Historic Scotland and large families

Leon and Anna as King and Queen of Scots in Stirling.
Leon and Anna as King and Queen of Scots in Stirling., a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
We often feel modern companies are on a mission to punish large families. Cinemas, budget airlines and many others charge almost as much for kids as for adults, and the result is that a family with five kids have to pay almost seven times as much as a single person, although they are likely to have more or less the same income.

So it was an absolutely pleasure to join Historic Scotland today. The yearly membership fee for a family with an unlimited number of kids (up to 15 years old) is £84.55, which compares very favourably with the £45.60 that an individual would have to pay.

Historic Scotland is really worth joining, by the way. It gives you free access to lots of famous castles such as Stirling, Edinburgh, Linlithgow and Urquhart, plus a long list of other places and events.

We decided to go to Stirling Castle first, and if you haven’t been, it’s definitely worth seeing. It’s huge, and there are many things to interest the kids, too.

Putting your kids inside the cage

Stumbling upon a python
Stumbling upon a python, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
During my recent trip to Denmark with Léon, Anna and Amaia, my mum and I took Léon and Anna to Randers Regnskov (while my dad looked after Amaia, who had got a chest infection).

As always, it was a great experience, so much better than Eden.

If you don’t know the place, the idea is to take a zoo and a greenhouse, and then take the animals out of the zoo and put them and the visitors into the greenhouse together. This means that monkeys, parrots, leaf-cutter ants, pythons and bats might suddenly be sitting on your shoulder (the really dangerous animals, such as rattle snakes and Komodo dragons, are still locked up).

Furthermore, you can help feed the animals at specific times, and Léon loved feeding the bats just as much as Anna enjoyed feeding the manatees.

Apart from the winter months, you can fly directly from Edinburgh to Billund (home to Legoland and the Lion Park), which is about 80 miles south-west of Randers, so it’s really quite easy to get to.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the photo — it really is a live python next to Léon!

Travelling with stepchildren

UK Border
Originally uploaded by Mesq

When I travelled to Denmark ten days ago with Amaia, Anna and Léon, nobody asked us any questions (Amaia, Anna and I were using our Danish passports and Léon his British one).

However, when we returned last Wednesday, Léon and I were interviewed for a couple of minutes by the border police in Stansted (our relationship, his date of birth, and who I was). They also told me it would have helped if I had brought his birth certificate.

It’s great they’re trying to do something about child abductions, but wouldn’t it be more appropriate to ask the questions when you leave the country where the child is a citizen rather than when you bring them back?

I also fail to understand what difference a birth certificate would have made. If it had been combined with our marriage certificate, I guess it would have shown a link between us, but surely unmarried stepdads and grandparents and the like are allowed to take kids on holiday, too?

The border police need to state clearly which documents they want to see to allow for smooth passage if the passports aren’t enough any more. Otherwise it becomes completely unpredictable whether you’ll be allowed to travel or not, which isn’t very satisfactory.

Flying with home brew

When I visited Denmark a few days ago (together with Léon, Anna and Amaia, but that’s another story), I wanted to take a few bottles of my home-brewed beer to inflict on old friends, so I wrapped eight bottles up in my best clothes and handed the suitcase over to Norwegian (they fly Edinburgh-Copenhagen, even during winter).

When we finally got to Århus, I unwrapped the bottles, and apart from one (which had leaked a little), they seemed to have survived the trip.

The next day I met up with an old friend of mine, Jes, who also happens to be a home-brewer, and I proudly poured him a glass of my fine brew. Or so I thought.

The beer was producing much more foam than it does here, and the taste had deteriorated. Jes was being very polite about it, but I was disappointed.

The next day I was visiting another old friend, Thomas Mailund, and I brought him a couple of bottles, too. I was hoping that the problems had perhaps been resolved by letting the bottles rest a little longer, but unfortunately it tasted even worse than the day before, not just yeasty but also sour.

So I have to conclude that my home brew doesn’t travel. If you want to taste it, you have to visit me here in Scotland! 🙂

Back from Tuscany

We had originally planned to go camping in England this summer, but when my dad broke his foot, we decided to go and visit my parents in their home in the Apennine mountains between Florence and Arezzo instead.

Given that the northern half of Europe (including most of France) has had abysmal weather for the past few months, while Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean have had beautiful weather, that turned out to be an excellent decision.

We have had full sun for 99% of the past fortnight (well, of the daylight hours anyway), whereas it seems likely it would have been closer to 1% if we had stayed on this island.

It would have been lovely to have stayed for longer, but the three big ones are going to France on Saturday, and I have work to do. I just hope the weather patterns will change soon!

Besøg fra København

On Luss beach
Originally uploaded by PhylB

Min søster og hendes mand, deres datter og hans to sønner besøgte os her i weekenden for første gang nogensinde. D.v.s., de besøgte mig alle for fem år siden, da jeg stadig var single og Ursula ikke var født endnu, og de besøgte os uden Felix og Theodor for 3½ år siden, men det var altså første gang, de alle fem besøgte os alle syv.

Det var meget hyggeligt!

De var her i tre døgn, fra fredag til mandag, og vi spiste traditionel skotsk mad og gik tur ved Loch Lomond.

De fire små legede utroligt godt sammen, og Léon og Anna blev bedre og bedre til at tale dansk til Ursula. Marcel og Charlotte var vist lidt overraskede over, hvor store Felix og Theodor var blevet, og omvendt!

Vi håber, de snart kommer igen.

Three weeks in Italy

Pieve Pontenano
Originally uploaded by viralbus

We’ve just returned from three weeks in Tuscany, where my parents had invited us to spend the summer holiday with them in their house in a tiny village called Pieve Pontenano in the mountains less than 100 km south-east of Florence.

The weather was quite pleasant most of the time, with temperatures around 30 degrees in the shade (the main exception being Marcel’s birthday, when it was raining heavily) – the day we flew back to Scotland, temperatures were about 20 degrees lower in Prestwick than in Pisa, so it was quite a shock to the system to return.

My parents’ internet connection isn’t great, which is partly why I haven’t blogged while I was away, but it is actually really nice to be away from everything for a while.

We went on a day-trip to Rome with the two big ones, and another to Siena with all the kids and my mum. Siena was surprisingly even more touristy and expensive than Rome, so I wouldn’t recommend going there during summer.

We also went on shorter trips to local towns such as Arezzo, Bibbiena and Montevarchi – the latter was by far the better place to buy clothes because very few tourists seem to go there (apart from David Cameron).

We all enjoyed it. Léon got much better at speaking Danish (rather than just understanding it) – when I was lying in bed in the morning I could often hear him speaking Danish to my parents with his almost pedantic pronunciation. 🙂

I wish I could say it was nice to be home, but if only their internet connection had been better and the kids hadn’t needed to start school soon, it would have been been severely tempting to stay there for another three weeks.