Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Last Post - London to Auckland

We drove around Salisbury and could see the tall needle of the cathedral spire above the brick houses. We drove towards Stonehenge and passed lots of yurts for pigs in muddy paddocks. We were coming off the top of a hill and straight in front of a us was the Stonehenge stones just standing in the paddock. There were road works to the site so we had to go around the long way but it meant there were less people that day. It was really cold so we put our jackets on. We had our Historic Scotland Pass so we were half price in England. The ticket man was either very kind or bad at maths because it only cost eight pounds.

We got audio guides which said a lot about the area but still couldn’t say why the stones are put there. We walked around the stones which were chipped because people used to take pieces for souvenirs. The stones were called ‘Bluestones’ and were rafted and slid on ice from Wales 5000 years ago. They were supposed to feel warmer than other stones but it was so cold we couldn’t tell the difference. There were lots of planes and jets flying over because there was a nearby air force base. There was a protester who was saying he was a descendant of a ‘Druid’. He wanted all the ‘Druid’s’ Bodies and their descendant’s bodies to be buried at Stonehenge where he thought they belonged. In the other paddocks there were mounds of mass graves. A lot of the tourists coming off the buses were more interested in us eating spaghetti for lunch in the camper than they were interested in the Stonehenge. It was a unique place to visit and full of mystery.

We had dinner and showers at a ’Welcome Break’ motorway stop on the way to London. We drove to the Penton Hook marina next to Thorpe park where we had stayed before in July. There were some other campers there as well and lot’s of noisy planes flying over to Heathrow Airport. We drove to Feltham to the ASDA shopping centre where we had also parked in July to take the train into London. We took the train to Waterloo and got on a bus that took us on a huge loop past St. Paul’s Cathedral to London Bridge. We walked back along the river to the Tate Modern. There in so much to do in free Museums and places like the Tate Modern that it takes half an hour to work out where to go and what you want to see. We walked though most of the galleries quite quickly. There were lots of art students. Some of the works were overrated but there was a lot of interesting stuff. The building used to be a brick power station that’s why it looks like a factory. The bottom floor is the exhibition hall and there was an exhibit called ‘Ai Wei Wei Sunflower seeds‘. Covering the huge area of the floor about 5cm thick were sunflowers seeds. It was amazing but what was even more mind boggling was that every seed was porcelain and hand painted in a porcelain making village in China. There were 100 million seeds! We made a video in a booth asking the artist questions about the work but we couldn’t find it on the internet later on.

We went to Madame Tussauds next. We didn’t have to wait in lines with our Merlin passes. It hadn’t changed much since we were there in July but we still took photos with all the wax people. Lady Gaga and Daniel Radcliff (Harry Potter) were new.

We walked down Oxford street past all the fancy shops and department stores. We spent the rest of the day in the Hamley’s toy store. The coolest store in the world and it’s 300 years old. There were lot’s of Harry Potter wands and model trains and planes. The girls went to all the beauty and art demonstrations. There were magic tricks and lot’s of other things we never saw last time we were there. We took the tube when it was really busy and went to some of the newer tube stations. We wanted to do the London Eye at night time but it was closed for maintenance.

We stayed in the ASDA and watched Bridget Jones Diary on our portable DVD player.

Next day, we went back into London but took the wrong train and did a loop. We got off at Wimbledon and took the tube because we thought it would be faster to the Natural History Museum and it was. We chose the wrong day to go to a Museum because it was Saturday and really busy with lots of families having a day out. We split up because it was easier. Anneke and Thomas went to the Dinosaur hall, full of dinosaur skeletons and things. There were lots of people in there but in the middle of the day there was a 45 minute wait just to go inside. Mum, Dad, Madeleine and Johanna went to the Mammal Hall and there were huge life-size whales, elephants and other mammals hanging from the ceiling. The building itself is really amazing and like a palace. There were lots of other exhibits on Erosion, Natural Disasters and Climate Change. We had a picnic in the basement picnic hall. We could have spent a week in the Museum but we left and walked to Harrods.

Even from the outside it is ‘over the top’ and also like a palace. We went inside and felt out of place in our ‘well worn travellers‘ clothes. We were very careful to not knock anything over. Mum picked up a handbag for 6000 pounds. There were almost more assistants than buyers and there were a lot of people inside. Everything was ridiculously priced and extremely expensive. We never went to the Egyptian hall but we went to the top story. It was crazy and we were only in there for ten minutes. We took the tube to London Bridge and did the London Dungeons on our merlin pass. It was so much worse than last time. It was hot because we were still wearing our jackets and it felt like we were waiting in lines all the time. The actors weren’t very good either.

We did the London Eye at night time. Since July a skyscraper had been almost built! The parliament buildings and Big Ben were gold at night and the glass roof of Waterloo station was massive. The city lights went for as far as the eye could see.

The train ride back to Feltham felt very long and we stayed in the ASDA car park again.

We started organising how we’d pack our stuff and clean the camper. We didn’t have to clean it that well because it was going to be valeted before it sells. We went to a Tesco and bought the set of Harry Potter DVD’S and some shirts for Anneke‘s late birthday present. We starting throwing out books and clothes in a charity bin next to the dumpsters but most of the stuff wasn’t even worthy for charity, it was that worn out. We had our last night in the camper back in Ampthill.

We drove to Gary at the Heart of England motor home dealers where we bought the camper and are selling it. We were under time pressure which made us throw out even more things that we wanted to take home. Mum was inside most of the morning sorting out the paperwork with Gary. All our gear was packed into seven and a half packs, six carry on bags and as a joke we decided to take our eight red pillows. Which later on while walking around the tube stations in London, the pillows are what made us really feel really out of place. Gary dropped us off at a train station and we watched our camper drive away. Carrying our all gear was the hardest thing that day. Stepping onto the train was hard and putting on our packs. We took a high speed train to Euston Station and it only took an hour. There were two men on the train and we think we watched them do a drug deal. One of the guys had just got out of prison for shooting someone in the foot and mum lent him a pen which he used to write something while the other guy gave him some cash which he put in his shoe. Mum was sitting on our huge pile of luggage when the conductor came to check our tickets. Mum thought he was joking when he said that extra luggage was fifteen pounds a bag when the tickets for the trip were only fifteen pounds for all of us but he let us off. We took the tube to Heathrow but had to make two changes on the line which was difficult with our gear. We got to Heathrow and checked in. It was nice to know that our online tickets from ‘Hoodaki’ were real. We waited until 10pm eating all the rest of our food including a jar of Nutella and trying to find showers but we were in the wrong terminal. We boarded the plane at ten and got good seats. We should have slept for the whole flight but Mum let us watch movies to Singapore then sleep to Auckland. We arrived in Singapore at 6pm (local time) so it was still light. The airport was really nice and had free massaging chairs, internet, movies and there was supposed to be a free roof-top pool and butterfly garden but we didn’t have enough time for that. There were stalls celebrating the year of the Rabbit and we got fortune cookies and Chinese calligraphy signs. We were having so much fun that we almost missed the gate. Mum and Dad slept on the second flight but Thomas stayed awake the whole time. We were very excited seeing the little skyline of Auckland and a bird’s eye view of the suburbs. We were feeling very tired and our bodies were telling us we should be sleeping. It seemed surreal to be back in NZ. We noticed lots of special things about our country that we hadn’t noticed before. Our grandparents and some of our bestest friends were waiting for us when we walked though the arrival doors.

We were back home after an indescribable adventure away, a journey to nowhere and a wonderful life experience for us all.

Stonehenge from the road

Feltham ADSA and shopping centre

The london bifi imax

London Bus

Tower Bridge

Tate Modern

Ai Wei Wei Sunflower Seeds

Picnic at St. Paul's Catherdral

Madame Tussauds-Daniel Radcliff

Lady Gaga-Madame Tussauds

Hamleys Toystore

Nail Art demonstration-Hamleys

The Natural History Museum

Dinosaur-Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

Blue Whale-Natural history museum

                                                               Handbag in Harrods
London Dungeons
London at night
Johanna packing in the camper
Welcome Break rest stop
New Skyscraper-London
Heart of england motorhomes
Cleaning out the camper
Free foot massages-Singapor airport
Singapor airport
Watching movies on the plane
The tube, London

Walking in the Tue Station, London

Mum sitting on all our gear
City of Sails, Auckland

Auckland Airport

Thursday, January 27, 2011


We went to Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. We drove around town looking for a free park because every car park in England you have to pay. We stopped outside a house with a sign - ‘BMW’s only’. Mum and Thomas walked to Anne Hathaway’s cottage. We didn‘t know who she was but obviously she was connected to Shakespeare. When we got to the cottage we discovered she was Shakespeare’s wife. We didn’t want to pay to go inside and the gardens weren’t blooming because it’s winter. We found another park in town and walked to the house where Shakespeare was born and grew up. Like all the other houses in was Tudor style, Woven willow plastered with mud (Wattle and Daub) and big hand-cut log framing to support a thatched roof. We didn’t go into any of the houses. Mum went to the ticket desk and asked where the Library was but didn’t ask for the public library. We ended up signing in to the largest collection of Shakespeare books in the ’Shakespeare Centre Library and Archives. We felt like total idiots especially being such a big family while everyone else in the reading room was studying. We left very quickly. We ended up in the Public Library but there was no internet so we read some books. We went to a Motorway rest stop for dinner. We went to a pier on the Bristol Channel but the pier was closed and it was getting dark. We stayed at the end of a residential street in Burham-on-sea.

The next day we walked on the beach with lots of other dog walkers. There was a lighthouse beacon on stilts and quite a lot of rubbish on the beach. We drove into Devon. Rolling hills of green grass. All the fences are stone and hedges. The country lanes are very narrow and we had to pull over or reverse for other traffic. There were lots of sheep too. Mum had organised two HelpX places to stay for a couple of days. The first one was Middlescott Farm. It was pouring with rain when we pulled up to the gate. It looked very muddy on the driveway so Anneke, Thomas and Dad walked. There was a huge, tall house and a lot of slate farm buildings. We met Lawrence in full wet weather gear. He showed us where we could park. We parked out of the mud next to the house and Dairy. After settling in we went into the kitchen. Karen was making the week’s worth of bread in her busy kitchen. We ended up talking until dark. Karen and Lawrence were architects in London and moved to Devon with their daughter and son 20 years ago. They have sheep for milking and make organic goat’s, sheep’s and cow’s cheese.

We had a very windy and rainy night.

The next day Mum and Dad took a full tour of the Dairy and how they make the cheese. It was interesting hearing the tips and tricks of setting up your own small business. There was a formal dining room which we thought was very ‘English’. There was a massive table and there were thirteen people seated around it. Karen and Lawrence’s recently married daughter and partner popped in. There was their other son, Ben. And Louise, helpXing from France.

Mum had made a huge pot of vegetable soup and we had Karen’s bread and the cheese. We’re looking forward to being able to put a range of homemade cheeses on a board like that. The cheese was very tasty. Even though we don’t really like the aroma and taste of Goat and Sheep Cheese this was very nice. Karen showed us wool from their own sheep and beautiful baby clothes and knitting kits she sells along side her cheese at the market. The kitchen floor went from brown to black when the girls mopped the kitchen floor. We were invited come along to the ‘Open Mic night’ at the local Pub. When it is a clear day you can see the sea from the farm. We drove down to Lee on the coast and parked at the ‘Grampus Inn’ and walked on the beach before dark. The music started at nine and Karen and Lawrence came down later. The Pub was a beautiful old building with a low ceiling and there were only a few locals. Most of them sang or played Guitar. The owner of the Pub was a great fiddle player. The man organising the Music was very good at encouraging people to come up and play. Anneke and Thomas did a song on the ‘out-of-tune’ piano. It was quite difficult after not playing for a long time. We were all surprised when Johanna went up the front and sang a song without any accompaniment. We played snooker with four young welsh men who sang a Celtic or Gaelic anthem. A very friendly American/English guy (who was very good at singing and played some interesting music) invited us to come park up in his paddock. If we hadn’t planned for other places to stay we would have loved to stay there, so we asked him to come to NZ instead. We said goodbye to Karen and Lawrence and stayed in the Grampus car park.

We drove to another HelpX called ‘West Aish Farm’ in the middle of Devon. Mum had also organised this HelpX before but not as a proper exchange just sharing some meals and helping out when we could. Our hosts were Caroline and Mark and their kids Rose (3) and Joshua (5). Caroline and Mark were accountants from London leaving the city to live the good life. They have a ‘Smallholding’ in beautiful Devon countryside with a few sheep, pigs, dogs, ducks and the chickens were eaten by a fox the day before we arrived. We had dinner with them the first night - delicious homemade sausages. Joshua and Rose took us off to their rooms and showed us all the toys. Thomas read them a bedtime story. Joshua kept correcting him when he pronounced a word wrong (not in a English accent). We had parked up by the house on a nice flat spot, the field was too wet and muddy to park in.

Next to the house are two cottages that Caroline rents out for the summer holidays. One cottage was the stable of the historic farm and the other is the ‘Roundhouse’ where the flour was ground by horsepower. A builder was coming in to put in a new kitchen in the round house so we spent the day demolishing the old kitchen. William was dismantling the cabinets while Thomas removed the tiles. The hardest thing was dragging the old night store heater into the barn. We liked the idea of drinking tea while in England so Caroline waited on us with cups of English tea. Mum had made another pot of vegetable soup so we had that for lunch. We borrowed some movies and watched them in the camper.

Joshua went to school, Rose to Playschool and Mark to work. Mum and the girls started cleaning up the camper and organising some things to make packing easier. William and Dad make stands out of recycled wood for Caroline’s new beehives. The bees are coming later this year. Anneke and Thomas spent most of the morning trying to find the right tools for making a small fence and picket gate to protect the Hives. It was very muddy so the posts went in the ground easily. Caroline had cooked a delicious pork ‘Tikka Masala’ for dinner. We ended up watching almost all the Harry Potter movies. A Ute of Firewood came and we slpit and stacked it in the barn. We helped the nieghbour hill start his car when the rain had briefly stopped. Wiiliam and Dad crutched a sheep with some scissors. It ended up a warm and sunny day but there was a cold frost overnight.

We left West Aish farm and said goodbye. Caroline gave us some screws and staples to put in our new home so a part of them was with us.

We drove to the seaside town of Weymouth and for one of the first times in England (and Europe) we paid for parking. We went to the Sealife park and Aqurium with our Merlin Passes. All the rides and outdoor attractions were closed for the winter. The animals and sea creatures were just like the other Sealife centres in Scotland. The octopus was out and about and there were some giant spider crabs. We were underdressed for the cold because we thought it was warm with the sun shining. We watched the seal and Penguin feeding then left and drove to Salisbury where we stayed in front of a truck in a business park.