Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wrap-up of Belgium and England

Yes, we finally made it.  With 8 check-in bags, 8 carry-ons and 3 small children.  Believe me - no small feat!
As if moving to Spain were not enough, we first embarked on a family "vacation" to help ease us in to the time zones and European way of life. We initially flew to Brussells, where Esther Choi picked all of us up and took us to her family's summer home on the Belgian coast.   Esther is an old friend from Amgen long ago, who's been living with her family in Brussels for about 8 years now.  We spent 4 days at the seaside town of Knocke with her and Francois, Naomi, and Ashley (who we discovered was born the day before Kellen!).  We slept in, ate fabulously, rented very cool bikes by the seaside, flew kites, played minigolf, and even walked right by the Princess of Belgium.  The kids (especially princess crazy Casey) were very impressed - our first real Princess!!!  I can't think of a better way to adjust to a different time-zone than to relax and spend time with a great old friend.  Esther and family are doing great and we're hoping they'll come visit us in Javea this year.
Next, we were off to England to visit with Anne Heatherington, Steve Martin and the kids Hannah, James, and Sophia.  Also old friends from Amgen who've been back in the UK now for about 4 years.  We had a bit of a hickup trying to get to London from Brussels though.  We got caught in a baggage handler's strike and were stuck in Brussels for a couple of days.  It wasn't so bad... we were at an airport hotel with a pool and internet, and eventually opted to get all of our luggage, rent a car, drive to Calais, take the ferry to Dover, where Anne and Family picked us up and took us to there home outside of Canterbury.  Won't go into more details than that... but hmmm... was NOT easy!!!  Its that 3kids and luggage thing!
But - on to Canterbury.   We had a fabulous time.  The kids, all having known each other by being the same ages and in many of the same camp amgen classes, had a great time playing together.  Of course, it doesn't hurt to have slumber parties and a house full of toys and a trampoline!!!   We did lots of fun stuff in Canterbury, like went through a tour w/ sets from the Canterbury Tales that you listen to the tales as you go through.  Casey and Steve cut out early because it was dark and Casey got a bit scared... but the boys and I went through it.  It was all a bit saucy!  Had to explain a few things tactfully to the boys...   We took a boat ride, played in the park that had a maze, and the kids competed in all sorts of contests: hopping, crabwalk, etc.  Had a great time.  I however, was a bit sad that we had no room in our luggage for me to go shopping!!!  The shops looked great!  
We also spent a day going into London.  We first went and saw the Meridian Line, which was quite cool, and then took a ferry to the Tower Bridge.  At the Tower, we saw all kinds of things.  Its great that the kids are learning some history... but it took us a little while to figure out how exactly to explain the guillotines, the many executions that took place there, and of course, King Henry XIII.  Can't really see/experience history in Europe w/out all these things!  The kids found it all fascinating, but as Kellen said... "King Henry XIII was not the nicest king".  It was all great.  Great friends, great fun, great place.  We're really lucky to have friends in a few places in Europe as they greatly eased us in!
Going to sign off now and Steve will give the updates from here on out.

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