of the adventure before us really started to hit. We had (surprise surprise) got on the road later than we had planned so around an hour and a half after we started we needed to think about where we could stop for our first night. Soon after coming into Wales we pulled into a pub that had a play ground out the front and felt that this was a good spot to get some fresh air and feel the earth beneath our feet. Mylo had a great time in the play ground and we were encouraged when the pub patrons said that we could “wild camp” (i.e for free) in their car park over night if we wanted to. We were very tempted but decided to go back to a picturesque looking Trout farm about a mile back that had a sign for camping. What a good decision we made 
The trout farm at Llangdelen could not have possibly been a better spot for the first night of our adventure. We were the only campers on site except for a group of lovely guys who were our neighbors across the pond; not from the States but literally, across a fishing pond! Coincidentally they all worked at the Trout pub in Oxfordshire which is a brilliant pub that we had visited a few times when living in Abingdon so it felt good to have some familiarity. Because there was no one else camping we could take our pick on where we wanted to be and our spot was quite simply perfect. We were raised up on a little hill to give us a gorgeous view of the Welsh country side and trout farm store with several fishing ponds below us and the closer pond with perfect hillside and the lights of our neighbors campfire on the other side. We had the luxury of electricity, water and, wait for it, a picnic table all right beside us which meant we could easily satisfy luxuries of a hot shower, al fresco dining and dishwashing (!) which made this camping lark seem pretty darn peachy. One of the slightly random bits of gear that we purchased for this trip was a set of bean bags for the boys and on this first night, chilling out together under the stars we realized what a brilliant addition to the family they had already become.

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Wednesday 18th June
In the morning the sun was shining so we all had breakfast at our picnic table come breakfast bar which was brilliant as this helped manage the mess of Felix’s eating. Frustratingly we needed to wash Mylo’s bedding after a wee mishap (no pun intended) but thanks to the weather we managed to get everything washed and dried in a few hours which probably gave us false misconceptions about the ease of washing while on the road (future washing dramas to be shared in a later post!) I have to say I felt rather triumphant at the sight of our linen drying on our makeshift washing line strung across our awning 
When we had arrived the day before we were a tad excited to see the amazing food options at the little cafe run by the owners so at lunchtime we gorged on variations of smoked trout and were spoilt by the owner who gave us homemade shortbread biccies to take with us <3 We were also lucky enough that there was a little animal farm onsite with piglets, chickens, rabbits and ducks which was a HUGE hit for both Mylo and Felix and great for us to see the source of the “local” bacon and eggs ;-)
We eventually pulled ourselves away at around 3pm and headed back on the road toward the East and, upon the recommendation of our host at LLangdelen, decided to take a detour off the main drag and head to LLangollen, which we were told was a small Welsh town with a steam railway and a picturesque setting. The drive down was simply awesome, a steep, winding road looking down on the village far far below with sheep meandering without concern on the road, which all together gave the feeling of being somewhere very special and indeed we were. The town was truly gorgeous; unassuming and quaint while clearly being so steeped in history and a haven for many over the years. Jeremy mastered what can only be described as a kick arse parallel park in the middle of all the hustle and bustle and as soon as we got out, with the boys fast asleep we rewarded our/his efforts with an ice cream (seriously yum rhubarb and custard flavor for the record).

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After pushing on Felix was unnaturally grizzly while driving so we decided to pull in to a campsite sooner than we probably would have done otherwise but it turned out to be a great move as our new home for the night was in another brilliant setting, right by an old railway station and amidst rolling green hills and a river close by. There were about 6 other campers on site, all parked around the perimeter of a big central green but our possie was perfect, being in a shady corner looking out over an old barn on one side and the green on the other. After having dinner (pan fried fish on the hob for the second night) we bathed the boys in our big green plastic tub in the middle of the green which was still warm in the gorgeous evening sun. After both boys were in their jammies we took a much needed stroll alongside the river to the nearby settlement (aka pub) and were really taken aback by the beauty of this gorgeous place which we could have so easily missed.

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Thursday 19th June – Portmeirion
Jeremy has been wanting to go to Portmeirion , the filming site for the TV series “The Prisoner” for absolutely ages. We had hoped to get to “Festival 6” last year which has been held there for three years but unfortunately we couldn't make it so getting to the site was a priority.
As soon as we approached the gates to the village it was clear that this place was bonkers. Indeed it is probably the craziest, most bizarre place we have ever been. Not sure we could live there as the charm would surely be dulled (and I think I’d spend most of the time thinking I was off my face) but to visit it was absolutely fantastic.
The only way to get a true feel for the place is to visit, words certainly don’t do it justice and neither do pictures but here's an idea ....

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We treated ourselves to lunch at the hotel on the waterfront as the view was too brilliant not to savor. We decided to get a bottle of wine but as J had offered to drive meant that I drank ¾ which given the heat and the spacey surrounds was perhaps not the most clever of ideas but enjoyable all the same!

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After lunch we got an ice cream and, to Mylo’s delight, took the train which took us on a tour around the island. At first the driver seemed really grumpy but he ended up being a “salt of the earth” character whom (of course) developed a soft spot for the boys and was very accommodating to us all.

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We eventually exited the gates at around 6 pm so we decided to feed the boys and get them ready for bed so that they could sleep on the way to our yet to be decided destination for the evening. We had purchased a “wild camping” subscription which enabled us to download POI (points of interest) onto our TomTom which meant that all previously discovered wild camping spots were at our disposal. We randomly chose a spot that was on our way to the coast but not too far a drive and pulled up not knowing what to expect. The sat nav lead us down a quiet country lane and eventually into a secluded car park right in front of a wood called Pwll Crwn. Our only neighbors were cows in the field next door - this did feel pretty wild!! I wasn’t scared until J said “do you think this is a bit creepy?” at which point my hairs pricked up a bit but more than scary it felt cosy and stealth and wonderful  We fell asleep to no sound but that of the trees swaying in the wind, and the odd sound from the woods to remind us where we were.

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Friday 20th June
We woke after a really good sleep and enjoyed showing the boys the field of cows that had been our neighbors for the night! Amazingly Mylo has not yet seemed too perturbed by the daily change in scene. Hopefully that will continue, with us and the van being a sufficient constant that all other change is manageable.
Even though our spot had been designated as a wild camping spot we still felt a bit cheeky for sleeping there so we decided to hit the road before having breakie. It turned out to be a mission to find somewhere suitable to pull in as ideally we wanted somewhere that Mylo could stretch his legs and run about. Eventually eagle eyes Jeremy saw a playground that we turned back for. It was a very basic playground with no frills or whistles but he was delighted and immediately made friends with a Welsh girl and her grandparents that were playing there also. He chose to have his cereal on the park bench inside the playground so that he could watch his new friend play rather than eat in the van 

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We drove on, not exactly sure of where we were heading for the night as we felt this would be dictated by the timing of our drive. After several hours in the van we all needed to stop so pulled in to a very basic Welsh diner which was friendly but clearly not accustomed to having a toddler and a baby dining in. We decided to continue along the coast and get some fresh sea air before heading inland as close to Guildford as possible as we needed to be there tomorrow so that Jeremy could attend the wedding of our friends Ross and Louise.

It was approaching 5pm when we saw signs to Pembrey County Park. We had a good feeling that this would be a good place to have a run around and get the boys dinner. Upon approaching we realised that the scale of this place was more than we had expected with acres of land and all sorts of activities like sand boarding, crazy golf, segways, water zorbing, a miniature train track, and then of course, there was the sea. We headed straight for the beach and it was absolutely awesome. I remember people saying that the Welsh coast had some of the best beaches and this one must have been one of its finest examples. The sand was super fine and gloriously white stretched for miles in each direction. The beach was banked by big sand dunes which Jeremy hurtled over with Mylo on his back while Felix sat with me on a blanket squishing the sand between his toes.

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We all ate at a picnic bench then got the boys ready for bed as we knew we had about 4 hours of driving ahead.
We chose another wild camping spot that was located in a pub car park in the heart of Surrey countyside. The roads were so tiny they could really only be called lanes and had of we passed another vehicle coming the other way we would have been in a pickle. We were absolutely shattered after the longest leg of our journey so far – possibly 8 hours of driving? Silly billies. We won’t be doing that again.

Saturday 21st.
We woke up to the clip clop clip clop sound of horses being moved from a paddock beside the pub, I was delighted get my country fix!

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It was much easier driving along the country lanes in the day time and Jeremy, having mastered the art of handling our van, eased a three point turn in a place most people would not have attempted in their car; I am indeed with the right man!! We had a lovely cooked breakie in a local farm shop with the added bonus of the boys getting to see some animals.

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After dropping off J at the wedding the boys and I continued on to our camp site at Whipley Manor Farm. It was very basic, pretty much an empty paddock with a water tap but the setting was just gorgeous, surrounded by fields and farmland. The weather was perfect which meant I could leave Felix chilling on a beanbag while Mylo was an amazing little helper, offering moral support while I emptied the toilet (my first and last time!) and leveled us out on the blocks. We set up our tables, chairs and toys under the awning and took a lovely walk along the tractor lanes. It was so quiet and peaceful and a really lovely time to share with the boys and the many butterflies who were busy along the same path.

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After dinner, bath and story time the boys both went down well, in good time for me to enjoy some exercises with sunset followed by a pomegranate G&T before I finally retired myself.

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Sunday 22nd
Jeremy had had a brilliant time at the wedding and I was pleasantly surprised that this morning his head was causing him too much discomfort! We all headed to the post wedding BBQ in an amazing converted barn and we had a brilliant time, especially as it was my turn to drink!! We had a good catch up with old and new friends and then saddled up to head to Redhill where, due to our late arrival time, we stayed in the late arrivals area at Alderstead Heath site.

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Monday 23rd Reigate

This was our first taste of a proper caravan club camping site. It was perfectly manicured with brilliant facilities but in some areas they had perhaps gone a bit OTT such as in giving precise instructions on how to place ones vehicle within the perimeter of their pitch! It was a huge site and had some huge vehicles to match with some of the range house buses with satellite dishes and other modern luxuries which made us feel nicely understated. We found a super pitch that overlooked a kiddies playground and we quickly decided that we should stay here for a few days to collect ourselves after all the travelling and to slow down the pace a little bit. We decided to do a load of washing as the weather was gorgeous but our basket had got so full that we had more to hang out than we did line space (it is against caravan club rules to hang washing off trees or fence posts unfortunately!). The constant circulation of washing to follow the sun meant that we weren’t able to go anywhere for the day which, given our recent schedule was probably a good thing.

Tuesday 24th
After packing up we went to visit my Great Aunt Vi who will be 105 next month. She was mentally as switched on as ever but physically she was a lot weaker, not wanting to get up from her chair which has never happened before. It was so lovely to spend time with her, particularly to have some quality time with the boys.
We had not decided on where to go for the evening but while on the M25 decided to see if the Rutherford’s were home in Surrey. By chance they were in and with had just opened a bottle so as you can imagine, we put on the gas! It was SUCH a wonderful evening , we chatted and drank until the early hours (our boys were in van with the monitor on) and felt rejuvenated after spending quality time with good friends.

Wednesday 25th.
Spent most of the day using the Rutherford’s lounge as a home office and catching up on the admin that had been building up. As well as being around friends it was a huge relief to be able to have somewhere as a base and just brilliant for Mylo and Felix to have some time with the three Rutherford boys who Mylo adores. We needed to be in Banbury first thing the next morning so set off after dinner with Ping and the boys (Don had left for Russia at 6am!) and left feeling SO much more in control and like a weight had been lifted. THANK YOU to the Rutherford haven!

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Thursday 26th Service
We had (with permission) parked outside the dealer from where we bought our Adria where we were booked in for our service, MOT and habitation check. They needed her for the whole day so kindly drove us into Banbury where we spent the best part of a day but managed to get some errands done (as well as enjoy a cocktail at midday!). The van past all checks and after picking her up we ate dinner in a parking lot and made a last minute decision to spend the night in our old home town of Abingdon!
We arrived late but bumped into J’s old practice manager while hunting for a water tap and then into an old work colleague of mine at a pub who let us use their water tap, it was really lovely to be in somewhere so familiar. Unfortunately we had arrived too late for it to be feasible to meet with many old friends who lived minutes away but it felt good to return to old soil regardless. We took a risk (due to being oversized) parking in a day time carpark that overlooked the river and decided that the risk of being asked to leave or getting a ticket was one that we were willing to take. We transferred the boys while they were sleeping and managed to enjoy a meal together, looking at the river that was right outside our dining room table with a glass of wine and it could not have been more perfect 

Friday 27th Abingdon – London
We took the boys around for a walk around the canal and into the playground – we have been wanting to this with them since before they were born! We popped into “added ingredients” where we used to go for very drunken wine tastings when we lived here, and promised our friend Jill who owns the shop that we would do our best to arrange to come back for another tasting session.
Jeremy popped into his old Dental practice and we headed on the road to get to Wimblendon to get to my final dress fitting at 3pm. The tennis was on so Wimbledon was buzzing, we hd managed to catch a centre court Murray game a few years back and had the day we found our van last year was the day that Murray bet Federer to win the title so it felt particularly fitting that we could taste that vibe again. We fed the boys and completed their bedtime routine before heading back on the road towards Northfields! As our residents partking ticket was still valid it made sense to park in our old spot which was a bit emotional but lovely al the same. Very odd being here and not going to the house with the red door.

Saturday 28th
We squeezed in some local errands before heading to the Duke of Kent pub to see some friends before leaving UK soil. We were so touched that so many people came by to wish us luck and farewell – at least for now!

Sunday 29th London - Letchworth
After breakfast at “Papillion” we spent the morning playing in Lammas park playground and catching up with our dear friend Katie who has been like Mylo’s second mummy and was our saviour when packing up to leave so it was brilliant to have some chilled out time with her. Once again we had no idea where to head to that night and decided to see whether we could visit our amazing friends Gi, Tash and their three kids with whom we recently kept missing opportunities to spend time while we were living in London. We were over the moon to hear that we could visit and had a lovely evening catching up over some wine. It felt so wonderful to be there, so wonderful in fact that we stayed a whole extra day!! It was just what we needed as Mylo and Felix got to spend time with Maya, Neve and Jamie while we got to have longer with Gi and Tash plus get thorough some final errands before heading for the boat.

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Tuesday 1st Letchworth- Harwich
OMG we are actually going to do this! WE have made it to our last day in the UK for quite some time! After stocking up on groceries we headed towards the coast and got to our campsite with enough time to feed the boys and enjoy the sunset. We got through some last minute emails and admin while we will had data and the use of our phones and got to bed at around 2am.

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Posted by bywaterbyland 14:43 Archived in England Comments (1)

It has begun!

We're (officially!) on the road to everywhere :-)

Honestly, quite honestly, I cannot quite believe we are here. This trip, this departure from our London lives of work hard, and then work a bit harder, has been slow long coming and I must say that to be here feels pretty bloody marvelous. Since touring NZ together back in 2003 in our trusty Mitsubishi Galant, packed with a tent and a bag of booze (no exaggeration) we have longed for another roadie; who would have thought it would come over 10 years later and that we would be joined by two gorgeous sons?!

The journey to our departure was one heck of a ride, with our eventual farewell to our Northfields home only made possible by the help and support of my parents who gave us their all for three solid weeks, by Jeremy's Aunt Lesley who has always been a rock for us, and also by the UNBELIEVABLE Katie Silver whom I have only ever seen look shocked once, and that is when she saw all that needed to be done in 48 hours before we handed in our keys ....To these people and to all the others who have given us so much love and support, we are forever indebted and so incredibly grateful. THANK YOU for helping us take that critical first step in leaving what we knew and embarking on this incredible journey ahead.

The amazing Katie and her (now!) husband Darryl

The amazing Katie and her (now!) husband Darryl

Lesley and Mylo; a very special bond.

Lesley and Mylo; a very special bond.

Quality time with Granny and Grandpa during the chaos of packing up

Quality time with Granny and Grandpa during the chaos of packing up

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When we traveled to NZ earlier this year, Mylo kept saying that he wanted to go "home to the house with his "home with the red door" so it seemed fitting to get a picture of this door closing before we started a new and exciting chapter in our lives.

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Due to our late departure we stayed in London one last night, Mum and I at Jeremy's aunt Lesley's with the boys while Jeremy slept in the van on the side of the road! The next day we re-united at services on the way to Stoke and then, finally, we arrived at Mum and Dad's feeling so insanely exhausted that it take a few days for the excitement to hit us!

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Posted by bywaterbyland 15:40 Archived in England Comments (1)

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