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Not my original choice.
Not even my second original choice.
But something I decided might be a little bit different.

X is for Xenophobia

flagsSomething everybody probably considers (or certainly should!), before moving to a completely different country, is how they will be accepted by the locals; the people who become neighbours; colleagues; friends and possibly even family.

It would be naive, I think, to expect everybody to welcome you with open arms, particularly if you are coming over looking for work. In a time when local unemployment is high, nobody is going to appreciate “the foreigners” who come in “taking locals’ jobs”.

Sound familiar?

Regardless of whether it affects you or not, it’s a sentiment that is difficult to get away from in the media in ANY country.

Obviously, we are in the fortunate position of not needing local jobs so this isn’t something we have experienced here, but I would imagine that it happens here just as it does anywhere else.

We are also fortunate that we have never really experienced any form of xenophobia or prejudice based on the fact that we are English living in Portugal.

People have been, on the whole, very friendly and accommodating. The Portuguese are a sociable lot anyway, and even as we struggle along with the language, we find ourselves welcomed in by people who will often go out of their way to speak to us in our native language rather than theirs.

Sure, there have been (many) times when “Fala Inglês?” has been met with a po-faced “Não!” (often followed by fast-paced Portuguese on their part and mindless nodding on mine!) but even when there have been clear language barriers, we have never been made to feel unwelcome or alienated.

confusedJake’s first head of year, when we moved here, spoke little English (school teachers who don’t speak English cause me the most fear because it’s such an important thing to be discussing: schooling, and I’d hate to misinterpret something!) but he was very enthusiastic about having Jake in his class at a time when it was absolutely CRUCIAL that Jake be welcomed in. He (the teacher) went out of his way to speak to us in English, helping both us (as new arrivals in the country) and himself (wanting to improve his language skills) and spent considerable time ensuring that Jake understood what he needed to in their classes together (he was the science teacher). It was lovely, and it really made a difference.

Some teachers are more old school, of course. Eliot’s first teacher (she’s been mentioned before!) was a formidable force of nature. I kid you not! She spoke (or claimed as such, anyway) no English whatsoever so meetings between us were terrifying (I can only imagine how Eliot felt!)

Having said that, at no point did I ever feel that she held our lack of language skills against me or, more importantly, Eliot. We still see Professora Ana on a fairly regular basis (she teaches a class at Eliot’s current school) and she still scares the bejesus out of me, but she’s lovely really. Friendly and approachable, even in the face of my pigeon Portuguese!

Now, I suppose all of the above is helped by the fact that we live in a tourist area. The locals, in general, are used to being amongst English (and Germans and Dutch and Aussies and many more!) and I am sure that the fact that we actually live here goes unnoticed by many in our day to day life.
It is entirely possible that it would be very different if we had moved to a small village in the hills. I can’t speak for those people. I’m sure there are communities where “outsiders” or “immigrants” (which is what we are!) are ostracised, particularly as not everybody who moves to a different country is quite so mindful of their new locale.

I am certain that there will be pockets of English who live like they are still in England (I’m choosing the English just as an example. Not because other nations are not guilty of this also)They make little or no effort to learn or speak the local language, they don’t socialise beyond their little group of English friends, and they wouldn’t be seen dead eating the local cuisine.

It happens in England, right? I have no doubts that it probably happens here too, and in these cases you could argue that the locals would have every right to feel somewhat resentful. It puts out an erroneous impression though, both of the English and of the Portuguese, and it’s a shame. But, I suppose, it happens world over.

At the end of the day, if you move to a new place with the intention to RESPECT that country, its traditions and its locals, I am fairly certain that you will usually be welcomed openly.

Certainly in the Algarve, we have encountered very little prejudice against us for being English. We have made an effort to get out and make friends, to learn the language and to generally get along.

That’s what life’s about, right?

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As our six days in Florence was half-filled with convention, we only had three days to actually do touristy-type things so, for one of these days, we decided to pack in a full-day Tuscany tour which took in Pisa, San Gimignano and Siena.

Lorenzo had advised us not to spend too much time in Pisa, but it was somewhere we really had to go, so incorporating it into a day tour with other places seemed sensible. He had also advised us that San Gimignano was somewhere we had to see too. I can tell you now, he wasn’t wrong!

We had an early start on Thursday. The bus picked up from the railway station at 8am and we had to be there 15 minutes before. That, coupled with the fact that the station was 30 minutes walk away, meant that we were up and out early. Too early for a holiday, but hey, it’s holiday!

The initial drive was about 40 minutes through open Tuscan countryside and was beautiful. We were surprised how mountainous it is in places. We didn’t head near any of them (into hills later on but not mountains) but I suppose it’s a bit like heading inland in the Algarve. Living on the coast, it’s easy to forget that it’s not all flat and sandy!

Beautiful flat green crop fields against a backdrop of mountains and blue skies

FIRST STOP : PISA

Our first destination was Pisa and, after a walk from the coach park to the main square, we had an hour to wander around, take photos and suchlike.

Now, you don’t need me to tell you what’s at Pisa, do you? I’m sure not. Suffice to say, here it is!

The leaning tower playing peek-a-boo

The further round you go, the more obvious the lean becomes!

 

The Baptistry is also leaning (as is the cathedral itself) but it is obviously less apparent than the tower.

 

It got busy very quickly and soon the edge of the pathway was littered with people “holding up” the tower.

A particularly wonky shot! I don’t think Nik was drunk when he took this!

A great panoramic shot of the three buildings (Click for larger image)

The lean is pretty clear from the other side too.

From the “back”side

The above photo is interesting actually. When they were building the tower, they were only as far as (I think) the 7th floor when it became apparent that one side was sinking and, in their wisdom, their initial “solution” was to start building leaning the other way to correct it. Evidently, this didn’t work but I think you can actually see this “kink” in the build from this angle.

We didn’t have a great deal of extra time in Pisa. Just long enough to take the obligatory tourist shots, grab a cookie and drink from Subway (yes, Pisa has a subway!) and a few gifts for folk.

Then it was back to the coach to head towards San Gimignano and lunch.

One of the hundreds of sunflower fields

SECOND STOP : SAN GIMIGNANO

San Gimignano is – or was, unsure of which – known as the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages” or “Medieval Manhatten” and, from this photo, it is clear to see why.

The skyline, filled with big stone towers, resembles Manhattan (in a “not really” kind of way. But you see what they mean)

Zoomed-in view

We drove through San Gimignano and up to a farm restaurant where we all had lunch (group of 46, I think, takes up most of a restaurant!) which was a typical Tuscan lunch.

Our seating. Unlimited local wine flowed too! Bonus!

Crusty toast-like bread (this has a name which temporarily escapes me!) topped with olive oil and tomatoes and served with ham.

First Course

Second course was a typical pasta dish with simple but delicious sauce.

Lashings of fresh parmesan! Yummy!

 

Vanilla dessert with fruit sauce (and more wine!)

After lunch, we headed back into San Gimignano itself for an hour or so free time.

San Gimignano’s stunningly beautiful main street.

The main street is lined with tourist and gift shops, many of them selling beautiful things.

Gift shop lined main street

Beautiful pottery in one of the main street shops

Rocks and geods seem to be a “thing” to sell in the region too.

 

Stunning stone buildings against crisp blue (and exceedingly hot – it was well over 40C) skies.

View from San Gimignano

 

More of that.

 

Two of the eighteen (I think?) remaining towers. Apparently, there used to be over 70 of these in the town!

 

A tower up close(-ish)

San Gimignano is a truly breathtakingly beautiful town. I’m so glad we were recommended to go there otherwise we might have dismissed this tour altogether.

(For anybody who is interested, we booked our tour through Ciao Florence (click for link) who offered a slightly cheaper option for those who didn’t want the guided tour/cathedral entry in Siena – which was good for us because we didn’t!)

And so, on to Siena.

STOP THREE : SIENA

As I said before, we’d paid the lower tour cost so we had a little extra free time in Siena. Despite this, we only had about an hour and a half so I wouldn’t have liked to have paid for the full tour and had almost no free time because Siena too was awesomely beautiful!

Follow the pink flower! That’s our tour guide!

One of Siena’s main streets

 

Main square in Siena

We decided, on arrival in the main square after what had been a long-ish walk (30 mins or so) from the coach, to stop for a drink. Now, the guidebook had warned about the price of drinks in the square, but the view was so amazing that we didn’t resist it. We were on holiday after all.

So one pint of beer, one pint of coke and €12 later….

Anyways… back to the photos.

Bell Tower in the main square

The Duomo in Siena. Another stunning building

 

Just look at the size of those doors!

Beautiful ornate arches

 

It’s mind-blowing how they built this things!

 

Yep! Still beautiful!

The visibly staggered building heights on the walk back to the coach.

Cathedral from afar

The local area’s flags lined many of the main streets

Overall, this day tour was amazing. It was a long day, we didn’t get back to Florence station until  about 8pm, but it was incredible and I would recommend it to everyone!

You HAVE to go to Florence and you absolutely HAVE to do this tour.
There. That’s you told!

Next post: Our second “walk randomly” day in Florence.

 

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Oh, the irony of this post!

There’s one thing I’ve realised since our move to the Algarve.

Time is like money. However much you have of either, it is never enough!

T is for Time

One of the things that prompted our move to the Algarve was the idea of having more “time”.

Well, OK, not actually more time, there are only 24 hours in a day after all, but removing ourselves from the dull, grey humdrum of the UK has afforded us the opportunity to be more selective about how we spend that time.

Sure, we spent a lot of time before leaving the UK, setting the business up so we could manage it more effectively from our slightly-remote location, but it has definitely been time well spent.

Now, we are blessed with enough time to do more fun things… such as…

Entertaining friends and family when they visit.

Pursuing new outdoor hobbies such as archery…

… and go-karting. (expensive hobby – for occasional use only!)

Exploring new places (This is at the Barragem da Bravura) up high…

… and down low (Ponta da Piedade, Lagos)

Enjoy a sunrise…

…or a sunset.

To play at the beach…

…or the water park…

…or relax by a pool

To cook…

…or bake.

To eat out…

… or with friends.

To experience local traditions…

…or play tourist.

All in all, it’s not a bad life really

Eliot approves!

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Yay! I’m back on my A to Z, finally!

I had a whole load of choices to pick from, for my “S is for” post but, in the name of photo goodness, I’ve made my choice.

S is for Seasons

Meia Praia Beacj

Meia Praia Beach

One of the first things that people ask about, whenever we find ourselves talking to people about where we live, is, of course, the weather!

Everybody knows that Southern Europe knows how to “do” summer. Long hot sunny days during the summer are pretty much a guarantee. I won’t lie that it was definitely one of our reasons for moving!

What many people don’t know, however, is what kind of weather the Algarve gets during the other seasons.

Spring weather in the Algarve

Since being here, we’ve become aware that, during the Spring (particularly early Spring), when the UK has, in recent years, enjoyed it’s “summer” weather, we in the Algarve have actually been having worse weather than the UK! It can be cool and wet for days on end although often there will be periods of warm sunshine mixed in (for example, one day in early May 2012, it registered near 40C!)

Sunny Spring afternoon in Portimao - April 2012

Sunny Spring afternoon in Portimao – April 2012

Autumn weather in the Algarve

Autumn seems to be rather an unpredictable seasons. It seems perfectly capable of holding on to its summer heat one minute and the next minute it can rain for a full 24 hours straight!

Recent visitors of ours will agree that you take your chances the further through Autumn you decide to visit. After about mid-October, don’t bank on wall-to-wall sunshine for days on end. Factor in some “rainy days” too”

Some of the wildest weather comes in Autumn too. From the 2011 mini-hurricane that relieved Faro Airport of much of its roof (mentioned in this post), to the 2012 tornado that causes significant damage through the central Algarve (which I mentioned in this post) it’s easy to see that hot 30+C days come at a price!

Beach afternoon late October

Winter weather in the Algarve

Perhaps the most surprising season, here in the Algarve, is winter.

Mild days and cool nights are pretty much par for the course. If the sun shines (which it usually does!) temperatures can regularly reach the high teens and low 20s during the day but beware the cool breeze as it can certainly make you feel a good bit cooler in the shade (something the tourists seem not to bother about, as they pad about in their shorts and t-shirts!)

Overnight temperatures on the coast rarely drop below about 5C but, with houses having little in the way of heating (we just use our wood burning fire, not central heating) it can feel particularly chilly during the evenings and night-times. Slightly further inland or on higher ground, frost can develop but we have never seen it here on the coast, since moving here.

If you’re heading out in the daytime, just grab a few layers because, if the sun is in and out, you’ll be warm/cold/chilly/hot in possibly equal measures over the course of a day!

Portimao early November (note the removed jacket!)

Vilamoura early February

It is even biking weather in early December!

Summer weather in the Algarve

Of course, it goes without saying that summer in the Algarve is beautiful. But you didn’t need me to tell you that, right?

boys in pool

 

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It’s taken me a while to get chance to sit down and continue this A to Z. I’m starting to think that the entire alphabet is going to last more than a year. That’s something I never could have imagined at the start! Still, it’s a nice project to be getting on with and a bit of motivation to do more than just post photos on Facebook each time we do something fun!

Anyway, I’ve had my P topic for a while. Actually, I had several ideas for my P topic but lately which one to choose has become clearer.

P is for Priorities

In order to make our move to Portugal, we had to take a good look at our priorities.

Our life in England was comfortable. We had modest income (topped up with tax credits) to allow us to be self-employed and spend some time with our boys but we constantly felt restricted. There was little around us locally that inspired us, as a family and it’s no secret that we’d had itchy feet for a long time.

A move abroad, however, would come with huge sacrifices and definitely required us to look long and hard at our priorities.

In the UK, we could live comfortably in our own home and not have any real worries about money. We had our own 3 bed home with large garden in a pretty outlying village. We had a nice, smart, modern car. We could be in full control of our own business. We could visit family and friends whenever we felt like it. We would be in as much control of our lives as is possible to guarantee in this day and age.  Despite this, we weren’t settled.

In Portugal, there is always a concern that we won’t make ends meet. We work hard to ensure that our business makes enough money to cover our basic living expenses plus a little extra but, in order to do that, we have had to significantly change the way we work. We’ve had to sub-contract out various parts of our business and rely on others working with us. This is a scary position to be in, I can tell you.

We also now live in rental accommodation, something we’ve never done before. Our housing situation is also a little out of our hands as we are constantly aware that our landlady could decide to sell, if she so wanted (fortunately, she has other, empty properties she could sell first and that’d be difficult enough in a stagnant property market!) We had also had to take in tenants in our UK house and this puts another financial strain on our household. All well and good while the tenants are in but a huge burden should they decide to move on.

We own an old banger of a car. But not a cheap car. Oh no. There is no such thing as a cheap car here in Portugal. We now own the oldest car we’ve ever owned (it’s 15 years old) which cost us the most we’ve ever paid for a vehicle!

We’re now half a day or more from family and UK friends. The boys have lost contact with many of their school friends they grew up with and we’ve all had to find new friends in a foreign land.

Life here isn’t easy, by a long shot. It’s financially unstable and, at time, emotionally draining.

However, at the same time, it is beautiful and full of new opportunities.

Ponta de Piedade

Ponta de Piedade

Despite having less money, we are surrounded by things to do.

With the beach just a few minutes walk away, we can visit all year and enjoy the ever-changing scenery it presents us.

A trip to the beach in July

Meia Praia Beach in February!

The boys have both made new friends in school and Eliot, in particular, is happy to find friends where-ever he goes. He can be bossy in TWO languages now!

Boys playing with new friends at the Skate Park, Lagos

We have made some great friends ourselves and now get to spend quality time with them too, often enjoying outdoor visits, picnics, meals and new places together.

Our newly made good pals Dave and Aly (wave, guys!)

As well as making new friends, UK family and friends visit us here which is something that never happens in England!

My little sis on one of her (many!) visits

We get to learn about and share in a new Portuguese way of life, with it traditions and festivals.

Loulé Carnival 2012

And, as the Algarve typically has few weeks of bad weather per year, for 90+% of the year, all this happens in the sun, of course!

Sunrise on Meia Praia Beach

So, yes. We’ve made sacrifices with our move to Portugal.

We’ve sacrificed income, control, our own home, a nice car, ease of communication and having family on our doorstep.

In return, we have beautiful days, fabulous places, great friends and regular visitors.

A fair trade-off? I’d say so.

It’s all about priorities, innit?

It’s a hard life but someone’s gotta do it!

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Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity

 

Seneca – Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD

It’s been a while, I know. Life has been busy and my poor blog seems to always be bottom of the to-do pile!

However, with the possibility of it being a good long while before I’ll have chance to blog at all again, I thought I’d do my “O is for…” while I can!

I have had my “O is for…” topics for a while but I did nearly abandon them altogether. I may or maynot explain why but, for now, I’m sticking with them…

O is for Opportunities and Optimism

It’s a tough life…

Two things that Nik and I have both heard a LOT since we moved to Portugal 2 years ago are “You’re very brave” and “You’re very lucky to live there”.

To be quite honest, I think neither luck nor bravery played much of a part in our decision to move to Portugal or the fact that  we are still here 2 years on.

The whole process was a lot less about being lucky or being brave and a lot more about seizing the opportunity to do something a lot of people either can’t, won’t or just don’t do.

I suppose I could agree that we are fortunate to have such opportunities. Our work means that we have been able to move away from the UK and still continue to run our businesses, certainly, but it has come only with a lot of planning, preparation, research and, to a certain degree, cost. Financial cost. A big financial cost, in fact, but one that, for us, is absolutely worth it 100 times over. Fortunate? Maybe. Lucky? Nah.

I don’t think we were particularly brave either. Again, research and planning coupled with a hefty dose of optimism I think is more accurate.

There have been many places along our journey where, even with the best planning in the world, we could have failed (for want of a better word) but, so far, so good. We have tenants in our UK home, paying rent to cover our mortgage. We have a successful business, providing us with a modest income, just enough to live on here in Portugal. We have a good business relationship with our suppliers and a fantastic business who handles our dispatch in the UK. Our children have settled in, made friends and done well in Portuguese schools. Our rental property is perfect in every way etc etc.

Optimism is still key though. We have to be optimistic that our delicate web of work, life and other things will stay in balance and continue to aid our life here in Portugal.

It’s pretty accurate to say that if even one of those threads in our web gave way, it could be life-changing but, then again, isn’t that true of everyone’s life? Where-ever they are?

For example, my sister was recently made redundant from her long-term job as a family lawyer. Her life has changed completely now. We recently lost my father-in-law to a fairly short-term illness. That has changed a lot of lives. My sister-in-law broke up with her Portuguese husband and moved back to the UK with their now-4-year-old son. Again, lives changed.

There’s certainly nothing unique about our delicate house of cards. It’s just where we have chosen to enjoy those cards that differs from others’, I suppose.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to wake up to perfect blue skies nearly every day of the year? Who wouldn’t want to be able to make spur of the moment trips to the beach after school? Who wouldn’t want to live somewhere that people enjoy visiting (and, indeed, many people pay thousands of pounds to visit!)?

Are we lucky to have such opportunities? Or did we just seize the day?

Are we brave to move our young family from the UK and into a Portuguese lifestyle? Or are we just optimistic that our life will find its own balance as long as we keep working at it?

I’ll let you make your own minds up

 

 

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For Jake’s 8th and 9th (I think) birthdays, I took him down to London for a weekend. We stayed with my sister, Wendy, and did the tourist thing.

Eliot, only being 5/6, stayed home, reluctantly, and has been complaining about this a lot lately!

Last year, we did a family trip back to England for his birthday but this year I decided to take him, on his own, to London itself and do the tourist thing like I did with Jake. As the schools finished for summer 5 weeks earlier here in Portugal, this meant we could do a slightly longer trip (5 days) and while the flights were still (relatively) affordable. We still paid a fair bit for them (as is the way when you have to buy for 2 in July) but it was certainly cheaper than flying now!

The trip was booked wayyyyy back in October 2011 so Eliot has had a long time to count down and plan what he wanted to do.

One place he knew he wanted to do was M&Ms World. Wendy and I had done it when I visited for her birthday in October (we’re THAT grown up!) and Eliot thought it looked good. He also wanted to do Hamleys Toy Shop and see Big Ben. All fine by us as, apart from the cost of my Oyster travel card, it was all free! In fact, the only 2 activities we paid for were the IMAX cinema and London Zoo (which we had 2 for 1 tickets for anyway)

Wendy and I had also cashed in a load of Tesco Clubcard vouchers for restaurant vouchers. £10 of Tesco vouchers gets £40 of restaurant vouchers so we ended up with 3 different restaurants with £40 or £50 vouchers each. That’s 3 main meals sorted!

Weather forecast was, as is always the way in the UK, poor. Much of the UK was flooding and we weren’t confident about what exactly we would get to do. However, our first full day in London turned out to be great weather and we spent the whole day at London Zoo, in the sunshine!

Eliot pretty much led the way and we followed!

First, the tropical fish

then the reptile house

The monkeys were climbing about

Even the rare breeds!

All kinds of rare breeds!

OK, so this is in the kids adventure area really (not a real monkey)

Even Eliot’s charms couldn’t persuade Aunty Wendy into the butterfly house

Just couldn’t get a take-off or landing shot!

I managed to get this one in flight though!

The Giraffes are compulsive viewing, of course

Pretty Giraffes!

We had a great day in all. Eliot spent some birthday money and we spent a leisurely day in the sun.

On the way back from the zoo, we took a walk through Regents Park, enjoying the sun a bit more (had to enjoy it while we could because we had no idea quite how long it would actually last!)

Sun through the trees

A far cry from the torrential rain and flooding that most of the UK was having!

I have to make a confession. All these photos were taken on our 3D camera (which also takes a 2D/normal shot at the same time) and many of my photos were taken for 3D effect!
It does water VERY well!

 

I suspect these displays were done for the recent jubilee celebrations

They did look very pretty though

It was a long day overall. We left Wendy’s about 9.30am and arrived home, via Pizza Express (free food!) at about 7.

Then, on Friday, we did it all again! We had tickets to see The Amazing Spiderman in 3D at the IMAX. Eliot, being a big Spiderman fan, was very excited about this.

Tickets were booked for midday so we left Wendy’s at about 9.30am again and headed into the city. Passed a bit of time wandering about on the river front. We eyeballed Big Ben and the London Eye for Eliot and passed a few minutes in the huge 4 storey arcade. Well, we wandered around for a bit but managed to get away with only spending money on one simulator ride! (or we’d have been there ALL day and left VERY broke!)

Scared???

There were 8 different simulations to choose from. Eliot chose the roller coaster

I watched from outside, of course!

Soon enough, it was time to head to the IMAX again.

Armed with popcorn and drinks

 

It’s hard to get an idea of size! In a word, it’s HUGE!

After Spiderman, it was Hamleys and M&Ms World time!

In fact, we did Hamleys, then ate (more free food! This time at Cafe Rouge) then M&Ms World.

Lego Royal Wedding Display at Hamleys London

After we’d eaten, Eliot was in a rather….. “off” mood. It was about 4pm and he’d had 2 long days already with lots of travel and walking about. Next stop was M&Ms World and we did actually think pretty  hard about skipping it but, as it’d been one of the main things Eliot had been looking forwards to, we decided to force it somewhat and, once we were in there, all grumpiness was forgotten and he was like…well… a kid in a candy store!

It’s all pretty and colours!

Abbey Road Ms!

It was certainly much, much busier than it’d been when Wendy and I had visited on a weekday in October but it wasn’t so bad that it was unbearable.

Lots of pretty things!!

 

Eliot blends in

 

Which colours will you choose?

We didn’t leave without filling a bag, of course. They had a special offer on where, if you bought 500g from the mix, you got a second 500g bag (pre-done) for £1. This meant that a kilo cost us £11 which is not a bad rate really! It’s a LOT of M&Ms though!

Yummy!! 500g chocolate 500g peanut!

So, after walking and spending, we headed home, including another of Eliot’s “London Trip Requests”

Riding on the top deck of a London Bus!

After a long bath to wind down, he slept well!

Saturday was our “rest” day. Sort of! We didn’t have plans until mid afternoon so spent the morning just chilling out, watching TV (eating M&Ms!) and playing games. Saturday afternoon saw us heading into Brixton Village Recreation centre and the climbing wall! It’s something that had been recommended to us and something Eliot was VERY excited about doing

No comment

 

Wendy and her friend Angie were certainly less than enthusiastic!

Eliot, however, loved it!

 

He was up and down like a little monkey

Going up….

Of course, he reached the top! (which, as we were informed by the instructor, is 40ft up)

Way to go Eliot! He had a few moments when he couldn’t find places for his feet and wanted to come down but, with encouragement, he was up with confidence! Certainly he wasn’t bothered by the height!

When he finished, he was pretty worn out. An hour climbing took a lot of effort so we treated him to a McDonalds milkshake (something you can’t get in McDs in Portugal!) and came home to chill for dinner.

Sunday was another busy day! We had plans to do The Imperial War Museum, Free food (courtesy of Tesco and Strada), the Science Museum and the National History museum. The latter turned out to be a bit optimistic as we didn’t leave the Science Museum until closing time!

So, Sunday (our last day) and another 9am start!

Posing in one of the few exhibits you COULD go inside

We were a bit disappointed at the war museum because there used to be a room of exhibits specifically for kids to play on and in. This wasn’t there now so there wasn’t as much to hold Eliot’s attention (not easy at the best of times!) as we’d hoped and expected.

He did like the big guns, of course!

More gunning

There were a few feature “experiences”. The Trench was a walk-through where you could experience what it was like to actually be IN a trench, with everything recreated from medics to lookouts and going “over the top”

The Trench

Our route from Imperial War Museum to the Science Museum took us (via Strada!) to Westminster tube station so, we took a bit of time to wander along the river and across to Big Ben “up close”

One of many costumed folk along the river

Lamps on Westminster Bridge (note the blue sky which was rather more elusive on that day)

 

Looks a lot greyer than I remember!

From Westminster Bridge, looking back towards the Eye

So, back to the tube it was and off to the Science Museum we went. Being Saturday, it was busy, of course. Not heaving busy but bustling. That’s no bad thing for Eliot though because it meant that he had plenty of other children to interact with in the kids areas! Where he needed to, he waited patiently for his turns.

See, it looks empty here!

I know he looks like he’s waiting but actually he’s just watching!

Eliot practises for his space walk repairs!

 

He’s behind you!!!

Another very long day. I think we got home about 8pm (maybe even later!) in the end!

Monday was our going home day but, overall, we’d had a great trip! Eliot did everything he’d wanted to do and we’d managed not to spend much more money! Result!

We got home about 9pm Monday evening (much to the relief of both Nik and Jake who had been living off pizzas and chips!) and started preparing for Eliot’s birthday on Wednesday.

Tuesday saw me out and about collected presents, party bits and balloons as well as making a birthday cake for him.

9 years!! Where does it go!?

Of course, no birthday would be complete without a trip to the skate park and beach to try out the new presents!

Trying out the new board

Except, for the wave surfer, you kinda need waves! (he’s been since and used it, of course)

So, that’s us caught up pretty much.

This week, Eliot has started at Click Kids Club so he’s back to playing with friends, at the beach and in pools. It’s a tough life, eh!?

 

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