Great UK Family Road Trip – Arthur’s Seat

Day 11: Edinburgh. Max 14ºC to Min 7ºC

Today was the last day we had in the great UK. We woke up naturally with no alarm, had breakfast in the nice lounge upstairs and headed out slightly past 10 am. Because there was one thing we had set our minds to get done today – Hike up Arthur’s Seat.

The weather was still a little chilly despite the strong sun rays that were already striking since early morning. Most of the shops were already opened and welcoming early tourists like us!

We strolled down memory lane aka The Royal Mile and came across the shops we used to frequent while we were here 5 years ago. One particular shop worth revisiting was The Fudge House.

We bought a piece of deliciously handmade fudge and continued on our way down the gently sloping pavement towards the Scottish Parliament Building.

Maple leaves near the Scottish Parliament Building

We started our hike on Radical Rd, a track that runs just beneath the steep cliffs of Salisbury Crags, paved with pebbles that were admittedly a little too harsh on the wheels of our stroller which faithfully carried E without any complaints or mishaps.

We reached a grassy plain and was shortly joined by a playful labrador! E and I welcomed the chummy company and enjoyed patting and running rounds with the amiable pet.

About an hour into the hike, we have reached the foot of Arthur’s Seat after mounting up several rocky steps that wound through the circumference of the hill. By this time, we had already ditched our stroller somewhere we deemed safe, that was not causing a road block to other hikers.

At a distance, we admired the phenomenon ahead of us, where a cast of translucent light fog wafted through the atmosphere over the hamlet beneath it. And the Duddingston Loch exuded its charm through its cerulean waters that was as blue as the sky above it.

We stopped for a family picture with the slow and steady drifting fog behind us as our backdrop.

We pressed on and ascended further up the hill… towards the assemblage of hikers spotted  at the top…

Then voila! We reached the top of Arthur’s Seat! A wish that we both made 5 years ago, accomplished today! and the bonus part of it was – our almost 26 mo Little E was with us!

We huddled up close for a family picture, right at the top of Arthur’s Seat, overlooking the entire Holyrood Park and the beautiful town of Edinburgh.

We spent some time up there, soaking in the breathtaking panoramic views of Edinburgh.

Feeling on top of the world with Daddy!

Even our little one was caught to be in deep thoughts as she sat at the tip alone, basked in the warm light of the noon sun, silently admiring the stunning view on display.

About 20 min later, we started the descent. Clambering through the rocky terrain, we reunited with our abandoned stroller and began a steady and easier walk once we reached the plain.

By then, visibility had decreased because the town was now blanketed over by the fog which had became thick and heavy. And Little E had already fallen asleep.

We laid down on the grassy prairie and tried to recreate the picture we took 5 years ago in this same Holyrood Park. J framed up the original picture as a gift for me on our 3rd wedding anniversary, and that picture is still mounted on our bedroom wall. (Read post here: http://wp.me/p48223-YJ)

We made some resolutions right there, determined to enhance our relationship and drawing closer to each other through the elimination of bad habits and continuing with good ones for a better future.

Half an hour later, we were back at the Scottish Parliament Building, feeling famished and in need of food! What better to have than some delicious, moth-watering and finger-licking pulled pork sandwich!?!

We loped upslope to the joint and briskly ordered their signature items – Oink pulled pork with homemade Haggis served with mustard mayo; and Oink pulled pork with sage and onion served with apple.

We devoured the Haggis one in less than a minute, and enthusiastically unfolded the foil wrapped apple one like kids who could no longer contain their excitement. We very much preferred the Haggis bun, perhaps because eating the Haggis brought back fond memories when we last had it in 2010 within the early 12th century Stirling Castle, which was closed to the public that night to cater for the conference gala dinner. Below were some photos of that eventful night 5 years ago.

The Oink pulled pork buns were a delish reward for what we had accomplished, the treat left us hungering for more as it didn’t fill us up. We walked on and entered Noodles ‘n’ Rice along South Bridge. It was there where we found the best Pad Thai in the world.

We took our time savouring every bit of the meal we had in the restaurant, till we were full and well-rested. Then we ventured on and shopped around the vicinity as we slowly made our way back home.

Came across a jocular sign outside Burgers & Beers Grillhouse. Hee hee! No my dear, we won’t allow you to be made into burgers even if you misbehaved!

Instead of going home, we strolled on towards the top of the Royal Mile to visit The Scotch Whisky Experience, a five-star visitor attraction telling the tale of Scotland’s national drink with high-technology exhibits and a barrel ride. J even bought a bottle of the famed single malt whisky, how not to after such an in-depth learning experience at this museum?

Dinner was simple fare we made up from leftovers, to clear the kitchen since this was our last night. We had an early train and flight to catch come morning! Good night!

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Great UK Family Road Trip – A Trip Down Memory Lane

Day 10: London → Edinburgh Max 15ºC to Min 7ºC

Today was the day we left the family to continue our last leg of this journey in the U.K., having our last two nights to be spent in old town Edinburgh. Mum and Dad, together with Shen would continue to stay with JMIDM in their London home until they return to Penang and New Zealand respectively.

Early in the morning, we returned our rental car near the Kings Cross station in London. Dad and Shen were very kind to come along with us so that they could see us off and also assist in our luggage. We had breakfast together at a duplex MacDonalds nearby, because we needed a bite before boarding the 4.5 hr long train ride, and also to clear our British coins. We were more than thankful to find a spiral coin rolling funnel in the restaurant. E and I particularly enjoyed watching our coins spiral into the gravity well!

After stuffing ourselves with sausage and egg McMuffins, we rolled over to the adjacent train station and bid farewell to Dad and Shen.

To brace ourselves for the long ride over a distance of 632 km between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh Waverley stations, in particular to keep Little E entertained, we brought along our Usborne activity books which we ordered in advance while in Singapore, to be delivered to JMIDM’s London address. We found the books very engaging and markedly beneficial for toddlers who are developing language and acquiring vocabulary. By God’s grace, we received 2 sets of the 5 activity books that I ordered! and Matthew got the chance to keep one set of them!

During the journey, E napped for 2 hours! J and I enjoyed the comfortable train ride, and had ample space to stretch ourselves, enjoyed a cuppa or two, nibbled on some tasty snacks available on the train, and most rewarding of all, the beautiful scenery along the way.

The train departed at 10 am, with us reaching Edinburgh Waverley station slightly before 2:30 pm. It was refreshing to arrive in Edinburgh, the old town retains its charming appeal on us due to its dimensionality (probably the best word for the Old Town), in its spaces, its rich history and its multifaceted allure.

We reached Edinburgh!

We stayed in St Giles Apartments which is located on Edinburgh’s renowned Royal Mile and merely minutes away from the train station, albeit an uphill stroll with the luggage. We checked into the apartment and was very pleasantly surprised upon stepping into our residence for our remaining 2 nights in the U.K.. This was because the interiors were a stark contrast to the facade of the building within which the apartments were housed in.

We had to walk down a a steep and narrow passageway that led to the gates to which our apartment is situated. Surrounded by century-old stone walls believed to date back from 1544, we felt a little unsure of how we agreed upon booking this apartment in the first place…

We didn’t have much high expectations when we were checking in, at what seemed like an administration office that manages the apartment. But thank God for the wrong perception we had! We absolutely loved our stay in St Giles! ❤

Our master bedroom offers views of the Scott Monument at not too far a distance away. The 19th century gothic monument was prominently seen due to its scale and elevated position relative to the sunken gardens surrounding it.

After resting for a little, we set off for a leisurely walk around the medieval old town, trying to trace back our footsteps we once treaded while we were here in 2010. Five years ago, we came upon this enchanting town because I had the opportunity to attend an ophthalmic ultrasound congress at its George’s Hotel. We rented a 2-bedroom flat in the Royal College of Surgeons that came with a sharing kitchen. The flat had a view of the old street below, as well as the Holyrood palace at the lobby. It was basic yet adequately equipped and comfortable.

We had a late lunch at Zenobia restaurant and shared a hefty portion of chicken kebab served warm on a bed of salad and freshly baked Arabic Khobz bread and hummus on the side. Looking at the picture now, I could almost taste the juicy marinated tender chicken breast cutlets that were grilled to a tandoori colour.

Our lunch bite was quick, afterwhich we walked on along South Bridge towards the Royal College of Surgeons. The sweet tooth in me and Little E beckoned us to take an extra glimpse at the homemade gelato that were gloriously displayed by the roadside.

The love of arts in the form of dance and theatre within me couldn’t take my eyes off from the Festival Theatre, for it is nicely clad in opulent glass windows that allowed its ambient lights from within to shine through in a splendacious way… Oh, how beautiful… I wished I could watch the Scottish Ballet perform Cinderella that was on show.

My fantasy ended quickly as the darkening daylight saw us trotting on. Our lively footsteps halted at the Royal College of Surgeons and the flat we stayed in during our time here in 2010.

A flood of fond memories washed within our minds as we recollected cherished reminiscence of the site. Then we walked further down South Bridge to arrive at the same Tesco we used to frequent, purchased some usual fare for our dinner tonight, as well as some activity books that cannot be found in Singapore for Little E.

The sunlight over Edinburgh began to fade despite being only 5 pm. Nonetheless, the evanescing daylight was our cue to return home to enjoy a home cooked dinner in the comfort of our luxury apartment.

Good night!

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Guest Article on Pembury, Kent Visit by the Grannies!

Day 09: Kent – Pembury – London. Max 17ºC – Min 5ºC.

The 9th and last day of our wonderful family tour has finally come. It started off in the morning with Touch-Rugby Football on the spacious lawn of Broome Park Mansion House! Evidently, this was a consequence of the inspiration from watching the Finals of the World Rugby Football the evening before, especially as it was won by the New Zealand All-Blacks.

On our way back to Putney, London, we made two stops at Pembury, Kent. These stops brought back unforgettably cherished memories to four members of our family that happened over 35 years ago, mainly in 1980.

Indeed over these intervening 35 years, our family has been extended and blessed with our younger son, Shen Leong; Mei Tsin’s family with Josh and their 3 adorable & talented children (Isabella, Daniella & Matthew); and Yoong Leong’s family with Rebecca and a lovely daughter (Elizabeth).

The first stop was at the Royal Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury. In 1980, the hospital was simply called Pembury Hospital. I was then working as a Senior House Officer in the Geriatric Department while at the same time studying for my MRCP in Internal Medicine. Our modest 2-room apartment was within the grounds of the hospital. The advantages are that the heating in our apartment was as warm as in the hospital wards [almost tropical] and so very convenient for me to commute to work and back. Furthermore, I could be staying at home even when on active call days! Not surprisingly, after 35 years, the wards, doctors’ common room, etc. that I had been so used to, have now all been replaced by much bigger, modern and better concrete facilities.

Whilst wandering inside the hospital reception area, we came across this wall-poster depicting the ‘History of NHS in Tunbridge Wells”; a photo was taken with me on one end of the poster and Yoong Leong at the other end. Indeed, I was quite naturally reminded that in life, inevitably we encounter changes – some may be happy & good but some may also be stressful & even painful. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms 90:12). Thankfully, we can always rely on Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). Carol & I are also at the same time much thankful to God, that although I’m no more active in hospital practice, both our sons are.

The Wall-Poster in the Royal Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury.

The next stop in Pembury was the Primary School, where Mei Tsin, our eldest, then 5 years old, attended the Preparatory Class.

Carol used to faithfully walk her through the shorter public ‘Forest Footpath’ to the school, pushing along Yoong Leong (then 2 years old) in his beloved Mother-care pushchair. Unlike the Pembury Hospital, the school buildings seem to have stood the test of time and remain quite the same as they were in 1980, as far as we could recall.

Below are a few nostalgic shots from 1980…

Mei Tsin and Yoong Leong in the cosy hospital.


Market-day shopping to Tonbridge; note YL’s beloved pushchair.


Quite a bookworm then because of the exams!

After the 2 very nostalgic stops at Pembury, we tried to locate the famous Pantiles of Royal Tunbridge Wells but were not successful. Much has changed with the town and its roads. We then drove straight back to London.

JRE dropped us at JMIDM’s home at Roskell Road, Putney, before returning to their hotel. About an hour and a half later, Carol and I then walked to JRE’s accommodation, and walked together with them back to JMIDM’s place. There was an evening fog that clouded over the capital city, which grew thicker and denser by the minute as our steps quickened through worsening visibility. Even River Thames seemingly vanished before our very eyes in a matter of mere mintues, as we treaded alongside its banks to reach JMIDM’s place.

While waiting for dinner to be delivered by Rasa Penang Restaurant, we relaxed in the living room and the children gathered to play. We also became the keen audience to Isabella’s poem recital as she was practising for her school’s showcase later that week.

After over a week on the road trip, we all must be somewhat missing ‘Malaysian’ home cooking and cuisine. All of us enjoyed the hearty dinner within the kitchen, reminiscing over the experiences we were blessed to encounter over the past few days as one family.

We happily shared further our post-trip experiences and sentiments, recalling some of the memorable highlights with the whole ‘extended’ family driving in 2 cars the length of England’s Southern Coast from Land’s End in the west to Dover in the East. I thank God for His protection and watch-care over all of us throughout the whole trip. Most of all, I’m so thankful to God for the bond of love we have for one another; my prayer for each of us in the family is that our love for God will also grow more and more in the days and years ahead. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18).

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Great UK Family Road Trip – Kent, Pembury and London

Day 09: Kent – Pembury – London. Max 17ºC – Min 5ºC.

Autumn leaves

Window view from our cabin lodge in Broome Park. I could wake up to this forever…

It was early morning when we explored the grounds of Broome Park where our lodges were situated.

E was already eager to look for Matthew to begin a day of exploration in the “woods” together!

Everyone assembled in our lodge to have breakfast, then we all packed and were ready to head back to London where it all began… We prayed together as one family before we all set off.

We drove and gathered in front of the Broome Park mansion, to return the lodge keys for checkout, and to have a much desired family photograph taken at this memorable place.

For our journey back to London, we will be passing by Pembury, a much-cherished destination for Dad, Mum, Mei Tsin and J some 30 years ago. It is my honour and pleasure to invite Dad to pen down his walk down memory lane for the upcoming part of our trip in the next blogpost. Stay tuned!

 

 

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Great UK Family Road Trip – Eastbourne, White Cliffs, Kent

Day 08: Eastbourne → Kent. Max 15ºC to Min 7ºC

We woke at 7+ am this morning to the sound of the waves and the call of the sea birds, still lulling us to snooze on… By 9+ am, we were all gathered in the dining hall at the basement of the B&B we stayed in Eastbourne. The breakfast was not the most elaborate but it was more than substantial for all 11 of us!

Breakfast at Eastbourne B&B

After the satisfying breakfast, we took a leisurely stroll along the seafront towards the Eastbourne Pier. The sight and outlook of the beachfront is entirely different from what we experienced last night. As it is, light always brings the better side of things in view. Nothing is obscured, the entire facet is brought out in full view to its own glory.

Stroll towards Eastbourne Pier in daylight

We had lots of fun during the stroll. The older children had a ball of time riding atop the men’s shoulders, while Little E was contented with sitting in her stroller, sharing the laughter with her beloved cousins.

The short after-breakfast walk to the pier was refreshing to our minds and bodies. Then we stopped to have a family photo taken – A much treasured photo of our entire family at Eastbourne, to remember we were all there together once.

Family Photo at Eastbourne

The well-preserved Victorian pier is Eastbourne’s stunning seafront landmark, that boasts of fantastic views of the English Channel. A variety of interesting shops including the enchanting Victorian Tea Rooms situated in the middle of the pier, a traditional Fish and Chip shop and an eye-catching colourful ice-cream parlour located at the front of the Eastbourne Pier bring much life to the iconic landmark.

We headed back to the B&B and had time to enjoy a game of Bingo at the relaxing lounge while waiting for the men to bring down all the luggage. Then we set out towards the Beachy Head which is nearby. However, due to time constraint, we somehow did not make it to the attraction. We merely saw paragliders at a distance while on our way towards Beachy Head.

Paragliders towards the Beach Head

Then we turned back, and began our journey towards Kent. The drive was visually rewarding as we were warmly greeted by rows upon rows of beautiful fall colours. We have driven through innumerable passages of glorious displays of autumn leaves during this family road trip. This was taken somewhere in Battle, England while we were on our way to Kent, Canterbury, UK.

Autumn beauty

The splendour of autumn in full display of its glory. It is so beautiful and spectacular (whether the leaves were crowning the trees or carpeting the roadside), you could hear them proclaim the glory of God.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3, KJV)

Autumn beauty

After a 2 hr drive, we saw the chalk walls from afar… It was mesmerising! to me at least… As we draw near towards the white cliffs, one can understand why these White Cliffs of Dover are England’s most spectacular natural feature.

White Cliffs of Dover

Officially designated an Icon of Britain and recognized throughout the world, they have been seen by the nation as a sign of security, inspiration, hope and freedom for centuries. These prominent cliffs were used for defence in both World Wars, and were the first thing many returning soldiers saw as they came home from war. The sight of these white cliffs represents being home and being safe and the peace they can bring. The whiteness of the cliffs also holds significance as the colour is associated with innocence and peace.

White cliffs of Dover

The white cliff was the first thing returning soldiers saw as they came home from war.

But the cliffs are not only important for the Britons, they are world famous as they occupy a very special place in the collective imagination of many, even for those who have never seen them. This is because these cliffs were featured in many songs and poems, most notably by Dame Vera Lynn in her wartime classic “(There’ll be bluebirds over) The White Cliffs of Dover.” It was also mentioned by William Shakespeare in King Lear.

White Cliffs of Dover

These towering chalk cliffs are formed naturally from a very pure form of limestone, and is found to be very rare geologically. Even the flora and fauna across this chalk grassland are unique and can only be found here.

White Cliffs of Dover

Walking along the cliff-top paths was, to say the least, breathtaking. The crisp breeze and quiet serenity further prompted us to appreciate the beauty and to enjoy its special appeal as we took in unrivalled views of the busy English Channel and the French coast. We are very blessed to have set foot on and to have seen these iconic white cliffs today, because researchers have found that the cliffs are undergoing constant erosion. With its importance and prominence, the White Cliffs of Dover should be listed as one of the seven wonders of the world before it disappears in the near future. We will highly recommend anyone to put it on their bucket list!

Seeing that it was already 3.oo pm, we hurried down the cliffs and whisked off to the nearest supermarket. All Blacks was playing against Australia in the Rugby Finals at 4.00 pm! Such an important match that cannot be missed by the Oh family!! We reached the mart and split ways to gather the things we needed to buy, mainly the ingredients for Mum to prepare dinner for tonight. When we reached the mansion, it was a pity we couldn’t check in, so we watched the game in the Broome Park Mansion House, while waiting for our lodges to be ready.

At Kent mansion watching All Blacks

We received our lodge keys at about slightly past 4.30 pm, and headed there immediately. Everyone gathered in our lodge to continue watching the exciting game, while Mum got busy whipping up a feast for all 11 of us.

All Blacks in Kent

Mum made her delicious soya sauce chicken with black eye beans, pork shoulder with bay leaves and garlic, and blanched green beans. We ate all these with a good serving of angel hair on each of our plates! Yums!

And, the cherry on top to cap off this wonderful night? All Blacks won!!!! Hurray!

All Blacks won!

After the game and dinner, we convened for fellowship and devotion led by Josh. He led us to a Christian book he was reading, on Joshua. And we all shared and exchanged some pointers as led by the Holy Spirit. We also shared our prayer items and prayed for each other tonight.

Update: Looking back almost a year later, God answered all our prayers that we brought to His throne of grace, together as a family on the night we spent in Kent, UK. God is so good. My heart sings, “Before I asked, my God meets my needs…”

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Great UK Family Road Trip – Weymouth

Day 07: Weymouth → Eastbourne Max 17ºC to Min 9ºC

We woke up this morning feeling invigorated and J was determined to buy a pair of new boots for me. So off we went strolling along the streets of Weymouth right after a hearty wholesome breakfast at our B&B. However, it seemed we were up and about too early because none of the shops were opened yet.

Strolling along the streets of Weymouth

Hence, we did some window shopping first and I had set my eyes on a prospective pair from a shoe shop that is not far from our B&B. We waited for it to open, tried on the boots and purchased it right away.

Morning walk in Weymouth

Our last minute shopping in the seaside town Weymouth was brief but purposeful. We also bought a busy book for Little E before driving up to a lookout point on the Isle of Portland that overlooks the Chesil Beach and cove area in Dorset.

Lookout point over Chesil Beach

We played catching with Little E at the lookout point and allowed her to run and loosen up before we journeyed on to the next destination.

Thanks to Dad for capturing a really nice photograph of us at the lookout point! A much treasured family photo with the Chesil Cove as the backdrop.

JRE at lookout point overlooking Chesil Beach

Even though we did not manage to tread our foot on the shingle upon Chesil Beach during this trip, it was already a bonus for us to be able to have a bird’s eye view of the famous Chesil Beach at such a prime location. This UNESCO World Heritage site is considered seen!

Chesil Beach

Then we ventured further south towards Portland Bill till we reached the iconic lighthouse tower, located at the southern tip of the Isle of Portland.

Portland Bill Lighthouse

The Portland Bill Lighthouse Tower is still functioning as a remotely controlled lighthouse that guides vessels around the dangerous coastline to protect shipping from its strong tidal race and shallow reef. The landmark tower is also a visitor information centre, still standing strong. 

RE with the lighthouse

The cliffs at Portland Bill were quarried until the early 20th-century, evidenced by the shedload of large stones near the coast from ex-quarrying in the area. Besides the piles of rocks, we could also see the Pulpit Rock in our photograph below. People had stacked the excavated stones to depict an open bible leaning on a pulpit, hence its given name. As a coastal feature at the southern tip of the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England, this artificial stack of rock was intentionally left in place as a quarrying relic since the 1870s, and remains as a popular tourist attraction on the island, and is often photographed and climbed.

Billowing waves

Instead of walking towards the Pulpit Rock, we were contented to have it grace our photograph in the background as we marvelled at the relentless billowing waves hitting the rocks with great spumes of foam lashing onto the coast where we sat. Having experienced the strong gusts of wind and witnessing the fearsome tidal race, we acknowledged the importance of the iconic lighthouse as a beacon of light and life to vessels that are near.

RE by the coast at Portland Bill

From the most southern tip of Portland island, our road trip journeyed on towards our next destination – Eastbourne in East Sussex, England.

Portland Bill Lighthouse to Eastbourne

By the time we reached the seaside town and checked into our B&B, the sun has already set. Famished and exhausted from the car ride, our growling tummies were gratified at a highly raved and crowded Italian restaurant – Pomodoro e Mozzarella. Our 3-course dinner was very satisfying, given its huge portions. And have I mentioned? Dinner was absolutely delicious.

Service was lively and vibrant, which gave us a much needed uplifting after the long unexpected drive from Weymouth to Eastbourne due to the long weekend traffic. By the time we finished our dinner, the restaurant was already fully packed with patrons. JMIDM and Shen had also just arrived at Eastbourne, but they eventually decided to walk further into town and settled with a quick bite instead.

The night finally ended after a leisurely moonlit stroll at the Eastbourne Pier, one of the most popular piers in UK. We’ll see more of Eastbourne come morning…

Later into the night, while the little ones slumbered away into dreamland, knocks on the door of Dad & Mum’s room could be heard… To have your grown-up children still come knocking on your door, one after the other, just to sit down together to share their life happenings with each other, is a very much-cherished blessing, certainly a memorable time of family bonding carried on into the night.

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Great UK Family Road Trip – Stonehenge

Day 6: Weymouth. Max 15°C to Min 9°C.

J went out for a morning run while Little E and I were still sleeping soundly. He explored the town of Weymouth, crossed the Town Bridge, past the North Forte, and went all the way to the Weymouth Stone Pier, enjoying the serene morning atmosphere.

He came back, in time to enjoy a very satisfying breakfast at the café in the B&B we stayed in.

Breakfast at Weymouth

As there were no tables big enough to fit all 11 of us, we slowly savoured our delicious breakfast and enjoyed the hearty shares of conversation over 2 nearly adjacent tables.

After the filling breakfast, we went to the Stonehenge with Dad and Mum. Stonehenge has been on our bucket list since J and I decided to visit the wonders of the world when we started dating. I was all agog once the decision was made and couldn’t help but feel so blessed to be able to visit this world famous World Heritage prehistoric monument. It’s hard not to feel a certain level of excitement when you know you’re about to see Stonehenge.

Stonehenge entrance

On arrival at the visitor centre, we were drawn to the world-class exhibition which was divided into 2 segments: before we entered the gallery, we had the opportunity to “stand within the stones” and enjoyed a 360° virtual experience of summer and winter solstices inside the ancient monument through the use of state-of-the-art laser scans.

Stonehenge exhibition centre - 360-degree virtual experience

Then we were absorbed by the grand display of hundreds of prehistoric objects housed within the gallery from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

Before we took the free shuttle to reach the prehistoric site of Stonehenge, we found ourselves just in time to watch an interactive fun theatrical performance that attempted to unravel the mysteries of Stonehenge through recreating the auction that happened in 1915 when the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe was put up for sale. The play which only ran for 1 week was specially developed for English Heritage as it marked the 100th anniversary of Stonehenge after it was sold at an auction to local Wiltshire man Cecil Chubb. The auction marked a turning point in the care of the ancient monument. A series of major restorations and excavations began a few years later and Stonehenge went from isolated ruins to national treasure. Today it is cared for by English Heritage, and thanks to extensive work, now sits within a restored landscape that gives a sense of its original setting. As it was drizzling, the play was performed in the café instead of outside the Visitor Centre. Not a bad thing after all! we bought a cornish pasty as a snack to share while watching the performance!

As the shuttle approached the prehistoric site which was about 2 km from the Visitor Centre, we were all intrigued when we saw the Stonehenge slowly emerge on the horizon. We could have alighted and walked from half-way, or walked the whole way while soaking up the atmosphere of the ancient landscape. However, we decided to take the bus ride all the way for the sake of our little one.

Stonehenge

With a history spanning 4,500 years, the Stonehenge is a wonder of the world, a spiritual place and a source of inspiration to many. We were so blessed to be able to explore the ancient landscape on foot!

JREDM at Stonehenge

It was not easy to take a picture with the Stonehenge without having any photo bombers included in the photo. The above was the best we could find in our camera roll, t’was a pity Little E was looking down…

We walked around the Stonehenge, planting our footsteps upon the ancient landscape that surrounds it, all the while listening to the free audio tour downloaded into our iPhones.Stonehenge up close

The Stone Circle is such an intriguing masterpiece of engineering. Building it would have taken tremendous effort from hundreds of well-organised people using only simple tools and technologies back in those olden days!

Another view of the Stonehenge up close

As we explored and pondered the story of the gigantic stones, the vast ancient landscape surrounding the captivating monument, the neolithic people who assembled it, and the meaning of Stonehenge, Little E dozed off into dreamland…

Little E was here!

When we finished exploring the Stonehenge, the captivating prehistoric monument with its riveting history and possible explanations left us feeling fascinated and pining for more low-down on the masterpiece. The shuttle bus took us back to the Visitor Centre and we alighted outside the Exhibition Centre, where we were greeted by 5 shacks.

Neolithic houses

The dwellings are furnished with replica Neolithic axes, pottery and other artefacts. Our curious minds were fed as these Neolithic houses reveal the type of homes that the builders of the ancient monument might have lived in 4,500 years ago. We could imagine what life would have been like for a Neolithic family when we went inside the Neolithic houses to have a feel of the tools they used for daily living.

These recreated houses are closely based on the remains of Neolithic houses discovered during excavations in 2006 and 2007 at Durrington Walls, a large ceremonial earthwork enclosure, just over a mile to the north-east of Stonehenge. Radiocarbon dating showed that these buildings were built at around the same time as the large sarsen stones were being put up at Stonehenge, in approximately 2,500 BC. A ginormous Sarsen stone can be found right outside the Visitor Centre, a model stone showing one way in which the sarsen stones (which have an average weight of 25 tons) could have been moved.

Dad and J attempted to move the stone

Dad and J attempted to move the Sarsen stone which could have required 100 strong men to move it. The electronic indicator meant to measure the pulling force exerted, specified they needed 95 more men together with them to move the large boulder. Hey! We are just talking about moving it, what about erecting it and assembling it?!!!

The Stonehenge Experience

Many historians have puzzled over why Stonehenge was created, by attempting to unravel the mystery behind the building of this monument. Not surprisingly, plenty of theories were hypothesised. Was it an ancient temple, a burial ground, a place of healing or a site of ritual? With no written records from the time, it is impossible to know for sure. Nonetheless, piecing together this ancient jigsaw puzzle was a fascinating experience. It was interesting to play prehistoric detectives as we wandered around the site which covers a large area consisting of Neolithic remains, burial mounds and assorted ruins. Strangely, despite the huge crowd present, the experience with Stonehenge is peaceful and intimate, allowing you to get as close to the stones as it is possible and to understand how each piece fits together.

Chesil Beach

While we were at Stonehenge, JMIDM and Shen rented bikes and rode along the Rodwell Trail which is a nice off-road trail through Weymouth using a disused railway track, with the intention to arrive at and explore the Chesil Beach, bracing fresh air and wrapped up in the grandeur of natural beauty.

Chesil Beach

The Chesil Beach is part of and lies east on the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site among other natural wonders of the world. Laced with an intriguing geology and history, the Chesil Beach is an extraordinary, narrow stretch of millions of shingle about 27 km long, that have been washed up by storms and forms a barrier ridge with a lagoon behind it.

Chesil Beach

For our group of 11, to visit 2 World Heritage sites within a day, would have been too rushed. Hence, we split into 2 groups. Since JMIDM and Shen had visited the Stonehenge many years ago (before the revamp), it was understandable that they chose to see part of the Jurassic Coast and experience the natural wonder. For us who have not been to both, the lure of the Stonehenge was irresistible.

After half a day and having bagged 2 World Heritage sites into our travelogues, all of us reunited back in Weymouth, and we hopped onto their bikes for a little bit of cycling and to feel the breeze tousling our hair before JMIDM and Shen had to return them. Well, as the saying goes, “Breezy days deserve the union of two old friends”, the breeze that day saw our blessed reunion of all eleven of us, after a long day of experiential learning and discovery.

The day was short, it was dark by 5:30 pm. The strikingly dazzling lights from the funfair a distance away beckoned to us. We bought tickets for Little E to enjoy the circling parade of Disney car rides, and were also offered free rides at the brilliant carousel! Of course, for Little E, the funfair was the highlight of the day.

We walked back home to join the family for a home-cooked dinner. While on the way home, walking along the astir streets, we relished the moments spent together in this quaint town.

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Once back home, J cooked chicken ala king and fed everyone. I love it whenever J puts on his chef hat. As a perfectionist, he always makes sure food at its best standard is served.

Chef J at work

And the children? They were well entertained by the cartoon Inside Out, put up by Shen on his computer to keep them occupied while waiting for dinner to be ready.

After the simple yet satisfying dinner, the family gathered around for Bible fellowship facilitated by Mum. We are ever thankful for every opportunity to come together as one big family to study His Word and to pray for and along with one another.

As I laid on the bed thinking about the Stonehenge, I couldn’t help but praise God from the bottom of my heart for calling us out of darkness and into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9). It is God who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9). We are not lost people, who needed to go to great extents in the hope to appease God by offering various gifts or sacrifices, like what the ancient people who built Stonehenge, for the purpose of making it a temple for rituals or a place of animal as well as human sacrifice (based on the massive numbers of bone remains found near the site).

Everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, is under the condemnation of God and deserving of His wrath (Romans 1:18), for everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve His wrath and punishment. However, God Himself, in His infinite grace and mercy has provided the only means through which His wrath can be appeased so that we sinful people can be reconciled to Him. Believers in Christ Jesus have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.” The wonderful truth of the gospel is that Christians are saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to God not because “we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Upon knowing what Stonehenge is all about after our visit, I had a feeling of regret for visiting a questionable site that was built solely by people who didn’t know God. However, lamenting over it led me to ponder and continue to marvel over the wonderful and important truths that God has revealed to us… And I slept with God’s peace covering me.

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