The girls and I have now said ciao ciao to Dave and moved on to England. Dave spent one final night in a small hotel in Mestre (mainland near Venice) and then flew home. We called him last night to make sure he arrived safe and sound, and to let him know that I still have his driver's licence...oops!
We had a decent flight on EasyJet - no problems at all getting a seat, as I had feared. I'd read reports of mass stampedes for seats so purchased the speedy boarding option (only an extra 11.25 euro). We were first on and off the bus and got three seats together at the front of the plane. Our flight was running 20 mins or so late, but was smooth. Dad was waiting for us at Gatwick, so we were quickly on our way.
First stop was to grab a bite of lunch - roadside foodcourt type setup and we ate at Wimpy's. We all agreed that it was edible but likely won't eat there again. Because we were sort of in the area, we jumped at the chance to see Leeds Castle.
Leeds Castle is quite impressive. A huge castle, with moat, extensive grounds, etc. I found it thrilling to be in Henry VIII's banquet hall - how cool is that?! The castle is still used for conventions and weddings so a couple of the rooms were closed (a wedding was taking place). The Ginger was disappointed that the library was not open that day - the brochure said there were 3000 books. But still it was a fabulous introduction to England and all her historical sites!
The drive home was about 3 hours (I think, but was quite tired so wasn't paying that much attention to the time). We saw the biggest traffic jam ever on one of the roads around London. Three lanes of traffic totally blocked for about 10 miles, a few cars creeping along, but most were stopped and in a few cases, people actually out of their cars stretching their legs. I can't imagine how long it must have taken to clear, but we were SO glad to be going in the opposite direction!
Yesterday we went to Sutton Hoo. This is an ancient burial ground for Anglo-Saxon royalty of the period around 625 AD (believed to be King Raedwald, although can't be proven that the main find was his burial site). I'd seen a TV program about it a few months back, and to our great delight, there just happened to be an event with historical reenactments going on! Lots of people in period costume, putting on combat demonstrations (Romano-Brits, "scuzzy Germanic tribes" and Angles) and hosting various displays in tents set up all over the grounds. We also got a tour of the burial mounds themselves (not inside the mounds since those are all just grassy mounds, but inside the normally roped off area). Miss Ninja's favourite thrill was holding the birds of prey - she got to hold an owl and a falcon of some sort. The handlers put on a birds of prey display so were bringing people from the crowd up to help. MN had the biggest grin on her face! The Ginger loved the combat and archery displays, which were VERY entertaining, I must say. The exhibition at Sutton Hoo is also very interesting as it contains items found in the actual mounds (although I believe many of the originals were on loan from the British Museum).
When we got home, some friends of Dad and Maggie's were visiting from HongKong, so we all had supper together. They were very nice and good fun. Their son was a former student of Maggie's, and he and his girlfriend got along famously with MN and TG, although there was a considerable age difference (they in their early 20's, TG 17, and MN only 11).
Today we just hung around the beach hut at Southwold. I thought some downtime would be good so we could recharge our batteries for the rest of our vacation. The North Sea was only 17 degrees C (not sure what temp the Adriatic had been, but was certainly much warmer than that!!) But was not so cold to us since we are used to Atlantic Ocean temps. MN and I had a fantastic time playing and swimming in the waves. Then we had lunch at the beach hut, followed by a game of...rats, I forget the name. A game where you throw balls toward a tiny jack ball and try to get the closest to the jackball. It was a close game, but Dad and MN finally beat TG and I by a score of 10-8. We also played a round on the nearby putting green and then came home, just in time to miss the heavy rain shower.
The weather in England has not been nearly as gorgeous as Italy, but it's not been bad either. Cloudy with sunny breaks and vice versa, with only short showers. We brought our rain jackets and fleece sweaters anyway so are prepared for anything. And it's been warm enough that I haven't needed my sweater yet, although the girls have had them on - today at the Southwold pier I could have used mine, I guess! The wind was whipping in off the North Sea by the time we packed up and left.