Hello! I have been working on this post for three whole days. I do it every day in the afternoon, after 4 o'clock playdates, thinking the kids will like to look at the pictures for a couple minutes, and Mat will get home so I can crank it out. Then every day at 6:30, instead of ramping up my productivity, I crash hard, jetlag style, and barely manage to keep my eyes open until 8 in an attempt to adjust just a little bit to our time zone. Oh well. The good part is I can be the morning person I have always aspired to be, even if it's just for a few days.
Aaaaand, we're back! This may have been the best vacation of my whole life. This despite 2 transcontinental flights with small children (they were awesome, slept the whole way there, colored for 8 hours on the way back), strep throat for 3 members of the family, meaning navigating the British medical system as a foreigner, a fever so high I hallucinated the wallpaper moving, and penicillin (which Simon is allergic to and must be basically hermetically quarantined from) schedules to rival a space shuttle launch. I tried, I really did, to keep on keeping on, but apparently strep throat is not just a sore throat. I spent 36 hours in bed, and Mat, also getting over The Strep, gamely took the kids out, with no car, in a strange city, to all kinds of crowded tourist sites and hunting for any morsel of food that sounded appealing to me, all by himself. What a mensch.
And now I can focus exclusively on how amazing and wonderful the trip was. Claire Helen really didn't want to come home, which did absolutely nothing for my "I want to live in Great Britain" bug. We spent a couple days in London, a couple days in Edinburgh, and then took off for the Scottish Highlands. That is hands down the most gorgeous place I have ever been, and I have had the good fortune to go to a lot of pretty places in my life. I kept trying to take pictures to memorialize places, but even as I saw them on the viewfinder, I knew they were wrong, wrong, wrong. We have places like that in the states, and I've visited them abroad, beautiful waterfalls and vistas, some of them. You either have to hike for 3 days to get there, or maybe they are along the road, with guard rails, interpretive plaques, and tour buses all in a line. In the Highlands, you just pull off the road any old place, and wander up a hill, and there you are. 200 foot waterfalls, sea cliffs, and nobody but you and the sheep. As far as you can see, as far as you can imagine, it's just you and the sheep, as though people have never existed. Pure awe. I got to watch my children frolic through Highland grasses looking for fairies**; huddle up together against the vast Atlantic Ocean, all of this, for 4 days.
But it's really done better with pictures.
Outside St. Paul's cathedral, in London.
At a pub after a long day. The kids were so great out and about. We got compliments in almost every place we went and at every meal about how sweet and well behaved our kids were. This warms the cockles of my uptight little heart, as I am definitely one of those people who thinks there are appropriate and inappropriate ways for kids to behave in public.
St. James park in London, after a visit to the prime minister's house, and assorted other important governmental places. Note the themed shirt.
Elephant sculptures in Hyde Park.
The top of a double decker bus in Edinburgh. They looooved all the public transportation, and got to be little experts at hopping on and off the tube/bus. My little urbanites.
Simon and the penguins at the Edinburgh zoo. They have the largest penguin pond in the world, and every day at 2:15 let the penguins out for a parade. How cool is that? I wouldn't know. I was in bed. But it sounded awesome.
In the background you can see Edinburgh, but the picture doesn't do it justice at all. It's 100% gothic and cool, no poorly thought out 60's architecture at all.
I tried the whole trip to get just the right picture of sheep, with just the right sheep-y expression in just the right light, showing some of the isolation of the area. I failed, but after taking all those pictures, how could I not post even one?
Fairy Glen, with all kinds of lichen covered rocks and mossy hillsides and whatnot.
Caterpillar hunting on some random hill just off the road.
Simon next to some sea cliffs with a pretty rainbow you apparently cannot see. Nana nana boo boo.
Our hotel room in York, on the way back down to London for the flight out. Someday I'll tell you about how the whole freaking country was booked up, and we went from town to town on the train to find a room for the night. We got really lucky, and ended up in this rockin' spa with the best breakfast ever served, and as you can see, great beds for jumping on.
Not in any way above bribery for good behavior while traveling.
**Not actually, as when pressed as to whether we were going looking for fairies, Claire Helen replied, "Well, I don't think so. Fairies are only real in books." I checked later, and THANK THE LORD, Santa Claus is still real. Not the elves, though. How ridiculous.