Thursday, May 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Hannah!

Hard to believe that Hannah is seven today! We opted out of a party for a bunch of different reasons, but had two of her special friends over for a birthday play date. By coincidence, her birthday fell on an inset day (the British equivalent of a PA day) and the sun shone as well! I think a good time was had by all!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tracey and Jim Visit Oxford

It was touch and go for a while, but Tracey and Jim managed to catch a break in the volcanic ash and board a plane to come and see us in Oxford. It was great to welcome them into our home away from home and show them a few of the local sights.

As you may know, Tracey is an extraordinary gardener and was anxious to see some British gardens for inspiration. Her relentless garden-visiting schedule kept us on the move, but we managed to find some real gems, including Waterperry Gardens - just a 10-minute drive away.

The knot garden was really beautiful!
Taking a tea break.
Being spring and all, there are lambs everywhere and they are soooooo cute. Shame to think they're going to end up on dinner tables. Tracey and I stopped at the side of the road to take a peek at these cuties.

Some of the gardens we visited were part of the NGS (National Garden Scheme). It's a very interesting idea - there are so many ancient, established gardens throughout the UK that would go into total disrepair without it. NGS gardens are private gardens that have been opened to the public as a means of collecting for charity. They are all listed in a massive catalogue by region. You go the the garden you want to visit, drop a few pounds in a drop box and explore. The NGS also has an established base of volunteers, so the gardens get the manpower required to keep them up.Tracey and I stopped in Wroxton-St.-Mary, one of the Cotswold's premier thatched-cottage villages, and had a lovely pub lunch.
and then on to another garden - Rousham House. Rousham House had some very formal gardens and many very old Espalier Fruit trees.

The Dovecote at Rousham House.

This rose arbor must be magnificent in summer.

Enjoying another pub lunch.

Another outing took us once again to Blenheim Palace to enjoy the May Day jousting tournament - and a Pim's cocktail - or two ;-)

The birds of prey were on display - really gorgeous animals.

The girls got their faces painted - Hannah looked a bit too much like Heath Ledger at the Joker!

On our final day together, we braved the cold winds and set out to find the Rollright Stones, a series of megalithic limestone monuments that date back to 2500 - 2000 BC - in other words - a stone circle. Now, they aren't exactly Stonehenge, but unlike the more famous circle, you can actually wander in and amongst the stones which was kind of interesting.

Next it was on to Broughton castle, a lived-in castle that is actually owned by cinematic Fiennes family. They open it to the public one day a week for exploration. It's also been used as a set for many films, including Shakespeare In Love.

Not sure a cemetery is the ideal playground, but the kids seemed to enjoy running around.

And then we waved Jim and Tracey off to the rest of their vacation in Paris.

Monkey Business

As it turns out, early spring in England has been quite fine. Warm temperatures and sunny days have encouraged us to go exploring. One of our recent stops was the Cotswold Animal Park, a privately owned zoo housed on the grounds of an estate. It's just a short drive from Oxford and boasts everything from rhinos to ring-tailed lemurs. As you can see from the above picture, the girls couldn't resist putting on their summer dresses.

The meerkats were a favourite. As cute as they are though, I'm still not sure I get TV show.
Still, we did almost take one of them home after he took a running leap out of his habitat practically into Stan's arms - wasn't quick enough with the camera :-(

Hannah and Mira really enjoyed petting the sheep.

I'm not sure what this peacock was trying to tell me when he spread his feathers full out just feet away from me!

The following weekend, we decided to venture down south to "Monkey World," an ape rescue centre opened by an American in 1987. Since then, Monkey World has been taking in many of the world's used and abused primates. The over 230 primates are now rehabilitated and do their part to help educate the public and conserve endangered primate species.

Another summer outfit for another summery day!

" Hmmm.... wonder if she has anything to eat in that zebra purse?"

My little fashionista - I'm still not sure why she felt it so necessary to match her sunglasses to her jacket?! I mean, we were hanging with monkeys!

The highlight of Monkey World is definitely the Lemur enclosure. Lemurs are naturally gentle, tame creatures so you can actually walk amongst them.

George, the geriatric lemur is around about 25 years of age. Apparently that's like being 125 in human years!

The orang-utans were good fun to watch.

Our two little monkeys... their very own enclosure!