Our journey ‘across the pond’ and ‘travel at home’

This weekend is the “central weekend” of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (that would be the Queen of Great Britain). She’s been reigning for 60 years, the 2nd longest reign in the history of England/Great Britain (or so I learned from the official Diamond Jubilee website). We’re planning on having a mini-party for just our family tomorrow, featuring tasty British-style treats and some crazy jubilee headbands my in-laws bought my kids on our recent trip to England. I’d have invited some friends over, but we are battling some nasty colds and I don’t want to start an epidemic.

In May we (all four of us) traveled to England. We hadn’t been over to visit my husband’s family since 2009 (while I was pregnant with Oliver). So, this was our first trip as a foursome (and Ollie’s first visit with with my in-laws). Oliver loves airplanes and was excited to fly in one (although he was a little worried it would be loud). The flight went surprisingly well, although both kids had a hard time sleeping and were just a little cranky about being tired and not being able to fall asleep. Still, there was almost no crying and only a little whining. We tried to keep focused on things like how cool it was to have dinner and breakfast on an airplane.

Ready to fly – on the way to England.

This trip, we chose to gate check our 2 car seats and our umbrella stroller. The seats fit in one $13 gate check bag (although we had to tape the hole in the bag on the way back, so it’s not like we’ll be using it again). Still, this worked better than hauling them onto the plane and installing them. The kids sat in the regular seats, with my 2 year old using the harness we bought (for a while anyway). Next time we travel, we’ll probably just use the lap belt.

After our eight-and-a half-hour, over-night flight (at least it was direct) we were very lucky to skip through passport control quickly (with my husband’s British passport, the whole family gets to queue in the British passport line), pick up our bags (which we got in less than three minutes!) and head out to wait for the shuttle to the car rental place. Once we had our car (a Peugeot 3008, which we did not like so much), we set off for Ringwood (near Bournemouth) on the South coast of England (where our family lives).

Norman ruins in Christchurch

Feeding Swans at Christchurch Quay

This is an excellent part of England to visit. Bournemouth is one of the premier beaches in England and the area is very beautiful. We really enjoyed visiting with our family and friends and seeing familiar places. We made a journey to a  tiny town near Bridgewater in Somerset to see more friends, which was great fun. The kids loved that cows, sheep, and pigs are visible from the car so much of the time while driving through the southwest of England.

Bournemouth Beach and Pier

Bournemouth Gardens lead from town to the beach and, although we didn’t ride it, there’s a balloon to get an amazing view of the entire area

Ready to ride down the dry slopes at Matchams Ski Center

We are so lucky the kids travel well – we had no real issues with the time change – they powered through on that first day like troopers and we all hit the sack a little early and ended up on Greenwich Mean Time the next morning without a hitch.

On the swing at the Bransgore Fun Day

After several days of fun in England (we visited Christchurch, Athelney, Bournemouth, Ringwood, Moors Valley Park, Bransgore Fun Day, and New Milton Fun Day and more), we took the train from Christchurch to London. The kids got to ride in a black hackney carriage and we visited London Zoo. After a night in a hotel, we took Eurostar through the chunnel to Paris. We booked the entire Paris leg of our trip through the Eurostar website. We stayed in the Citadines aparthotel and it was excellent for a family: separate bedroom and a mini-kitchen, as well as a balcony. It was in a lovely neighborhood with restaurants and a grocery right downstairs.

On the Eurostar train

Jardin du Luxembourg

Eiffel Tower from our Seine river cruise

We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visited the Jardin du Luxembourg (and the playground there), and took a Seine river cruise. It was a fabulous two days and, although the kids were tired, they loved it. Plus the buses, metro, cabs, and trains were super-exciting in their own rights for the kiddos.

Mudeford: crabbing baskets

Back in England, we got to go to Boscombe, which has been revamped since we lived there and we enjoyed some fabulous warm and sunny weather. We went to Mudeford and crabbed (although we only caught 4 tiny crabs, which we of course released, but it’s good fun for an afternoon).

View of the Isle of Wight from Mudeford

It was quite the whirlwind of activity! Before leaving for this trip, I really underestimated my kids and how flexible and tolerant they would be of having all the travel and craziness and lack of regular routines. They did so well it was shocking. No reason not to travel with them (other than, you know, how expensive it is)!

Jumping on “castles” on Bournemouth Beach

We feel so lucky we have been able to take such an amazing trip. But, even when we can’t travel to England, we can make a bit of England at home. Tomorrow we’ll make sausages and beans and chips (fries) for dinner. We’ll listen to some Brit-pop and don our crazy jubilee headbands. We’ll snack on Hob-nobs and Cadbury chocolates. We’ll have a tea party with scones and clotted cream and jam (my daughter will love this).

We used to “travel at home” all the time; we definitely need to do it more. We’ve gone to India, Argentina, Japan, Greece, the Caribbean, and many other fun destinations – at home. Usually, our we choose our “destination” based on an event (think Cinco de Mayo or The Olympics, which happen to be in England this summer!) or a movie we’ve chosen (for kid-friendly picks, think Disney: Lion King, Mulan, or Aladdin) and we spin outward from there, choosing foods, drinks, snacks, and music to compliment our “trip.” Sometimes we buy music (it’s fun to have some extra variety in the iPod) and even special dishes (like Japanese tea cups), but truthfully, that’s not necessary.

If you’d like to travel at home to England for the Jubilee or for the Olympics (later this summer), here are some good recipes and other Britastic stuff to make the trip great:

Scones with clotted cream and jam (you can look for clotted cream at the grocery store or buy from Amazon)

Good tea to go with your scones

Sausages (I usually go to the butcher section of the grocery and look for Irish or British style sausages or go with German brats when there’s nothing remotely Brit-style), beans (in England, “Heinz means beans”) and chips (chips is British for fries, which are typically more of the steak fry variety). Not into sausages? How about fish and chips? Traditionally served with (malt vinegar and) mushy peas.

Beer (not for kids, of course)… we’re partial to Ringwood brewery stuff, which was the local brewery for us in England. Old Thumper is an excellent bitter ale. It is available in the US via Shipyard Brewery. Other English beers include Newcastle Brown Ale, Bass, Old Speckled Hen, Old Peculiar, and Fuller’s London Porter to name a few.

A pitcher of Pimm’s is also delish. (Again, adults only). Pimm’s is a summery drink and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it. We add more fruit than this recipe calls for – strawberries and oranges are also excellent in the pitcher.

A drink the kids can enjoy: Ribena. Or you can serve Robinson’s squash (lemon and barley water is a traditional flavor, but search for “Robinson’s fruit drink” on Amazon and you’ll find a variety of flavors).

Some great snack/dessert ideas are Hob-nobs, Cadbury’s or some other British chocolates, or you could make Eton Mess (Nigella calls for pomegranate juice, but you don’t really need that at all).

British music? Not hard to find… but just in case you need inspiration: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabath, Iron Maiden, Psychedelic Furs, Queen, Phil Collins, Tom Jones, The Smiths, Duran Duran, The Human League, The Cure, The Police, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Massive Attack, Portishead, Oasis, James, Blur, Supergrass, Pulp, Radiohead, The Verve, Take That, Robbie Williams, Spice Girls, Jamiroquai, Fat Boy Slim, Amy Winehouse, Catatonia, Coldplay, Dido, Franz Ferdinand, James Blunt, KT Tunstall, Natasha Bedingsfield, and Adele. Is that all over the map enough to find something you’d want to listen to?

British movies and TV – also not tough to find (check out Netflix on demand, Netflix by mail, or Redbox for possible sources of the following). Kid friendly picks include “Peppa Pig,” “Fireman Sam,” and “Thomas the Tank Engine.” Other possibilities for grown-ups are “Downton Abbey,” “Little Britain” (warning: very crude humor – not everyone’s cup o’ tea), “Gavin and Stacey,” Guy Ritchie movies such as “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” or “Sherlock Holmes” starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, or “Billy Elliot” or “Bridget Jones Diary” or “Four Weddings and a Funeral” or, well, it sure isn’t too tough to find a British movie either….

Whether you’re road-tripping or boarding an airplane for real or traveling at home, here’s wishing you Happy Travels! and Bon Voyage!

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