For Thanksgiving, we went on a road trip through Nevada, Utah, Arizona (for 15 minutes) and California.
The children are going to be guest bloggers for the road trip and write a little piece about each part of the trip.
We left on Friday evening and headed for Reno, Nevada. We arrived late at night and stayed over in an Airbnb house. The next morning, in true road trip style, we hit the diner for breakfast. Over to our Reno correspondent, Eve:
We waited and waited for our breakfast to arrive. It finally did, milkshakes, pancakes, Mac and Cheese, caramel apples and many other delicious foods were for breakfast. Breakfast at Dennie’s was a hit!
we rented a house in nevada ,nevada was like a dry desert.olive had a bubble bath,we found sweets in the house we were renting!we ate some they were delicious!
It was very windy!
One of the highlights of the trip for me was seeing tumbleweed on the Nevada roads. I thought it only existed in Wile E. Coyote cartoons.
A few shots of the Nevada roads…
In Nevada my parents let us play in the leaves and my dad and brother put on some TVs in the car. The light was really pretty in Nevada. We took lots of pictures.
St George dunes
Me and Dad 👦🏻👱🏻went on a sand DUNE 🇺🇸To a sandy area with lots of gigantic hills.🙀It was so Awsome there were also big bumps that made us jump of the ground we drove up the hill and when we got there we stopped the sand dune. Me, dad and our friends walked up the hill and rolled boulders down the mountain and I rolled a big boulder down the mountain. It went far down the mountainside and then crashed into a gigantic stone 💎 then it fell into pieces❗️😳😓☠️👽👺👹😮😙🏜
Salt Lake City & Provo
Las Vegas & Fresno
Continuing our adventures in Pembrokeshire, we headed out to Bosherston Lily Ponds (three flooded limestone valleys best known for their covering carpet of lilies). A footpath winds its way around the banks to the spectacular beach at Broad Haven South. Along the way, the kids enjoyed seeing the wildlife and especially picking blackberries!
After walking a couple of miles through the lily ponds, we arrived at Broad Haven South beach, where a number of family members were sat in light drizzle, chatting, swimming and playing beach tennis.
As we were getting ready to leave, a surfer became stranded on some rocks and the Coast Guard rescue helicopter was called in to help out. The surfer eventually managed to swim back to the shore with assistance from fellow surfers and the Coast Guard.
One evening, we invited the rest of the family over to The Old Post Office, where we were staying. We had food, sat around the fire, played piano and played Articulate.
During the holiday, Tom Sr. introduced the kids to the game Pente, which they loved.
Josh was borrowing some Sunderland pajamas, which Opa was giving him a hard time about until things got out of hand…
We dropped into Haverford West to do some ceramic painting…
…then to Pembroke Castle, where Henry VII was born…
…and on to Tenby, a beautiful walled seaside town where Heather’s Granny, Olive Jessie Thomas, once worked in a fruit and vegetable shop.
After fish and chips, we visited Fecci’s ice cream parlour, where Heather has been going since she was a child. They have a huge menu of the most amazing ice cream treats…
Charlotte chose this amazing ice cream doll/princess, which looked increasingly more like a crime scene/avalanche accident with every delicious spoonful!
Joshua, ever a man of refined taste, went for a timeless classic; the banana split…
Lucy dug into a peach melba… (check out Heather’s face in the background!)
Olive and Eve chose the Teddy Bear cottage (Heather’s childhood favourite)…
Heather and I, always on the same page, opted for the peach melba sundae…
…and that brought our time in Pembrokeshire to a close. What a beautiful part of the world and all the more beautiful to have enjoyed it with family.
It was time for the long drive back up North. Our car had a CD player and we only had a couple of CD’s. Being unwilling to listen to the Imagine Dragons album for the 49th time, we desperately searched the aisles of Sainsbury’s in Tenby for an alternative. NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL DRIVING ROCK was the solution. The Killers, The Clash, Razorlight, Sterophonics and Feeder would accompany use on our trek North.
After listening to the 3-CD compilation several times, I think we all had most of the songs committed to memory. This came to light to comic effect, when in the Keflavik Airport, while going through passport control, Olive belted out “I’m just a Teenage Dirtbag, Baby!”
Ever since Heather was a baby, her extended family have visited Pembrokeshire, South Wales, during the Summer. It’s the area where Heather’s late Granny grew up and it has drawn the family back ever since. It’s a beautiful area of natural, largely untouched beaches, headland, quaint little towns and villages and winding roads flanked by hedgerows. This was a great chance to catch up with the extended family as well as take in some of Britain’s most beautiful scenery. We really wanted the kids to know Pembrokeshire and develop a fondness for the area.
52 family members visited Pembrokeshire that week, with families staying in various cottages and houses in the area. We stayed in The Old Post office in the village of Marloes. Each day, text messages would go around, arranging where to meet up and what the day’s activities would be.
The village of Marloes is right by the beautiful Marloes Sands beach with its jagged rock structures. On day 1, we headed down to the beach. As can be seen from the photo below, the kids couldn’t get down there quick enough.
The children went exploring and paddling in the rock pools…
Lucy and Olive became preoccupied with a butterfly…
Another day, we visited Druidstone, where we saw a horse-riding lesson taking place on the beach…
Because of the challenges of family members living in various parts of the world, quite a few years had gone by since our kids had seen some of their cousins and memories were either faint or not really there at all. There’s something special about cousins though and that was made clear to us when we arrived at the beach at Druidstone on day 2. As we approached a group of family members, our children turned to Heather and I and gesturing to a group of kids asked “Are they our cousins?” When we confirmed that they were their cousins, they ran over and immediately began playing together. It was lovely to see the immediate trust that came with knowing that they were with family.
Once the cousins were united, they did the obvious thing: have a race. Relays to and from the rock ensued. Bowling, digging, splashing…
Back at the Old Post Office, there was a textured glass floor that got me pretty excited. That’s just the way I am…
Heather’s Uncle Gary and Aunt Viv were staying in the lovely village of Solva. We called by to say hello and meet Olly and Joanne’s lovely new baby Isla. Our kids were obsessed. We caught up, enjoyed the views and the kids took turns holding Isla…
Solva has a few nice art shops, including the Oriel Fach gallery where we met the resident artist, Warren Heaton. When Heather’s Granny passed away, she very generously left some money to each of her grandchildren. Heather had decided that she wanted to spend the money on a painting of Pembrokeshire to remind her of her Granny. We liked Warren’s style and are in the process of commissioning him to create something for our wall…
Our kids love to collect shells. They could do it all day, so we spent a couple of hours on Dale beach, which is a great place for interesting stones and shells…
Later in the week, we headed back to Druidstone, where we had a true British classic: scones, jam and cream at the Druidstone Hotel…
We then headed down to the beach at Druidstone, where we barbecued and had a game of football on the beach…
I don’t like to boast about it, but I was the joint-top scorer with Reuben – 7 goals each!
We stayed on the beach for hours, playing, catching up and generally having a great time.
After leaving Iceland very early in the morning, we all did this…
…then we finally arrived in Bristol. We picked up a hire car and headed North, stopping for dinner with family in Worcester.
We finally arrived at my parents’ place in Billingham around 9pm. We got settled and tried to put the kids to bed. That worked successfully for everyone but Olive, whose body clock was out of sync. So Olive stayed up with me and created this masterpiece at around 1am:
The next day, our first port of call was a visit with Heather’s Grandie. Grandie is the grand age of 96 and is now quite frail. We’ve talked on Skype since being in America, but we hadn’t seen him in person for 3 years, so we were keen to stop by.
Grandie was having a good day and made his way into the back garden to play with the kids.
A few of us, including Josh’s cousin Luca, went to a field over the road to play football and rugby.
That evening, we had dinner at my brother Paul’s house. It was lovely to see Paul, Jemma and the kids. We caught up, ate, played in their treehouse, on the trampoline and Paul and I took on the kids at football, teaching them a sound lesson in fancy footwork and dramatic headers.
The next day, we went to the beach at South Shields with cousins, uncles and grandparents from my side of the family for reunions, rounders, kite flying and paddling.
It was so nice to see the kids being reunited with their cousins
The next day was a trip Whitby, a beautiful fishing town in North Yorkshire. There’s a lot of history in Whitby, of both personal and more general significance.
It was at Whitby Abbey, that in. 664AD, King Oswiu of Northumbria determined how the date of Easter would be calculated (thanks Wikipedia).
This beach in Whitby is where my Dad’s family used to come for their summer holidays when he was young.
It was also on Whitby pier where I proposed to Heather, in the pouring rain (just like on a movie).
Another day, the kids went climbing with their cousins at GO CLIMB climbing walls at the Billingham Forum. They had lots of fun on the themed walls, free jumps and slide…
Having worked up an appetite, there was only one way to satisfy it in true North East style…
With stomachs full of pastry, we made our way back to the Forum for an afternoon of ice skating.
That evening, Heather her and I left the kids with Poppy and Grandma and headed out for a night on the ‘Toon’ (Newcastle).
We had a nice meal at The Botanist and a walk along the Quayside. It was lovely to be back, to be around family and places with lots of fond memories.
The following morning, we loaded back up into the car and headed South for Pembrokeshire, Wales…
In September, for Labor Day weekend, we drove up to Nevada City for a short break. We wanted to be within driving distance of Lake Tahoe so that we could spend a day there. While browsing AirBnB for a place to stay, we came across the Frostbite Bunkhouse in Nevada City. It looked great, so we decided to book.
The ‘bunkhouse’ sleeps seven (perfect for us) and is situated on a farm a short distance from the owner’s home. Ken and Andee built the bunkhouse for their grandchildren and now also accept AirBnB guests. It was the perfect size, with solid wood bunkbeds and two beds in a loft bedroom, a small bathroom and kitchen area. Ken and Andee had decorated the bunkhouse with cowboy hats, saddles, family photographs, toys and children’s books.
When you open the door from the bunkhouse, you open up to Big John’s stable. Big John is one of two Belgian horses on the property, the other is Luke, who can sometimes be found wandering outside the bunkhouse window. The farm also has Highland Cows, dogs and 21 chickens. The kids absolutely loved the animals. We would go out to the beach and they would be constantly asking “can we go back and play with the animals now?”. Ken and Andee were fantastic with the kids, giving them experiences with the animals; grooming the highland cows, playing fetch with the dogs, stroking the horses and even collecting eggs from the chickens.
It was so nice to leave the suburbs of Silicon Valley with its traffic, tech and fast-paced living and enjoy the trees, the animals and the surrounding scenery.
Ken and Andee were fantastic hosts and went well above and beyond our expectations of Bed and Breakfast. The kids were delighted went they were invited to go into their Garden and dig out potatoes, pick tomatoes, corn and zucchini.
The kids loved getting their hands dirty!
On the Saturday, we drove North to Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe, where the children enjoyed Hawaiian shaved ice…
…followed by splashing around and riding inflatable sharks on the lake.
We stayed the whole day and because they hadn’t already had enough sugar… we hit Tahoe Time ice cream before heading back to the Bunkhouse.
[Dave] We moved to America on 22 July, 2014, 3 years ago and aside from my two day work-related visit a couple of months ago, we haven’t been back to the UK since the big move.
It felt like something we needed to do – we probably should have done it sooner, but other family events elsewhere as well as restrictions on our travel based on pending green card applications meant that this Summer was going to be the best time to do it.
We booked flights with WOW Air, an airline based in Reykjavík, Iceland. Their flights are comparatively cheap and they offer a ‘stopover’ option where you fly to Iceland, spend a few days there and pick up your connection flight. We decided on a stopover of a day and a half (2 nights).
The flight to Iceland was great – there’s always a bit of trepidation when flying with 5 kids, but the children were great and the fact that it was an overnight flight meant that we were able to get off to sleep pretty soon after taking off.
We arrived in Iceland on Friday afternoon, picked up a hire car and headed for our AirBnB in the suburbs of Reykjavík. We dropped off our things and set off for the famous Blue Lagoon.
The Blue lagoon is a geothermal spa located in a lava field in Grindavík, not far from the Keflavík Airport. We loved it – you get changed in a large modern facility, then walk out into the freezing cold in your swimming costumes. The cold is so uncomfortable that it makes wading into the lovely warm water all the more satisfying. The temperature is around 100 degrees, so it felt like a hot bath. The color of the water is amazing too – a cool pale blue/green that looks otherworldly, especially set against the salty, volcanic rock and Icelandic landscape.
On the way to the lagoon, the kids needed something to distract them from tormenting each other in the car, so I told them the tale of the creature from the blue lagoon (it’s actually the black lagoon, but that didn’t work quite so well for my purposes). “It’s not real, Dad, you’re just pretending”… “ask Siri, Dad, prove it!”. So I did a quick image search on my phone and was able to show the kids ‘the creature’. This made Charlotte a little nervous.
The kids are pretty confident in the water, they recently completed another round of swimming lessons in California and are doing well. Even Olive was able to be independent in the water with her mandatory inflatable armbands.
We took the opportunity to put face masks on, which was fun. I’ve had a few people compare my smiling face to that of the Joker from Batman and with the addition of the face mask, I concede that they may be onto something!
After a blissful hour or two in the lagoon, with no sightings of the creature, we returned to our accommodation for pizza and a good night’s rest.
One thing we hadn’t anticipated was the lagoons mystical effect on hair. Not so much an issue for me, but for the rest of the family, the properties of the water had dried out their hair, leaving it anything but ‘soft, shiny and manageable’. You’ll see from the photos that the frizz from the blue lagoon lasted for days, in spite of the generous and repeated application of conditioner.
The next morning, while we were waiting for Heather to finish de-frizzing her hair, a sword-fencing tournament was held in the living room of our accommodation.
We then headed into Reykjavík for lunch and had a wander around the city.
Iceland’s football team were about to kick off against Switzerland, so there was a gathering of supporters in the city square waiting to watch the game.
We got these ice cream cones that were like soft serve ice cream dipped in melted chocolate and then rolled in dime bar like chocolate balls – amazing.
Sadly, just a few seconds after this photograph, Olive was making a fuss about her ice cream and as I bent down to help her out, my ice cream fell on the pavement – gutted!
One of the things we enjoyed (most of the time) was simply driving around. We would come across waterfalls, glaciers and little colorful buildings in the middle of nowhere.
While driving to Skogavoss waterfall, we came across some other waterfalls and decided to stop to take a look.
We first saw Skogavoss from the road – it’s a huge, powerful waterfall with a trail leading up the side of the hill to the top of the waterfall.
As we approached the foot of thew waterfall, the spray became more intense, which makes photography a bit of a challenge – we would cover the lens with our hand until we were ready to take the shot, then quickly take it before the lens was completely misted up.
I decided to get quite close to the waterfall – the spray didn’t feel too bad, until after we’d taken a few pictures and I started walking back. It was then that I realized that my clothing was actually completely soaked.
We then headed for the black sand beach near Vik, catching some amazing glacier views along the way.
Black sand beach is amazing. It would be worth a visit just for the sand, which looks amazing next to the white surf. However’ there’s a lot more than just the sand to enjoy – on both sides of the beach, there are cool rock formations, then along the back of the beach there are huge caves and geometric rock formations that reminded me of giant’s Causeway in Ireland. As if that wasn’t enough interest for one location, after half an hour on the beach, we looked up and saw hundreds of puffins on the hillside above the rock formations.
After a while on black sand beach, we realised that it was after 11:30pm. Because it doesn’t really get very dark this time of years in Iceland and because our bodies were still half-thinking we were in California, it just didn’t feel that late. It dawned on us (excuse the pun) that after driving the 2 and a half hours back to the accommodation and packing our things, it would be time to leave for the airport! So while the kids managed to sleep in the car and had an hour in bed at the AirBnB, Heather and I just didn’t go to bed that night! It was well worth missing out on a nights sleep in order to pack in the experiences we’d had on our brief Iceland stopover.
This past Christmas, Santa brought the kids wetsuits and on 30 December, we had the opportunity to head down to Carmel with Uncle Tom and Auntie Kate to try them out.
The temperature was pretty decent for a December day and the light was amazing. The kids donned their new wetsuits and had a great time bodyboarding into the evening…
We stayed for a few hours until the sun started to set, playing frisbee and enjoying the beach. It’s amazing how you can enjoy the beach all year round in California, even on 30 December…
All of our kids enjoy drawing and painting and we love what they come up with. Here’s a collection of some of their work…
Dinosaur, by Lucy
Mummy, by Charlotte
Cat, by Charlotte
Spyro, by Eve
Planets, by Lucy
Peppa Pig, by Olive
Skylanders, by Eve
Mermaid, by Eve
One of the things Heather asked for this past Christmas was a large wooden ruler for marking the children’ height as they grow. We hung the ruler between the family room and the kitchen back in December, but didn’t actually mark it until the night before the kids went back to school in August (2016).
We’re looking forward to keeping track of how the children grow over the years…
One of the challenges of having a large family is making sure that each of the children feel appreciated as individuals. We try to have ‘special days’ in which one of the children have a full day with either Heather or myself and do an activity of their choosing (within reason!). Our goal is to dedicate one Saturday each month to this, meaning that each child should have at least one special day with me and one with Heather each year.
Charlotte chose to go camping with me. We found a campsite and I got away from work a little early on the Friday. We headed up to Boulder Creek, an old-fashioned mountain town in the Santa Cruz hills.
We stayed in a simple campsite in a redwood grove, with an (freezing cold) outdoor swimming pool.
We popped our tent up, inflated the airbed in the bathroom and settled in for cuddles and made-up stories.
The next morning, we went into Boulder Creek for breakfast. There was a lovely little diner in the town, the ‘Old Mountain Inn’. We had bacon, eggs and pancakes and Charlotte took away a slice of chocolate torte for later.
After breakfast, we went for a dip in the pool. We had it all to ourselves as the campsite owner kindly let us in a little early. After a swim and play around the pool, it was time to pack up the tent and head back home.
It was so great to have some time with Charlotte – she’s such an energetic, fun, happy little girl and great to be around and I’m proud to be her Dad!