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

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.

Holkham Estate Scooting & Play Area

On Saturday, which happened to be my 40th birthday, we set off for day at the beach, but it proved far too chilly so instead we headed over to Holkham Estate where the kids could first scoot and then play in their playground.

They really love the playground areas – which is great as it’s all shade so on sunny days, the kids stay out of the sun.  While geared towards 5+ Maebh, for the most part, gets on fine.  A few things, she asks for help but, by far, their favorite thing is the zip line.  Soren likes it so much, he decided to be called Soren “Zippy”.
And Maebh takes it all in and with a little help here & there, enjoys the zip line too.
A few other favorites things around the park including this giant double swing which our big kid at 38 enjoys along with his Quik Milk T-shirt!
After we decided to head to a pub for lunch, so made our way to the Jolly Sailor in Brancaster Staithe.  Turns out that the 5th Annual Norfolk Ale Festival was happening, so it was packed.  We had a beer and watched the Sheringham Shantymen play a few sets, but opted for not eating there…  instead we headed to The Red Lion for Stiffkey mussels.  BUT turns out you can only get them in months which include an “R” so no mussels for us until September – but we’ll NEVER forget that again! 😦

Beeston Bump and St. Mary’s Priory Walk

Saturday’s weather was around 50 degrees, so after my haircut and lunch at home, we decided to walk up Beeston Bump and then down to the St. Mary’s Priory.  Having never been to either place, we set off not knowing what to expect but were pleasantly surprised with both. 

As we headed up the Bump, Soren started to run ahead and didn’t realize that a runner was running along side him, so when he turned to the left, he was a bit startled thought thought it was not funny!  


Once settled we started up the steps, he count them on the way up.


The view at the top was very nice… ahead of us was East and West Runtons & Cromer and behind us was Sheringham & Weybourne.   The village of Beeston and beyond was pretty too, but I personally the view of the Runtons & Cromer the best.

 

We considered renting that pink house in the center of this photo on Nelson Road.

 


The last house on Hillside Avenue (?) which is a blue open floor plan with loads of glass was awesome. Such great views both in a great sunny, warm day and in a big storm.


As we got down the bottom of the Beeston Bump, you have to cross the train tracks.  I think it was pretty safe as it’s one set of tracks and there is a gate, but fitting there is a sign for those who are felling a bit down.

As you walk along the footpath toward the Priory, you first pass a bunch of allotments.  A few were very tidy and others were very overrun.  We could hear chickens but didn’t see any as we passed.


A little further down, you come to a field with a couple horses – those belong to my hairdresser. The little one was playing with a red ball and the other one came running towards us as soon as we approached the fence.  Probably used to having visitors bringing them apples and carrots.

St Mary’s Priory, in Beeston Regis, was founded in 1216 [amazing, right?!] and was linked to a religious hospital in Burnham Overy. Austin Friars lived at the priory, taught at its school and acted as parish priests to nearby villages.  You can read more about its history here, if interested.  Apparently the area was originally called “Northfolk” which later became “Norfolk”.

And no ruin area would be complete for our family, unless the kids run wild around it.

And some other silly photos from the day include Soren trying to fly with his Liverpool shirt on so I could have it in my photos (at his request).

These people when through quite some effort to get a sign made and hang it up.  Tempting to knock 🙂

Maebh and Soren giving each other a funny kisses.

Next door is the Priory Maze and Gardens, which we didn’t go. Perhaps in the Summer when in full bloom – but then again, not sure I’d pay the admission when we can walk around Sheringham Park or Felbrigg Gardens in full bloom for free.   Last year, they had a Family Fun Day in July where they had a BBQ, beer tent, face painting, cupcake decorating & treasure trail and all the profits were given to MacMillian cancer support – so for a day like that I’d gladly give the family ticket of £15.00.

Walsingham Abbey – Snowdrop Walk

In February, the snowdrops are in full bloom. They are perennial flowering plants native to large parts of Europe and are found in many woodlands, churchyards, parks and gardens.  And here in North Norfolk (could be other parts of UK too) it’s quite common to have a walk around and take in the scenery.  I can’t tell the difference without it be pointed out, but I was told there were 500 varieties.

We missed the “Charity walk” but yesterday we decided to take a walk around Walsingham Abbey.   We have been to Walsingham before but never actually entered the gates of the Abbey and it was really beautiful!   The grounds of the Abbey are famous for the spectacular ruins of the medieval Priory and place of pilgrimage – and in February, the masses of snowdrops around its 18 acres.


Walsingham has a long history of religious pilgrimage, by tradition dating back to the 11th century, but possibly even more ancient, with origins in pre-Christian practice.  As we walked from the car park, we walked by many religious statues and signs, along with groups of priests both male and female. While we are not religious at all, Soren knows a bit about both the birth and death of Jesus, which he learned at school, so was very curious to point out things he knows. 

Within the Abbey, there is The Georgian Shirehall & Bridewell Prison, for 200 years a courtroom but originally built as a pilgrim hostel, is now a Museum.  We took a brief tour around the artifacts & photos.  We found the prisoner in the courtroom too, but the kids were best suited to be outdoors on the grounds.  The Bridewell Prison is only up the road and you can borrow the key to get in from the desk.  When we were looking for a parking spot, I saw three people walk up steps to what I thought was an old decrepit building and said to Nils something along those lines of look at those people going int hat abandoned building with all the windows boarded up.  LOL – guess it was fine! 🙂 

As the day was day, though a big windy, we took a nice long walk around the paths before making our way to Brancaster Beach for some shell collecting.  We were going to take the train but it starts after Easter. Unfortunately it was way too windy to stay there for more than 10 minutes – but we love this beach, so open and full of great shells.  


Spring is on the way!


 

Buggy Fun at Wells-Next-The Sea

Yesterday we took Soren’s new remote control super buggy to Wells-Next-The-Sea for the kids to run around and try it out.  They had a great time – loads of laughs, Christmas hats and eight muddy shoes.

As I said before, North Norfolk is so wide-open.  Yes there were others on the beach, but it was like we were alone with miles and miles of sand, water and blue skies.

As we were down near the water, Nils spotted some black seals popping around and playing.

The big winter storm of Dec 6th hit Wells beach pretty hard too.  You’ll see the two large mounds were reduced down to small hills and those hills, I’m sure saved so many of the huts on the far end.

There was loads of sand was pushed up to the huts and some of the huts were damaged quite badly and several were removed.  The ones when you first arrive on the beach were hit the worst.

And my favorite hut of all – the yellow and white stripped one had some damage done to it, but the huts on both sides were totally destroyed.

This above photo I took in May when we were there visiting with Jana, Philip, Stefan and Tobias.

Back to the reason for the trip – play buggy which was a huge hit.  The kids took turns riding it around, chasing it, etc.