Saturday, April 16, 2011


Driving in the of my favorite things!
Driving on the "other side" of the road (not the "wrong side" - I was once corrected!)

I thought it would look odd, after all the years away, to see traffic flowing in the opposite direction.  But it just looked so familiar...and the road signs as well.

Clearly, in this picture taken on the motorway, Donald is driving.

But I couldn't wait to get my chance and see if it all came back!
And it did!

Maybe I like driving so much because when we lived here, Donald and I spent a lot of time and a great deal of money getting our proper UK driver's licenses...with this guy as our instructor!

There are different techniques used in the UK for driving and we had to break about 20 years of "bad habits" in order to pass.
Having done so successfully - its nice to put the license to use!

Or, maybe I like driving so much because its quite a challenge.

This is a typical street in Cheltenham.
You can see its a two lane road, with plenty of room for cars to drive down...
...if everyone didn't park their cars in the streets.
But they do, and so its an obstacle coarse of sorts - knowing when to move off to the side to let other drivers by or when to take your own turn and get on down the road!

THIS is also a two lane road!
Yes...two lane.
Its outside of town and was certainly originally intended for two way horse traffic...or walkers...or cyclists...certainly not motor vehicles!
Yet...if you take a close look, the speed limit is 50 mph on this road.  And some roads like this allow you to travel up to 70 mph!

No kidding - two lane with hedge rows!
You might have to back up a long way to find a spot to allow another car to pass.

But the drive is certainly worth it when a pub dinner at the Black Horse Inn in Cranham is your destination!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gloucester Cathedral

There's a city near Cheltenham called Gloucester (pronounced like Gloss-ter).
I went there quite often actually, but never managed to visit the Cathedral which sits right in the middle of the city.

Gloucester Cathedral is huge and beautiful and old.

Did I mention old?

The earliest part was built in 678 AD.

I can't get over the amazing stone work and architecture that was built so long ago...without the modern tools and scaffolding that are available today.
Can you imagine the time and skill that it took?

The inner courtyard

The main reason that I wanted to make sure we visited this trip was because parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed here.
The fan-vaulted cloisters of the cathedral were where the Hogwart's hallway scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed.

Ivan at the entrance of the cloisters

Absolutely beautiful!
The dark rectangles on the floors are tombs.

Ivan and Jenelle are hiding behind the columns...the same place Ron and Harry hid from the troll in the first moive - The Sorcerer's Stone.

Better go get some things done...more later!

Monday, April 11, 2011


The phrase "you don't know what you've got til its gone" does not apply here.
I don't think I ever took for granted how lucky we were to live in Cheltenham or in the Cotswolds.
Its such a beautiful part of England and Cheltenham itself provided everything we needed.

Going back felt so familiar.
I was slightly disoriented at first, but after one day of running around the town, it all came back.

We had to visit a few things that were special to us when we lived there...whether we all remembered them or not.

The rabbit and bull statue on the prom...

Any of you who ever visited us surely remember the "fish clock".
A magical sort of clock hanging in the arcade (mall).
On every hour (or maybe half hour...can't remember) the clock would start to play music and bubbles would come out of the fish's mouth as it turned round and round. 
My kids would run under the clock and dance around to try and catch bubbles.

I miss those days that weren't yet touched by inhibitions.
Hannah dared not go near the bubbles and Ivan and Jenelle only walked out, grabbed a few and returned.
You can see Jenelle's expression when I told her to "dance around and catch bubbles!!"

And how could we forget about Thomas...he was a staple on our shopping trips.
Ivan was THIS close to actually having me pay for a ride.

We used to love to see Ivan make the funny Thomas expressions.
You've still got it kid!!

This is a regency style home...very popular in Cheltenham...
...and look...its for sale!!!

The green rolling Cotswold hills that surround the town.
This is only the beginning of the green too.
In another month all the trees and hedges will be in full leaf and bloom and it becomes amazing!

I want that house.

More on life in and around Cheltenham later.
I would like to make a note for anyone wondering if I only packed one outfit for my kids.

These hoodies were probably the best deal EVER!!
We bought them for the kids when we were in...ahem...ahem...disneyland...and they have worn the heck out of them!
At home AND abroad.
They provide warmth without bulkiness as well as a "uniform"...making it easy to spot your kid in a heavily populated area like London or Legoland, etc.

But, as I was taking pictures and then later looking through them, I started to think that it looked like my kids only had one change of clothes.
I promise that they changed and bathed daily!
And I also promise that the minute we arrived back home, those hoodies were the first thing to be washed!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Kenilworth Castle

On our way "home" to Cheltenham from Center Parcs, we had time to stop at Kenilworth Castle.
I have always loved this castle because it is a ruin.
Kids are allowed to climb and touch and run all over the place.
I also love looking at what is left and imagining what was.

I learned more about Kenilworth Castle this visit than the previous 4-5 times we visited.
If you are interested at all, just read this and find out how it began, what it was and how it ultimately fell to ruin.

 From a distance

In and around the castle

View of the surrounding countryside

Interesting statues we found inside the castle - they were preserved quite well...

As long as the castle has been a ruin, people have been coming to see it.
Dates inscribed on the soft stone were a testament to their visits.

The great hall can still be made out if you imagine where the floor used to be beneath the fireplace.
To put the size into perspective, take a look at the people to the far left of the photograph.

A closer view of the very large fireplace.

And of course there's the climbing and exploring bit I mentioned.

King Ivan...the wonderful!

Now on to Cheltenham...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Post Interruption

I interrupt these posts to bring you the most amazing song!

I know you're busy...but take a 5 minute break.
I promise you won't regret it...

Someone Like You by Adele (22 year old artist from London)

Center Parcs Part 2

Yes...there's still more!

Sadly, there are no pictures of us in the other really cool activity we did because all five of us participated at one time.

We signed up for a game of laser combat - much to Ivan and Donald's delight!
Little did us girls know how much fun we would have!

Here's a Center Parc photo to get an idea...although our helmets were red for one team and blue for another.

Center Parcs describes the game as " a paintball adventure without the paint".
It was all out warfare in about an acre of forest with different barricades to hide behind.

Each person was randomly assigned a name for the games...we thought they were pretty funny!

Me - Radar
Hannah - Bones
Ivan - Viper
Donald - Pappy
Jenelle - Lumpy

We played a series of different challenges that lasted about 1 1/4 hours.
It was fantastic fun!
A bit scary how "into it" you can get when you are holding a weapon and trying to be the last team standing.
I so wish I had a picture of Jenelle - I mean Lumpy - attempting to take out the other team members with her bright pink hoodie on, struggling to hold on to that big gun!

Aside from organzied activities and swimming, we did just hang out at our cabin some of the time.
We welcomed a party of ducks.

And attempted a "duck dance" to bring them back when they left.
Don't ask cause I'm not sure why.

After we swam, we would usually head upstairs to an arcade that they had.
Donald and Jenelle busted out some dance moves!

Ivan and Hannah did some Mario Kart racing!

And I was in heaven playing my favorite arcade game!!

And so ends the tale of our Center Parcs adventure!
Next we head towards Cheltenham with a stop at a favorite castle on the way!