Let me dig way back in my memory vaults and see if I can find Friday. Friday was a family/goal day, which paired with Monday (Martin Luther King, Jr Day) made a four day weekend. There are some good things about being in the military. Knowing our time here is drawing short, I couldn't let an opportunity like this slip away, in spite of short, dark days and snow on the ground. I tried to get a "TLF" (Temporary Living Facility - fancy name for a furnished apartment) at RAF Croughton, but they weren't answering the phone. Finally, in desperation, I called RAF Fairford. They answered on the first ring, and happily booked me. However, when he asked if we had 1 or 2 children, and I said we had 7, he said we'd need another room. ?? Turns out their TLF is just a hotel suite, with one bed and one sofa bed. SO we got one of those AND a regular room across the hall. Whatever; it's vacation and I'm not going to worry about a silly little thing like $40 per night. (gulp) When we got there we discovered the bedroom portion of the TLF room was huge, and could easily have accommodated children who like to sleep on the floor. But we didn't know that until later.
Friday morning we got the bus packed and headed out. All we took was 2 suitcases, an "A" bag (giant military-issue green bag that would hold a roast pig), an igloo, two bags of food, the diaper bag, camera bag, briefcase, garbage bag with our pillows and Taryn's birthday present, and a tub of sweaters and hats and gloves. :-D Somehow we forgot the box of toiletries, but we didn't notice that until later.
We took the long way around, to avoid as much of the M25 (London ring road) as possible, but still ad to drive on it a while. The further south and west we went, the more snow was on the ground. The roads, however, were clear of snow, and traffic was light until we got on the M25. First stop, Windsor. They have a mini park and ride just across the river from the castle, and we got in there and even found a parking spot, but then realized we had no change for the parking meter. Being on the outside of town, there was nowhere to get change. SO we drove on into town and found a parking lot close to the castle area, but they wouldn't make change, and it was something crazy like 8GBP. So we moved across the street to a lot that would make change, and only charged 6GBP. (Yikes!) So we bought our 3 hours, then decided to have sandwiches for lunch in the van. And THEN we went up to Windsor Castle. On the street opposite the castle was a McDonald's and a Pizza Hut.
We knew beforehand (Thanks, internet) that the "state rooms" were closed, but they were kind enough to reduce the prices, so we figured we would go ahead. Bought the tickets, then had to go through airport-like security, scanners and all, before we were allowed to go in. Of course the first thing to do was use the toilets. Then we walked around the castle, checking out the "doll house" and the picture gallery before heading to the shop and the chapel. I wanted to buy something at the shop, but everything seemed way overpriced. We did get a tower-shaped pencil sharpener. Hopefully it is big enough that it won't be so easily lost. Oh, and I got myself a pearl bracelet. :-D
We limped down the hill back to the car, only 15 minutes after our ticket expired, and grateful that there was only the one flight of stairs in the castle. And we were on our merry way. Google maps had taken us through a rather squiggly back road to the base, and we would have been there before dark, except for the heavy fog. ahem. Anyway, at the exit that Google suggested, there was a sign saying RAF Fairford should use the next exit instead. SO we followed the sign. It was a slightly less squiggly back road, with light controlled corners so cars wouldn't run into each other (it was only slightly wider than 1 lane). We saw where the Google road would have come out, so we were back on track anyway, and kept following the signs. We came up to the base fence, and the road ran along it for awhile, and then veered away. No fear, follow the signs. Except at the next 2 critical junctions, there were no signs. As we sped through a village, something caught my eye and I turned back, and there was a sign from the other direction, to turn. But we were well past it, and I wasn't confident that it was an RAF sign. SO we went on into Fairford town, where there were no signs again. Through town twice, out the other side... Found a place to turn around, intending to ask for directions in town, but on the way back in there was a sign to turn for RAF Fairford. Once again, only visible form the direction we weren't going (verified in daylight, this turn really only had the sign from the one side). Oh well, we were on our way again. It wasn't long before we found the gate, and it happened to be the right one (more about that later).
The gate guard came to check our IDs, and Bob asked for directions to billeting. The man replied, to the best of my knowledge, "Whan ya coom to the stoop sayn, tarn royt. Goo as fair as ya keyn, and tarn laift..." It took us a minute to figure out what he meant, but it was easy enough to find billeting (the hotel). I checked us in, having to ask for directions to the room (she wasn't going to tell me), and then thought about food, so asked about that, too. She thought the bowling alley was open til 6 (it was 5:30). SO I asked for a base map, and went back out to the bus. We decided to get to the bowling alley first, and then unpack. We located it on the map - just across the road, really, and headed over. After helping everyone over the snow bank that lined the sidewalk, we were in! Turns out they were open late that day anyway, for league night. Got all the children cheeseburgers. Can't even remember what I had. The people there were very friendly, and I thought the fries were very good (Taryn didn't like them, but thought the gross burgers were good).
We then took a little drive around to check out the base, but when we followed the map we got nowhere, so to avoid frustration went back to our room. Upon further study, we discovered that the rest of the base was actually across the public road. aha! Now we discovered our rooms, in spite of the doors being labeled with numbers other than the room numbers, and they were large and clean. The kitchenettes are a joke, but there was a full-size fridge in the living room, and though clean, the room is a bit run down (doors sticking and things like that). We unpacked, noticed that they have WiFi (yea!!), watched Flying House on Youtube, and went to bed. A few hours later we actually went to sleep. Boys!
oy, I'm stiff. Maybe I'll do Saturday later.