Great UK Family Road Trip -Minack Theatre & St Michael’s Mount

Day 04: Penzance → Marazion. Max 14ºC to Min 11ºC.

Minack Theatre

We had an eventful day filled with fun, love and explorations today! Our first destination was Minack Theatre in Porthcurno, which is rather near to Land’s End in Cornwall, England.

We were amazed at the grandeur of the world famous open-air Minack Theatre. Set against the backdrop of the spectacular panorama of Porthcurno Bay, this open-air amphitheatre was hand-carved into the granite cliffside, with its intricate design of the sloping gully that is adorned with gorse and heather that blossom so beautifully in autumn. The glorious gardens add a dash of colour to the otherwise greyish facade of the Minack Theatre. It was simply too beautiful to behold.

Minack Theatre

The Porthcurno Bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

The Porthcurno Bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Among the rows of stone seats in the theatre bearing the name of a play or performance, each carefully carved into the concrete when it was wet, we found one that has “Elizabeth” on it. We showed it to Little E and sat beside it, she was simply delighted to see her own name carved onto the seat!

While at the theatre, we also had some fun creating panoramic photos, one of which is seen below, “Which one is Daddy?”

Which one is Daddy?

And of course, family photos that are to be treasured as time passes…

JRE at Minack Theatre

… including this precious one of the Grannies with their beloved grandchildren.

The Grannies with the grandchildren

Over the past 80 years, the living theatre has evolved into today’s professionally-equipped venue that incorporates the latest technology in lighting and sound. The Minack Theatre welcomes more than 80,000 people every year to their performances and attracts more than 150,000 visitors like us who come to experience the breathtaking views and learn more about the story. One thing is obvious: the atmosphere of this unique theatre still reflects the vision of its founder Rowena Cade who created one of the most beautiful theatres in the world.

Merry Maidens

On our way home, we were delighted to have found the Merry Maidens, which are 19 granite stones that form a perfect circle in one part of the wide prairies in Penzance, near the stonehouse where we were staying…

Merry Maidens

There is a fascinating legend associated with the Merry Maidens: As the tale goes, 19 pretty maidens who were on their way to Sunday vespers couldn’t resist the beautiful sounds of music played by two pipers, and wandered into the field to laugh and dance to their music. But as they were in full flow, a mighty thunderbolt came out of nowhere and turned them all to stone for the sin of dancing on The Sabbath Day.

JE at the Merry Maidens

We were thrilled to have found this site on our way home! That was J and Little E posing with the Merry Maidens before we left the still-erected cornish stone circle that have inspired folk tales of dancing maidens turned to stone for merrymaking on the Sabbath.

St. Michael’s Mount

Another highlight of our family road trip today was visiting St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, England.

St Michael's Mount

This was the view of the iconic castle from where we parked our car.

Marazion

We walked a fair bit of distance from the car park, along the streets of Marazion, and onto the pebbly coast.

Marazion

Here were JMIDM tackling the rock-ribbed terrain in their gumboots…

Marazion

That was Bella exploring the collection of puddles by herself, in her striking yellow gumboots, with St Michael’s Mount in the background.

Due to the high tide, we couldn’t walk across the bay from Marazion. To reach the island, we had to take a boat ride. The boat ride was made exciting by the choppy waves from the incoming tide.

Dock at St Michael's Mount

We reached the island within brief minutes, and were greeted with the amazing view of the small village town that is adrift from the mainland.

Bella and Daniella at St Michael's Mount

Upon embarking on the castle quiz offered by the ticketing counter, it took little time for Bella and Daniella to track down the giant’s stone heart, embedded within the steep cobbled slopes leading up to the castle. It was sheer pleasure watching our children seek out the clues in every room, while also learning what makes the castle so special. The Mount is indeed made for imagination and adventure for all ages!

Thanks to Shen for helping us capture such a great family photo with the castle in the background. How we wished we could eliminate the photobomber behind us!

JRE on St Michael's Mount

Our family photo of all 11 of us at the fort canons.

Family photo at the fort canons

Treading on ancient cobbles laid upon medieval pathways and hiking up the ascent till we entered the iconic castle, the views were breathtakingly refreshing regardless where our lines of sight landed.

We admired the distinguished castle, peered through the fort towers, stooped beneath ancient doors, wandered along century-old corridors, etc.

Medals won for completing the castle quiz!

The children dancing and posing with their medals for completing the castle quiz!

The children even won medals for completing the castle quiz as they explored and discovered the details within the castle. Thank God for the lovely day for us to unearth a rich vein of history that flows through time and tide on St Michael’s Mount.

We returned home for a wonderful home-cooked meal of wine-infused roast pork served with a unique mustard sauce prepared by Shen, our popular honey mustard glazed salmon, Mum’s beef patties and blanched lady fingers.

The dinner was lip-smackingly awesome, and we were so blessed to be able to enjoy this feast on our last night in this rustic village stone house tucked away in Penzance.

Dinner at the table

A family who dines together, stays together.

May the Lord remember us and bless us; and let God bless all who fear Him, both the small and the great. May the Lord give increase to both us and our children! May we be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth! (Psalm 115:12-15)

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Great UK Family Road Trip – Land’s End

Day 03: Penzance. Max 14°C to Min 10°C.

We woke before 7 am today, and decided to drive to Tesco to buy groceries, because the 24 hr store was closed at 4 pm on Sundays. Hence, we didn’t manage to get any breakfast essentials last night. Besides cereals, milk, some chocolate digestives, we also waited for the roast chicken to prepare for Little E’s lunch.

By the time we arrived home, everyone was up and we were ready to visit Land’s End, the most western tip of Cornwall, England, which was merely a short drive away from our country house!

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Route map to Land’s End.

Land’s End is the legendary Cornish destination that is perfect for a holiday outing, regardless we were starved of heritage or hungry for new experiences, our thirst for adventure was quenched as we took in the panoramic coastal views, braving the gusts of chilly wind that almost halted our advancing towards the cliff edges if we were any lighter!

Our adventure began in The End to End Story which documented the countless End to End adventurers who have completed the remarkable journey of covering the entire length of Great Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats (or vice versa) by walking, running, cycling and even skateboarding, a distance of over 800 miles by road! It was inspiring to witness their achievements for the “End to End” challenge is certainly not for the faint-hearted!

We were kept warm and calm in the sheltered exhibition, until we stepped out into the open again. The temperature must had been below 10°C with the wind-chill factor…

thumb_IMG_9182_1024thumb_IMG_7257_1024The little town was dotted with interesting shops that were selling Cornish pasty. Note the spelling of pasty vs pastry. The spelling pasty is considered correct in the United Kingdom to describe a savoury pie that is usually filled with vegetables and meat in a semicircular shape. It is commonly spelled as pastie in Australia though. That was Little E playing with puddles just in front of the Bakehouse.

J was holding a Cornish pasty while the kids were all pumped up to get their kite flying… but the blustery winds were just too squally that hampered any efforts to get the kite up and soaring…

We made our way to the iconic Land’s End Signpost, a legendary Cornish symbol that was erected by a family-run business since the 1950s. We were able to fit the lettering of our Oh Family (plus a hashtag before it!) into the signpost. Look at Matthew and Little E! They looked so adorable!

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I love the following picture of our little ones braving the strong chilling gusts at Land’s End. C’mon! We were literally at the end of the land! the most westerly point of Cornwall, England!

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We wanted Matthew and Little E to keep warm and comfy, so we welcomed Shen’s idea to retreat into The Land’s End Restaurant, which has been beautifully refurbished with a contemporary look, where we sat back and enjoyed admiring the expansive view of the Atlantic Ocean.

While everyone was relaxing and keeping toasty within the restaurant, waiting for the drinks and finger food to arrive, J and I left Little E in the care of our loving family, and went exploring the far end of the land. We enjoyed our jog up and down the well-paved road that led us near to the tip of the island where we saw the “First and Last Refreshment House in England”.

From the End of Land, we moved on to our next destination: St Ives!

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Route map from Land’s End to St Ives.

Widely regarded as the jewel of Cornwall’s crown, St Ives is a beautiful seaside town that is set in breathtaking coastal scenery. Being the art centre of West Cornwall, St Ives and the surrounding area is marked by lively artistic heritage and sensibility found nowhere else in south-western England.

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The town itself arcs around the harbour, which is the heart of the historic fishing community with the legacy of fishing boats bobbing in the harbour itself whilst families play on the beaches of golden sand, and explore winding cobbled streets, finding treasures such as the wide range of small independent shops, restaurants, galleries, etc. Despite the dreich weather during our time there, we could see that the town was buzzing with excitement and exuding its own charm.

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We drove towards the end of the town where the St Ives Museum is located before we headed home.

Upon reaching home, the children were kept occupied observing how Shen lit up the real wood fireplace, using conventional methods. We then settled down in the lounge where I helped Matthew perform warm compresses for his chalazion.

Since there was time and daylight remaining before dinner commenced, Dad, Mum, Josh and I took the children to the backyard for some exploration into the woodland.

We found a big apple tree and some raspberry bushes in our backyard.

Mum and Dad retreated back to the house to start preparing for dinner, while Josh and I brought the children further into the private woodland where we found a stream and followed it along the way, till the remaining daylight began to fade, leaving the lights of which we could still glimpse through the foliage. By the time we returned, Bella and Daniella went into the cabin, switched on the spotlights and the children all had a go at table tennis, as well as merry-go-round the table tennis table… Boisterous laughter and giggles filled the cabin, and the joy was contagious.

We were famished by the time we wrapped up our merriment, during which Mum, together with Shen had already cooked up a feast fit for royalty! Shen roasted a very succulent roast lamb shoulder cooked Gordon Ramsay style using the AGA cooker, while Mum made soya sauce chicken and vegetables! Hmmm… my parotid glands were sent into overdrive as I was writing this and looking at the pictures… I miss  the lamb and all of Mum’s cooking!

We gathered at the large wooden dining table, thanked God for the good food and the hands that made them, and the great outings we had today, and eagerly finished all that was served during dinner.

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The children all slept early tonight. After tonight’s devotion, all the grown-ups played a game of Scrabble in the dining hall. It was such a great game that was full of excitement and fun vibes! Josh and Mei Tsin emerged as winners, surpassing Shen the sure-winner, because they received bonus points for using up all their tiles at the end of the game! Hah!

I will pour my Spirit into your children. My blessing will be like a stream of water flowing over your family. (Isaiah 44:3b). Love shall bind us all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14)

 

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Great UK Family Road Trip – The Reunion!

Day 02: London → Bath → Penzance. Max 14ºC – Min 3ºC.

We woke up way too early this morning due to jet lag. While Little E continued to snooze on, we packed up our bags and were all ready to explore a little of the western part of London, where JMIDM reside.

The hotel’s breakfast would only be ready at 7:30 am, so we set out on foot towards the Putney Bridge, where we caught a little glimpse of today’s sunrise.

JE on the Putney Bridge

We crossed the 4-lane wide bridge and followed the Thames Cycle Route towards the other side of the bridge. Did we mention how much we loved the red London buses while we were last here in 2010?

Putney bridge

River Thames looked much more tranquil in this part of London, embanked by endless rows of trees on both sides. For a moment, I thought to myself, this wasn’t the River Thames I knew from Central London… 😋 Well, it is still beautiful and soaked in depths of rich history no matter where it was being viewed at.

Putney Bridge

We returned to MK Hotel for our breakfast, and were pleasantly surprised with the variety of hot and cold food served. We ate to our hearts’ content and filled ourselves up with healthy fare to start the day right, since today is the day that we would be traveling the longest distance.

After breakfast, J got busy loading all the luggage we had and Little E’s pram into our car, trying to make space so that Mum and Dad could still load theirs into the same car.

While waiting for J to figure out the best configuration to place all the stuff into the car boot, Little E was busy plucking berries off the bushes found just next to our hotel. We were both attracted to the vibrant colours of the berries. They looked like tiny plump tomatoes on Little E’s palm… 😊

Once everything was strategically loaded into our car, we drove to JMIDM’s house to meet everyone! Mum and Dad had been staying there for the past week, while Shen had just arrived yesterday. We were so thankful for the trip, that we could meet again after our last family road trip in New Zealand last December. It is solely God’s grace that gave us the opportunity to do this again, to gather all 11 of us altogether from various parts of the world (Mum and Dad from Penang, us from Singapore, Shen from New Zealand) to meet JMIDM in UK.

While everyone were busy doing some last minute packing and loading up the cars, Little E was eagerly exploring Matthew’s stash of toys, and playing with Isabella and Daniella.

When we were all ready to leave JMIDM’s comfortable apartment, we made a slight detour back to our rental car company to change the child car seat for Little E because the one they provided was inadequate in safety measures, in our opinion.

At the rental car company

There was where our 2 cars converged and we decided to stop at Bath on the way to Penzance, the western tip of UK which can be seen on the map below.

Route map to Bath

By the time we reached Bath in Somerset, UK, we were caught in heavy traffic due to the Bristol + Bath Marathon which rendered the closure of several roads across Bath and Northeast Somerset. Unfortunately, we lost track of JMIDM’s car and somehow couldn’t quite catch up with them in the hustle and bustle of the traffic jam.

Hence, we all agreed to stop by one of the beautiful gardens within Bath to have a quick bite before carrying on our journey towards Penzance.

While we were in Sydney Gardens, JMIDM and Shen were in Bath Cricket Club, which was only about 10 min walk away. We had wanted to walk south towards them, when Little E started becoming restless and cranky due to multiple factors such as fatigue from the jet lag, the long drive, hyped-up-anticipation-turned-disappointment from not being able to see her cousins, etc. It was impossible to drive towards the Cricket Club too (although it was only 2 min drive away) due to the traffic and lack of parking lots. Hence, we drove onwards to Exmouth where J had planned to visit the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Centre (PEOC).

Route map to Exeter

Several orthopaedic surgeons in this world-renowned centre helped propelled the prominence of Exeter and placed it onto the world orthopaedic map. If Little E wasn’t sleeping so soundly when we arrived at the PEOC, we would have snapped a picture of J and her in front of the centre’s name. Little E is our princess after all! 😍 Well, Princess E + her Orthopod father.

While she continued to nap, we drove on to our final destination for the day → the prize of our long travel i.e. the Edwardian Artist Country House in St Buryan, Penzance. This is the only accommodation where all 11 of us would be staying together under one roof, for the next 3 nights!

Exmouth to Penzance

The drive to the country house was nothing short of exciting, with anticipation levels as well as suspense heightened to the zenith as we drove from daylight to nightfall, street lights to darkness as we approached the countryside where the presence of buildings were replaced by prairies and houses within were sparse and far from each other… Let’s suffice to say it would have been completely impossible for us to find the house if we didn’t have the GPS and the exact postal code of the country house.

We couldn’t keep in touch with JMIDM and Shen to confirm their whereabouts and the location of the house, because there was no reception in the suburbs. So imagine the huge relief when we spotted JMIDM’s car parked right outside the stone house by the time we arrived! It was just so great for the entire family to reunite again after such a long day… At dinner, we all gobbled up the spaghetti bolognese that Mum lovingly made for us all. We loved how everyone sat around the large wooden table, said grace, ate heartily together, and engaged in conversation exchange.

Daily devotion

Before we began the trip, I made a request to Dad and Mum to have daily devotion, and the thought was well received by members of the family. Praises to God! Although Little E and I were absent tonight because we turned in early, J attended and later shared with me what was discussed at the devotion. May the Lord bless all who were present.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for this great reunion that You have granted us so graciously in Your perfect will and timing. We want to praise You for giving us the health and fitness, financial means, and Your faithful provision for each day to allow us to enjoy this very much anticipated road trip this year. Thank You Lord for giving us a wonderful family with the similarities we adore and the differences we enjoy; the wisdom of age and experience, and the energy and vibrancy of youth. We thank You so much for the peace that You accorded to us this day, and for this amazing country house in which we dwell. We pray that Your love above all will unite us, and also overflow to one another throughout this blessed time we have together as one unit. In the precious name of Jesus our Lord and Saviour, we pray all these. Amen.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 14:4-7 ESV)

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Great UK Family Road Trip – The Travel

Day 01: Singapore – London; Putney, West London. Max 13ºC – Min 6ºC.

Today is the day of our long travel. We woke before daybreak for some last minute preparations, made sure there was enough snacks and activity books for Little E for the long flight, then left for the airport on time. We had much time after check-in for Little E to play at the playground, and experience the free-flying butterflies in the Butterfly Garden of Changi Airport Terminal 3.

Changi Airport playground

We loved how natural light pours in through the high glass ceiling, shedding light upon the shadowy dark corners where the butterflies like to gather, allowing us to admire their beauty up close. The tranquil grotto-waterfall was another prominent feature within the garden which helped calm tired or anxious travellers with its soothing cascading sounds. From the educational corners, we learnt that there were about 1,000 tropical butterflies from as many as 40 species during the different seasons of the year. There were also edifying enclosures that allow us to witness the breeding and feeding of butterflies at close range.

We boarded SQ308 which departed Changi Airport at 0905 hrs, and were expected to reach London Heathrow at 1540 hrs, on the same day. The total flying time amounts to about 14 hrs of travel on this flight. We were very thankful that Little E was an angel throughout the flight. She ate well, was entertained by books, videos, etc…

On the plane to UK

… most importantly, she slept well, and slept enough…

Sleeping on flight to UK

We flew back in time from the morning of 24 October 2015 (Singapore time), passed through night and twilight, till we see the morning light of 24 October 2015 again (UK time), then finally arrived in the late afternoon.

Up bright and early on the way to UK

We reached London Heathrow and were warmly welcomed by Dad and Mum at the arrival hall. How glad we were to see them again since their last visit to Singapore in August! The ever thoughtful 嫲嫲 brought cut fruits, and warm clothing for Little E, and our little one was so blessed, and looking so adorable in the outfit that 嫲嫲 brought for her.

We took an airport transfer bus to Sheraton Hotel to collect our rental car, so that we could drive to Putney in West London where JMIDM reside.

Dad and Mum with Little E

It just so happened that tomorrow is the day that UK will observe daylight saving, so that people in this region get to enjoy an extra hour of daylight in the evening since it is autumn when the days are becoming shorter. By the time we collected our car, the sun had began to set for the day.

As we drove towards Putney, traffic got worse due to a sporting event in the region. We took more than an hour to drive from the rental car company to Putney. Despite having awesome company (aka our entire family) and delicious food waiting for us in JMIDM’s house, due to the long flight and unexpected long drive, we decided to drive straight to MK Hotel where we have booked for our night’s stay, to turn in for the night. Although we did not have the luxury to enjoy a proper reunion dinner together with everyone, we still felt all their love and blessings when Josh and Shen turned up at our door, with fresh food delivery, straight from the kitchen of JMIDM’s warm home.

We chomped down the delicious roast pork and beef stew and accompanying salad, while Little E was already in dreamland all the way till the next morning…

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Great UK Family Road Trip – The Preparation

Gearing up for the forthcoming great family road trip in the United Kingdom, I brought Little E to shop for some cold wear in preparation for UK’s chilly weather. She looked so cuddly in that 3 yo down jacket and adult boots which she put on all by herself. (Hmmm… we’ll consider that for our Hokkaido trip this December…)

Back home, we read cute picture books about London, and other stories that originated from the UK to pique her interest and curiosity about the country she was about to visit. Not that it needs any effort in making her look forward to the family trip as much as we do, since meeting her cousins alone would have been the highlight of the impending trip for her. Nonetheless, the books were not only interesting, they were pretty entertaining too!

Then more shopping ensued, this time we went shopping together with 公公 to Suntec City’s Uniqlo outlet which carries a collection mainly for toddlers. And what not to love about Disney characters like Minnie and Mickey Mouse, Frozen characters, Snoopy, etc. at affordable prices! We love Uniqlo!

Before we leave for the long trip, we had dinner with my family at the same Zi Char stall that we love, where B&VA held an intimate post-wedding dinner for family and close friends who came from the U.S. and Vietnam. It was the best way to introduce good local food fare to people they love.

哥哥 ordered all our favourite dishes! Yummy! The salted egg yolk prawns just made us miss VA so so much!

While waiting for the dishes to arrive, Little E made a new friend at the nearby kiddy ride and game machine, a 3 yo Indian boy who was so cute, we just had to give him one of the 2 bouncy balls we won from the machine. And those were the two cuties figuring out how to activate the machine… Hee…

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The Little Ones Club 18102015

We went to Zion BPC today because J was called back to work early this morning. It is always a joyous occasion to turn up at Zion unexpectedly, to meet and catch up with friends, both for me and Little E.

There was no programme for the little ones today, so they were left to play with building blocks and to read books. Nonetheless, all the children interacted well and Little E was more than happy to see her Zion friends.

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A Date with our Daughter

We had a wonderful time in Sparkanauts this morning. With the term coming to an end soon, we will probably take a break and resume classes when the new year starts. Today was our first time not rushing home after class to have home-cooked lunch! We decided to dine at Restaurant Hoshigaoka within the same Safra TPY complex.

Elated to have her own lunch set consisting of tomato rice with sausage, chicken karaage, cuttlefish ball, dory fillet, broccoli, Yakult, jelly and Hello Panda biscuits, Little E must be thinking, “This is one of those rare days when Mommy didn’t cook and decided to eat out with me!” Little E was 25+ mo.

Hoshigaoka at Safra TPY

While Little E enjoyed her delectable lunch set, I slowly savoured mine consisting of teriyaki salmon, tempura prawn and veg, chawanmushi, salad, fruits, miso soup and rice. Satisfied, especially when it is so affordably priced despite the large portion. 😋

We really enjoyed our lunchtime so much that we looked forward to doing it again next week. The enjoyment comes solely from this special time we are spending together, rather than the lunch itself, although the lunch sets are quite yummy.

And to end off our special day, we had a very lovely night swim just now. Little E will be sleeping very well tonight. 😀

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