Holidaying with the VanderKlippes

Our friends the VanderKlippes came to visit us for their summer vacation! We hosted them for a week here in our little flat – and to our delight everything went very well. And even in the close quarters of a tiny flat we all managed not only to fit, but also get along. In Cambridge, we walked around the busy streets (crowded by thousands of tourists) and showed them passed all the fantastic college sights, Richard took them into Kings College Chapel, and punting along the Cam (there are, unfortunately, only 6 people allowed per punt… and since Richard is far better and can endure punting for far longer… he is ever the tour guide). Of course we went to Ely Cathedral and had fish and chips, and a favourite – Hampton Court for a day. We also took the kids for walks around the fens and spent hours blackberry picking and had little picnics along the way.

After a week here, we took off for Northumberland (Northern England)! We rented a cottage a stone’s throw away from the Scottish boarder, very near the coast. The countryside up there is just stunning. We loved every minute of driving. All the land is farmed, but mostly it’s for grazing sheep and cattle amongst the rolling hills. An idyllic sight. There are ruins from forts, castles, bridges, walls, etc, everywhere. We went to see some of the major sites including Bamburgh, Lindisfarne, Dunstanburg, Arthur’s seat (a craggy hill in the centre of Edinburgh), and ruins right around where we were staying at Norham castle. (This was an important medieval defence against the raiding medieval Scots…) We had so much fun exploring. The kids leaped over old stone walls, and ran around like mad. Not really the safest way to go about learning history, and at times makes a pretty harried trip for mom, but mom’s sanity is over-rated anyway😉 My favourite part was walking amongst the ruins hand-in-hand with Richard, with the kids playing around us, imagining what it was like to live there, with the warm summer breeze coming in off the ocean, the sun on my face and beautiful (seemingly completely unkept) wild, tall grasses and varied landscapes all about. I love rocks and trees and hills… mountains are of course preferable but one can’t be too picky.

It was wonderful to watch the children play so well together, to learn more about Seth, Charis, Olivia and Alexa and what lovely people they are becoming. And in the evenings after all the kids were tucked into bed, we would sit around until far too late catching up and enjoying being back in each other’s company again.

Thank you M&S for being such encouraging, steadfast friends. Thank you for coming all this way with all your troupe to spend time with old friends. Love to you and yours!

Together in the Lime Kilns at Lindisfarne

Together in the Lime Kilns at Lindisfarne

beautiful island - Lindisfarne

beautiful island – Lindisfarne

The beach at Bamburgh

The beach at Bamburgh

The beach at Bamburgh

The beach at Bamburgh

The beach at Bamburgh

The beach at Bamburgh

Walking to

Walking to Dunstanburgh

The guys at Dunstanburgh

The guys at Dunstanburgh

Oh Jude

Oh Jude

Jude having a fit at the entrance to the Dunstanburgh castle. LOL

Jude having a fit at the entrance to the Dunstanburgh castle. LOL

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh

Dunstanburgh

Dunstanburgh

Dunstanburgh

Taking break

Taking break

Dunstanburgh

Dunstanburgh

walking back from Dunstanburgh

walking back from Dunstanburgh

Pretty little Alexa

Pretty little Alexa

My favourite pic of these two. Judah never looked happier than when he was on Richard's shoulders

My favourite pic of these two. Judah never looked happier than when he was on Richard’s shoulders

Lovely little lady Charis

Lovely little lady Charis

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Walking along the sea wall in Berwick

Walking along the sea wall in Berwick

Evening walk in Berwick

Evening walk in Berwick

fun along another old wall

fun along another old wall

Handsome husband

Handsome husband

My little bug

My little bug

My sweet Syd

My sweet Syd

beautiful lady

beautiful lady

M taking care of Olivia

M taking care of Olivia

Seth found a pretty shell

Seth found a pretty shell

My love

My love

dirty boy

dirty boy

Beautiful rocky beach with hundreds of flat stones - perfect for skipping

Beautiful rocky beach with hundreds of flat stones – perfect for skipping

She still looks like a baby in this one...

She still looks like a baby in this one…

Judah at Hampton Court

Judah at Hampton Court

Mother and daughter

Mother and daughter

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Arriving in Venice

I arrived in Venice very late in the night. With the help of a friend from Cambridge who knows Venice, who by sheer providence just happened to be on the same flight as I was (she was heading to a conference), I arrived at the main bus station to meet Deborah with no hiccups. From there we caught the water bus which took us all the way down the Southern side of Venice to our stop at the other end of the main Island – Giardini Bianale. The water bus took us past a lighted Venice at night. Ancient buildings built right on the water. This is something I did not quite understand until I got there – there is no side walk or step, in most cases just a door. One could just open it and step out into the water. It’s an beautiful sight – a massive stone building jutted up against… the end of the world. Some buildings still had there lights on and you could just see the inside of them. The beautiful homes of the wealthy.

We arrived at our stop and our gracious host (we used airbnb) met us there and showed us the way to his place. Thankfully it was only a few “blocks” from the water bus so we did not have to remember too many details about how to get there! The host’s name is Luigi. He and his son live together in this less touristy part of Venice and have a constant flow of people staying with them. Our room had a couple of single beds on the main floor of the house. It was simple but nice, and we also had access to the kitchen. That night he poured us a small glass of wine before bed. The wine was taken from a water bottle at the bottom of the fridge. He mentioned to us that around the corner there is a little shop that sells wine from the barrel. He says you can bring a bottle of any kind and they will fill it up for you, and hands us a 2L empty water bottle. Crazy! I’ll tell you about “tomorrow” in the next post.

We finally got to sleep around 2am and I slept hard. Poor Deborah did not though. She had been up for almost 2 days from travel and jet-lagged. I think by the end of our trip she finally adjusted. She was a real champ even so and we got on really well touring around together!

Getting off the plane

Getting off the plane

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sam and Brad come to visit

Sam and Brad arrived on Tuesday morning, all the way from Canada! It’s good to see them — it’s always good to see family. They are good guys too, easy to have around–and self-sufficient. We are the first stop on their three week tour of Europe. So they are off taking in all they can before heading off for the Netherlands on Wednesday.

We just found out about a punting membership for people associated with the University that is very reasonable! (It will be free for us to go punting, when Richard starts his JRF in the fall because he will then “have a college”.) So today we took the boys punting!

Sydney had been invited to a birthday party, so she missed the excursion. While Norah and I dropped her off, Richard took the boys (including Judah) up “The Backs”. After they had been out for an hour, we met up again at Mill Lane, hopped into a new boat and headed down river towards Grantchester. Apparently Richard got the hang of the punts pretty quickly, and if you ask me, looked pretty good doing it too😉 ….but you might not want to ask me. Sam was another story. To be fair it is hard to steer as it’s counter-intuitive. You have to put the pole on the same side as the direction you want to turn and push off or drag the pole so that the boat turns, but you feel like you need to be pushing from the other side. He managed to hit another boat straight on at full speed. The poor guys in the other boat were yelling to turn the other way!

The little paddle you see Norah holding in the pictures below turns out to be pretty handy. As you can imagine the bottom of the river isn’t always firm so the pole can get stuck in the muck as you push the boat along. It gets stuck frequently, but irregularly enough that it’s difficult to be prepared. I almost fell in several times! My feet planted on the boat which I had propelled forward and the pole staying put! I managed to get it out just in time, but again Sam was not so fortunate. On Sam’s second try punting, on the way back home, he got the pole stuck in hard enough that he lost it to the muck! Thankfully he didn’t fall in after it (though that would have made a better story). But now we were floating away from the pole, and our driver with nothing to steer with! We all had a good laugh as we rushed for the paddle and made our way back to the pole. Thankfully it was stuck upright and not floating away from us!

The river is a totally different experience heading south, away from the city. There are no fancy colleges, and once you exit the city no bridges either and far fewer people. Heading south, the others on the river are not just punting, but canoeing and kayaking. The atmosphere is calm and easy. Light shines in through the trees and down onto the water. The edges of the river look like scenes from a hobbit shire, where green mossy grass rounds lushly down to the bank of the river. Trees cross overhead and the river winds and bends slowly along it’s path. Ducks, who are quite used to tourists with snacks chase your boat with the hopes of lunch. They are quite persistent too–like seagulls at the beach. Judah of course tried to grab them a few times, but I of course preferred him to keep his bum on his seat! Moms just love to get in the way of all the fun. Poor Judah.

It really was a fantastic afternoon. We sat and chatted while Norah and Judah played very happily. Judah absolutely adores punting, and did not want to leave the boat. At the end of the day he told us he was staying and tucked his head under the blanket. We will have to make punting a regular habit! Anyone want to join us?

dropping Sydney off

dropping Sydney off

Norah and I walking to meet the guys. We met some goslings on our way

Norah and I walking to meet the guys. We met some goslings on our way

My hunny docking the boat

My hunny docking the boat

Sam

Sam

hanging out having a snack

hanging out having a snack

Brad barely making it under the bridge... life is hard when you're 6'5...

Brad barely making it under the bridge… life is hard when you’re 6’5…

IMG_20150425_155815

IMG_20150425_164019

Steering

Steering

fishing

fishing

IMG_20150425_161803

Norah and Judah busy doing stuff you normally do on a boat...

Norah and Judah busy doing stuff you normally do on a boat…

Sam steering us pretty straight actually

Sam steering us pretty straight actually

My love

My love

IMG_20150425_165858

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Easter Monday

For Christmas my mom sent us tickets to go on a guided punting tour! Since they didn’t expire for a while we decided to save the trip for warmer weather. Today being a holiday, Richard had off work, the weather was mild, and the breeze not so bitter, we decided to take advantage of this super fun gift.
We set off late morning for the long trek over to the Cam…. ok maybe it wasn’t even long enough to justify the kids taking their scooters. If our flat faced the right direction we could make out Scudamores (the punting company) across the park from our window….

We were, however, not the first to have the idea of getting out on the first beautiful sunny day over Easter. Mill Lane was full of people sitting around drinking coffee, watching the river, passing through, or waiting to go punting themselves. Already the river was full of punters! You have the option of getting a punting tour or renting the boats and trying it out for yourselves. A lot of the colleges allow their students and staff to rent the boats for free so there are always people out. And on a day like today, with the possibility of sun and mild weather the river is full!

The back end of quite a few major colleges butt up to the river. They call this part of the river “the backs”. Some colleges are stunning, amazingly old, and look like castles. Some lucky students even get to live in what is practically a palace! I’ll take Kings and St. John’s and avoid the “atrocity” of Queens! Queens College has a new student residence (built in the 1960s – yuck) right beside Kings College. Polar opposites. One is old, beautiful and spacious, the other… well you’ve seen 70’s buildings before. I don’t remember nearly as much as I’d like of what the tour guide said, mostly because although I was trying to pay attention, there was just too much to remember. Maybe when we try out punting for ourselves, we’ll remember details as we pass through again.

Judah was a snuggle bug the whole time. He made sure he had a blanket and tucked himself in my lap and watched as we drifted along the river. Watching people try to punt is rather humourous. Apparently falling in the water while trying the steer your boat happens a lot, especially in the summer. We didn’t see anyone fall in today. Maybe next time😉

Sydney and Norah loved it too. When asked what their favourite thing about the punting trip was, Sydney said “listening to the man talk” and Norah said “touching the water”. But at no point is one allowed to put hands outside the boat, especially when it’s so busy on the river, because fingers can get pinched off if another boat slides into yours. Boats often touch, and punting guides will help set another boat straight by bumping it back into the right direction. So alas poor Norah was not allowed to touch the water; but apparently she did sneak in a few opportunities when no one was paying attention. She is rather good at that. Little stinker.

http://map.cam.ac.uk/#52.201840,0.117009,16

On our way

On our way

watching the water while we wait

watching the water while we wait

protecting her brother

protecting her brother

Sydney made sure she was right with him so he wouldn't fall in

Sydney made sure she was right with him so he wouldn’t fall in

Waiting for our tour

Waiting for our tour

waiting for our tour

waiting for our tour

watching the boats

watching the boats

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

in the boat

in the boat

going under one of the many bridges

going under one of the many bridges

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

weeping willow

weeping willow

my snuggle bug

my snuggle bug

Sweet Sydney

Sweet Sydney

so many curious things to see, almost tempting enough to get out from under the blankets...

so many curious things to see, almost tempting enough to get out from under the blankets…

I love my love

I love my love

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Spring Saturday

This morning, Richard worked as usual and since I was not feeling 100% I stole away while the kids played happily together. When I plan to do nothing but read as the kids are playing outside, I sit on Judah’s bed and lean up against the window, watching and listening to the sounds of children at play. In such moments, the world is at peace. Judah wasn’t feeling well either so eventually he came inside, crawled onto his bed with me and slowly fell asleep. Since I couldn’t move anyways, I continued reading. Precious moments like that will not continue forever. I almost feel bad that I got nothing done today, but reading is work too, right? Even if it’s fiction. Well, to be fair (to myself) I did bake bread and contemplated doing some Latin. I even carried the Latin reader around the house with me – almost the same as reading it, right?

When Richard got home in the early afternoon, we had lunch and decided to take the kids to the park across town to shake things up a bit. There is a large playground up by church on Jesus Green equipped with a fenced-in toddler playground, various other swings and things and two pirate ships attached together with a rope ladder/lookout thingy (the crow’s nest, for those up on their pirate lingo), which captivated Judah’s attention for most of the afternoon. He even made it all the way up and back down by himself, and to my dismay continued to do so over and over again. I suppose it had to happen… though it’s nice when they just stay on the ground. Considering everything, we only had to get up and save him a couple times and of course make the obligatory rounds to make sure they were all still well. So Richard and I spent an idyllic afternoon reading in the grass on a blanket while the kids played happily. We only just returned now. Even now there’s beautiful evening light streaming through the windows. Everyone is happy. God is good. Cambridge is not so bad.

Time to get some work done. Dinner needs making, kids need bathing, the day needs to come to an end. Goodnight.

Syd

Syd

all hanging out

all hanging out

crows nest

crows nest

ships ahoy!

ships ahoy!

My tired baby

My tired baby

Norah dancing with cherry blossoms.

Norah dancing with cherry blossoms.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Goodmorning

My favourite winter scene is always the early morning twilight. When the newly fallen snow, white and crisp, turns blue and melds with the sky. The whole earth seems the same clear, cold, beautiful blue.

Time to wake the girls.

Richard, out for his morning run

Richard, out for his morning run

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View from my window - park

View from my window – park

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sunday afternoon

On Sunday we were invited to have lunch with a lovely couple from church. Kathryn and Douglas and their two children live down in Trumpington, a village in biking distance from Cambridge.

Thankfully it was a perfect lovely sunny day! It could not have been a better day for a bike ride through the fens … as winter days go, that is. When your mode of transportation is a bike, you count your blessings. On the way there, we took the scenic route since we had some extra time (We wanted to give them extra time to put their little guy down for a nap before we arrived.) My phone did not do justice to the beautiful landscape that is Cambridgeshire! We saw quaint little churches, thatched roof houses, and rode down windy roads through meadowlands – the very green, mossy bumpy kind – that you really only associate with the British Isles.

We had such a lovely, lazy Sunday afternoon, eating and chatting. They have a charming little boy of 2 years and a little girl around 4 who is just smitten with Norah. So they all had a great time running around playing together.

The way home was pretty straight forward and quick. We just took Trumpington road back home, pretty much a straight shot from their house to ours.

through the fens

through the fens

Through the fens

Through the fens

IMG_20150111_132639

lovely windy roads

lovely windy roads

IMG_20150111_133422

hello

hello

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized