We put a profile on a couple home exchange websites, and were contacted by some lovely people who wanted to visit Vancouver. Apparently David visited our city a number of years ago, loved it, and wanted to come back for another visit. And now, after six months of planning, we're here in the UK!
Home exchange is a great way to travel, especially with a family. You get to have a home that has space for everyone, to cook your own meals, and use of a vehicle, all of which are enormous savings. You get to meet locals and friendly acquaintances who are willing to help out. You get to see and experience parts of the country that are authentic rather than touristy. There is some overhead involved, however: you need to pack up the closets and personal items in your house so your guests have a place to 'move in'; you need to organize and clean everything; and you have to be comfortable with someone else living in and using your home.
We were really happy when David and Brenda contacted us and we agreed for this to be our first home exchange. While it's a long flight, we thought a first exchange to an English-speaking country for a relatively short duration (3 weeks) would be an ideal introduction.
I was terrified of the flight. We didn't get a plane ticket for Tomi because he's under two and could sit on our lap for free. Of course the tradeoff for that is that we get to have a very active toddler on our laps for 10 hours! Oh, I planned for the flight. I packed extra diapers and wipes, extra sets of clothes, lots of snacks and food, plane-friendly dishes, and a suitcase full of new toys and books. We had an iPad, an iPod, and two laptops. We had epi-pens and Benedryl. We were READY.
The airport was perfect. Fast and easy. We ate, we explored, we got to the gate 5 minutes before boarding. The plane was full but organized, and we left EARLY. Does that ever happen???
About 3 hours into the flight the kids finally fell asleep (around 5pm Vancouver time). But an hour later, the flight attendants decided to go over the PA system to try to convince us to buy duty-free stuff, and that was the end of the nap. Oh dear.
Around this time I started to feel very yucky. Johnny and the kids were fine, but I felt really nauseated. I ended up spending the rest of the flight - including the landing - sick at the back of the plane and close to the washrooms. I planned for everything, but I didn't plan for food poisoning! Poor Johnny had to handle the kids on his own for the rest of the flight! The only upside of my getting sick was that Tomi got to have his own seat, which made him much happier and much more manageable.
After being so sick I'd been dreading the travel to get from the airport to our village, but a bit of dozing made me feel much better. We took it slow and relaxed in the airport, the kids were a dream despite sleeping only one hour, and we found our way very easily.
At the airport in Gatwick. It was 7am London time, but 11pm Vancouver time!
Can you believe they're in such great spirits after only one hour of napping?
It took one train, one cab ride through London, a second train to Royston, and being picked up by our guest's brother to get 'home' to our village. For the next three weeks we'll be living in a village of 600 people called 'Litlington', which is 3 miles from a small town called Royston, which is 10 miles SW of Cambridge and about 30 miles N of London.
Checking out the English countryside from the train.
Tomi wouldn't stop saying "choo choo!"
And you wonder why I get asked all the time if they're twins!
Today is the second full day we've been here. So far the jet lag has been really difficult for everyone: waking up very early in the mornings, exhausted by mid-morning, waking them from naps when they want to sleep for 12 hours, and lots of crying (them) and crankiness (me). Yesterday we drove around the village and area, checked out the local playground, and visited the grocery store in Royston.
I thought thatched-roof cottages were just something you heard about in bedtime stories.
I was wrong.
Many of the houses here don't have street addresses; they have names. The cottage above is 'Thatch Grove'.
We're living in 'The Mill'! How cute is that?
I wish they did that at home. I think we'd call our place 'Chaos Corner'. Or perhaps 'Dog Hair Hall'.
We met this fella and his mama living in a field next door to the little Rec Centre in town.
That's something you don't see everyday in Coquitlam.
Cute playground just up the road from 'The Mill'. It's a great playground: clean, big, and lots to do.
Right next to gigantic playing fields for - you guessed it! Soccer.
Kids on a teeter-totter. Some languages are international.
Things you don't find in my kitchen: fresh milk delivered to your door in glass bottles
(we've been through 5 of these in 2 days); marmalade; and Marmite.
Yes to the fresh milk, no to the Marmite.
Sitting down for dinner in the big open dining room.
Our gracious hostess Brenda left a homemade lasagna for us!
The jet lag is hitting us all hard. Both mornings we've woken up around 3, the kids around 4. Hopefully we get this all sorted out soon.
Off to get ready for a day. I think we're going to check out a Moms 'n' Toddlers group in Royston.