Tag Archives: family

mother’s day

If St Patrick’s Day was strange then Mother’s Day wasn’t going to be much different. We wanted to do as much as possible today while being sensible so we went to visit Mum and with a great idea from Catriona we wrote Happy Mother’s Day on A4 sheets and greeted her from outside her garden wall having already left her present outside the front door. It was a bit weird but we got to say what we wanted and she and Dad both stayed safe.

Catriona’s wish was a walk on the beach. We went to Rathmullan as it’s a big wide beach with plenty of space for keeping away from others and allowed us to visit Catriona’s Mum’s grave on the way.

When we arrived in Rathmullan the car park was as busy as I’ve seen it with about 40 cars parked up already. Having seen pictures of crowds in the Wicklow Mountains yesterday we were on the verge of turning away but as there was nobody actually in the car park we decided to have a look down the beach.

It was heartening to see how everyone was behaving. There were a lot of people out walking, lots of couples and lots of small family groups. Everyone was very responsible with everyone well spread out up and down the beach with lots of space. We saw a couple of groups of people meeting who knew each other but just waving. One pair of younger couples were kind of messing but one of the guys was pretty clear about the need to stay apart and made sure the other guy didn’t come too close while still being able to have a conversation.

It was really uplifting to see everyone enjoying the day, the first of the proper Spring weather and to be able to put aside the worries and concerns for just a little while but still being sensible enough to stay safe.

Catriona’s favourite thing is to walk on the beach and it was great we were able to give her that today.

happy mother’s day

super sunday

After a very busy and successful first week in my new job and twice having to withdraw plans midweek to cycle due to either tiredness, bad weather or both I was determined to get out cycling this morning.

My initial plan was to lie in until 8.30 and be on the road between 9 and 9.30. When I woke it was raining hard and with the forecast I decided to go back to bed and eventually got on the road for 10.

With the earlier rain I decided to go for my waterproof socks which then required my slightly roomier winter shoes. Probably too warm but at least I’d be dry.

dry feet all the way home

I’d decided on the 50km route and being optimistic I decided to head into Clady and tackle the climb up over The Glebe. This is a two stage climb that is 2.3km long, averages 4.3% and is classed as a Category 4 climb on the current Strava segment.

My record on this segment is 6:49 putting me in 31st position on the leaderboard. Today’s effort was 9:13 which would be equivalent to 115th. It sounds like a big difference but I’m happy I made it to the top today without stopping and in 2016 I was in much better condition. It’s also not my slowest time and not far off my average.

The current Strava segment shows it as one climb but it’s really two with a short flatter bit in between allowing for a slight recovery.

approaching the first climb
the second part ahead

The hard work of the climb is more than made up for by a nice, fast 3km descent to Victoria Bridge. This was much easier and I was only 11sec off my PB ๐Ÿ˜†

The rest of the run was into Strabane via Victoria Bridge and back home via Clady, Castlefinn and Killygordon.

the mourne river at victoria bridge

I wanted 50km so went up the road towards Ballybofey a few kilometres to get the distance. Met a couple of guys from the club that I hadn’t met before. One of them had a puncture and I was able to lend a hand by supplying a CO2 cannister and pump.

On the way back home I also had a chance to see the local annual Vintage rally setting up.

vintage tractors
vintage cars
vintage bikes and a ๐Ÿšœ shaped bouncy castle ๐Ÿ˜†
click the image above to go to strava

In the afternoon the boys were at Robert Emmets Summer Camp and we went down for the BBQ and the round up including photos with two of the Donegal team and the Anglo-Celt Cup.

summer camp group photo

Afterwards we called to visit Mum and Dad who were away last week. As they’re in the middle of renovations and staying with Mum and Dad we also saw Rachel and her family.

Home for dinner, bike cleaned and oiled and a relaxing evening at home. Fully recharged for another week at work.

every day is a school day

Some things we learned from our trip to London:

  • London is noisy. There’s a constant background hum, even at night. It was Owen that first mentioned it but it was only when we got home that I realised how much.
  • When you ask people for advice (Simon and the Oyster Card! ) then you should pay heed and follow that advice
  • Following on from the above, if you need to clarify your previously received advice ask someone for help.
  • The Underground is a really good way to get around and there are specific apps to help you plan journeys as well as the overland trains. However, don’t forget about Google Maps. It covers trains and buses as well as pedestrian journeys.
  • The Oyster Card is the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to pay for the Underground.
  • There are very few convenience type shops in the centre of London. Bring snacks and drinks with you as they are expensive in the attractions. Boots is an alternative as the bigger ones do sandwich meal deals.
  • Kids (ie. our boys) get hungry and very hungry way before adults do.
  • Book attractions online in advance of your trip and look for multi buy options as the more you book the more value you get.
  • Allow time for queues. All 3 attractions we did had a 30min queue to get in.
  • Saturday mornings are mega busy at attractions and best avoided.
  • There are lots of very helpful people to assist you at the Underground (Blue Hi-Viz vests) and along the streets, mainly at attractions (Pink T-shirts and/or Hi-Viz vests).
  • Despite the rumours not everyone will step over you if you were dying. There are many lovely people that will help a stranger.
  • There are quite a few homeless people around but they tend to keep themselves to themselves except when begging on the Underground – or throwing beer at me ๐Ÿ™ˆ
  • It’s worth getting off the Underground and wandering around by foot. However, the distances do mount up quite easily as the main sights are quite spread out – London is BIG.
  • London is expensive to get around but food and drink are reasonably good value if you take time to look around.
  • It’s a great place to visit – plan ahead and get the most from your trip.

I feel like Baz Lurhmann after writing that!

all good things come to an end

When we booked our flights we chose a later flight for Saturday to allow us to have an extra day to explore. However, we didn’t have a plan for how to spend this last day.

On our last trip to England (August 2014) we made a day trip from Catriona’s brother’s in Bracknell to London mainly to visit the Natural History Museum. The boys enjoyed it and as Conor couldn’t remember it much (he was 6 then) he asked to go back today.

Today was not a good day to visit the museum! We should have realised that a Saturday in the middle of the school holidays would be busy but it was jammed! The galleries were packed, really uncomfortably so, very warm and stuffy, incredibly noisy and generally an unpleasant place to be.

We had a look around at a few things but after an hour decide to give up. Thankfully we had such a good week that this experience didn’t spoil our trip as we were already taking home some great memories.

dippy has been replaced by hope

I was really disappointed by the dinosaur display. It was fantastic in 2014 but much reduced now. Too many display boards and many fewer dinosaur displays.

One full gallery was given over to this huge Moon sculpture. It was impressive but I couldn’t help wondering if the room could have been put to a more interesting use? On the plus side it was air conditioned โœ…

was there a moon version of atlas?

We consoled ourselves with a trip to McDonald’s for lunch using the vouchers we saved from yesterday before catching the tube and overland trains to London Luton Airport and our flight home.

We were a few hours early so we had time to relax in the bar and listen to the Highland Radio commentary of Donegal unfortunately getting beaten by Mayo ๐Ÿ˜ญ

relaxing at the airport bar

last photo in england

After the dodgy start to our trip it was a relief to take off on time, arrive 10min early, get away efficiently from the hotel parking and get back home to our comfortable beds before 1am.

A great trip with great memories. Very different to our trip to Majorca last year but one we will all remember.

banged up abroad

Friday was definitely our best day in London. Our 3rd pre-booked activity was London Dungeons. This is totally in darkness and photography was forbidden so I’ve no photos to show. It’s a mixture of live actors, props, noises, spooky music and two rides covering the dungeons in Henry VIII’s time, the torturer, Guy Fawkes, Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett, The Black Plague, The Great Fire, a mock court and jailhouse and a ride to simulate a hanging. Really well done and scared the bejeebus out of Conor. Definitely wouldn’t advise it for u10s but we all had a ball, even Conor!

Afterwards it was food time. We had vouchers for McDonald’s so headed for the nearest one in Leicester Square. As we got nearer we spotted a Pizza Hut. It’s our favourite place to eat and very rare we get an opportunity to visit one so we ditched McD’s for the “all you can eat” buffet.

Outside we took in the atmosphere of Leicester Square which has to be the coolest place in London. I could have sat there all day listening to the music and watching the world go by.

leicester square

Next stop was Catriona’s choice – Harrods. We decided to walk this time and really glad we did as the route took us by the M&M store, The Apollo Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, The Wellington Monument, Hyde Park Corner and Kensington with all it’s very fancy car dealerships and stores.

this place was mental

entrance to chinatown

even the side streets are decorated and colourful

apollo theatre

eros

picadilly screens

wellington monument

hyde park corner

Harrods was crazy, even more than the M&M store but for very different reasons! It was equally as busy but only about half of the people there were spending any money, probably about 10% spending serious money. The wealth on display from this 10% and the disregard for cost was eye opening.

even the escalator area was extravagant

While Catriona and the boys looked around the sweet hall for something small to take home I went looking for the beds department just to see what the other half buy. It was amazing although I was seriously unimpressed by the sales guy I could overhear showing a customer around. If he works on commission it didn’t show! I considered leaving my CV ๐Ÿ˜†

that’s correct, a kingsize mattress costs almost ยฃ17k and the display is over ยฃ31k!

After Harrods it was back on the tube and back to the apartment. All the way home I couldn’t help but wonder what all those mega wealthy people were doing right now.

wax on, wax off

The pre-booked attraction for our 3rd day was Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. It wasn’t until 1230 which gave us the chance to have a bit of a lie in after all our walking the day before.

I’d done a bit of research on the Oyster Card before going to London and despite excellent advice from Simon I’d decided it still seemed expensive, was going to cost us ยฃ20 (4 x ยฃ5) to buy and not save us much. Plus we were going to walk everywhere. Basically we* got it all wrong! A very friendly and helpful information guy at Tower Hill took the time to explain the card properly, explain how the ยฃ20 was refundable and would save us at least 50% on payg tickets. So carded up and happier to be walking a lot less** we took a wander around the outside of the Tower and down to the Tower Bridge viewpoint before getting the Underground to Baker Street.

*we = me of course ๐Ÿ™ˆ

**we still managed almost 11km of walking despite using the tube quite a bit today.

tower of london – poppies all removed since our last visit

tower bridge

celebs in london ๐Ÿ˜†

As we still had some time to spare and I’m a big fan of Elementary I dragged everyone to see 221b Baker Street which isn’t actually 221b Baker Street!

sherlock holmes museum which claims the location

the famous address

I didn’t really think that they had used the actual address in S7 of Elementary but was still slightly disappointed it didn’t match the show

actual location was bloomsbury

Then it was back to our favourite thing to do in London – queue. Madame Tussauds was very busy but good queue management and efficient security meant we weren’t waiting too long and it wasn’t jammed once we got inside. I didn’t know what to expect so was surprised by the layout. There were less exhibits than I expected, less older celebrities but overall I was very impressed. All 4 of us really enjoyed the full experience and although the time flew past we felt that we experienced the whole thing. Some of my favourite photos are below but we took a lot throughout the exhibition’s many floors.

helen mirren

the most lifelike of the whole day

less smiley version of elliott

i want your boots, your clothes and your motorcycle

conor’s favourite of the day

thankfully not our air bnb

ronaldo

bolt

meeting the royals

trying to explain the backstop

he doesn’t look pleased to see me

but owen may have got there before me

a real president

smarter than the average bear

bob marley lost in the moment

madame tussaud herself

she looks like i goosed her!

definitely not my father no matter what he says

robin williams at the exit door to say goodbye

My only complaint with the museum was bringing everyone together for the 4D movie show (which was excellent). The queue starts in the Marvel gallery (which means you can’t get space to see the Marvel exhibition unless you wait for everyone to leave as the next queue gathers) and as everyone leaves the movie together the next Star Wars exhibition is jam packed and difficult to view.

After Madame Tussauds we headed to the Science Museum and this is where we (me again!) got it wrong again. We should have eaten before going. There wasn’t anything handy to Madame Tussauds but there was nothing at either Baker Street or South Kensington tube stations and once at the Science Museum, nothing within reasonable distance. Our only option was the Science Museum cafe which wasn’t geared towards kids at all. Far too many silly options of food that can only be described as “notions“. Kids want plain, ordinary and usually deep fried and breaded food. We really struggled to get something plain that the boys (and ourselves) could enjoy and be filled. It was way overpriced too! They would be better with a small entry fee, say ยฃ2 each, and charge more reasonable prices for food. They would probably make more profit that way.

The science museum itself was just OK. The ground floor had some interesting displays. The boys particularly enjoyed the space displays and the old stuff – mostly things I remember from my childhood! Upstairs there were galleries about the body, mind, climate and the future. We enjoyed it but it wasn’t gripping. I don’t know what I expected and although we spent about an hour and a half exploring and enjoyed it I don’t see how families can spend the day here as I’ve heard before. I think I expected something more similar to W5 in Belfast. Our experience could have been tainted by tiredness and not being properly fed though?

old enough to have stuff from my childhood in a museum!

The really good thing about South Kensington was that the underground took us straight back to Tower Hill with no stops! It was packed and very hot though so we were glad to be released back to the regular air conditioned train to go back to Grays. A trip to the chipper on the way home and normal service was soon resumed.

eye of the beholder

Day 2 London was based around a trip (or flight) on the Coca Cola London Eye. We had it booked in advance via a 3 attraction deal.

Our “departure time” was 1130am so we decided to get the earliest off-peak train in to London from Grays and walk from Tower Hill to Westminster. We had pretty much decided that we could use the Underground pretty minimally and do most of our exploring by foot.

The walk from Tower Hill took us across to the South Bank and passed a number of unexpected sites including the monument to the Great Fire of London, the Shard (close by) and The Globe Theatre.

the very classical style monument sitting smack bang in a very modern cityscape

the shard was visible from many locations along the walk and from the eye itself

the globe theatre

The South Bank was a really unexpected surprise as we hadn’t really thought about the journey but seeing places like the Globe and the Tate Gallery made it a lot more interesting. The whole area between the Globe and Westminster is a real mix of food stalls, music and entertainers. A great place to visit that we pretty much stumbled on accidentally!

Catriona and myself had been on the Eye previously (2014) but this was a brand new experience for the boys. Despite the overcast clouds we had great views of the centre of London and further afield.

the eye from below

not the first or last time we’ve felt like doing this!

looking down river halfway up

towards st james’s park and buckingham palace

proper family pose

going over the top

up river from the very top – loved this particular view

big ben covered up for repairs and houses of parliament

After lunch in a nearby Subway we headed off on foot again, across the bridge to Westminster proper, along Horse Guards Road to The Mall before heading for Buckingham Palace (unfortunately no Garden Party for us today).

very tame squirrel at the edge of st james’s park

top of the mall. victoria memorial and palace

without the culchies!

barbarians at the gates

he must have been melting in the heat

victoria memorial

As the Queen wasn’t in to greet us we decided to try Boris instead and headed for Downing Street via Trafalgar Square

trafalgar square

nelson’s column

boris was out – off having dinner with the DUP apparently!

At this stage the rain was coming on and our plan to walk everywhere was starting to show some holes* so we decided to retreat gracefully and return to Tower Hill via the Underground and head back to the apartment a little earlier than planned but with a fully packed day behind us.

*my Garmin showed a daily total of 20,005 steps that evening, equivalent to 16.7km of walking. Too much for any of us in the heat, never mind the boys.