Archive for the ‘England’ Category

Walking the Walls

The first few days of the trip were really all about getting the kids settled and doing the activities that they would find most interesting – the idea was that if it was things they liked, they would cooperate more and whine less. Turns out that was only partially true. So for the last day in York I wanted to walk the wall that runs around the perimeter of the city. It was really the only thing I wanted to do while we were there as it’s a nice way to see the city from a different angle.

After our mostly unpleasant day at the mini-golf I had very low expectations for the wall walk. The kids have been just generally moody this trip. I admittedly haven’t been at my best either. Parenting kids in a foreign country alone is difficult. It is throwing everyone off balance not having Jacob around. I don’t normally go this long without a break, and we don’t typically spend our nights sleeping in the same room or sharing a bed. Travelling with kids is already not for the faint of heart, doing it alone might just make me plain crazy.

The kids really pulled it together for our last day. I’m not sure if a good night’s sleep did it, or if they really did feel bad about their behaviour, but either way, it was very enjoyable. It’s about a 3km walk around the wall, although some sections haven’t remained and so you have to follow a marked path between those sections. It took us just shy of 2 hours. It was a bit cold for parts of the wall and we were all getting tired by the end, but the promise of a cupcake (and coffee) kept everyone marching on.

Kayla met us at Crumbs Cupcakery where we cashed in on our reward. We warmed up, refuelled and ended our time in York and week one of the vacation. Off to the Canary Islands in the morning!

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We needed to stock up on a few more supplies to make it through the rest of the trip and the small Primark was not cutting it so we set off for the Monks Cross Retail Shops Saturday afternoon. I love a good Primark shop and this one did not disappoint. A couple of hours, several hundred quid and many shopping bags later we all left with some new things to round out our wardrobe.

After shopping coffee and snack were in tall order so we nipped into Costa. Madeline’s day was ruined by the missed cookie opportunity so we finished our snacks and headed for home. When we took a quick look at the travelling options and realized that an Uber was going to be expensive with a long wait. When I figured out that the bus option included a double decker bus (sadly not red) the decision was easy. The kids got a great kick out of being on the second level and we made it home just in time for Sunday dinner and some board games.

Apparently the shopping trip was too much excitement as everyone had a hard time falling asleep Sunday night. Monday morning was slow to get going and despite having reservations to A Hole in Wand two of the three kids were foul. I will say, it was not a super pleasant day to be out wandering around. It was cold, damp and windy and there were people all over the place. The Viking festival is happening so spirits lifted marginally when we eventually made our way there. The kids got to try on Viking helmets and pose with weapons. The real treat though, was the face painting. While not strictly authentic, it was the highlight for most kids.

By this time I was in desperate need of a coffee and some reprieve from the cold. We attempted to find a smaller coffee shop that wasn’t just one of the main chains but quickly abandoned that idea when we were all getting impatient. We grabbed a latte and a cookie to share, dashing Madeline’s cookie dreams yet again. Now that I’ve been suitably caffeinated and the kids have been appropriately scolded for the constant whining it was time for mini-golf.

Keeping with the wizard/magic/Harry Potter theme that York seems so attached to, there is a 9 hole indoor mini-golf course cleverly named A Hole in Wand. It comes complete with your own potion drink and a puzzle that you need to solve while playing. The decorations were so well done, sadly they seemed to have forgotten that you would actually need room to maneuver while playing, and that it’s nearly impossible to play golf on linoleum. The kids mostly had fun, or at least I’m going to tell myself that. It’s hard to tell between the whining and arguing. At least we successfully solved the riddle and found the gargoyle, so the day wasn’t a total bust.

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Wizards of York

York is really capitalizing on the Harry Potter and wizarding excitement. The shambles, despite not being connected to Harry Potter at all, does have a magical feel to it. So much so that they have a kids tour called the Wizarding Walk of York. Its a kids tour led by a wizard in full costume that does magic tricks at each stop of the tour. It comes complete with your own wand a leaflet of magic tricks to take home with you.

We headed in to city centre for the start of the tour with Kayla and Evelyn. Evs was already excited by the bus so her day was off to a great start. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and a coffee and found the meeting spot for the tour with a few minutes to spare. The kids were beginning to get impatient when our tour guide came strolling down the shambles. Any concerns we had about not being able to find the tour were relieved as he was dressed head to toe in purple wizarding robes, compete with hat, wand, carrying bag and stepping stool. The kids were pumped.

The tour lasted about an hour and was so well done. We walked around the shambles, down little alleyways, around the minster and back around to city centre. We made about half a dozen stops where he pointed out different parts of the city or buildings all while doing a magic trick. He stayed in character the whole time and was so engaging with the kids. He had them laughing and following along for the full hour. At the end of the tour we had our pictures taken with the kids new favourite wizard and then wrapped up the kids day and headed for home.

Lucky for me, Wendy agreed to watch all of the kids while Kayla Adam and I went out for tapas with Andrea and Joe. It was great finally getting to meet Andrea. We got to have a quick G&T at a fun little pub and then a delicious kid-free meal at Ambiente.

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Flying solo

Adam has been back in England off and on since September so when Kayla said she was going to fly over to see him in February I jokingly said I would join her to help her on the flight. Somehow that joke turned into reality and on Wednesday we took flight with 5 kids ages 1,3,5,7 and 9 from Halifax to London.

We all piled in the van Tuesday morning so that Jacob could drive us to the airport. We had originally hoped he would be able to join us for at least part of the trip, but that hasn’t worked out. With three kids in the third row, two kids and Kayla in the middle, Jacob and I up front we hit the road. We managed to make it to Halifax with only one short pit stop without any major meltdowns – rather impressive if you ask me. We grabbed a quick bite at Jack Astor’s and then let the kids burn some energy at hop!skip!jump! Before we settled into the airport hotel for the night.

Jacob dropped us at the airport Wednesday morning and Kayla and I set out with the kiddos. We killed a couple of hours with the kids running around the airport and then boarded a very empty (thank goodness) flight. The kids all did really well on the 6 hour journey, turns out all that travel training has paid off. Kayla and I mostly kept our cool. We travelled carry-on only so managing the bags was a little bit hectic. Seems worth the hassle since Air Canada managed to lose 1 of the 2 pieces of the stroller that we gate checked. After we cleared security and walked the 3,000 miles across Heathrow airport we almost literally ran right into Adam. Ev and Archer were especially glad to track down Dad.

We grabbed a quick supper and checked in to our airport hotel for the night. The kids were a bit loopy after a day of travelling so we after quickly discovering why late night cable tv is not a good idea, we played a game of Clue and went to sleep.

Thursday was a jam-packed day of travel – but the kids held up pretty well. It was a rough wake up but they managed to pull it together and get to the underground to make our way towards King’s Cross. We somehow ended up missing out train by 2 minutes but it gave us enough time to check out Platform 9 ¾ and grab some lunch before boarding the next train.

We made it to our house for the next week in time for supper and a movie before everyone crashed hard for the night. Everyone is looking forward to a non-travel day tomorrow.

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