Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Last Days in England

For our last few days in England, we spent a lot of time in Valley Gardens. It's a huge park with gardens mostly but the main attraction for us is the amazing playground. One day it was warm enough for the children to use the wading pool. The pool isn't very deep but is large enough to accommodate many, many children. J took as much advantage as he could, swimming like a crocodile.

J in croc-mode

L braves the waters

The pool was cold, resulting in short swims. They played with lots of other equipment. L's main game was collecting sticks for a camp fire and hunting wolves in the park. After catching them using bows and arrows (one bent stick and a shorter straight stick), she had us roast the wolves on the pretend fire. As a meal it was not satisfying but as an exercise in imagination it was wonderful.

L the hunter-gatherer

J's main idea was to prepare for a moon landing. He's been watching Apollo 13 on hard rotation and reading a children's biography of Neil Armstrong. J used various climbers as lunar modules, command modules, LEMs, re-entry vehicles, etc. The next day he had L practicing with him.

In a pretend rocket ready for launch

Escaping at the end of the flight

They also had a last sit in the Jubilee Memorial chair just outside the play area. The chair was carved a few years ago and still draws interest from visitors.

L as the queen of the park

J as king

Sharing power

A closer look

The adults enjoyed some things in the last few days as well. We had a pub lunch on Sunday and I had the traditional carvery dinner. Normally the diner chooses between meats (the options there were lamb, pork, or beef) but I went for the trio with a smaller portion of each meat. Some veg, some potatoes, and a Yorkshire Pudding (the bread-looking item on the left below) came with it, all standard to a carvery order. I also had a local brewed ale called "Bicyc-ale" in honor of the Tour de France which was to go through town in a week's time.

Carvery and a pint

We had plenty of scones for breakfasts and snacks in our last week. What's offered as scones in the States is often quite dreadful--dried out husks of the gloriously moist and warm baked treats we've had in England. We have one or two good recipes so we can make our own.

I also miss (aside from the numerous bakeries) the numerous fruit and veg shops. It's quite delightful to just pop into a shop dedicated to nothing but produce and get proper advice (like which potatoes are good for jacket potatoes and which for mash) and quick service.

A typical fruit and veg shop

One thing I don't miss is the narrowness of some streets, often resulting in de facto one-way traffic. Even if a street is one-way, sometimes parking on both sides makes a driver think they are flying through the trenches of the Death Star, hoping not to smash into the sides.

One-way street with good reason

On our last day in town, we were car-less and had to walk to the library to return the last of our books. Of course books would be the last things we'd let go of. We only made it a third of the way through Charlotte's Web (our bedtime reading book after another volume of Little House on the Prairie).

At Heathrow Airport, we visited one last playground before we flew back to the States.

L plays hide and seek

J wonders where everyone is hiding

A small raceway

L, queen of the hill

Some fun rubbish bins

We had a wonderful three-year adventure living in England and traveling over as much of Europe as we could. We've made lots of good friends and good memories and hope to visit again someday.

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