Another family vacation has come and gone. You know what that means – a long post! I should preface the whole story by saying that this time, to keep things interesting, Bob was terrific and I was an emotional mess. In my defense (and yes, I know you don’t want to know), since my “monthly” cycle has returned after Elijah’s birth, it’s been a bi-weekly cycle. My hormones are wearing me out! So now you can read that in between all the lines here, and I can know why no one else wants to come visit us. :-D
Friday Bob had off work, making this a 3 day weekend. And as our time grows short I want to use those weekends to “go do something.” This trip’s destination: Lincoln. I did a little preliminary research on Tuesday or Wednesday, but it wasn’t until Thursday morning that I made the hotel booking. I’d found a Best Western and an Ibis that were both 50GBP per night. The Ibis was closer to town, but the BW said if you have more than 2 children you can get a second family room for half price if you call. I knew BW charged extra for breakfast, so I went to see if Ibis did, in order to make the best price choice. The website mentioned breakfast but never said if it was included. The only way to find out was to make a booking enquiry, but when I did, one option came up to prepay for the rooms and get a Spring Special of 25GBP per night. Yeah, buddy; half price! So I went ahead and booked it. We got 2 rooms for 2 nights, no breakfast (as it was 7GBP for adults and 3.50 for children).
That done, I went up to the commissary for a picnic lunch and breakfasts and snacks and water. And then we got busy cleaning the house and packing the suitcases. Did you know that if you are packing for a two day trip, and have ONE load of laundry that isn’t done, it will be the one load that you need in order to finish packing? And did you further know that the later in the day it is, the longer it takes for the dryer to get said laundry dry? Long story longer, we didn’t get all the clothes in until Friday morning. So much for my plan of getting everything ready the night before so I could rest well and wake up ready to go. This small glitch might not seem like a big deal to you, but remember my hormonal deficiencies… And according to a Facebook quiz, I have many Autistic qualities, one of which is needing to know exactly what to expect. But hey, Bob wanted to watch a show before he went to bed, and of course relationship is more important than plans. Also, Bob came home with a giant television that he got for free from a guy at work because it came as a package with a free cedar-lined blanket box. Oh, yeah! So we had to stop things to unload that and re-arrange furniture. Important or not, I couldn’t relax to sleep, so got about 5 hours.
Friday morning we finished laundry and packing, massaged to lessen headaches, and eventually were on our way (about 9:30). I’d seen a lovely picture (in an old Realm magazine; thanks Mom and Dad) of Springfields gardens in Spalding, and thought this would be a good time of year to visit, so we took the long winding route to Lincoln. We almost decided to stop at Caithness Crystal in King’s Lynn, as they have glass-blowing demonstrations Monday – Friday, but it was such a beautiful day outside we couldn’t bring ourselves to do any inside things. So we arrived at Springfields gardens and outlet mall about lunch time. First stop, toilets, which were well-hidden, and then a walk through the daffodil-filled woods til we came upon a lovely picnic spot. A loaf of bread and a bag of chips later, and we got down to exploring the gardens in earnest. They are bigger than we thought at first, and very lovely. We greatly enjoyed being out without coats on. We left there about 2, and headed into Lincoln. I got confused about the exact location of our hotel, so we got to take a few U-turns in some horrendous traffic, but by great cunning and without the benefit of any real map, we eventually found the place. We also located a McDonald’s that we decided to visit for dinner. So I checked us into the hotel, no problems there, and we carried our stuff up and rested for an hour before heading back out for dinner. By then the traffic was better, too. We were surprised by the lack of immense crowds at the McD’s, and chose to eat outside since it was so lovely. While Bob was washing the boys after dinner, I turned around to speak to Taryn and heard a thunk, cry. Ella had fallen out of her seat, hitting her face on the table and landing on her back on the ground. After that we went into town to scope things out while it was deserted, and maybe get some pictures in the evening light. The first thing I discovered was that the map of downtown I’d printed (from the town council website, no less) was highly inaccurate. But thanks to signs and one way streets and a good visual of the cathedral on top of the hill, we found our way up to the tourism center and got parked right in front of the castle. Everything was closed (as we knew it would be), but we wandered around for awhile, checking out the sights. Just in the shadow of the cathedral is the foundation of a church built in 600 something. The children played tag while I nursed Elijah. Ella fell down and scraped her elbow, and we called it a night.
At the hotel Elijah and I took one room with the girls, and Bob and the other 3 boys took the other room. I actually slept on the sofa bed, and it was not bad at all. Well, once I took the duvet cover off and used it as a sheet. ;-) Elijah woke up twice, but ate and went right back to sleep. I was up at 5:30, took a shower, and started cleaning up. The girls soon got up and dressed, and we were ready for breakfast when I went over to check on the boys – Bob was still asleep. But then he got up and they were ready to leave before we were, because of a misunderstanding about breakfast. After eating our poptarts and UHT chocolate milk we were out of there. It was another lovely sunny day; no need for coats even at 8am. We went back down town, and even got parked in the exact same spot as before. Daytime parking is 6 GBP for “over 4 hours.” So we fed the machine all our 5p and 10p coins, eventually getting up to 5, and then we popped in a 1pound coin to top it off at 6, but it went crash and all the money came back out so we could start over. When Bob fished out the coins he missed a 5p, so the second time we only got up to 5.95 and without looking at the running total he pushed the button, and we got a parking ticket for “up to 4 hours” – no change given. Um, yeah. So we went to unload everyone from the bus, and put on sunscreen as it was so sunny. But it was 9am and the castle didn’t open until 10, so we went first to the cathedral and spent the next two hours indoors. (Get it? Sunscreen on, next two hours inside?)
The stained glass was very nice, and the architecture itself, but we found the church to be quite plain. The floor was just paving stones – no graves, no patterned tile – no chairs out except in the choir. We still had fun exploring, and they didn’t mind us taking pictures. There was a café there, but at 4GBP for a cold, pre-made sandwich, we decided to look elsewhere. So we finished up in the cathedral and went looking for food. As we exited, there was a group of Morris Dancers performing. Pretty cool.
A pub right between the castle and cathedral, named The Magna Carta, had a sign out saying children were welcome and food was served all day every day, so we went in. It was built on a hill (the whole area is), so was quite the split-level. Down stairs was empty, so we took two tables and studied the menu. Bob got an appetizer sampler, I got grilled chicken with bacon, cheese, and BBQ sauce, with peas and ‘chips.’ The children’s menu promised a choice of several fresh veges, but they only actually had beans and peas. After a good wait, during which Elijah messed through his diaper and his clothes, we got our food. First, I cut up Ella’s ham and egg, and was impressed with her egg being so tender yet fully cooked. Then I got to my own food, and the chicken was just perfect! The fries were also very good, crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. As we ate, we saw people on the street with some scrummy-looking pastries, but we were too full to pursue it after lunch.
After lunch we went to the castle. Oh, I asked Bob to pay for more parking – he bought one hour’s worth. We walked through the gate, and were met with a beautiful park. The main courtyard is huge and flat, and the walls are built on top of a (man made) hill. The slopes were landscaped, and bunches of daffodils graced the lawn. Bob sat while the children played tag and climbed trees and made friends, and I checked out the shop. When I came out Elijah had just fallen asleep in the stroller, but everyone came rushing over to see me and woke him back up. He pretty much cried the rest of the afternoon, and wouldn’t go to sleep no matter what, and that put a bit of a damper on my experience. But the children played a while, Bob and I took pictures, we watched a longbow demonstration, and Bob took the big ones around the top of the walls (as far as they could) while I pushed the stroller around the bottom. Then Bob rested with the stroller while I took the children inside the prison building – it was here that the “drop” method of hanging was introduced, so that criminals’ necks would break instead of having to hang there and suffocate. Well, we were pretty much done, so exited through the shop and bought 2 books and a jar of mint humbugs.
It was about 4pm, and we were starting to think about those pastries, so we headed in the direction we’d seen the people coming from. Didn’t see a bakery, but did see an ice cream shop with a queue out into the street. Sounded good; I got in queue. Along came a couple who stood behind me for a second and then just stepped around me. Whatever, dude; if it’s *that* important… Being fortified with ice cream, we decided to walk down the hill and check out the shopping areas of town. Except Bob didn’t realize it was just down the hill, and loaded everyone up in the bus. It was only after I’d fed Elijah and stopped crying that he felt safe to ask me about it, and then we clarified and got back out of the bus and walked down the hill. This time we left the stroller, and took Elijah in the carrier. He actually seemed to enjoy this; didn’t fall asleep, but didn’t fuss. We made it to one bookstore before closing – I bought a Ballentine. We took pictures in front of the Jew’s House (which I thought was a museum, but is now a café), and High Bridge (if you are going down High Street it just looks like a bump in the road, but if you turn down the creek you can see it’s a low bridge). These are the oldest inhabited house and the oldest bridge with buildings on it, respectively. (Or near enough to oldest to be in the guidebooks, anyway.) Then we got to walk back up the hill, which is aptly named “Steep.” We stopped once on the way up at a stone bench, and William fell off of it and landed on his nose. It didn’t bleed at first, but did a little later. At another rest stop William was seen with his hand in his diaper, apparently making adjustments. Just before we got to the top, he noticed his pants (and socks, and shoes) were wet. Yeah, keep it pointed DOWN! So we went into the public toilets at our car park, and he rode back to the hotel in (only) a clean diaper. I went in and grabbed him a clean pair of pants and socks, and we decided what to do about supper. We walked to the hotel next door – the Pride of Lincoln - and ate at their restaurant. The food was a long time in coming, but it turned out cheaper than lunch, and very good. The hostess was also very friendly and came to visit with us a couple of times. Bob had gammon steak (ham), and I had chicken tikka masala. As we waited, we noticed the dessert menu. They had a sharing dessert, for 5.50, with cream puffs, éclairs, Viennese wafers, rocky road brownies, ice cream, and chocolate dipping sauce. Bob and I got that, and as the barman said it wasn’t very filling we also got the children a couple of desserts to share. (It would have been enough.) Waiting for the dessert, we almost thought we shouldn’t have, but when it arrived we perked back up and were glad. Either way, it was 9pm when we got back to our rooms, and we went straight to bed. Elijah slept all night that time.
Sunday morning we decided to have breakfast out, as no one really liked the UHT milk at room temp, so when I got up at 6 I started packing up. By 7 I was showered and dressed, the girls were dressed, all the clothes were packed, etc, and I went next door where Bob was still sound asleep. With my help, they were ready by 7:30. We read Bible, Bob had a coffee, and we loaded up and checked out.
I must say, The Ibis Lincoln was pretty nice, especially for the price. The beds were comfy, it was very clean, staff was professional, and they had a 24/7 reception, including “bar snacks” (pub grub). The windows opened, there was an elevator/lift, and the shower had good pressure and instant hot water. We had rooms next to each other, even though we’d only reserved the night before, and the sofa beds were made up for us on arrival. It was a little noisy, and a few things were broken (one room had no safety chain lock, only a deadbolt), but in all I recommend it.
Anyway, we went back to McDonald’s for breakfast (it was on a roundabout on the main road; easy to get to). It wasn’t very busy, so we let the children bounce around while we got online for a minute and checked our route home. We decided to stop at a watermill in Sleaford, and maybe an 8-sail windmill in the next town. Well, we got to Sleaford long before the mill opened at 12, so even after we made two loops through town chasing signs for “long term” parking, and ended up in front of the church, which actually was “short term” parking, but it didn’t matter because it’s free on Sunday anyway, we still had plenty of time to walk around and make our way along the river path down to the mill. We didn’t use the stroller again, putting Elijah in the pouch and letting William walk. Even though town looked interesting we walked right on out to the mill, arriving about 11. We watched the ducks and the waterfall, and walked half-way back on the other side of the creek, where we stopped at a bench and the children climbed a tree. Which would have been nicer if the weather hadn’t turned cold and cloudy. Eventually we noticed the mill door was open, so we went back to it and had an explore. The caretaker was a friendly, chatty fellow, and he explained everything to us and gave the children Cadbury Crème eggs. The mill only runs a few days each year, and today wasn’t one of them. I bought some organic whole wheat flour – very fine – and a heart key ring made from a local church pew. Bob bought a mug. Then we took the shortcut walk through town back to the bus, where we went past 3 or 4 car parks. I wonder why none of the signs pointed to them. (It couldn’t be our fault!)
Back out of town to the main road where we had lunch at McDonald’s. Don’t hate us; it’s cheap, plus Monopoly is on and we’d won 2 sundaes and a Flurry. We were pretty tired from the walk, so when we saw the sign for the windmill just a few minutes later we let it pass. We made it back home just as the gas light came on. Phew. Gas on base is 0.82USD per liter; off base it’s 1.18GBP (about 1.80USD), and whatever that equals in $ per gallon, it’s easy to see it’s cheaper on base than in town.
Bob and I crashed hard for a while, while the children played outside and with Wii, and then we went on base for gas, dinner, and a portable hard drive. Yes, my old 80Gig drive that Bob appropriated last year finally went fiddly. So Bob got himself a terabyte. It seems he needs it for work, even though I don’t use one for backup anymore.
I’m sure that covers the highlights, and at page 5 on Word, it’s probably enough anyway. Congratulations if you made it all the way through.