bookmark_borderBesøg 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.

bookmark_borderThree 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.

bookmark_borderScottish passports and the Scottish-English border

Most people have assumed that an independent Scotland won’t introduce passport controls at the Scottish-English border.

I’m sure that’s not the intention, but as a blog posting on Better Nation pointed out today, Scotland will probably have to join Schengen at some point post-independence, simply because England will be seen as the continuation of the UK, so Scotland will be treated as a new EU member, and they generally don’t get many opt-outs (which will also mean that Scotland will eventually need to join the Euro).

Personally I’d be delighted if Scotland joined Schengen, given that we tend to travel much more often to Schengen countries (such as Denmark, Germany, France and Italy) than to England. Who knows, it might even convince the English to join, too.

Writing this blog posting, I was a bit surprised that I couldn’t find a realistic mock-up of what Scottish passports will look post-independence, given that the layout of EU passports is heavily regulated.

It didn’t take me long to make one myself in the Gimp, though. I made the assumption that it’ll be the lion rampant that will be on the front page, although it might of course be some other emblem.

bookmark_borderHow to get rid of visitors

I think I mentioned that we spent last week in Keith with the rest of Phyllis’ family. We drove up to our holiday home via Pitlochry, but we returned via Urquhart Castle and Glencoe (see the map on the left).

The idea was to have a quick look at Urquhart Castle during our lunch break.

However, when we got there, we realised they had built a wall and planted trees to prevent visitors from seeing the castle without paying the entrance fee of £7.20 for adults and £4.30 for children between 5 and 15. This would have meant that for all of us to get in we would have had to pay £57.40 – a hefty price to eat our sandwiches in a ruin.

Needless to say, we tried to climb the wall to take a few photos and then ate our lunch in the car park, followed by a toilet break in the next village because they wouldn’t even let you use their toilets without paying the entrance fee.

As far as I could gather, almost nobody paid to get in. I wouldn’t rule out that many tourists would pay that much during the summer holidays, but they would definitely make more money in April if they lowered the price.

What gets me is also that they had absolutely no rebates for families. If our kids had been closer together in age (e.g., 13, 11, 9, 7 and 5 instead of 13, 11, 5, 3 and 1), a single visit would have cost us £35.90. That kind of price just prevents families with many kids from going altogether. Will people setting the price for attractions never understand that large families typically have less money left to spend on entertainment than families with 1.4 kids? Of course it’s our own choice to have many kids, but the result is that we just don’t go to places that charge a high entrance fee for each child.

That said, it looks like you can get free admission to lots of castles including Urquhart Castle if you join Historic Scotland, which costs £79.80 per year for two adults with up to six kids. That actually is a fairly reasonable price – I just wish all the individual attractions would adopt a similar pricing scheme.

bookmark_borderCamping is good fun for babies

Amaia illuminating herself
Originally uploaded by PhylB

Before we embarked on our epic journey of England, we were a tiny bit concerned whether Amaia at six months was too young to cope with the travails of camping.

She loved it, however! (Except that she thought we travelled too far between campsites.)

As the photo shows, she enjoyed playing with the lantern. She also enjoyed sleeping with her mum and dad in a double sleeping bag, listening to the noises through the canvas, and being around all her siblings all the time.

She complained one night when Phyllis was taking her to bed while the rest of us was having dinner outside – she wanted to sit together with us and have a chat and a chip.

Of course it wouldn’t really work if you were too keen on sterilised bottles with formula, but for a breastfed baby who’s happy to supplement it with real, dirty food, it’s a great holiday.

bookmark_borderAmmonite hunters

An ammonite and I
Originally uploaded by viralbus

Marcel, Charlotte and I left Phyllis and the wee ones on the sandy beach in Lyme Regis and walked over to the Jurassic cliffs on Manmouth Beach.

We had heard it was a good place to find ammonites, so I was hoping to find an incomplete chunk or two.

What I didn’t expect was to find the beach littered with huge, complete ammonite shells like the one on the photo!

On the other hand, we didn’t find any small ones we could take home. Whether that was because they had already been removed by other fossil hunters, or whether only the big ones fossilise well, I don’t know.

What I do know is that we met several other people with big hammers that they used to split the stones with. We had to restrict ourselves to chucking the stones onto the hard ground, which is not quite as efficient.

So next time, we’ll bring hammers, chisels and a sturdy rucksack!

bookmark_borderHome again

We got home from our camping holiday at 6pm today, having left home at 10am 16 days before.

We stayed at four different campsites:

  1. Four nights in a small campsite just outside Bridlington in Yorkshire, from where we went on daytrips to York.
  2. Four nights in a large cosmopolitan campsite in Abbey Wood in East London.
  3. Six nights in a large campsite in Paignton (the English Riviera), from where we went on daytrips to the Eden Project in Cornwall, to Dartmoor, and to Lyme Regis in Dorset.
  4. Two nights in a farm campsite in Llangollen (northeast Wales).

I’ll write more about the details later, but we actually had good fun, although it was hard to squeeze two adults, five kids, our tent and everything else into our seven-seater without a roofbox.

Google Maps claims the trip was 1249 miles (2011 km), but including our daytrips and detours we actually clocked up 1907 miles (3069 km).

However, for now I’m most of all happy to be home in my own bed – airbeds on steep slopes don’t make for good sleeping.