London Heathrow

Arriving in Copenhagen

Copenhagen Airport greeted us Sunday evening, as the sun was setting. It was a light and airy welcome, with barely a wait to clear customs and collect our baggage – just what we needed in our still jet-lagged state; after flying from LA, USA to London, UK, the day before! Our flight from Terminal 5, London Heathrow, was smooth and pleasant. British Airways were excellent to fly with; perhaps it was because we were obviously jet-lagged (we looked that bad!) that they handled us with extra care – giving us priority to the front of the line when boarding. All three children nodded in and out of sleep on the flight, which was just over an hour and a half long.

After landing in Copenhagen a friendly taxi driver took us to Vaernedamsvej, affectionately known as ‘Little Paris’, where we had an apartment organised for our 12 night stay. It was dark when we arrived. We walked into a courtyard, set back from the street,  following the instructions the land-lady had given us to find the key and access the apartment. The apartment was on the first floor – and we were grateful to have only one flight of stairs to walk up.

We didn’t sleep much that first night and were awake at 5am checking out ‘Yelp‘ to find out which cafe opened the earliest in our neighbourhood. Thankfully, the exceptional ‘Granola‘, which we could see from our apartment, opened at 7am and we were practically waiting at the door when they opened.

After breakfast we visited a local supermarket to stock up on essentials. It was ‘rush hour’, but you wouldn’t have known it. There were hardly any cars on the roads – just plenty of bikes. The scene was calm and serene. People smiled as they biked to work, most without helmets – as the dedicated and large bike paths made their travel so safe.

A street in Copenhagen in the morning

The man of the house then bid us ‘Farvel’ (Goodbye in Danish) and headed off to the office, whilst the girls and I walked back to the apartment.

We spent the afternoon sleeping. The man of the house returned from work at 6pm and joined us. We all woke at 8pm, with our body clocks utterly screwed!!

We ventured out of the house that evening for a meal – but the children really weren’t up to much exploring. Nevertheless the fresh air helped us and we were all asleep again – by 2am!

The next morning started incredibly early – 5am for two out of three children! Feeling seriously jet-lagged we got through the day, with only Miss 4 having an afternoon nap. Miss 11 and 8 managed to last the day, falling asleep in the evening and sleeping all night…

Finally, after four nights in Europe, the jet lag is over and we are ready to properly explore Copenhagen!

24 hours in England

We touched down at London Heathrow early afternoon on Saturday. Our flight from Los Angeles went smoothly enough – after a delay boarding the plane due to a fatality on the incoming plane from New Zealand. Thankfully, we had access to the Air New Zealand lounge, which was so much more pleasant and peaceful than the alternative. It was a lovely touch of ‘home ‘ for our three New Zealand born daughters. They walked in to a greeting of ‘Kia Ora’ and a big cuddly Kiwi bird. New Zealand wine and beer was available, cheese from the homeland, carrot cake and pictures of red Pohutakawa trees bordering a pristine New Zealand beach.

We enjoyed grazing on snacks, chatting to the cabin crew, watching the World Cup football and the airplanes coming and going.

The cabin crew on the Air New Zealand flight to London Heathrow were so friendly and welcoming; a blend of nationalities from Welsh to Spanish. We settled in for the ten hour flight, with a great assortment of inflight entertainment. The children were all impeccably well behaved on the flight. They didn’t sleep much (probably three hours at tops!), but were quietly happy with the movies and games. The man of the house was delighted to enjoy a ‘Speights’, so he was ‘good as gold… mate’!

When we landed in London, early afternoon, it was morning in Santa Barbara, California. They’d been on the go for 24 hours and were extremely sleep deprived, but still held themselves together for the nearly one mile walk from the airplane to customs!

It was incredibly humid in the airport. By the time with reached the lines of people at customs we were all dripping with perspiration. After a relatively short wait, of around twenty minutes it was our turn to hand over our passports for inspection. Unfortunately our middle daughter was feeling very queasy at this point and shortly after declaring, ‘I feel like I’m going to vomit’, she spewed on the floor at the customs desk. My heart went out to her, whilst my stomach churned. It was all too much for our eldest daughter, who withdrew as far back as possible. Our youngest was sweetly comforting and sympathetic. The staff at customs were so good, offering up water, a cloth for our daughter and a bag for anything else to follow. Poor love.

Half an hour or so later, we finally emerged with our bags at arrivals to be greeted by my dear parents.

Whilst Dan headed off with our eldest daughter to pick up a hire car, I headed off with our two youngest in Grandma & Granddad’s car to their home in Hampshire. We skipped an awful traffic jam on the M25, by driving via Windsor – pointing out the castle on the way.

We spent the rest of Saturday resting. The man of the house enjoyed watching some more World Cup football, having a couple of pints in an English pub with his father-in-law and picking up a primo English curry (the Gulshan in Fleet is such a good’un!).

Our youngest daughter was the liveliest. She was so excited to be at her Grandparents house.

The next day, Sunday, started incredibly early. Miss 4 and Miss 8 awoke before 5am. By 7am Miss 4 was ready for some exercise out and about (she’d already circled the garden, said ‘Good morning’ to the wood pigeons, and eaten a pancake). I headed out to the local swimming pool with Miss 4 and Granddad  – at 7am! We had a really fun time and returned back to the house. Miss 4 was still bursting with energy. Meanwhile Miss 11 awoke and headed up to the local town centre with her Daddy and Grandparents for a full cooked English breakfast, before walking up to the local Calthorpe Park to check out the annual carnival festivities with young Miss 4 in tow.

They all returned about midday, with Miss 4 asleep in the buggy. I’d stopped at the house to keep Miss 8 company – still in recovery mode from the being sick on arrival at Heathrow.

We had a few good hours left to rest before having to head off on another journey – this time to Copenhagen in Denmark. All the girls fell fast asleep and we had to wake them up at 4pm when it was time to leave for Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5.

Terminal 5, London , Heathrow

Terminal 5, London , Heathrow

So, a flying visit to England indeed! Managed to get a quick fix of an English curry, pub and full cooked breakfast though. I managed a nearly 4 mile jog too (on the day we landed – definitely had a touch of cabin fever to expel!). It’s always a great feeling to arrive in England, the birth place of hubby and I. There’s a feeling of completeness, for me in particular, when I’m at my folks home. We bid farewell, knowing we’d be back on British shores again in a fortnight, after a two week business trip for the man of the house in Copenhagen. Phew! Busy times, but precious too.

LA to UK for 4 days, sans children. A once in a decade trip! Part 1

It was my first trip away in ten years, without wearing my mother and wife ‘hats’. An old University friend in the UK was the carrot and after ten years of at home parenting (mostly as an expat in New Zealand), with only one night away (ever; and that was when I had two daughters, not three), it was a well overdue trip. It took lots of friendly encouragement from friends to give me the confidence, before hubbie gave me the final push – by booking the flight for me! There was no excuse now!

So it was, that I boarded the air-coach at Santa Barbara on a Thursday morning, to travel to Los Angeles and then fly to London Heathrow for a four day stay, wearing only my daughter, sister and friend hats. It seemed easier to fly ‘across the pond’ (the Atlantic) than it ever would have been to do a short trip home to the UK from New Zealand, our home of over fifteen years. Half the cost, half the distance, half the travel time.

The biggest ‘pull’ to living for a year or so in the USA with three children (for hubbie’s work), was knowing I’d be a little closer to my beloved family in the UK; so it was only right that I made the most of the opportunity. Hubbie insisted that they would cope without me (but I still employed someone to help out on the days he would be working from home – knowing full well that little work would be possible with the ever present zest of our wonderful Miss 3 and home-educated Miss 8 and 10!).

Boarding the air-coach was easier than I could have anticipated, with all three children being genuinely positive with their send off. There were no tears, no guilt trips, no desperate pleas to join me. So I stepped onboard with light feet and excitement, feeling instantly free of responsibility. A two hour coach trip, four hour wait at LAX and ten hour flight was ahead of me – time, more than I can remember having in the past decade, for reading, shopping, browsing the latest book releases, eating at leisure, watching movies and staring out of the window for some uninterrupted day-dreaming.

The flight was quiet, with almost everyone in the back third of the plane having a line of seats to themselves. There were hardly any children to remind me of my own (though one did pipe up about the time I knew my brood would be heading off to sleep in California – which resulted in me having a little sob!). I got those tears out of my system, sipped a wine, put on my eye-mask, plugged in ear-plugs and breathed deeply – I’d need all the rest possible – as I was due to arrive in London Heathrow at 11am (3am in California).

My agenda for the four day trip was a stay at my childhood home in Fleet (after landing at LHR at 11am and catching a breath of fresh air at the amazing Wisley Gardens), and a catch up with my best-friend, on the Friday night; a wedding on Saturday, at The Grove, Hertfordshire; a trip up to the Peak District to see my sister on Sunday; a return drive on Monday, from the Peak District in northern England to Hampshire in southern England, an evening watching Giselle, the ballet, at a cinema in Camberley (live screened, globally, from the Royal Opera House in London); before a 6am departure on the last day for my return flight.

I landed in LHR ahead of time and cleared border control and customs before my folks had even arrived at the airport to greet me (it was a lot easier to power walk from the airplane to border control without children trailing bags and needing toilet stops!).

My folks surprised me with a visit to Wisley Gardens, enroute to my childhood home in Fleet, Hampshire. It was just the fix my body needed after a long haul flight and six months of living under Californian blue southern skies, where I’ve only seen rain in two days! I was hungry for ‘real weather’, green grass, air temperatures that make a person feel alive, savoury foods and a proper cup of tea in a china cup! At Wisley Gardens I was immersed in historic architecture and gardens willed with familiar trees from my childhood in Hampshire.

Wisley Gardens, England

I borrowed my Dad’s camera and turned into an obvious ‘tourist’, finding excitement in what the locals would take for granted: Silver birch trees and pussy willows dangling over a river in flood, holly bushes and snow-drops, grass so green it was luminescent and watered only by nature’s hand, hellebores in flower and even a tree in blossom. I barely had a moment to think about my dear daughters in the USA, as I was so immersed in the moment!

Wisley Gardens, England

My senses were alive with getting a fix of nature, British style, and the fresh air was fighting off my jet lag with a brisk hand.

Wisley Gardens, England

 

Unfortunately the fresh air wasn’t quite enough to completely banish the fuzzy head of long-haul and a nap would be needed if I was going to manage to stay up till bedtime, so it was home to Fleet we went. My dear Mum tucked me up in bed with a hot water bottle, under instructions to wake me about 5pm.

A refreshing nap and I was ready to catch up with my best friend from school days. I wish I could have stayed up longer, but with a wedding to attend the next day, I needed some shut eye!

To be continued…