The final days in London were difficult as tiredness and homesickness set in a little. Denmark Hill had become a home of sorts, but the boys longed to be back in their space that shelters them from the world. The novelty of London has almost gone but there is still more to be seen.
We packed with some excitement of LA and theme parks but I don't think anyone would have been bothered if we had gone straight home. A long flight awaits but we went and had bacon rolls for breakfast. A final taste of London before heading to another new experience for all of the boys.
Rome is a flurry of walking, trains, and really (really) old things. We stumbled upon a free tour of a church that told us how the Colosseum was being dismantled brick by brick for new buildings and monuments before a priest stopped it. Then from a garden behind the church we had an elevated view which was spectacular.
Venice was a long day but stunning as we struggled to navigate the narrow and winding streets. Google maps was helpful but the tightness and height of the buildings prevented GPS from being accurate and we often found ourselves at a deadend. The age of the place is stunning considering many buildings here (Italy) are older than NZ as a we know it!
Today we are on a train to Pompeii and expecting more walking. The boys continue to fluctuate between excitement/wonder and tired discontent. They miss the space of home and the routine our live typically has (even when on holiday). When we leave Rome we will have just 3 weeks left on this little OE which is typically the longest time we would be away from home on holiday!
New Year in Paris and perhaps traveling is somewhat wearisome to the boys now. They still embrace the experiences, but heading out feels more difficult. We had a fantastic experience at a cafe today where the man took a great interest in Judah and insisted he say please and thank you in French before high five'ing him as we left. They even seemed really taken by Notre Dame.
Tomorrow we had to Italy and I hope they continue to open their eyes. While they look forward to home and years for normal routine, they continue to see and experience new things. One day I hope to know if this little OE has made them more appreciative, more aware, more compassionate, and more accepting of the grandness, smallness, and connectedness of the planet we love in.
Brussels is stunning at night. The cobbled lanes sparkle like gems as you wander between incredible buildings. People are everywhere and most seem to be eating waffles or taking photos (we did both).
The jetlag overcame the mood momentarily but the promise of another waffle restored happiness. Tiredness looms over all of us and the slightest word or expression is tipping someone over the edge.
We return home today, well to our London base, and settle for a couple of weeks. The age of Europe makes NZ a comparative newborn and it is something to see. Kudos to those who were able to build in a manner that outlived them as well as many generations that came after them.
The jet lag has set in but the boys are doing really well. They arrived in Amsterdam yesterday and today we have had them out for 10 hours. Amsterdam is yet another change in geography, language, food, and cukture. We're all amazed at how many bicycles are parked everywhere around the city, how extensive the bike paths reach, and how many people are constantly whizzing past on their bikes.
I hadn't realised how influential the Netherlands were historically but have learned a little of that while here. The city is beautiful, ordered, and clean which is somewhat the antithesis of what I imagined with their famous red light district. People are friendly and fluent in English which is very helpful to us.
Tomorrow we depart for an overnight stay in Brussels. Strange how we're referring to London as home now...
What an introduction to London! We've already seen Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, Oxford and Regent Street courtesy of a bus journey. The highlight for M and J was undoubtedly Hamley's that it seemed even E enjoyed. Being back with the family makes it even more startling just how different London is to Lower Hutt.
In what may be genius planning they only have 3 days before heading to Amsterdam. They are really being submerged in travel and the incredible differences of each country. So far they are keen to explore and handling the excessive tiredness and jet lag amazingly well. The good news is we're now largely settled in a fairly stable timezone so the sleeping will improve.
It is novel for me to leave them today and travel to Amsterdam for work. While travelling is normal, it has been more than a year since a trip has taken me away while remaining so close. It is also different because they will join me in 2 days time. Such a short trip and for them to follow is an exciting end to some days working.
Rising at 5:30am to be ready for a 6am airport was tough and it was the first morning we've had to wake the boys. After check in we sorted breakfast then boarded the first flight. 3.5 hours from Hong Kong to Beijing was easy for everyone. In Beijing we headed to a lounge and ate some food before boarding flight number 2.
The 11.5 hours through to Heathrow was long and uncomfortable. Noodles or rice were the meal options (Air China) and nobody ate much. Mercifully customs was very quick and our luggage was pretty much waiting for us so we jumped into an Uber to avoid a long train journey with a couple of changes. 90 minutes later we pulled into Denmark Hill and headed to the room. The access card didn't work but we were let into the room while that was sorted.
MJ had an upset stomach that meant he vomited shortly after landing and twice in the Uber. So the longest day of the Little OE was most unpleasant for him. Now, I've been awake since 4am with the younger 2. Looks like we have another long day ahead of us...
Hong Kong has been a jolting experience. All 3 boys have never experienced crowds like here, markets like here, building density like here, neon lights like here or the assault on your senses many of the food stalls offer. They seem to have enjoyed every moment though and have happily walked everywhere (15+km both days). Yesterday we ate at 2 different Chinese restaurants and they all tried the different foods, E and J were into everything while M was a little more restrained but far more adventurous than I ever was! The markets have been a highlight and they've all purchased gadgets or knock-off goods. Today we finish up in HK and prepare for an early departure to the airport, 2 flights, and 14+ hours travel to London.
And so we are in Hong Kong and awaiting the transfer to our Airbnb. The flight was long but all boys managed to get some sleep. Next stop a rest before heading out into the city and exploring 👌🏼