Saturday, December 24, 2011

2 Months in UK and into the Festive Season

Arriving early in England
We pulled into Ipswich harbour early on the 11th October 2011 to a beautiful red sunrise and clear sky.  
The drive into London town got busier and busier and suddenly we realised that the GPS was routed to take us straight through the city centre. Being Tuesday morning we decided to reroute the GPS and took a more roundabout route through to Nick’s friend, Brad’s, house.  We were greeted by his mom, Lorna, and welcomed into our new home for the next 2.5 weeks.  That evening was great catching up and sharing stories with Lorna and Brad.   

Having fun at 'Durbs in London'
Brad lives very close to the centre of London and we spent most of the next few weeks taking walks along the Thames River to the London Eye, visiting all the big tourist sites in London City, having quite a few pints at various bars in London and relaxing in the flat getting used to the drop in temperature!! 

Thames River

Big Ben spotted in the clear sky

A strong wind on the Queens walk took Nick's cap straight into the Thames!
Peaceful protest outside St Pauls Church
Uncanny picture: We thought it was just Nicholas, but in the background another sign says Paul!

Giving Nelson a high 5
Brad and Nick

 From the 23rd October 2011 Teeny got to meet up with Vanessa, her sister, at Nicky and Neil Bakers house in Norwich. It was so fantastic to see the Bakers and their sons that are now at least 10 years older than the last time Teeny saw them! We visited the Norwich castle and had good quality time drinking wine and chatting to all hours of the morning.  It was a special visit, just a pity it was so short. Van and Teeny went back to London city and spent the next day with Stephanie walking China Town and other hot spots in London town, even braving the super busy Primark on Oxford Street!   Van spoilt us during her stop over from Mykonos and it was great to see one van der Meer sibling since the start of our trip – hoping next time to get it right with all of us in the same place! 
Teeny and the Baker boys Liam and Owen
Van, Teeny, Nick and Stephanie
We moved from Brad’s place on the 31 October 2011through to Nick’s cousin’s house, about an hour south west of London city.  West Byfleet (close to Woking) reminds us of a suburb in Durban, but with no high walls just little walls that you could trip over if you don’t notice them.  It was great spending time with Claire and Brett before they left for a 2 week holiday in Antigua. We even got to be one of the first to find out they are expecting a little girl early in the New Year!! Very exciting!! 
Brett and the tower of Guiness
  Although we watched a lot of movies and cuddled Stella (their cat), we also were active taking Brett and Claire’s bicycles around the neighbourhoods, along the canals and even further out to visit Michelle and Lola in Dorking.  

Cycling around Woking neighbourhood

Further afield towards Dorking
One Sunday we treated ourselves to a traditional English roast at a local pub and restaurant, and went back later that week to watch a live band playing 60’s music!  It was a great relaxing time, and we enjoyed living in the English suburb.  When Brett and Claire arrived back from their holiday in Antigua we spent a few more days with them before moving across to Michelle, Kelvin and Lola in Dorking on the 1st  December 2011.

Stella the snuggly cat!

Traditional English Sunday roast
Nick with Mick Avery (The Kinks) and Alan Lovell

Fishing with Bubs
 Dorking is also south west of London city, but is more of an open countryside part of England.  The rolling green fields with horses, sheep and big birds are beautiful landscape to live in and we were really lucky to have lots of days with clear skies and coolish weather.  We spent most of our time laughing with Michelle, Kelvin and Lola and taking walks around the block

We helped the McCartney family set up their Christmas tree listening to Christmas carols, before heading into London to see the festivities of Winter Wonderland set up in Hyde Park and Christmas street lights on Oxford and Reagent Street.  We met up with Rob, a good friend from South Africa, in Hamleys toy shop (quite something) before heading out for a few pints and a catch up. 
Kelvin, Lola and Michelle

Ice Rink in Hyde Park

On the merrie go round - 'Adventure 1000x'
Talking tree

Hopefully we'll get to make a real snowman this big!!
Fun rides in the Winter Wonderland!

Couldn't resist!
London Eye at night

We flew into Ireland on the 14th December 2011 and were overjoyed to see that there had been snow around Cork! We caught the bus from Cork to Ennis which was the best way to see the south of the country. Sandra, Nick’s cousin, collected us from Ennis and took us to their house in Killarney.  We had a fantastic evening drinking wine and chatting about life in Ireland and our experiences in Africa, Holland and UK. 
The next morning we were taken on a tour by Corrie to see Spanish Point, the Cliffs of Moher, the burren landscape and viewpoint for Galway Bay.  We were treated to a delicious seafood lunch enjoying the hot fire and watching children arrive from having their visit with Santa at the grotto built in the Allwee caves. 

At Cork Airport
Enjoying the bus ride to Ennis

Sandra and Corrie's house
our view for 2 weeks!

New Cliffs of Moher visitor centre built into the mountain
Cliffs of Moher

O'Briens tower - viewpoint since 1835!!

Teeny and Corrie

The wind was so strong that day that water falling over the cliffs was being blown upwards making rain!



The Burren Landscape

Seafood platter...YUMMY!

The next day we celebrated Sandra’s birthday singing and dancing to music streamlined from the East Coast Radio (Durban city radio station) website and other music from home we haven’t heard in a lot of months!  

Happy Birthday Cuzzie
 The tours and treats haven’t stopped since we have been here, we’ve explored Bunratty castle (built in the 1200’s), Dromoland castle, listened to traditional Irish music and carol singing in the Friary (built in 1300s) and experienced Greyhound racing in Limerick! 
Bunratty Castle
In the Kings chair at Bunratty castle

Nick and Sandra

Top of the castle

Established in 1625

Sandra, Corrie, Tiaan and Nick

Cook your own at the table...excellent idea!!
Welcome to Greyhound Racing!
For the novice!

Profit in the pocket!

Sandra, Corrie, Ian, Tanya, Teeny and Nick - such a fun night!

Ennis and Galway towns have such a fantastic vibe to them, particularly now at Christmas time because as you wander the streets Christmas music is playing, Christmas lights stretch across the street and people are running in and out of shops doing last minute shopping! 

Our first Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere has been such an experience so far.  It really is different to the sunshine, braais and beach walks that we are used to in Durban, but the colder weather coupled with mulled wine, warm fires and hot meals is something not to be shrugged off quickly.  Thank you to everyone that has opened their house to us during this time, without you Christmas would be a lonely time for the two of us!
To family and friends, we trust you will have a special and loving Christmas and wish all the best for 2012. Thank you for your continued support and love! We look forward to keeping you updated in 2012 with how our journey from Africa 2 Anywhere goes!