This has to be the longest blog dry spell for as long as the blog has been in existence! 5 months of no posts, you’d think I’d have abandoned it, well that’s not the case, blogging is still fun to do, it’s just the time now goes on work and baby feeding!
In July, Amy, Oscar and myself embarked on a 6 week trip to the UK, so that my parents could meet Oscar for the first time and we could have a holiday. I’d been worrying about the flight to the UK before Oscar was even born but when it came down to it, it was not as bad as we’d thought!
Dubai is a great stop over point, it’s 14 hours from Sydney and then an “easy” 6.5 hours to London. We stayed for a few nights in the Atlantis Hotel, which was very kid friendly although I think Oscar was a little bit too young.
The temperature was crazy though, some days it was reaching 47 degrees. We went outside just to see what it felt like and I felt like I was melting after about 2 seconds. Amy did go for a few drips in the pool whilst Oscar and I sat under a sunshade, then after about 5 minutes it was back into the air conditioning.
Some of the nice things you can do in Dubai is look at all of the fish in the massive fish tanks they have in the hotel and at the shopping centers. We even visited the shopping center that has the indoor ski slope and baby penguins! We ate in our hotel room every night (things are a bit different with a baby!) but we managed to go out for lunches at some nice restaurants, including a french one in the hotel.
Our second flight to London was followed by a 2 hour drive up to Stratford-upon-Avon, where we checked into the Alveston Manor hotel for 4 nights to go to Gin and Alison’s wedding. Gin came to visit me in Australia 9 years ago and we had a great time, his trip out here even got a mention in the best man speech! It was a fantastic wedding at the church where Shakespeare is buried and in the evening I got to catch up with all of the old Ettington crew which was great, it felt like nothing had changed seeing them all.
The next day we organized to meet up with some of the wedding crew, including Ian and his wife who was 9.2 months pregnant! It was great to see them all and hang out in what had just luckily turned out to be some of the best weather England was having (just in time for our trip!) –
After a few days in Stratford and some visits to Carluccio’s restaurant we headed for the drive down South to my parents house in Dorchester, it was a nice drive down and great for my parents to finally meet baby Oscar!
We spent three weeks with my parents in total and did lots of things with them. One of the first things we did was visit a model train railway which had lots of model trains. I used to be really into these when I was younger and still am, but now the reality of how much it all costs to have the awesome setups means it’s probably not going to happen on the scale I’d like, let’s hope Oscar is into trains –
We took a guided boat trip along a stretch of water called “The Fleet” near an Island called “Portland” that is just off the coast, we also went to a Prison for lunch up there, where the people who serve you the lunch are actual inmates of the prison (it’s not a high security prison).
We also accidentally went to a socialist fair, which was funny, we drove in, paid the 20 pounds per person, thinking we were going to a cool festival and then we asked what it was and they said “a trade union festival” at first I thought she was joking but this is what it was and it wasn’t very good (we actually came to look at the tolpuddle martyrs museum).
We also had an electric bike ride tour which was good fun, the electric bike tour around Dorset was with Marshwood Trials, we covered a lot of kilometers and visited the gravesite of Georgy Markov who was assassinated on London Bridge by a poisonous dart from an umbrella.
On a lighter note we visited a fantastic sand sculpture center in Weymouth that had some fantastic sculptures that it was ashame they were not permanent!
My parents babysat for us for a couple of nights so that Amy and I could go out for dinner for the first time in a while, it was really nice but Amy and I kept going a bit over the top when we got to the restaurants, the first time we ordered three main meals between the two of us!
For my birthday, which coincided with our stay in Dorset, my parents booked Amy, Oscar and me into the Holiday Inn at Portsmouth. Portsmouth has a redeveloped waterfront area and we spent a few days going around the shops there and having a birthday dinner at Jamie’s Italian restaurant which was really nice. Again, because Oscar is just a baby the nights were spent in but that was ok, for one of them we spent the entire evening waiting for the Royal Baby (who was born the day after my birthday) to emerge from the Lindo Wing on TV –
Whilst we were in Portsmouth my parents had sorted us all out with a trip in luxury over to Guernsey, which is a little island south of the UK, near France but with British roots (although no tax or EU membership). My parents had got us into the nice part of the boat where you get free food and was behind a closed door. I decided to go out and have a look what was going on outside and due to the rough seas it was carnage, with people being sick all over the place, I was so pleased we had our little sanctuary as I think I would have felt sick as well! Here’s Oscar with his very own seat on the ferry –
At the end of our trip to the UK was my parents Ruby Anniversary party which they had organised to be just before we left. Lots of friends and relatives had come to visit, some of which I had not seen for a long time or not at all so it was great to meet so many people. The night ended with a meal in Poundbury which was really nice.
Next stop after Dorest was to spend some time in London, London is the best city in the world so it’s great to visit it. We stayed right in the heart of the West End at the same hotel I stayed at last time called No. 5 Maddox. It is great because it had a separate room for Oscar to sleep in, can you see him –
The trip to London worked out perfect because a lot of our friends from Australia who’d moved away had all booked trips to visit at the same time. Here’s Lorraine, Marcy, Chris and Sue walking down the street like nothing was different –
Of course no trip to London is complete without seeing Matt and Lorraine and their new baby as well. Matt and Lorraine live 1 hour drive from us in Sydney but I always seem to meet up with Matt at least in London more times than I do here, this time was no different, we had a lovely picnic in Regents Park on a beautiful sunny day (there was lots of them) –
The skyline of London has changed so much and I was only here last 2 years ago, with so many new buildings and a completed Shard. I went to the Shard with a lot of the Sydney crew to a restaurant called Hutong and then to the bar afterwards that Alex said was very “Essex” and I agreed with him. Hutong though was a fantastic Chinese restaurant even though some of the food was extremely spicy!
When we arrived in England, we thought we’d book a day trip to Paris on the Eurostar train for when we got to London. In hindsight a day trip to Paris leaving at 8am and coming back at 5pm is very short indeed. We got on the train, arrived in Paris, got a taxi to Concorde, had lunch down Rue d’Anjou, walked down the Champs-Elysees, took Oscar’s photo with the Eiffel Tower in the background, went to Zara outside Palais Garnier and then headed back to Gare Nord to get back in time for the train to London.
Mark and Karine came to visit us in London which was nice as they live in Belgium, we went to a fantastic Indian restaurant called Dishoom which is next door to Peter Stringfellows! We also had a lunchtime drink at the OXO tower, visiting Pineapple Dance Studios and talked about the old times. Mark and Karine were also visiting Australia the same time Gin was over to circular that connection together!
One last thing we had to do before leaving was visit Auntie Vi, my Grandma’s sister and Oscars great great Auntie who still lives in the same place that she moved into in the 1930ies! My parents were also down there to see Oscar one more time. It was a fun trip on the DLR and we even got to pop into Amy’s work in Canary Wharf to see some of her work friends and some of my old work colleague that I worked with for a short period of time 7 years ago.
It was a great trip and we’ve basically ticked off a lot of things Oscar might have considered doing as a rebellious 20 something, so now at least that is out of his system –
The trip back was one long journey which we should have really broken up into another stopover in Dubai, which is what we’ll do next time. It was a great trip and we were blessed with some really great weather the entire time!
Let’s see if I can get a blog post with a bit of a smaller gap in between next time!
Here’s the video that goes with the trip to the UK. In it you’ll see Dorchester, Yorkshire and London. With appearances by my parents, David and Betty’s dog Poppy, Mark, Karine, Nina, Felix, Andy, Alex, Gin, Kie, Chris, Ian, Ian C and Lorraine!
I set off in the afternoon and set my stopwatch going, 32 hours and 50 minutes later I was in Dorchester, my parents new home town in the South West of England. The flight was really good I managed to get an upgrade for the entire journey so it was good to sleep on the flight.
I tried to see how far I could go with just wearing a t-shirt. I managed to get all the way to Waterloo which is a train station in London. It is partially outside so the cold got too much and I had to put a coat on. My parents have got a lovely new house which I think is nicer than their old one, it has a thatched roof and nice wooden beams in the rooms. I helped my parents with some drilling and unpacking boxes and they showed me around Dorchester.
Parents new home in Dorset
One of the towns we visited was called Lyme Regis, which I vaguely remember going to on a trip with primary school. We went to a nice little bakery house where you sit on these benches and have pastries of all sorts and hot drinks. My parents got chatting to some people who ended up getting their phone number as their friend might be interested in buying their lawn mower, so the people down here are also really friendly.
Pastry Shop in Dorset
There was one guy out surfing with his mate in a Kayak, the waves were really not waves at all but just surges of water that broke on the beach but occasionally one would break far out enough that the guy paddled for it.
The next day we went to a place called West Lulworth which has a fantastic cove, it also has a walk you can do which means going up an extremely large hill, we didn’t do it but I imagine the views were fantastic.
Mum and Dad at West Lulworth
A place we visited a lot was Poundbury, this is where my parents lived when they were renting before they found the house they wanted to get. It was a model town designed or visioned by the Prince of Wales. It is nice but also a bit strange, I think it requires a few years of aging to get it to look a bit more normal. My parents say some people refer to it as Disney Land -
After staying at my parents house for a week I made the trip up to Yorkshire for Dinnie’s wedding. I got a flight from Southampton up to Leeds, where the temperature was significantly less and I was considering the one light pullover and adidas top that I brought with me may not be enough.
David and Betty met me at the airport and were kind enough to let me stay at theirs with their two cats, horse, two donkies, chickens and dog Poppy. We visited an auction, which was what eBay used to be like before they invented eBay.
On the Saturday I woke up and there was a layer of snow, which was nice to see and the forecast was not for it to continue. David and Betty drove me around the country side and showed me a farm with deer and bison -
Deer in the Snow in North Yorkshire
On Sunday I went to Crathorne Hall, where Ian was going to get married. Ian made me a bit of money in the early 2000’s when a picture of posted of him on this blog became the number one result for a google search of Paris Hilton Naked. A lot of traffic hit that page so I put ads on it!!!!
It was great to see all of the crew up there, Andy, Alex, Gin, Chris, Ian, Ian and Ki and was a lot of fun with a lot of laughs, it felt like nothing has changed which I think is a sign of good friends -
Mates from home and me.
Ian C as per usual got totally out of control, he says he has “no inner monologue” which is true, I’ve got some great video footage of him on the dance floor.
Here’s a picture of Ian and his new bridge Michelle enjoying one of their dances -
Ian and Michelle First Dance
It was a great wedding and a lot of fine, a bit or a soar head now. I then got the train down to London on the 13:16 East Coast service, sitting opposite Sir Richard Dalton, I didn’t need a magazine for the journey I just listened into his conversations he was having about Iranian diplomacy which at the moment is all up in the air which was very interesting.
I love visiting London it is a great city, you can walk around for hours and just find new streets that you didn’t know existed until you walked down them. I first stayed at a hotel near Marble Arch called The Arch Hotel but then moved to No. 5 Maddox Street for the rest of the trip, which was right off Regent Street -
Regent Street, London
The next day I met up with Mark, Karine, Nina and Felix at London Bridge, it was fun going down there. I used to live here when I first moved into London proper and Mark lived around the corner so it was just like the old days with the addition of Felix and Nina!
With the Ponsfords at London Bridge
I met up with the guys I work with/for in London at One Aldwych that night which was good as I have not seen them for a long time! The next day I walked around London a lot and met up with Matt my friend from University. We went to a bar called Sketch which was really trendy, the bar was in some sort of Dome and the restaurant had moving artwork around the outside of it. We then went to my favourite place to eat in London “Ping Pong”. I actually ended up going there three times during my trip to London!
The next day I met up with Lorraine who used to live in Manly and soon will do again. We went to see Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre. It was an awesome show and really good to see Lozza at the same time! Then it was back off to Australia on the A380 again, 32 hours later and I was back in Manly and I don’t have very much jet lag which is great (I can thank the business class upgrades for that!).
A380 with London in the background
The video is in the works of course! Check back soon.
I took the recently repaired video camera away on holiday with us and had a bit of fun trying to get over jet lag by making this video, hope you enjoy it.
We got a phone call from Qantas asking us if we wanted to upgrade our flight to business class for the first leg of our flight using our Qantas points. It turned out to be the biggest mistake in air travel I could have made. Not because it is not worth it, it is. Sitting upstairs on a 747 with only 19 other people at the front of the plane no where near the engines and in a seat that has more leg room than you need and the ability to make the seat turn into a bed is simply amazing. But then comes the sudden realization that this is a one off luxury for us and that after this flight we would have to return to economy class. Not knowing what is like to be a heroin junkie I think being a business class junkie is probably a very similar infliction that I now have to deal with. I spent the majority of our time in Singapore trying to figure out how we were going to upgrade our flight to London to business and trying to figure our how much extra cash I would be happy to part with for that business travel luxury. When we got back to Changi airport I approached the customer service desk and asked “how much???” the guy punched in our current flight details and then did a little laugh and said “it is going to be expensive” we did a little laugh back he then went over to his assistants desk and they typed some more and then he said “oh gosh” and then said it is going to cost 6…2….4… And I thought “Yes! We can afford it” then he said …9… each. Which comes to about $18 a minute for an eleven hour flight. So back to the drawing board with those upgrade ideas.
Business vs. Economy
Singapore was fun and a nice way to break up the flight. We stayed at a hotel called the New Majestic which was a boutique hotel near the chinese district of Singapore. All the rooms are designed by local artists and we got a room which reminded me of Austin Powers -
New Majestic Room 310
We spent the majority of time shopping in Singapore. Going to some of the shops which Australia doesn’t have like Zara and Marks and Spencer.
After a very good flight from Singapore, mostly due to the fact we purchased some of those head pillows in the departure lounge of Singapore which allowed us to sleep for a full 8 hours we arrived in London at 5am, one of the first flights to arrive at Heathrow but very quickly followed by lots more. We got a hire car thanks to my Mum paying for one for us and headed to Novotel where we got a day rate to allow us to have a rest and a shower for El and Al’s wedding which we were attending later that day in the village of Bentley, Surrey. It was a fantastic large wedding in a converted oat house / barn. We met up with Mike and Rach and baby Mia at the wedding which was great fun.
El and Al’s Wedding
We couldn’t stay all night because the jetlag was getting too much so we drove back to Warwickshire in a haze of tiredness for a 5 am start the next day to go to the Royal International Air Tatto at RAF Fairford. We left early in the morning and arrived in typical British summer style to pouring rain. It didn’t seem to bother anyone apart from Amy who said “it wasn’t normal” for everyone to be walking around on almost sideways driving rain without really caring or noticing it. We saw some fantastic air displays of some fighter jets as well as a load of static aircraft which included the B2 bomber. We left the air show early and had our first Sunday pub lunch yummy.
RAF Fairford Air Tattoo
The next day we went with my parents for lunch at Lapstone and visited the village where Bridget Jones was filmed and then had a look at the lavendar fields at Snowshill which were very nice. In the evening we went and visited Ki, Weronika and William in Stratford and Gin cane around also. We reminicised about the good old days and said hello to the new baby. We are pretty sure Ki woke the baby for it to see us although apparently his eyes were already open when he went in to get it.
Weronika, Ki, William, Amy and Gin in Stratford-upon-Avon
We watched and interesting program that my Dad recorded on TV about how Britain works from a logistical perspective, one of the more interesting parts of the program was there is a guy at the national power grid that sits and watches Eastenders and waits for the ending credits at which time he has to turn on additional hydro power generators in Scotland and also borrow additional power from Nuclear energy rich France to power all of the kettles that get turned on almost simultaneously at the end of the soap episode, a phenomenon that only happens in the UK.
We drove to Bristol to hit the banksy exhibition at the Bristol City Museum. There was a two and a half hour queue to get in which was very civilised and went quickly. It was worth the wait as it was a fantastic exhibition. You needed to have a sharp eye as a lot of the banksy stuff was merged into the permanent displays. I was hoping at the end we would be able to gt a nice Banksy print but I do not think that was Banksy style as one of his artworks was called “exit through the gift shop”.
Amy at Banksy Exhibition
After our visit to Bristol to see the exhibition we drove back via Cheltenham to catch up with T-Bone (Chris), Issy, Dylan and Natasha at their house. They used to live in Sydney so it was good to see them all getting on so well back in England. They’d even started a vegetable patch in the garden -
Chris and Issy in Cheltenham
The next day it was my birthday and we celebrated with my parents and Earl by visiting Crabmill at Preston Bagot which is still one of my favourite restaurants in Warwickshire. -
Birthday at Crabmill
The next few days my parents, Amy and I went on a trip to the South of France via the Eurostar and TGV, which was a fun experience at I’d never been on the Eurostar. It is very quick and a bit surreal getting on a train in London and getting off of it in Paris. Our first stop was to visit Madame Huet in Provence about an hour north of Toulon which is where we got the train to. We hired a Citreon C4 which was a nice little car and fun to drive on the “wrong” side of the road. One of the towns near Madame Huet’s house is a tourist town called Le Castellet, we had lunch up there and did some shopping around the shops and enjoyed the view and fantastic weather -
I used to spend summers at Madame Huet’s house and it was very nice, having not visited for around 12-13 years it was nice to see not much had changed. We had dinner with Madame Huet and their friends who made some fantastic food -
Madame Huet’s House with 1000 Layers Cake
After two days in Provence we went down to Nice which is on the French Rivera and stayed for two nights at the hotel where Mark and Karine had their wedding, we even had dinner at Le Castel the restaurant right on the beach which was very nice. We visited the old town of Nice and took a road trip around to see Villefranche, Monte-Carlo and Monaco. We didn’t get to see Mark and Karine because they live in Brussels but some good news is Karine is having another baby to join Monsieur Felix!
In Monaco we took a wrong turn and I was looking for a gap where I could do a u-turn back to the main road we just turned off. I found the gap but unfortunetly it turned out to be infront of a police station, so as soon as I was at point two of my three point turn a police man came out and told me I wasn’t allowed to do it. It turns out Monaco has the largest police force in the world per-capita and per-area (512 officers for a 2km squared area) so the chances of getting caught were against me. I also drove a part of the Monaco GP track which was fun although my speed was probably around 40km/h rather than 240km/h.
We headed back and made a quick stop off in London where we visited Matt for pizza which was good fun -
Matt and Pizza at Berkeley Square
We did a quick shop around London and even managed to get a London Pride Pint in at a pub somewhere in Mayfair -
Pint and Selfridges
We also visited a restaurant called Ping Pong which is a small Dim Sum chain only in London, you can’t order bad food from the menu and the fruit flavoured teas are a speciality and its all a very resonable price. Here’s Amy and I in Ping Pong in Soho -
Amy and me in Ping Pong Dim Sum
Altogether we had a fantastic but exhausting holiday taking in so many locations in such a short period of time. We could have done with some more time and it all seemed over very quickly. The flight back was not too bad, it was much quicker than our last return flight with China Eastern, we left my parents house at 16h30 on Friday and were back in Manly at 7h15 on Sunday.
Here is a short video of all the best bits of the trip to the UK, excluding meeting up with old friends as I didn’t have the camera with me when we did that! Also a slightly larger video format as a test
Or download a higher quality WMV (61meg) of the video for a crisper experience.
Last night was a trip out with my mates from the village, it was really nice as there was a good group and some faces I didn’t expect to see namely Chris and Ian and Mark.
First off we met at the Golden Bee Weatherspoon pub which doesn’t have any music playing so you can actually here what people are saying –
Me, Chris, Rachel and Alex
See if you can spot any of the characters above in the ‘Benidorm Boys‘ holiday webpage I created 8 years ago now!
Dino was back from his 12 month trip to China and Eastern Asia, 10 months of working in a Chinese School in the factory district of Guandong and eating things that you shouldn’t eat has given him some great stories to tell, especially the one about a stand off on a 22 hour bus journey – you’ll have to ask him yourself!
Me, Kim, Dino and Gino
As the night wore on and many more drinks were being drunk (Kim’s favourite of the Polish Lech beer really had a kick) we headed to Chicago Rock which Kim described as “after 8 seconds of being in there you’ll want to leave”. It was worth it though as Mark and Ian (Fathand) were in there and it was great to see them, Mark even has a little baby (although he wasn’t there).
Me and Fathand after “a few”
A great night out but now suffering the consequences of a hang over!
Also, here’s a great picture from my parents camera of my Dad’s Birthday party that we had on the canal boat which went down the river Avon –
Dad’s Birthday Party on the Canal Boat
We took a visit to West Midlands Safari Park with my parents which was fun, it was the old style drive through zoo, where you are in there with the tigers and other creatures which just the protection of the car. Here is Amy’s best picture of a cow that was approaching the open window –
We then celebrated my Dad’s 31st birthday on a restaurant boat that went up and down the Avon in Stratford, through a few locks. It was good fun and the food was great, another Christmas dinner! The next day we went to Bicester Village which was actually cheaper than Australia for shopping which was great.
Then it was off to London! There’s a few changes around the city, namely new buildings going up and old ones being changed, here’s the LSE with its new exterior, apparently its a listed building so they couldn’t knock it down and start again –
We met up with my old mate Matt who I went to University with, here we are in a ye-old English pub in the city Enjoying some London Pride. All the pubs in UK are now non-smoking which is great as a visit to the pub doesn’t mean you have to wash all your clothes the next morning, but the problem is the old smoke smell doesn’t seem to have completely gone so a strange odour has replaced it.
Me, Matt and Amy with London Pride
We then met up with some of Amy and my old work mates for a drink in the evening and somehow managed to end ourselves up at their Christmas party which was great because it meant we got a free dinner. Here’s Amy taking a picture of the corporate corporation department we used to work with. Lots of new faces in there!
Corporate Corporation Christmas Party @ The Fox
The next day we did a big trip around London to all Amy’s favourite shops, the shop I most wanted to visit, Reckless Records on Berwick Street went into Liquidation after 24 years of business some months ago and now has become a Mexican fast food outlet – which sucks, although Mexican food is great. We actually went to a place called ‘Ping Pong‘ for lunch, which was the best Dim Sum I’ve ever had.
That night we went to visit Karine et Mark in Clapham and to see Monsieur Felix. He is now a walking talking little boy last time I saw him he was just a little baby. It was great to catch up with them and we had a great dinner and we exchanged gifts, here is non-camera shy Monsieur Felix handing gifts out –
Monsieur Felix Present Handler
Amy has got a cold so we are going to take it easy on our last day in London before getting ready for a (very cold) trip to Prague – zero degree max temperatures.
We have arrived in England and it has been very nice, the first day it was my job to sort out the loft much to my parents delight –
Mum in the Loft
The next day Amy and me went into Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon for some shopping, it was a delight to walk around Marks and Spencer and see all the delicious food, it makes you wonder why there’s not one anywhere in Australia, I’d probably shop there exclusively (not for the clothes but the food) – well here’s the scoop, in 1996 they had big plans to open up a store in Sydney, then in 1998 they cancelled plans to start an M&S franchise with Just Jeans due to the weakening AUD at that time, then in 2001 the company was restructured and contintental European stores were closed, however, last month they announced they were investing £1.1bn expansion program particulary interested in Ireland, China, India and Europe. Hopefully Australia will get into some of the action – we need Marks and Spencer Australia. Here’s Amy in the sandwich isle of the great store –
Amy in M&S – Nice sandwiches in boxes what a great idea
I have to admit it is a sorry state of affairs when I convert all the pound values in Australian dollar, I preferred it much more when I was doing it the other way around! So I didn’t end up buying very much as you might imagine.
New Twenty Pound Note
The next day we went into the Cotswolds which is a nice part of central England that has various old towns and villages to walk around. First stop was Chipping Camden, where we checked out the markets, then Stow on the Wold and then Bourton on the Water, where I had a luxury coffee and we had some scones and a mince pie.
Bourton on the Water
We did a bit more of a drive around to Broadway where we had lunch at a nice pub/hotel called The Lygon Arms, which was built in 1530 and in my opinion was definetly haunted, with its little passage ways and hidden rooms.
That night we headed back into Stratford-upon-Avon to see the Christmas lights, aren’t they beautiful –
Stratford-upon-Avon Christmas Lights
Well goodbye China hello England! There is something very strange about waking up in a hotel room in Shanghai on the East Coast of China and then going to bed in a little village in the middle of England the same night. I’ve mostly been in the loft packing boxes to ship to Australia since I’ve been here, but we did go out for a very strange lunch at a German owned Guesthouse in Stratford-upon-Avon.
I made this video in China just before we left –
Or download a higher quality WMV (60meg) of the video for a crisper experience.