It was extremely hard to say goodbye to our son Ben and daughter-in-law Sarah (and indeed all our family and friends in Australia) when we left Brisbane. Six weeks just didn’t go very far to make up for the long gap of two and a half years since we had seen them last. However, we are planning to go back again in November for longer so that kept us feeling a little less devastated!
The queues to go through security at Brisbane airport were absolutely massive and we were really thankful that we had left plenty of time to get airside.
We flew to Amsterdam via Singapore and Paris and we had a good flights until we reached Paris. We just made it to the gate in time to board our last flight when we discovered there was a long delay due to shocking weather in Amsterdam which apparently had caused havoc at the airport.
Fortunately we were able to let our daughter Hannah (who was meeting us at the airport) know that we would be delayed. We eventually took off and arrived safely an hour later at Schiphol.
After an easy passage through customs and passport control (some new machines were being trialled and we happened to walk past at the right time) we had an inordinate wait for our luggage to appear. In fact it didn’t arrive all!
It transpired that our cases had been left behind in Paris – but that was fine by us as we had left clothes at Hannah’s and in fact had all that we needed in our hand luggage anyway. Besides, it made our journey back to Hannah and Pieter’s house via train and metro much easier!
Spring had really sprung in the Netherlands during our stay in Australia – evidenced by the tulips on sale at the airport and the green buds, new leaves and glorious blossom we noticed on our walk back to Hannah and Pieter’s house from the metro station.
We had a wonderful few days of absolutely overdosing on the beauty of it all.
Jonathan left on his own after a few days to go to our boat in Didim Marina, Turkey. There were a few projects that he had to oversee and ensure were completed before our contract at the marina expired and we had to leave to begin the 2022 sailing season.
In the meantime I had planned a quick trip to England. I was very excited to see my family who live there as Covid had prevented me from visitIng since early 2020 except for a fleeting trip in the camper van to reset our visa status just before Christmas 2020. Due to lockdown restrictions on that occasion we had only managed to see my eldest sister Sarah for a quick get together in her garden.
Other than that, my other sister Julia had visited us aboard Sunday twice in Turkey and Sarah and her husband Martin had recently visited us in the Netherlands for a weekend but I hadn’t seen my brother Pat or any of my nieces, nephews or great nieces and great nephews at all since February 2020 when we had a massive family celebration at a big mansion house near Stratford-on-Avon for my Martin’s 80th birthday.
Hannah had arranged her work schedule to allow her to take a few days off, so very early one morning she and I took off from Schiphol Airport bound for Gatwick.
Everything went very smoothly and soon we were happily eating a second breakfast at my sister Julia’s place in Beckenham, a suburb in London’s South East bordering with the beautiful county of Kent.
It was just wonderful to catch up with all the family, especially with my brother Pat who had recently been involved in a life-threatening accident but despite his injuries had made a miraculous recovery.
Among other things, he and I caught up on a marvellous walk in the Kentish countryside and saw some lovely sights including glorious bluebells in a small wood.
During our short visit Hannah and I went up to London one day to meet my sister Sarah at the Victoria and Albert Museum. On the way there at Victoria station, we were amazed to see a fabulous 1930s style train with smart Pullman coaches complete with coats of arms emblazoned on the side and smartly dressed staff in crisp white jackets waiting to welcome guests aboard.
Peering in the windows we could see bottles of expensive champagne and cut glass flutes on the linen covered tables with exquisite tea cups and delicate matching plates accompanied by silver cutlery and white linen napkins. All so luxurious!
Just at the entrance a group of young women were singing thirties-style songs in three-part harmony. We were very tempted to climb aboard for an “Orient Express” experience! However, we had an important date to get to so we carried on towards South Kensington.
We had a wonderful time catching up at the amazing Victoria and Albert museum and enjoyed a wander through some of the galleries – the highlight being the sumptuous and sparkling jewellery exhibit.
Later on we met my sister’s eldest granddaughter in the fabulous gift shop and went for lunch in the amazing V and A cafe – the first museum cafe ever built!
There are three rooms in this delightful establishment – the Gamble, Poynter and Morris Rooms, opened in 1868 and serving excellent refreshments ever since!
Each room is decorated in a different style – one is covered in pottery tiles decorated with colourful lead glazes and has the atmosphere and pizazz of a richly adorned, dazzling, Parisian cafe.
Another of the rooms has fabulous blue and white tiles reminiscent of Delft tiles but painted by female students from the National Art Training School.
The third room was designed by William Morris – one of the most famous designers of the Victorian period – early in his career. Painted a deep mossy green, with stained glass windows, this room feels cool and mysterious and is decorated with signs of the zodiac which adds to its mystical ambiance.
Later we were joined by my brother Pat and returned to the lovely cafe for tea and cake!
The wonderful day ended with some of us meeting my other sister Julia for a meal and then on to a West End Show – the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of Cinderella, a completely new take on the old fairy tale and one with several plot twists! It was such exuberant fun and we all thorough enjoyed the experience.
It was so brilliant to see a West End show after such a long time.
What special memories were made that day – I will treasure them always!