As I'm sure you remember, the last blog got us just a little closer the present day; here in the interwebs we're now entering late July 2019. My goal over our Spring Break (2020, by the way) in which I'm forced to stay in my house under quarantine (this is really me writing to myself 30 years from now, everyone reading this now knows what's going on) is to actually catch up to today. We'll see how well I do.
Anyway, in the Panamalarkey blog-o-verse we had just finished touring "the Continent" and were speeding back to England to meet the Creaseys, Sarah's folks, and our niece Emily. We started in Cornwall at St. Michael's Mount.
The Big O likes to continue his own personal tradition of looking like he's smelling bad fish whenever a group shot is taken. But when he's successfully conquered a wooden pedestal? He's free as a bird!
We stayed in a huge home in Newquay, and our first morning there I was able to sneak out at dawn and explore the cute little town.
Cornwall, the most tropical part of England, is "famously" it's surfing capital, and Newquay in particular brought uncle Andy back to his former glory days on his board. We tried (in vain?) to relive those days, in between building epic sand castles and exploring the local caves.
After the requisite stop at an old pile of rocks...
...we set sail for the island of Brownsea island, the birthplace of the Scouts. The only decent picture I took there was of a flower.
Luckily Sarah and her mom each got some good shots.
And so our extended family time was coming to a close. We said goodbye to the Creaseys and Grandma and Grandpa and Emily and headed to a hotel near Heathrow. But not to fly out just yet. We set the kids up with food and drove to Norfolk for a wedding (where we had far too much fun to take any photos, which is a massive loss for the world because it was GORGEOUS...) before Sarah skipped back to Panama.
The kiddos and I, on the other hand, had more to do. I dropped off the boys at Wells Cathedral School summer music camp and had a nice wander around Bristol with the Little Lady before dropping her off at Camp Wilderness the next morning.
And my solo adventure started. My plan was to rent a Brompton folding bicycle and cycle around Bristol and over to Bath, then train to Cambridge (via London) and explore a bit before training down to London, renting a car, picking up the kids from their respective camps, and fly home. What could go wrong?
And Bristol itself gave me plenty to look at while taking those needed breaks.
It's a sixteen mile ride from Bristol to Bath on a nice converted train route, a distance that wouldn't have been too rough when I was cycling more. But that day it was definitely rough.
Then it was off to Cambridge, though my change in London including riding across town. (Don't worry, Mom, it was mostly on separated bike lines.)
And then Cambridge, which really is out in the country. After a well-earned sleep I took an early morning ride down the river Cam to the oddly-named Waterbeach for breakie.
And then it was exploring the town. While beautiful, I found it to be quite closed off, even for the English. Everything was behind closed gates and doors. I toured one of the colleges, but there wasn't much available to see. Fun and all, but not as welcoming as Berkeley, Cambridge, MA, or even good old Westwood.
Off to the big city.
I first hit the Tate, which always impresses.
My niece and nephew asked about my folding bike so I made a quick video showing how it works.
Cycling around London was, truthfully, way more awesome than I thought it would be. And I thought it'd be pretty cool.
After a ride along the Thames to Hammersmith for a nice Persian meal it was time to say goodbye to my noble steed.
Sleep, rent a car, enjoy rural England on the way to pick up the daughter, hike the Cheddar Gorge (yes, it's a real thing!), sleep, watch the boys perform some awesome music, drop off car, fly home.
I found this Little Lady in the forest.
Our drive back to the hotel was filled with stories of her "best designed" animal trap and how she was the first in her group to eat the salmon eye. You go girl!
The next day was...the Cheddar Gorge!
It sounds like a joke, but it's GORGE-OUS! GET IT??????
The Wells Cathedral School summer music camp does not mess around, nor does the performance at the end. The highlights featuring Schnacks included a haunting rendition of the main theme of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly as well as an energetic version of The Incredibles.
The boys certainly deserved a triumphant pic in front of their residence hall before hitting the road.
On our way back to the airport we experienced what I had been dreading as a driver in rural England: the classic "but the supposedly-two-way road isn't wide enough for the both of us" issue. Or, in this case, the seven of us cars by the time it all got sorted (as the Brits would say). It was quite an ordeal involving exacting measurements and precise driving. And giggling.
And then it was over. Our whirlwind summer in Europe had finally come to an end. In front of us was our last (spoiler alert!) year in Panama and all that would entail.
Thanks for vicariously coming along.