We were in England for a bit over 3 weeks, and today we flew to Ireland. So, it’s probably time that I write about what we did during our amazing time in an incredibly friendly country full of history and fun.
Upon landing at Heathrow, we collected our bags (loving the fact that each kiddo can take his/her own carryon and backpack!) and made our way to the bus terminal right at the airport. There was a waiting area, and we staked out our spots. Everyone was a bit hungry, so we went into the cafe and picked out some sandwiches. Missa B, our vegetarian, was excited to see all types of cheese sandwiches and tuna sandwiches with corn (which became her “go-to” meal for England). Once I paid for the sandwiches, I came out to find that Hubs had moved our bags to the seating area right outside the cafe.
“You can’t do that!” I said adamantly.
“Can’t do what?!”
“I only paid for take-away, not dine in!”
Hubs was confused, and I was insistent. I’m not sure what I thought would happen, but for some reason at that moment it seemed like a mortal sin to have paid to take our food away but sit at the table.
So, we took our food away…literally 2 feet to the other side of the railing. But somehow it seemed right. No faux-pas for us on the first day!
We ate our food and then sat. And sat, and sat, and sat. For 3 hours. We learned all sorts of new things: I taught the kids how to watch bags in public areas (“make sure to put your foot through your backpack strap” — much better to have a kid with a broken leg than missing loveys and books), how to watch reader boards (“Missa B — I know you looked 2 minutes ago, but go over there again and see if they updated our
bus coach bay”), and about transportation facility bathrooms toilets (“Don’t go in there without one of us, and don’t touch anything unless it is absolutely necessary.”)
On Missa B’s 15th trip to the reader boards, she came back shouting, “Bay 10 — we have to go to Bay 10 — boarding NOW!” At which time, of course, Hubs and JJ were in the toilets. We got to the bay in time, but we were pretty far back in
line the queue. Which meant that we were all separated on the coach. Hubs was across from JJ, I was further back, and Missa B was somewhere in between. We gave the kids their iPads and started off on our 2-hour journey to our destination — 15 hours after leaving the States. For more on how we slept during that ride, see Bathrooms and Bedtimes.
We got to our Holiday Inn in Bath which I had picked based on an amazing AAA rate. It was adequate. They are in the middle of remodeling it, and it looks like it will be great when it’s done. Small room with two double beds which was all we needed. We walked about a block to an Italian restaurant, and then we were out for the night.
Our first day in Bath was great — we got to the Roman Baths around 11 am and only had a 10-minute wait in line. I cannot recommend highly enough coming to England when the local school kids are not yet on holiday! It made all the difference in the world. Missa B did a great job writing about visiting the Baths and the local Abbey (Through the Eyes of a Child), so I’ll just add how impressed I was with the way these sites were made accessible to kids.
At the Roman Baths, we each had our own audioguide included with the admission price. As we walked through the Baths, there were numbers to plug into the guide to learn more about what you were seeing. There were different numbers for the kids and the adults, so each person could hear age-appropriate material. And it was great because when the kids were interested in an area, they could just punch in the other number to get the adult version as well. In addition, they had a scavenger hunt which kept them engaged throughout our 3-HOUR visit. We had no idea it would take that long, but we were all really enjoying it, so we just stayed.
We stayed a bit too long because we were then all starving. Luckily, we found a place to get a quick bite (paid the “dine-in” price this time), got our energy back and walked across the square to the Abbey. Once again, the kids had a scavenger hunt to complete and so what should been maybe a 30 minute stop turned into 2 hours, a theme that continued throughout England. Guidebook says allow 1 hour? We need to plan on three hours. And not plan too much in a single day.
Jet lag got the best of the kids that night. When they fell asleep at 8:30 or so, I figured we were in the clear. So, at 11 pm, while sitting on the toilet (with the lid closed, people — it was the only room where I could turn on a light!), I booked our tickets to Longleat the next day as I wanted to be sure we got the 10% discount for booking online. A decision I regretted at 5 am when I had been kept up by Missa B for over 3 hours. So, when we all awoke at 10:30 am, I was adamant that we should still drive to Longleat for the hedge maze and safari park. Basically I didn’t want to lose $150. About an hour later, as we were finishing “breakfast,” I came to my senses and resigned myself to chalking the money up to lessons learned.*
And, you know what? It turned out to be a great day! A 2-hour free guided tour of town during which we connected with a family from Texas. We all then went to the park together (well, I was elected to go pack up our bags, but the others went), and the kids had an amazing time together.
We ended the evening with a wonderful Italian dinner after having overdone it on the fish and chips for the first few days. Overall, a wonderful start to getting to know England.
*After a pathetic email, Longleat took pity on us and refunded our purchase.