Our 2018 summer road trip started out in Saratoga Springs… (more text coming).
During our long drive we planned to make some strategic stops along the way to break up the trip. Since we were driving through Sudbury, we took a couple hours and visited the science center (we thought it was funny that it was located on 100 Ramsey Lake Road). The science center had a lot of cool stuff including some giant bugs from Malaysia which we got to hold. After the science museum we drove by the big nickel and snapped some touristic photos. Then it was a couple more hours driving. Midway between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie there is a city called Elliot Lake and while Elliot would have loved to make a pit stop here, we decided not to. It was too far off our route so instead, we hit a motel in a place called Blind River.
A couple of years ago we started doing yearly road trips and it turns out that this is a way of travelling that the entire family really enjoys. This year we first flew to Toronto and got some time in with the family before we headed north to the Georgian Bay, drove through Saul St. Marie to visit friends in Minnesota and then explored a bit of Wisconsin and Chicago as we headed back east towards Toronto again. We put more than 5,000 km (3,100 miles) of mileage on the car during our trip and in between visiting friends and family we got to see and experience a bunch of new things. Fishing, kayaking, and pontoon boating were all previously untried activities for most of us, and on the “never-seen-before” list we added a giant nickel, a real ass, lots of inukshuks, some poison ivy, and a black bear in the wild … or at least a wild black bear near the highway. All in all it was yet another very successful trip for the diary. What is extraordinary about this trip, though, is that I managed to keep somewhat on top of all the picture taking/sorting along the way. Hence, I am practically done going through the 2,145 pictures I took and I will be posting the approximately 275 which made the cut in the days to come (For those who have been looking in vain for the pictures from our last Canada/US trip in 2016, they have now been posted. Click here and scroll down).
The last main attractions before heading back to Heathrow airport were the cliffs of Dover and Dover castle in Kent. It was a nice sunny day with which to experience the nature and cliffs. As there were no safety measures to prevent you from flying off the edge, you did have to be quite careful here. Dover Castle overlooks the town of Dover and it is the largest castle in England. It was founded in the 11th century with the main purpose of repelling invasions from across the English Channel. When we were there they had a small medieval fair going on which included a recreation of a jousting match. A perfect way to end off of our trip!
Next stop going eastwards was Stonehenge, one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks and supposedly the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. This assorted series of large rocks is also believed to be one of the oldest monuments in the world, dating back to 2000-3000BC. Stonehenge was one of the very first sites in the UK to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and many different theories have been put forward about who built it, when, and why. While there are stories about giants bringing these huge stones from a distant land, there are also myths about the stones having healing powers. Recent research has shown that Stonehenge might have been an ancient burial site.
Our next stop was in Paignton, which is a seaside town on the coast of Tor Bay in Devon, England. Commonly known in southern England as part of the ‘English Riviera’ the beach had some very unique red sand and some colourful beach huts sprinkled along the beach front. A travelling amusement park had just setup while we were visiting and since it was quite empty, the kids got some hassle-free fun in the jumping castle and also got to try some flips on an assisted trampoline. From this town we continued our road trip eastwards making a stop at a trampoline park to break up the drive a bit.
After our visit to the most westerly point of England, we started heading eastwards. Next stop was St Michael’s Mount, a small tidal island in Mount’s Bay. The island is linked to the town of Marazion by a man-made causeway of granite setts, passable between mid-tide and low water. We started off with a walk along the beach and then proceeded to stroll across the granite causeway. On the island there is a medieval church and castle, and it is home to a small community. Inside the castle the kids partook in a quiz where they had to search for a giant’s stone heart, the armour of a samurai warrior, and a mummified cat, amongst other things. The castle was well preserved with great views of the sea and countryside. We made it back to shore before the tide came back in and continued on to our next destination.
Next stop on our trip was the most westerly point in England, appropriately called Land’s End. Land’s End is classified as one of Britain’s most magnificent landmarks and while there was not a whole lot to do out there, the place did offer some stunning scenery with big cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.
After Bath, we headed to the countryside and visited a Safari park connected to an old English stately home called Longleat. There were a lot of different animals to see, and the monkeys climbing on the car and eating our antenna was one of the highlights. After the safari we paid a quick visit to the attached mini amusement park, where Sienna the brave held a giant tarantula.
We continued our journey west and traveled to the city of Bath. Bath is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of its Roman remains, 18th century architecture, hot springs and landscape setting. We began our tour of the city by Bath’s most impressive piece of architecture, The Royal Crescent. We then continued through the historical city center where we had lunch and did a bit of shopping.
From London we drove west and on the outskirts of town, we visited the Hampton Court Palace. Since it was Easter, there was an organized bunny hunt game where the kids had to find golden bunnies hiding around the grounds and inside the palace while at the same time learning a bit about the history of the palace. Since it was built more than 500 years ago it holds an abundance of history, but the focus was primarily on Henry VIIII and the Tudor times. The treasure hunt was a good way to travel back in time and explore the home and gardens of Henry VIII and in exchange for finding all the bunnies and getting the answers right, there was a bunny chocolate prize at the end.
To celebrate that Sienna turned 11 years old we decided to do a family trip to England. We flew in to London on April 11, 2017 and kicked off our trip with some visits to some of the most popular sights. We had fun doing an interactive treasure hunt at the Tower of London, and after this we proceeded to the Lyceum Theatre where we saw the famous musical, the Lion King. The next day we endured waiting in line for a long time in order to board the London Eye. The kids were surprised to learn that it was a very slow ride, but we enjoyed taking in the sights from above. Before we drove out of London, we paid a visit to the oldest and largest toy shop in the world, Hamleys.
Heading back to the cost, we traveled to the ancient city of Kotor. Similar to Dubrovnik, Kotor featured a great wall surrounding a centuries old city, full of small alleyways and shops. It was a nice place with a good atmosphere, but the temperature was still above 40 degrees Celsius so we made it a short visit.
We began our first European road trip by flying into Dubrovnik, Croatia. The city’s most famous feature is its stone boundary. The walls were constructed between the 12th and 17th centuries and encircle the old city. They are in places up to six meters thick and have never been breached by a hostile army. We were in the middle of a heat wave so walking around was very hot. We also took a cable car to the war museum located on a hilltop high above Dubrovnik. The city was badly affected by one of Europe’s most recent conflicts as it was besieged for nearly eight months by the Yugoslav People’s Army. In between sightseeing we spent a good part of the time escaping the heat in the pool and by the beach.