My favourite day at this site was definitely when we went to visit the Maastricht caves . We even had to cycle (or in my case push) up a proper hill to get there and we arrived a little early for the English language tour so there was time for yet another beer!

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The tour guide was brilliant, we had a long hot walk to the caves as the usual entrance was closed during which he established that we were a group that were a mix of English and German speaking so he switched flawlessly between both languages throughout the cave tour.

The extra walk was well worth it as we got to see into the vault which is usually too far for the tour. This was where many Dutch pictures were hidden through the 2nd world war, as well as a hidden radio and a fair few people!

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The caves are really man-made tunnels and there are the most amazing charcoal drawings throughout the caves.

Some dinosaurs,

the tour guide was rather critical of the fact that there were a couple of dinosaurs that were incorrectly included as they couldn’t have been from this area.

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An illustration of 5 people who helped the Spanish in the 17th century and then had their heads chopped off and displayed at De Vijf Koppen (The Five Heads Bastion).

We were quite excited to see this as we had visited this bastion on our walking tour the day before!

 

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A map of the underground caves and tunnels, it really is incredible just how extensive they are.

 

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My favourite part was hearing about the Jewish man who used the tunnels to escape to safety during the second world war and had carved his name in a wall in the 1940s and then seeing underneath the same name with a date just a few years ago when he had revisited the caves.

As well as the charcoal drawings there were many sculptures in the soft rock.

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The tour guide gave us a choice of the more adventurous experience or the standard one – we opted for the adventurous one and got to experience a little of the more creepy nature of the caves as the tour guide went ahead of us with the lanterns leaving us in complete darkness to follow him using our fingers on the walls as our guide. It was slow, scary and very disorientating even though i knew we were safe my heart was pounding at the complete helplessness I felt, if the tour guide left us we would have had no way out. He told us about some monks who had become lost in the mines and when they were later found their fingertips had been completely worn away as they had tried to trace their way out by running their hands along the rough walls. Many people have lost their lives in the caves and even with the torch light I was unable to identify which caverns we had been in before.

Jonathan was the only child on the tour so got to have a go at cutting a bit of the stone, it was soft but the idea of doing it for hours on end in the cold humidity was very unpleasant. People stopped working in the mines at the age of about 35 as the damp conditions led to horrendous arthritis.

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The temperature is about 12 degrees all the time in the mines which on the hottest day of the holiday was was a welcome relief!

Back outside we had lovely dappled sunshine

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and after a trek back up the hill we needed another cool beer and then enjoyed the unusual experience of free-wheeling down a Dutch hill to head back to the van.

Maastricht was an easy 30 minute cycle from out camp site, so we headed there for a couple of days.

The first day after the obligatory visit to the, rather impressive, tourist information centre (VVV)

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we set out on a walking tour of the city.

First stop was the magnificent bookshop converted from an ancient Dominican church – Boekhandel Dominicanen

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We opted for the fortifications tour so we saw lots of, well, fortifications.

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We learned that “molen” means mill and saw some watermills.

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Jonathan wanted to take some photos of the deer in the town park.

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We ended up back at the very empty town square and had an ice cream, toasted sandwich and a beer before cycling back to the camp site.

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We love going on holiday to The Netherlands – this year we decided to go somewhere other than the Katjekelder park in Nord Brabant so we headed for a camp site just outside Maastricht, Camping De Oosterdriessen.

This was a great choice: It had a large areas to camp in separated by light hedges,

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A lake to swim in,

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And some good weather to sit outside and eat the tarts

 

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and drink the wine we bought in France.

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We had a fabulous time in The Netherlands and for me the highlight was definitely the cycling – I managed to get out on my bike everyday and sometimes two or three times.

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 We’re about to set off on an expedition apparently:

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I love how safe I feel cycling there and how the infrastructure and the attitude makes for such a pleasant experience.

Look at the size of these cycle paths:

 

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See the depression for the bicycle wheels to go alongside the steps for the underpass – what a simple and yet clever idea:

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Love the height and ease of use of the traffic light button:

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And easy to follow comprehensive signage:

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Really is there much that is more gratifying than your 11 year old son saying after a couple of days camping with you “I’m glad we came camping, I really enjoyed it!” Most of the time it was just the two of us and all we did was swim, walk and spend time together – reading, cards, whittling, crosswords – just nothing much – brilliant!

Martin did join us at the start and the end and had a couple of seaside walks.

 

Well after a good first day in Lincoln I wondered down to the lake with my early morning cuppa and slipped on the steps. It really hurt.

Eventually Martin wondered down and I told him I thought I might have broken my arm. We called a taxi and headed for the local A&E. They were very good at the hospital and everything was fairly quick except for the printing of the CD I needed to take back to the Island.

So here is my broken Ulna:

By the time we got back from hospital the girls had packed everything up and had made a rota for who was going to cook for the next week. We headed home, after only 1 day of our holiday,via Costco and Ikea with me sustained by a heck of a lot of chocolate and paracetamol & codeine!

We had a great start to our Lincoln holiday. We arrived with no van problems at the lovely campsite at Hartsholme got the awning up and enjoyed some lovely fish and chips.

We spent the next day in Lincoln where we bought the world’s best ice-cream and visited the Museum of Lincolnshire Life. Rebekah was particularly incensed by the restrictions on women teachers in the Victorian era but it didn’t stop her dressing up!

  

However it all went downhill from there on!

Lovely camp with a few friends – pleasant weather – a chance to try out the van – very very cheap campsite.

  

Teapots and cake – very important when you are camping:

  

Big kids and little kids all mixing together, going off swimming, reading etc:

  

Bell tents and BBQs – BBQ needed the help of the airbed pump to get going:

  

 Last night cooking dampers round the fire:

 

  

Wow – we have had a ludicrously busy time since returning from camping in September. Every week has had about 5 extra activities in it on top of the usual and Ruth trying to do the hated chemistry revision, as such I am very behind on the blog and have missed out some brilliant experiences we have all had. So a quick overview:

Bristol:

Went to Bristol so Ruth could do a trip to ciromedia for an aerial course. Jonathan, martin and I went and looked at the local street art having got a taste for it in London. We also enjoyed a rather nice park – as you can see I have my “home educators” trousers on!

  

  

 We finally finished the van and even had the re-registration from the DVLA, so we spent the night in the van and then went to Beaulieu in the pouring rain with Martin’s parents.

General life:

We had sumo night at youth nite, Martin and Jonathan had a go. I made an autumn table mat that I was really pleased with.

 

 

London:

Another trip to London – this time with Rebekah and Martin. Had a lovely day mooching with Rebekah, great meal out with mum, Jane and Jonathan and then a great visit to Oasis college.

  

 

Rebekah’s Photography Project:

  

  

 Fire Station Visit:

  

Ruth’s Crafting:

  

Ruth’s Birthday:

  

Art Afternoon at Mike Rodriguez‘s art studio:

  

I am so behind with blogging and will go back and fill in at some point but for now here is our weekend away in London. Just Jonathan and I were going which was really nice as we don’t have much time just the two of us.

We started with a ferry ride, breakfast in Ikea and then a couple of hours on the coach. This was very enjoyable and passed quickly as we played crib, the ministers cat, hangman and squares. This got me thinking about how educational doing that sort of thing is – crib with the arithmetic skills as well as strategic thinking, the ministers cat good for building vocabulary particularly thinking about adjectives, hangman good for spelling and imaginative thinking and squares again good for strategy. So a wasted couple of hours were actually spent productively – not with me trying to be educational but just by default by us engaging together (on the way home again we were so shattered we both sat and listened to radio 4 downloads!).

  

A short hop from Victoria to the natural History Museum. Jonathan had specific things he wanted to see before we arrived and then on reading the leaflet decided to see another few things. I resisted the urge to “make the most” of the visit and take him to see lots more and as such we had a very relaxed time looking at volcanoes, dodos, dinosaurs, an archaeopteryx and a giant sloth – and for some reason seeing some obsidian was thrilling too.

  

  

  

Then he wanted to go to M&M world and as this trip was about taking him to do London things that he wanted to do (and that I could afford) that’s what we did. It’s not really my thing but if you are going to do these things you should embrace them wholeheartedly!

  

  

The next thing on his list was a trip to Primark so he could buy a onesie with his own money – my sister obliged by taking us there and then we had a nice family meal out at a little Italian restaurant – again Jonathan’s choice he wanted pizza.

Friday was spent meeting up with Ruth and other zonies from the biology group visiting the Centre of the Cell, wandering around Covent Garden and doing the BBC tour.

The Centre of the Cell was slightly disappointing as most of the material was available online – however I don’t think Ruth would have spent as long engaging with it and discussing cell related topics if we hadn’t gone and it was free. We had seen the TARDIS before Ruth was more excited then.

   

  

Ruth went home with the others while Jonathan and I went back to my mums and had a lovely roast dinner and choice of three puddings!

Our last day in London saw me doing some bargain hunting in the Salvage shop with mum while Jonathan went to the kids club cinema with Jane and Jonathan. A quick trip round the exceptionally crowded Borough Market Then we had my highlight of the weekend an Alternative Walking Tour of London. We spent a couple of hours walking around the Spittlefields area of London learning about its history and looking at street art and graffiti. I learned so much and found it fascinating. I would definitely do it again as by its nature the art work will have changed. I didn’t know that people did street art with stencils and paste ups as well as chilled spray cans (to give a different effect) as well as all sorts of other things. I’ve just put a few pics here but will probably do more later.

  

  

We had a great weekend.