Roadtrip: Dublin to North Norfolk, UK

WHY THE ROAD TRIP?

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.

SAILING FROM DUBLIN TO HOLYHEAD

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.

DREADFUL CAR TROUBLES!

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.

OUR LAST HOME IN NORTH NORFOLK

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!

VISIT TO THE SEASIDE IN CROMER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VISIT WITH FRIENDS

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.

 

 

 

VISIT TO THE ANIMALS

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!!

 

 

 

 

BUILDING A DAM AT PAKKE & BEPPES

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.

 

 

SEASIDE AMUSEMENT HALLS

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.

 

 

 

BIRTHDAY DAY AT WELLS-NEXT-THE

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.

 

 

SHERINGHAM PARK WALK

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? 🙂

15 THINGS WE LOVE IN NORTH NORFOLK

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!

 

We

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!

North Norfolk Wizard Maze & Play

On Sunday, we had some rain/wind storms from the remnants of ex-hurricane Bertha, but in this area it was really not bad.   Parts of the UK were hit with bad flooding. But on Monday the weather was like a perfect fall day – sunny but a bit of wind to give you a cool breeze.  As the afternoon rolled in, a few light showers came but overall it was great weather to spend on a farm.

We took the kids to North Norfolk Wizard Maze & Play just down the road and had a great time.  It’s a tiny place with some animals, hay-bail pyramid, two giant bouncy pillows, ride on tractors and a corn-field maze with a trail inside, etc.  It’s no Davis Farmland (as that is a 1 in a million place) but could be compared to Russell Orchards and/or Smolak Farms but without the pick your own fruit aspect or pumpkin patches.    It’s only open from July 24 to early September to coincide with when the kids are out of school and as we didn’t go last year, we took advantage of the weather and headed there.

We heard that the corn maze could be tricky and some one wrote on their Facebook wall they had been inside the maze for 2 hours, so that as first up.  At first you think you know the way you have been but after a while all the paths start looking the same and you start questioning if you have already been down that path.   A few pieces of trash like a 7UP can left there or better yet which blew in during the storm helped give me a clue that I had not been there before.

After we found all the letters, we spelled out the pirate-related word and the kids got their prizes on the way out.  They each got three tattoos which they were excited to put on when we got home.  I offered to help them, but they insisted that they could do it alone.  Yep, off the went and moments later two crying kids returned with only one of the six tattoos affixed.

Once the maze was one, they were all about the bouncy pillow.  I even had a turn on it and was funny to bounce near Maebh as I could send her up very high.  We ran into a girl from the kids’ school, whom they played with for a bit.

Both kids love going on the ride-ons so spent some time doing that and of course, for Soren it was much easier and more fun.

Working together to solve the “porky” puzzle.

The four of us took the tractor ride which was a little loop through a corn fled then some circles – but both kids had loads of laughs.  While we waited, we took a few photos which ended in some photo bombs.


And OF COURSE, I had to take a few photos of the animals – especially the many chickens  Maebh kept asking why is that giant white one in there – the turkey! 🙂 

It was a nice few hours of family fun.   Next up Dinosaur Adventure Park.

Kelling Heath Holiday Park & Barn Owlets

Totally annoyed that this ENTIRE post and all my comments which was ready to be “published” suddenly was GONE… grrr… so I start again with the condensed version.

Our friends had a vacation home for a week at Kelling Heath holiday park – where the kids went in the outdoor pool with them.  They LOVED it!

Prior to swimming, we visited a friend’s parents house where the kids were able to see baby barn owlets, whom just had just been ringed for a BBC documentary.   Sweet little things….

 

 

 

 

 

National Trust: Geocaching at Sheringham Park

National Trust: Geocaching at Sheringham Park

As our car is not 100% , we didn’t want to go far until repaired.   As the weather was a bit warmer we set out to Sheringham Park to try geocaching.  I had already done it before so I knew where each of the four listed on the sheet were, but let Soren & Maebh (with Nils’ help) find them by using the machines at the Visitor Center.

ge·o·cach·ing

[jee-oh-kash-ing]
noun
the outdoor sport or game of searching for hidden objects by using Global Positioning System
(GPS) coordinates posted on the Internet.


Once the device lead us to the area, there were a few “clues” to help us locate the exacts spot where we had to find the hidden item.  When found, they opened it and signed the log book and left a penny from the USA.

While you are supposed to stick to the trails, we did venture off one where we found a few huge dens which clearly took someone a long time to build.

We walked and walked and walked…

While Nils searched the logs near the Temple for the last one (which was missing), the kids played “Temple Ice Hockey”.


Soren had a great time doing it, and we’ll definitely try doing it again soon as there are a lot around North Norfolk.  We’re going to try Orienteering at the park next.

Woodland Holiday Park Nature Trail

Last week when we were driving over to Woodland Holiday Park in Trimingham, we saw signs advertising the Trimingham Mini Festival with car boot, etc.  So we decided to stay fairly local and head that way – but couldn’t find anything but a few old people in a car park with junk on their tables. |

So we popped back into Woodland Holiday Park and did the nature trail.  A bit like the brass rubbings at Blicking Estate, the kids followed the map and found 14 different posts with info about animals.

Once done they turned them into reception and got a prize – a medal, which I thought was really cute.


While there, they played at the two playgrounds and a couple games before heading home for lunch.

Open Farm Sunday @ Holkham Estate & Fun at Wells-Nex-The-Sea

Open Farm Sunday

Today was such beautiful weather, we took the kids towards Wells-Next-The-Sea by way of Holkham Estate first. As today was part of Open Farm Sunday – the farming industry’s annual open day, which offers a fantastic chance for people to discover real farming first hand and see for themselves how their food is produced. It is also a great way for farmers to shine a light on what they deliver and why supporting British farming matters.  Many years ago, when in France, we visited and enjoyed all the local cheeses… but this time it was less food focused (or at least on this farm) but it was still a lot of fun for the kids.

The kids started off with a quiz which at the end they could win a “prize” which turned out to be tomatoes – and as many as we liked so we took eight!

Both kids did the obstacle course set up by the local Beaver/Scout group.  Only difference (despite speed) was that Soren jumped over the sticks and Maebh crawled under, but both did it and loved it.   A fun idea for something to do at the school’s summer fete.

I really liked the Border Collie who spent his entire time just watching the herd of sheep get sheared – sweet!

They had a Touch a Truck type set up with all the large farming equipment.  All kids were in heaven!

We then took the 20-minute BUMPY tractor ride around fields where they pointed out their various crops.

After we walked over to the new (well new to us) playground area.  While it was geared towards older kids 5+ Maebh managed on parts and they both LOVED it!


Wells-Next-The-Sea

After the open farm day, we headed towards Wells-Next-The-Sea.  Our plan was to do some crabbing at the quay but first had a picnic at the Pirate Ship Playground.  Instead of crabbing, we hopped on the little Wells Harbour Railway which leaves from Pinewoods Holiday Park and headed down towards the beach.  Return Fares: Adults £3.00, Children £2.00 


We first stopped at “Abraham’s Bosom” – an outdoor leisure area with a boating lake, trampolines & mini golf.  We spotted it several times while at the pine woods in Wells – the place with the boating lake and mini golf, but never entered thinking it was part of the Pinewoods Holiday Park there – which it is not.  Each kid had a session on the trampoline despite the warmth and we left to go to the beach.   Sadly, was not impressed and will not return.  While there was not a specific one reason, but I felt like it was a family’s garden in a caravan park and we were imposing in their personal space.   I like the Cromer boating lake much better.

So here we were at the beach without beach clothes, so the kids took off their clothes and paddled in the sea in their underwear.