Goodbye England – leg one of our return to NZ complete (thank goodness!)

Our taxi swept us away to London Heathrow at midday yesterday. The emotions of saying goodbye were quelled with the thought of ‘Chicken’ Grandma & Granddad visiting us in New Zealand, almost ten weeks to the day of our departure from England.

As we made our way from the taxi, laden heavily with baggage, a surprise waited for me – a very old friend I hadn’t seen in nineteen years – (that I’d worked with at Butlins holiday camp in North Wales all those years ago!).

We couldn’t have hoped for a smoother check-in and pass through security (though we were unfortunate to have about three of our bags randomly selected for an open case rummage – done with wonderful British politeness, I must say). Having Alice asleep in the buggy throughout the whole procedure (thank you lovely Air New Zealand lady who organized for us to keep the buggy right up to the departure gate) made things a whole heap easier. Sophie and Charlotte, now fully accustomed with the whole procedure, were complete pros at doing what was required of them.

We then had a couple of hours to pass in Terminal 1’s departure lounge, which passed easily with eating, doodling and reading. The walk to our gate was a decent length – which was just what we needed before being sedentary on a long haul flight to LAX.

Sophie & Alice give England a farewell salute (of sorts!)

We travelled with Air New Zealand and, as always, they were the tops. The seats reclined comfortably, with the arm rests going fully back. The touch screen in-flight entertainment really was excellent – so good that we didn’t have a single peep or grumble from our three daughters for the ENTIRE flight! Honestly – this was the best long haul flight we have ever flown with our children. Our two youngest had decent naps to tide them over, but our eldest daughter just kept going and going, with all the in-flight entertainment, combined with drawing and puzzles.

Landing at LAX our eldest finally surrendered to sleep – but that lasted all of ten minutes before the disruption of disembarking the plane woke her with a jolt. Feeling very tired on our feet all round, we walked to immigration. A sea of people snaking round and round met our blood shot eyes. Alice, our two year old, was the only one showing any energy (which I immediately saw as a challenge to contain!). The puppets came out of the bag and we snaked our way around, entertaining (or annoying) the surrounding people with tales of ‘Goldilocks and the three bears’ and ‘Jack and Jill’. We managed to keep laughing and in good spirits for ten minutes or so… but there’s only so long, on very little sleep, one can do a sterling children’s television presenter performance. As tiredness overwhelmed our eldest daughter we continued to do our best to manage her exhaustion, doubled with our youngest child’s energy. Our middle child pulled out the helpful card and did a great job of helping with the bags and keeping the peace.

Finally, families were pushed forward in the line and we were greeted with a really friendly and welcoming passport control officer. We survived and went on to collect our bags, before joining another long line… where I have to admit to letting a few swear words rip (as my youngest started to lose interest in staying in line, whilst my eldest reached a point of exhaustion like she’d never experienced before – she’d been away for nearly 24 hours!). We didn’t look at the time, but we landed around 7pm and didn’t leave the airport, in our rental car to Santa Barbara, till around 10pm – enough said!

The drive to Santa Barbara went smooth as – thanks to the amazing man of the family. He managed to drive on a different side of the round, in a beast of a vehicle (we had rather a lot of luggage!), on a six lane highway through LA, without a hiccup. It was of no surprise that the rest of us slept for most of the drive.

We all woke, apart from Alice, as we arrived at the stunning Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara. We drove into a glorious spanish looking courtyard, with a magnificently lit fountain in the centre (which Charlotte – desperate for the toilet at this point – found a humorous welcome). We left our tank of car to the valet parking and were drove to our villa in a golf buggy, along with our luggage fit for a family of ten.

Arriving at Bacara - midnight

It’s now nearly 5am local time in LA. Dan and Charlotte are sleeping. Sophie, Alice and I have been awake for a couple of hours (and had a very refreshing soak in the luxurious bath). I am now deciding what to do with my two active younger children for another couple of hours – as they show no signs of sleeping!

Turns out an hour’s walk around the resort helped a little. We found the pool (thankfully gated – otherwise Sophie & Alice would have gone skinny dipping)…

The pool

And we found this warm glowing fire… which could have been very romantic – ALONE with my HUSBAND (I can dream!)… instead I ended up running after Alice who made off with the fire poker and insisted it was her sword (help!).

Warm by the fire

We quickly found a distraction – dancing around fairy lit trees…

Fairy lit trees at Bacara

Time now is just past 6am. I’ve managed to make myself a coffee on the machine in the villa. It’s taken the edge off – slightly.

Breakfast is at 7am and it can’t come fast enough! Dan’s off to work at Citrix HQ, when the sun’s up, and I shall have my work cut out for me juggling three children with varying degrees of jet lag – thankfully the beautiful surroundings do make my task a little easier.

And this hazy camera pic is for my folks to say, ‘Don’t worry, I’m smiling!’ xxx

First coffee of the day