Saturday, 31 August 2013


 We arrived in Amsterdam at 8 o'clock on Monday morning, having got up at some ridiculous hour of the morning. By the time we'd figured out how to get from the airport into the city and then to the hotel it was actually quite late though. We were in the NH Schiller hotel in Rembrant Square, which was lovely, much better than anywhere else we saw in the three days we were there.

After breakfast we headed for the Anne Frank house, but the sign half way along the queue said '45 mins from this point' so we decided to come back another day. Instead we found the Van Gogh musuem. A lady told us the queue for that was only 45 mins. She lied. We waited 1 hour and 20 mins; by the time we got in our feet were killing us. The paintings were interesting, but Caitlin thought the Dali museum in Spain last year was better - it was more interactive.

We had a late lunch (Subway) in Dam square, did a bit more sight-seeing, went back to the hotel for a bit then it was dinner time. We found a pizza place which was nothing special. Then we went for a walk around the Red Light District. It wasn't yet dark, but there were plenty of ladies standing in thier windows in thier underwear. Caitlin was faintly amused by the whole thing, Ellie didn't know where to look, and Carl said, 'That wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.'

 On Tuesday we arrived at the Anne Frank house before it opened and got straight in. It is a very well presented museum - and strange how everyone is so quiet walking around. Everyone talks in whispers.

After that we found a bike rental shop where a very abrupt woman served us. We spent two hours cycling around the city streets. Ellie nearly ran someone over, crashed into some tables and chairs whilst pushing her bike, and nearly gave me concussion trying to get her bike out of the place we chained it up when we stopped for a drink. Cycling around Vondel Park was nice. My legs ached by the time we got back though.

We had to check out of hotel no.1 after that and make our way to hotel no.2, the Dutch Design Artemis Hotel, miles out of town and practically at the end of the tram line. It was nice, but too far out really. We went back into the city for dinner that evening, in an Irish pub. We sat outside under the heaters.
Wednesday was a boat day. We had a free canal tour from the hotel so we did that in the morning. It was the 100 Highlights Tour. I don't think there were really 100 things we saw, but it was interesting. For lunch we went back to Rembrant Square and had a picnic on the grass for the second day.
In the afternoon we walked around and did a bit of window shopping before heading off to Central Station where we caught the ferry to the other side of the harbour to catch the Pancake Boat. We had a one hour cruise up and down the harbour and an all-you-can-eat pancake buffet. Each of us only managed two pancakes. We were second to board the boat and got a spot right at the front, so we had good views. I persuaded Ellie to come out onto the top deck with me on the way back, that was good too, but the others were being boring and didn't want to. After that it was the long journey back to the hotel for packing.

Bank Holiday Weekend

 Our holiday away this year started with the Bank Holiday weekend in the London area, although we didn't actually go anywhere near the city. We drove up to Wokingham on the Friday to stay with Louise and Ian in thier new house. Thanks to the Bank Holiday traffic we arrived later than anticipated and this is us having a very late, but very nice barbeque in thier back garden.

On Saturday it was off to Thorpe Park in the rain. We arrived just as the park was opening despite getting lost because the SatNav refused to plan a route to the park. The weather kept some of the crowds away and Carl and the girls didn't have to wait very long for most of the rides all morning. Saw broke down while they were in the queue, although the staff kept announcing that it was shutting for routine maintenance (they weren't fooling anyone), that was the longest wait. Shortly after that we took an early lunch and were glad we had because we'd just sat down with our food when the heavens opened and most of the rest of the crowds at the park piled in after us. When it looked like it was about to stop we nipped out quick and headed for Swarm where there was only a 20min wait instead of the 50mins it had been all morning. The girls rode twice. The only ride I went on was Loggers Leap, and as we were getting on that it began pelting it down with rain again, so not only did I get wet from the ride (they made me sit in the front) I got wet from the rain too. All the other wet rides I might have gone on had massive queues after that so at about 3 o'clock we decided we'd had enough and headed off for our hotel.

 Sunday was Harry Potter day, although we had to wait until 4 o'clock to go in. We went in with Beth, Andrew and Francis. Before that we did some shopping in Luton. The studio tour was great.  They say it takes about three hours and they're right. There is so much to see. The girls got passports which they collected stamps in and spent ages looking for snitches in different areas of the studios. Ellie took over 250 photos.
 My favourite bit was Diagon Alley. I also like the outdoor bit where we all sat and enjoyed a butterbeer, just like the ones in America. There is an area half way round where you can have your photo taken in front of a green screen. Ellie had hers taken on a broom and me and Caitlin had ours in the flying car. At the end of the tour we spent an hour in the shop! It had exactly the same stuff in as in Universal Studios. Ellie bought a wand, Caitlin bought a bag, and I bought a notebook for me and t-shirt for Adrienne. Then it was back to the hotel for dinner and an early night before our very early Monday morning.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Caitlin and her GCSEs

Caitlin's been counting down to this day since she finished her last exam. Finally it was here and she took forever to leave the house this morning to collect her GCSE results. After a long wait we started to get unhelpful text messages telling us how well her friends had done. Eventually she arrived home to tell us she had 6 Bs, 3 Cs (including the one for Science from last year) and 1 D in RE (which she wasn't bothered about in the slightest). Hooray! Well done Caitlin.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Ice creams on Instow beach

Hockings - obviously. We came down after tea yesterday, and the clouds were threatening to rain but the weather held off, it was just a bit windy and cold. Although never too cold for Hockings.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

BBQ on Exmoor

 It's the weekend! Hooray! And Adrienne is home from uni for two weeks. So we went out to Robber's Bridge on Exmoor today armed with a disposable barbie and a cool-bag full of food. We had burgers by the river, lounged around in the sun, went for a walk, and lounged around a bit more.
Willow had a lovely time chasing a stick around, she even took it on the walk and all the way back again. When we all got in the car to leave, she was quite happy staying on the grass with her stick. Caitlin had to pick her up just to get her to come with us. She's crashed out on the sofa now and refuses to move.