Roadtrip: Dublin to North Norfolk, UK


We had to have the car serviced and MOT done and Nils needed to be in London for a few days, so we chose to join him on this trip.   While he is in London from Tuesday – Thursday, the kids and I will stay back in North Norfolk and visit our friends there and do things together.  Providing the weather is okay, there are lots of things to do like:  playgrounds, walk the Cromer Pier, and during the day after school, we’ll try and visit some of his friends, especially his UK BFF Blake.

He was so excited about this he told his teacher he was seeing his “best friend ever!”  So sweet – I’m sure he’ll be sad when we have to leave but I need to remind him that he has a best friend in Dublin too – and great school, etc.  Speaking of school, I was thinking about bringing them by one day to the school, but then the more I think about it, that might make the emotions run higher as he loved that school – especially the forest school aspect, the chickens, open fields, free time at lunch, the independent learning and mixed age classes – all the things I loved about the school.  As I mentioned before, there is a pretty big difference between the attention you get being 1 of 11 kids in a mixed age class (1st – 3rd) in a small village school, than 1 of 25 kids in a city school with only concrete and a lot of rules on the playground.  If I could box up the teachers and the physical school with grounds and all the extras and put it in a worldly, more international place like Dublin that would be amazing.  There are loads of great things about their current school just UK and Ireland are different – not sure why people often think they are the same – perhaps that they both speak English?!

To get there, we’re taking the Stena Line from Dublin Port to Holyhead, Wales. Thankfully it’s only a 3 hour, 15 minute sailing so no need to book a cabin and spend the night like we have to do when going to The Netherlands.  But that is pretty fun and easy! The longest part is the drive from Holyhead to North Norfolk, UK – that takes about 6.5-7 hours, but we will take our time and not drive too fast and stop for lunch somewhere. The forecast is calling for milder temps (still cold but not freezing or big ice/snow storms are forecasted as it was before).   The wind and rain are in the mix so it might be a bit choppy – we’ll see.

Last year, we bought the kids portable DVD players which connect to the back of our seats so that will keep them entertained.  I really want to surprise them with the movie Inside Out – hope I remember.  They are pretty sick of their current DVD collection. Though we just watched Frozen (AGAIN!!!) last week and she was very much into it.

As Nils doesn’t have to be in London until Tuesday early afternoon, so our plans are that we’ll spend some time on Saturday & Sunday visiting friends and doing some stuff together as a family – we have some favorites in the area. I hope Sunday is a dry, sunny day so we can have a nice walk at Holkham Beach then to the pirate ship playground in Wells Next The Sea and dinner in a pub.  Soren has his heart set on an arcade for gaming on his birthday but perhaps I can take them to the Sealife Centre in Hunstanton and then perhaps a pop into Oasis.First stop is to go to Mountain Wearhouse in Holt or Cromer as they have the BEST clearance deals – I want to get Maebh warm skip pants and winter boots – her feet freeze with just wellies when we’re at the beach. Soren is in need of some shoes too and these winter boots are a great deal at 14.99.

We must have mussels in the Red Lion Stiffkey!!  For my 40th birthday in June, we were dying for them only to be told, upon arrival, that they are only in season from September to April – months which contain “R” – so we’ll now never forget mussel season. This is one of our favorite pubs in that area.  It’s child friendly, dog friendly and muddy boots friendly!  Perhaps this will be Soren’s official birthday dinner with the family – as he real birthday is on Wednesday.  The kids have also asked to go to The Pigs in Edgefield – I’m sure for their broad beans snacks and their zip line so that might also be a place we have a pint.

I’m sure one day I’ll take them up to Cromer, a pop in the lifeboat station, Henry Blogg Museum. Sadly the Amazona Zoo is closed for a few weeks in the winter so we’ll have to skip that otherwise, I’m sure they’d ask to visit there.  There will be plenty of beach walks searching for sea glass too – as the tides will low during the day when there so that is very convenient.  A walk in Sheringham Park is a must too.

The boat is scheduled to return on Sunday, the 31st of January – so we are looking at options for that Saturday somewhere closer to the boat.    N thought perhaps Bath and then take the Fishguard to Rosslare boat.  I thought perhaps Liverpool or in that area might be an option, but there is a game that night so hotels might be hard to come by in that area.  Nils has tons of points which we could use so we’re investigating our options….  we might just skip it all together and save those points for a break at Disney Paris in the future – that would be my preference!
From here down, I’ll post from our actual trip and then edit the post above to fit in.


First off, I just wanted to point to something so bad – safety wise that is.  Look at this HUGE opening on the left side of the ramp going on the boat. There was no worker there, no cones, barriers or warnings.  Thankfully we’re not stupid but this would NEVER fly in the US. ha ha

No ferry trip wouldn’t be the same with out a few mandatory photos of the kids.


As you leave Dublin port you go by the famous Smokestacks and the Poolbeg Lighthouse – where we have walked – a guy outside with me was suggesting never go at high tide as the first part gets cut off by the sea.  Never thought if that before but as you can see in the photos, you can.  Apparently he went out for lunch and got stuck for hours! 🙂




When we set, it as a relatively calm sea but about 1 hour in the boat was rocking – Soren and Nils were fine but Maebh and I were both a bit nauseous.  Anyway, we were not sick but some poor woman in the bathroom wasn’t so lucky.  The kids played in the kids area, did some word searches and played in Teen Town for a bit but as the sailing was only 3.5 hours – it was easy.



As you’ll see some a few of these photos, Maebh’s belly was a bit off.  I’m going to buy dramamine before heading back on our long car journey and boat trip.. clearly she needs something to help her.


As we got off the boat and started driving out towards Manchester, the plastic thing on the bottom of the car started to drag again, so we had to pull off the highway and find a garage to see if they can help us by removing it tor tying it up.  It has already been partially pulled off and partially tied up a few times.  But with the wind going under it at 80 mph on the highway was the catalyst and was so loud and annoying.   Anyway, thank fully the guys at Kwik Fit in Bangor, north Wales were so helpful, we were in and our before the kids could finishing using the bathroom.

The house we are staying in Gunthrope is a huge home with five bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms – perfect any large families/groups… and perfect for us as no one was using it this week, we were able to stay here.    The memories of our time in North Norfolk is nice.  The kids are very comfortable here and that is important.  The kids and I may sleep a night over at the Wilson’s house so that when we wake up the kids can celebrate Soren’s birthday.  I think they are going to keep Blake out of school – we’ll see.

On the wall in the kitchen, the kids heights were measured over the past three years and so they are excited to put their new markings up.


It’s very nice to be back in North Norfolk, UK.  After 1.5 years not much has changed! We drove past the old school and our old house….


Londoners are up for a gaming trip in the fields nearby the school.

Snowdrops, the lovely white flowers, are in full bloom. We will NOT go this time, but the Walsingham Abbey Snowdrop Walk is on this weekend.

One thing which changed a bit is the storm damage from the sea so they are doing repairs up in Cromer.  While everything was closed, there is still something about the Pier which we love!










We visited the Wilson’s last night and Soren and Maebh were thrilled to be there with their friends. Movies, games, toys, guns, piano playing, pizza – it was a blast.







Maebh has taken a huge interest in playing the piano.  She said to me “Mum, can you read me what the music says?” um, no! 🙂   We’re thinking about getting her lessons… Our neighbor is a music teacher and her son has a full music scholarship to the local private boarding school.





Our friend’s parents, who live just next door to them, have chickens and cows in their yard so it was a bit of fun to go feed the chickens – one day!!






One thing Soren loves most about this area is that he gets to do one of the 51 things to do before your’re 10 – Dam A Stream.   So as it was not too cold and dry, he and Nils set into the stream to do just that…. but the water was pretty strong, in the end the dam burst.   For him it’s now one more reason to come back in the summer!












Part of being a kid in the country is having a run-in with a sticky bur bush!  When he first came into the house like this I accused him of doing it himself on purpose 🙂



Another fun thing about here is the gate has a key pad to enter.  So Maebh had a chance Soren got out to “assist her” but funny enough she got it on the first try!  Excitedly, the kids were off running in front of the car as we were still waiting for it to open.




Another fun part of this trip was the time spent in the cheesy amusement halls.   These photos were all taken at Showboat in Hunstanton.  After dropping of Nils at Kings Lynn train station, it was a drizzly, cold windy day so we spent an hour inside playing.





On Soren’s actual birthday, Soren’s friend was kept out of  school and we headed to Hunstanton to go to the Oasis indoor play space as Playland, in Wells, is only open on weekends and school holidays during the Winter months.


He requested chocolate cake!



Another day we spent some time walking on Wells Next The Sea – home of The Buttlands (Soren finds that funny!)



After our walk, we stopped at the Beach Cafe at the end for some hot chocolate to kill time before we met our friends at the Wells playground.   The place is very popular for dog owners, if fact, you are the odd man out if you are not with a dog.




The kids took photos on the beach huts which we found so cute.  The yellow one with the wheel was my favorite one.




As this is our last day here, we’re off to walk Sheringham Park today!  While it was chilly, it was a nice sunny day so we headed out down the main path took a right onto the orange path, across to the temple, down the field, up to the house and back around on the blue bath – a pop in the Bower and then headed out!
























It was a nice couple hours – and surprisingly a few things were in bloom and as always, amazing trees!





I have tons more photos to upload and will when I have more time.  For now, I’ll end with the fact that I am confident that this trip has brought a lot of closure to Soren – specifically in that he felt a big void not living in the UK.  Now that he spent a week there, I think he now realizes that Dublin offers a lot!

Though I still struggle with the desire to return to the US to have the kids closer to my parents! But the idea of starting all over – new house, new school, new everything is daunting!  We have nothing left from our live there except friends and family.   Plus, it’s really hard to explain but if you move away from America for a while, (for us 3+ years already) there are parts of it that make you crazy.

For now we visit and one day, perhaps they’ll visit!?!?! – are you reading this? 🙂


1.  Wide, sandy beaches with colorful, cute beach huts like at Wells-Next-The-Sea

2.  Crabbing on the Cromer Pier

3.  Big open skies

4.  Walking Paths

5.  Festivals: WorsteadCromer & Sheringham Crab @ LobsterDeepdaleDubs at The Hall, etc.

6.  Seafood: Cromer Crab, Stiffkey Mussels, Brancaster Oysters & fresh Samphire

7.  Cozy, British Gastro Pubs featuring beer gardens with kids playgrounds

8.  Barn Owls

9.  Tacky Arcades and Fun Fairs

10. National Trust Estates – Felbrigg HallSheringham Park & Blicking Estate 

11. Military Influences:  RAF bases, airfields and fighter jets in the sky.

12. Fish & Chips at the seaside

13.  RNLI in Cromer & Sheringham

14. Car Boot Sales & Charity Shops – hidden gems waiting to be found

15. Seals – between Horsey Mere and Beans Boat Trips to Blakeney there are plenty of seals.

This is just a short list as I’m sure we can go on and on with what great things we can find there. Here is an A to Z list of things to do in Norfolk!

Our family really misses our time in North Norfolk & I look forward to returning for a week-long vacation one year!



Wells-Next-The-Sea, North Norfolk, UK

In late September 2012, when we moved from Boston to the UK, we discovered Wells-Next-The-Sea… the kids were so young and it was all so new.  Soren was very excited and asked to purchase the union jack flag – which of course I did and they were loving them for about two days until they broke!

It was also our first experience with the British Seaside and my new found love of beach huts… which at first I didn’t get but now would love one of my own.

Fast forward two years and MANY visits, we are area experts and despite even cold weather, find it a nice day to walk the beach…  Just two days ago we were wandering on the wide-open beach in search of the best beach hut while the boys explored the water … too mucky for us girls!


So many were badly damaged in the Dec 5th storm but nice to see most have been rebuilt back up and some new ones added in…





or crab with friends from The Netherlands..

or swim… and relax in the sun…

or play with your remote control car

no matter what the weather (well better not go when raining) it’s a great day out!!  And just today in The Guardian they featured Wells-Next-The-Sea as to “Let’s Move To” section.

Belfast Continental Christmas Market

We visited the newly created, Christmas Market @ St. Stephen’s Green in the city centre of Dublin.  It was nice, but wasn’t the best market I’ve ever been to – not that I’ve been to tons.   I had been thinking about the Galway one. A German mother from the school, told me about it and said it’s great and most similar to an authentic one she is used to back home.

After being in nightmare traffic for a while and finally getting into a garage, we were off.  (The garage on the way back was horrible too – 40 minutes in a queue zig zagging down the ramps of the garage to get out….. though it could have been worse. [I was once in a 5 hour traffic jam on the highway trying to get home to say goodbye to Nils who was going to Europe. It was due to a major ice storm and everyone in Boston had the idea to leave work at 1 pm … oh and I was pregnant so i couldn’t go.]

The market was great – nice atmosphere, set with the beautiful City Hall in the background (tours are available M-F and you learn a lot of the city’s history, etc)  When we arrived it was like 2 pm, so the lights were on but only got prettier as the sky became darker.   I don’t have tripod so taking nice light photos is hard for me, plus it was packed so I can’t just focus on the photo as I needed to focus on the kids.













I watched a video on the market and they said that some vendors come in from their country and spend the entire month in Belfast and it was clear that was the case.  Some great food vendors including (but not all) an Asian noodles, Moroccan, a couple French, German sausage & beer tents and a huge section of Dutch food …. the poffetje line was very long, so the kids settled for a chocolate sprinkled waffle.  I picked up some schenkstroop as I ran out and as Nils always travels without checked luggage, getting some from Holland has been a problem.



















There was a carousel which the kids had a ride on – Maebh chose a horse, but Soren opted for the teacup which he was joined by a boy named Nick.  They were spinning like crazy & loved it.



Oh and after about 1 hour there, they made a “public service announcement” warning everyone that it has come to their attention at a group of pick-pocketers have arrived in the market, so until security has them, they’ll be implementing a one-way in and out system …..  there were some shady characters around which I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the ones.  White males in their late 30’s, early 40’s…. very short hair, they always wearing track suits and sneakers – they totally fit the methadone look which I can point out a mile away!!

Overall it was a great market and we’ll surely make it an annual tradition.  The city itself seems great too…. we’ll come check about the Titanic Quarter, W5, Belfast Zoo, Ulster Museum and so much more.  It will be a great place to explore all it offers, plus there are some great National Trust properties in NI which I’d like to visit.


Blakeney Point Seal Boat Trip, Morston Quay

Ever since we moved to the North Norfolk Coast of the UK, we have been wanting to go on a seal trip to see the seals at Blakeney Point and Scolt Head Island.  When we first arrived, we visited the baby seals at Horsey Beach in the winter – and then the next year we visited them again. Both times were great, but taking a boat out to see them on the Point was a bit different and new.  But I never wanted to do it in the winter months – too cold!

We took the Bean’s Boat out but there are two others which depart from Morston Quay too – Temples and Ptarmigan. Clearly the last one was not too warmly welcomed and is new competition as they passed us and waved at our crew – who didn’t wave back.

It was very windy and the seas were choppy so there were many splashes which came into the boat, but I was positioned in an okay spot with Maebh so we were mostly dry.   Soren had a head full of salt water from the start and being a huge water fan – he didn’t mind!

When we arrived out at the point, we came to small colony of common seals basking in the sun.  Normally in the winter there are hundreds upon hundreds of common and grey seals who come to have their babies. Naturally there were some very curious ones who flopped around a bit in the waves – a bit like a Labrador.

On the way back into shore, we spotted a guy water skiing – the kids got a kick out of him.

As it was Nils’ sister’s 33rd birthday, she treated us all of us which was extra special!   Afterwards we went back to celebrate with a cake and the rest who chose to skip the boat trip.
before-three-little-hands-candles blowing-out-candles2 blowing-out-candlse candle3s candles candles2 cousins cousins2 footbal96 footbal97 footbal99
I highly recommend this as a nice family adventure in beautiful, North Norfolk.    You could wait to see the weather and book but they recommend booking ahead of time – your choice!

Cromer, Norfolk UK: Racing Boats, Planes & Rafts – North Lodge Boating Lake & Henry Blogg Museum

Yesterday the kids & I went up to Cromer to take part in the Children’s Week activities on the North Lodge boating lake.   Just a couple days before, we ran into Sheila, Maebh’s nursery teacher whose sister runs the Children’s Week stuff with her husband. She gave the kids some cute spotted teddies and suggested we go to this event and the ducks on the pier & disco events on Friday (but I had a Dr. appt in Norwich during the events on Friday – so we’d have to miss that day.)

We got there just in time to get the directions on how to build a paper boat – which was so fast I have already forgotten.  The kids were to put them into the water and the first one to blow over to Libby wins. Trouble was that there was no wind so it took much longer than hoped.   And as you expected, some overly competitive parents splashing the water and anything to assist their kids boat to win.

Next up was the task of building a raft with sticks, paper, four cups and tape.  I admit having never done it before it was pure rubbish, I now know for next time we have to build a raft – lol.

Next up was the planes… like the other things a quick demonstration on how to fold it and then the kids got into age groups to fly.  First up was under 5 girls.  Clearly mothers pictured here did the throwing of the planes so their kids would win or place.  This carried on for all age groups and if you asked me it was really bad.

The Greek photographer (and I think chef) who is always smiling & very well-know in Cromer was suddenly on the ground taking photos so I had a big chuckle at that until his big camera scraped across the ground as he was getting up – yikes!

When we had enough, we spent some time in the Henry Blogg Museum where the kids love to spell CROMER with the flags, then upstairs for some Fire Brigade bad design which Soren drew the Colorado forest fires – I’ll take a photo and post – it was awesome and 100% his idea!   I’ve been here so many times and each time you learn something new.

On the way out, Maebh says – “Hey mom, such a beautiful view, don’t ya think?”  One of my favorites!!

Mammoth Day @ West Runton Beach

The kids & I headed to West Runton Beach to check out what was going on with “Mammoth Day” and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust was hosting a rock pooling event.  You can read more about the designer of the metal mammoth and video of it taking steps some 700,000 years later here.  And more about the “West Runton Elephant” and it’s discovery on this very beach in 1990.

It had been heavily advertised and clearly hundreds of others showed up too  – so much show that there was a major traffic jam on the tiny road in & out which caused a back up for well over 1 hour.   The clueless car park attendants didn’t or couldn’t figure out how to deal with the problem.  Apparently they called the police which said they are not coming to assist and to figure it out.  Their idea was to just continue collecting 2.50 per car who manages to make it’s way in, instead of walking down to the main road and stop people from coming in.     I wish I took a photo of the mess!

Once we got there, it started to drizzle a tiny bit and was rather windy and Maebh really wanted to go home. So we sat in a sheltered area a bit while we waited out the drizzle and contemplated leaving.. and the kids got a bit silly.