30th April - 3rd June and 10th -25th June 2014

As usual, time at home meant time where the smaller members of the family did all they could to wear us out. When the small “energy vampires” weren't around to tire us, we exhausted ourselves with hiking expeditions and the serious gardening required to get our jungle back under control after our absence.

We were in Wales in Spring, arriving at the height of bluebell season, when the lambs were already quite big!

Springtime in Wales.

In addition to three grandchildren and one son for sleepovers every Wednesday and alternate weekends, we made bi-weekly visits to Phil's daughter near Ystradgynlais to play with our other three grandchildren. The minimum grandchild growth since our last visit was an inch or so, the maximum resulted in trousers and sleeves that were way too short!

Enjoying good weather on the new deck.

We had swimming pools to visit, birthdays to celebrate, trees to climb, parks to explore, canoes to paddle, a Spanish fiesta to enjoy and a day trip to Longleat Safari Park to fit in. Somewhere along the line we also had to catch up with friends and family too. A hectic time!

During a weekly swimming class, we enjoyed the spectacle of the Queen's baton for the Commonwealth Games passing by the leisure centre. We were glad we were enjoying it from the warmth of the pool, those standing outside in the torrential rain, to cheer its passing, were certainly colder than us and probably almost as wet! In true patriotic style, face painting was available of welsh dragons and fleur de lis.

We had made it home in time for James to turn 12. As is our custom, instead of presents we like to give adventures, hence the day trip to Longleat.

Beautiful Welsh Princess

The eldest turns 12! Scary, he wasn't even born when we started travelling!

Dodo gives a helping hand up.

The drive to Longleat from our home was quite a long one, especially with four different types of music being played in the car at the same time. The last few miles were driven in silence, while our nerves recovered ready for the big adventure!

Although quite pricey, everything was included in the entrance fee, so Longleat actually offered good value for money, with lots to see. There was the safari drive where, in school holiday time, the four-wheeled wildlife was more numerous than the four legged!

During the drive through the monkey enclosure we learned that a Toyota Yaris is far more attractive as a play thing to destroy for a monkey than a Rover. We weren't sorry, watching our neighbours' Yaris being slowly ripped apart whilst our “Ronnie Rocket” only endured an inquisitive bite of the screen washer, although the kids were disappointed!

4-wheeled wildlife roams the savanna.

Leave Ronnie alone, there's a Yaris next door!

Tasty Yaris for lunch!

By the time we'd been dive-bombed by vultures and owls and watched a kookaburra destroy a toy snake at the bird of prey exhibition, taken a boat trip to see sealions and gorillas and squealed in terror in the bat cave as fruit bats whizzed past our ears, we only had time to take the deadly challenge quiz and unwind in the adventure playground for a while before it was time for Ronnie, covered in monkey paw prints, to take us home through tortuous traffic in Bath. The maze would have to wait for another visit.

We had two small people eager to try their hand at canoeing in our old inflatable two person canoe, which we'd replaced and taken home from the US. Once we'd acquired paddles and a pump, repaired the leak and ascertained that both children could a actually see over the top of our adult sized life-jackets (just!), all we needed was a beautiful warm, calm day and a permit to paddle on the canal and we could go ahead and try it out.

Phil's sister and brother-in-law, visiting from San Diego, were the team cheerleaders!

Good work guys!

Are you sure you can see where you are going?

Paddling like a professional.

Before leaving on our next adventure, we had a family “Spanish Fiesta Night”. We wanted to introduce the grandchildren to some Spanish food and luckily our friend Murray had a paella dish big enough to cater for eight! It just about fitted on our stove!

First tapas were served, whilst chef Phil worked on his first ever paella. Miraculously with the help of several backseat chefs and some liquid refreshment, the paella turned out to be fantastic and Phil even achieved the much sought-after slight caramelization, where the bottom of the rice just begins to catch.

Tapas anybody?

As all good fiestas do, this one ended with a major waterfight in the garden, followed by a fire in the chiminea, so that everybody could get dry again!

Paella chef extraordinaire!

Our flight to the USA for our Alaska adventure was to be with American Airlines, as our usual preferred carrier, Delta, for some reason seemed to want twice as much money for the same trip. As we arrived at the airport in Manchester, we had a sense of deja-vu on finding our plane delayed for several hours due to a mechanical failure. This meant an unplanned overnight in Chicago to catch a connection the following day. Foolishly, instead of heading to a nearby fast-food chain restaurant, we opted for the motel's recommended restaurant. It was an unsalubrious locale with rather suspect décor. By the time the also rather dodgey food arrived, a combination of over-tiredness, Corona beer and the fact that we weren't particularly hungry at a time when our body clocks would rather be in bed, had us giggling hysterically. It turned out to be a fun night despite everything!

Next morning we were on a plane and back to 90 degrees of heat and 90 percent humidity in north Florida. Needless to say it wouldn't be long before we were on the road.

Return to homepage