A Travellerspoint blog

August 2010

Coming Home

Taxi, train, plane, car - HOME

98 °F

On Sunday, Mom and I got up at 5:45am (after going to bed about 11:45pm the night before). We did the final packing and got downstairs about 6:30am.

So here's a quick summary of our travel home -

6:30am - Taxi picks us up

6:45am - Taxi drops us off at train station (cabbie was nice - he said I could have had him drive us to Gatwick for same price as I had already pre-paid for the train tickets - oh well - kids were looking forward to another train ride and I didn't really want to be in a taxi for 35 minutes so it was just as well) [we had just missed the 6:45 train so had to wait for the 7:04am train].

7:04am - depart on train to Gatwick (in first class - which means about 8pounds more total for 4 of us more to sit in a closed off area so that Mom didn't have to worry about kids disturbing other passengers)

7:41am - arrive at Gatwick airport

8:40am - clear security and get to gate area

9:40am - time plane supposed to land - but it is delayed b/c plane was delayed on arriving

10:15am - board plane (this time sitting 2 x 2 which was much better than all 4 of us across on the way over)

10:40am - take off

6:30pm (1:30 EDT) - arrive in Charlotte (no one really sleeps on plane except for Elaina who takes 2 one-hour naps - Allan Michael watches 3&1/2 movies on the way back (Simpsons, Avatar, Shrek and Mr. Fox).

7:30pm (2:30 EDT) - we clear customs and finally have all our bags (mine was literally one of the last ones on belt).

8:00pm (3:00 EDT) - get in car and start heading to Cary (almost die from the heat as we are not used to the 98+ degree weather!!).

8:45pm (3:45 EDT) - still trying to get out of Charlotte - took us 30 minutes to drive 6 miles b/c of construction and wreck on OTHER SIDE OF INTERSTATE!!!!

11:00pm (6:00 EDT) - arrive in Cary

~12:00midnight (7:00 EDT) - Mom arrives in Benson

12:30am (7:30 EDT) - Kids and I go to bed

On Monday - kids started back to school - Elaina 1st grade and Allan Michael 2nd grade.

So - now we have to adjust back to the normal routine.

Hope you've enjoyed the chronicles of our adventures in London and Brighton.

Will blog again on the next big trip.


Posted by agilsenan 18:20 Archived in England Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Days 7 and 8 - Alicia in Meetings-Mom with Kids in Brighton

Final days in England

rain 64 °F
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We made it back home so I'll try to re-create a brief summary of the last 2 full days we had in Brighton before heading home. I'll mainly have to defer you to the pictures though, since I was at my meeting most of the day on both days but here goes what I can recall based on bits and spurts from the kids and my Mom.

I had a 7am breakfast meeting so I was out the door before anyone really woke up. I stopped back by the hotel after a few hours of meetings around 10:00am and the three of them were just finishing up their breakfast in the hotel. I said good morning and good-bye and headed back to my meeting (the conference hotel was about a 10-minute walk from where we were staying) for the rest of the day.

From what I gathered, the trio I left behind got organized and then headed to the Sea Life aquarium which was just a short walk down the street. They had lots of fun (and can you believe that was the first time my Mom had ever been to an aquarium!). The big hit was a glass-bottom boat - great white sharks (real, live ones) swam around and underneath them - and the favorite - Lulu the sea turtle followed underneath the boat and beside them. Evidently she was huge ("She was as big as the table, Mommy"). They saw lots of neat things at the aquarium. After that they strolled around the Lanes and walked around in the neat neighborhood behind our hotel. They found a bakery that had gluten-free macaroons and Elaina thought they were ok (the inside was better than the crunchy outside). They got back to the hotel around 3:00 and had lunch there. Elaina had a triple-decker gluten-free grilled cheese sandwich and Allan Michael had a bacon cheeseburger that he really loved.

After that I think they just rested and chilled in the room until I got back around 6:30pm. My friend from Finaland, Maarit came over and we went out for dinner about 7pm. I asked for a recommendation from the hotel for a good restaurant with gluten-free options and they suggested Donnatello's. An Italian restaurant about 5 minutes away. We took off and at first thought it was quite a small place but then they took us to our table and we kept going up to different floors. I think there were 4 floors in all and outside dining as well. It was a very large and very busy place. The food was very good and they did have gluten-free rigatoni. Elaina, unfortunately didn't love it but I tasted it and it was good (I think she wasn't very hungry and was too tired to enjoy it all). They had gluten-free ice cream as well. The rest of our dinners were really good. Maarit presented the kids with the original Mooman book (famous characters in Finland and who now have a movie out- at her last visit to the US she gave Elaina a stuffed Mooman which she has been sleeping with every night so the book was a big hit).

We got back to the hotel pretty late and went to sleep after giving Mamie and Pappy a call (and to check on Aunt Meghan).

On Saturday, I woke up in a rush because I had to be at the meeting at 8:00 and I had to give an oral presentation at the session that started at 8:30 and be a moderator (chair) the session starting at 10:30 so had lots going on. Again I got up and headed out to my meeting while everyone else was still in bed (Mom got up just before I left though). I made it in time and got through my presentation and chairing of the sessions and then the kids and Mom met me at my conference hotel for a little while. They had been out walking around (it was drizzly and cooler but was the only day we were there that we really had any rain). They went to a museum (that Elaina said was boring) and visited with me while I ate lunch (they weren't hungry since they didn't finish breakfast until 10am). They left again and I went back to my meetings. They walked around and went back to the pier where the kids one some prizes from the coin machines (those things we had seen on the first day in Brighton where you put in a coin and it drops and occasionally something comes out but usually not).

They walked around some more and I met them back in the room about 4:30. Mom and I packed up everything as best we could and I took the kids back down to the hotel swimming pool for a while before we all got dressed for the evening closing reception.

We decided to feed the kids first in case they didn't like the food at the reception so after eating in the hotel again, we all headed out to the Corn Exchange where my closing banquet was being held. There was probably 500-600 people there but it wasn't too crowded. Lots of space to spread out and a really good band that did ABBA. They dressed like them and sang like them and were really good entertainers. The food there was actually really good. The kids were on the dance floor with Mom and me. Allan Michael kind of stood there but Elaina was dancing about. They met several of my colleagues and were very talkative. I mentioned there were probably 500 people there - they were the only kids under 13 that I saw there....so they got a lot of comments.

Finally about 11:00 we decided we should leave and get some rest before the next day.

See next post for the last entry about the travel home.

I'm going to try and post the pictures before crashing tonight.

So long

Posted by agilsenan 17:55 Archived in England Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Day 6 - Brighton

A day in Brighton

semi-overcast 66 °F
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Today was our first full day in Brighton. The weather was odd. Couldn't seem to decide whether it wanted to be sunny and warm or cold, overcast and windy. Drastic changes in temperature throughout the day but luckily no rain (again!). We slept late (until about 9:00) after the excitement from yesterday and went down to have the breakfast buffet in the hotel. The breakfast was pretty good for a hotel buffet. They were able to fix a gluten-free omelet for Elaina. Allan Michael said he likes English sausage better than ours (it's not spicy but sweet, I think like italian sausage).

After breakfast I went to register for my meeting with Mom and kids. I ran into several work colleagues along the way. After getting checked in for the meeting, we left and went walking around Brighton. Walked along the beach but it was nothing like back home. There are large stones all over the beach (not fine pebbles, rocks). The water was quite rough and the weather at the time was cool so no one put more than their fingertips in the water.

We strolled along the sea front. There is a pretty long boardwalk with shops and bars and restaurants all along the way. We went to Brighton Pier. Lots of opportunity to spend your money there. There are sliding machines where you drop in coins until you hope a few drop out the other side. Of course we weren't the lucky ones. We bought tokens for the rides and luckily the kids were too short for most of them which thankfully limited the impact on the wallet. They took in a few rides and then we went off for a long stroll through The Lanes. The oldest part of Brighton to a restaurant that is supposed to have gluten-free food. It was mostly cold salads and was good for Mom and me and ok for the kids but not great. I don't think we'll go back.

We came back to the room and then I took the kids down for a quick swim in the heated pool of the hotel. Then they got dressed up and we all went to the Welcome Reception for my meeting. It was a bit boring for the kids- no good food (although they were nice enough to prepare a nice plate of gluten-free canapes for Elaina - she didn't really like them and I can't say I blamed her). I visited with several old friends and colleagues briefly (Anna from Iceland, Maarit from Finland, Annalisa from London and several RTI-HS folks from the RTP, Waltham and Barcelona offices) then we had to leave because kids (and adults) hadn't really had enough snacks for dinner. We ran into Sue West on the way out and she came back to our hotel and ate with us (It was so good last night and we knew they had gluten-free food so we came back - plus it was easy to take kids up for bed after it was over).

Tomorrow my meetings start at 7am and go until 7pm or so at least then we'll have dinner. So Mom will have kids the entire day alone. I'll have to get her to write up (or more likely dictate to me) the events of the day.

I've uploaded more pictures from yesterday and today. Sorry they are not in a good order. I can't figure out how to rearrange them. They seem to sort themselves from most recent to oldest when I upload them most of the time.

Good night!

Posted by agilsenan 15:25 Archived in England Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Day 5 - Last Day in London - Travel to Brighton

Hampton Courts and Trains

semi-overcast 65 °F
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So this is an update for yesterday because we didn't have a chance to update last night before bed. Wednesday was quite an adventurous day. Since it was our day of departure from London to Brighton, we decided to just stay in East Moseley (where Maureen lives) and pack up and visit Hampton Court Palace. Hampton Court Palace was the home of Henry VIII and is only about a 10-minute walk from Maureen's place. So after packing up a bit we headed out for our last site-seeing adventure in London. The day started off a bit overcast but eventually we had lots of sun and warmth while we roamed around the Palace Gardens. We took several pictures (updated) so you can get an idea of how beautiful the gardens were. We also went around a little inside the palace though we didn't have time to visit all of the different areas since we wanted to get to Brighton before dark. So after having lunch at the castle and taking a final quick walk around, we headed back to Maureen's to finish packing up.

We got all packed up and at about 5:15pm walked back down to the train station. About a 10-minute walk.

We had with us

2 kids
4 suitcases
3 backpacks
2 hand bags
1 stroller.

We got to the train and just missed it so had to wait a 1/2 hour for the next one. Then we got on that one and I couldn't decide how I wanted to get to Brighton. We got off and changed trains a couple more times and once had to change platforms which required going up several steps and down again (there was no "lift" at the station) (note the above we had in tow). Thankfully we encountered some very friendly Brits who helped pick up the suitcases and get us up and down the steps since you have to move or risk being knocked over. We hauled everything up onto the train and probably annoyed everyone with all our stuff (but we again had nice people helping us on and off the train since it was not physically possible for Mom and I to load it all by ourselves).

We changed trains again with the intent of getting to Gatwick to hop on the Express train to London and ended up on a train that was going to Brighton after it's stop at Gatwick. We decided to just to stay on the train but I was a bit worried because I only had tickets through zone 6 (which we had left) and there is a penalty for not prepaying for your ticket. Luckily when we finally arrived in Brigton the ticket guy must have felt sorry for us because he didn't even consider charging the penalty fare. We paid 32 pounds for the tickets for the 4 of us (quite a deal as a taxi would have been 160 pounds). Then hopped in a taxi to the hotel. We checked in about 8pm and got up to our room.

We still hadn't had dinner so we ate downstairs at the Thistle. The food was really good and they even had a gluten-free kid option - British cottage pie - which Elaina loved so much she had 2 helpings. Good thing kids get to eat free this week!

So we got done with dinner and got settled in our beds - 2 kids plus me in one bed - Mom in the other and finally fell asleep a little after 11pm.

We must have just dozed off when suddenly I woke up to a loud alarm - finally realized it was the fire alarm - I paused a minute to make sure it wasn't just a blip - then realized everyone was evacuating - so after waking Mom up (it took a while - she was having difficulty getting heself together) - I scooped up Allan Michael and Mom scooped up Elaina (by now the alarms were louder and faster) and headed down the 4 flights of stairs with the rest of the guests. We were barefoot and onlly had on pajamas. Did I mention our hotel is on the seafront in Brighton - so it was very windy and cold. We sat outside and Elaina didn't wake up until we were downstairs. She said "Why did I fall asleep outside? Why don't I have on my shoes if I'm outside? Why are all these people around?" It was quite amusing because she was half-asleep and couldn't figure out what in the world was happening. A very nice lady gave us her jacket to cover the kids up with because it was so cold. After about 30 minutes we were allowed back upstairs. Oh yeah - I forgot to mention that I ran into not 1 but 2 of my clients while outside in my pajamas, hair all a mess - .

We got back in the bed and finally fell back to sleep.

Kids got us up about 8:30 this morning.

See later posting for the adventures of today.

I will post pictures as soon as I can.

Posted by agilsenan 08:52 Archived in England Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Day 4 - August 17th 2010

A Royal Day

semi-overcast 65 °F
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Ok - so I've still not posted pictures but will try and stay up late enough to do so. Here's a recap of today's outing.

We woke up and after realizing someone left the milk sitting out all night, decided we should go out for breakfast before hopping on the train into the City. So we had some grub at a local place where the waitress, we think was Russian b/c she certainly wasn't English and didn't understand anything we said. But after several attempts got a gluten-free omelet for Elaina, bacon sandwich for Allan Michael and myself and Mom decided to try out the Full English breakfast (eggs, bacon (which is more like ham), beans, tomatoes and mushrooms and toast). She didn't finish her plate, bad girl. We also were able to get in and out so we could make the train as we had to be there for a certain event. The changing of the guards.

Changing of the Guards - we made it to the Palace area but then couldn't figure out which street to stand on but ended up being on a street where the guards walked right past (we didn't see the horses up close) but could see the guards marching.

Buckingham Palace- next we went on tour of the Palace. The kids enjoyed it as much as we did. Very, very beautiful.

Next we walked up Picadilly street (walked through the Park Lane Hotel and asked concierge for lunch recommendation - and he sent us through a back alley I would never have picked and we popped out in a square in the middle of two busy streets with lots of cafe's. We settled on a French one and had a very nice leisurely lunch.)

Then after lunch we just walked and walked. We went by Picadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Convent Garden. More performers and things to see at Convent Garden. And would you believe the same street performer we had seen on Monday was at the Convent Garden at same time we walked up. He was really amazing. (RIchard something). Then we wandered around and found a street artist. Kids begged and begged so I gave in. And he drew their portrait one at the time on same page. It took about 30 min each and cost 30 pounds (but I tipped him). It is well worth it. People kept stopping by and saying how wonderful it was. Hopefully you all can see it some day. I will definitely have it framed and hung in the house. It's really fantastic and certainly worth the money we paid. It's a charcoal and the eyes and character he captured was really something. I don't think Allan Michael has ever sat that still before for that long. We saw some more entertainers then walked and walked back to Waterloo Station and back home.

Sorry I can't write more but it's late and I am going to try and upload a few pictures before settling down. We head out for Brighton tomorrow.

Posted by agilsenan 16:28 Archived in England Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

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