Capturing our love for art, adventure and learning
We have had 3 very very different months this summer in terms of weather. June was the hottest June on record and July was 10th wettest on record. We saw storm Antoni and Betty along with a mix of rain as well as sunshine. What we've felt constantly however is a period of healing. A healing of body, mind and soul as we mindfully savour our adventures.
If you haven't been able to follow our journeys, here's a quick list and some links you can visit:
Post: Summer Bumper Post: We surrender
-North Wales (South Stack lighthouse)
-North Wales (Great Orme)
-London Leicester Square
Post: Reduced to tears
-North Wales (Gwynedd - Dolgellau)
-North Wales (Gwynedd - Cregennan Lakes)
July was basically a very restful month because of the constant rain. We took the opportunity to continue school since the kids usually take a break in September when we celebrate their birthdays. We followed the Wimbledon, watched a lot of Bluey, attended Gwyn's first ballet concert and listened to Matt's live radio show weekly. It was apparently also loose teeth season and I've had to pluck two really loose ones in a day....
The wet weather slowed down our schedules and helped us become more mindful and present. We need to realise how special these ordinary days are. The seemingly ordinary days to us are our children's memory of their childhood. We take nothing for granted because the days may seem long but the years fly by really really quickly.
I think the quiet moments also made us appreciate the community around us a lot more. We've learnt to slow down and take our time to see people as people. We're incredibly grateful that people take time to make us feel at home and that we belong to the community. Little things like a light-hearted chat after service, picnics, tea time and lunches in a backyard feel really wholesome!
Being home so much also forced us to observe our surroundings more keenly. We realised that A LOT does happen around us in the village. We've observed which birds came by, where the squirrels sat in the tree and when the foxes came by. I think I've made friends with a Pigeon...
Despite the rain, we did manage a farm shop visit in Market Harborough, a drive on the Gospel Pass (highest road pass in Wales), a stroll on a sandflat and Lavender farm in Norfolk. We've had to dodge some showers and drive in really wet conditions but it was all worthwhile. I've grown to love trips that subtly stimulate your senses and help form amazing memories. You hear the buzzing of the bees, smell the fragrance of the lavender, see the wild horses and feel the wind in your hair.
It is so easy to lose our ability to feel deeply and appreciate a moment. Doom scrolling and switching constantly from video to video have programmed our brains to be constantly demanding the next. We want entertainment that is stimulating and quick. We are never really in the moment nor have the time to appreciate what we are looking at. I cannot recommend being in the countryside more. After capturing the shots we need, we make an effort to put our devices away to stare, smell and feel. We come back refreshed. Every single time!
Healing also came in the form of food. Having to pay more than £10 for a loaf of Gluten-free bread back in Singapore is never far from our minds when we visit the supermarket and farm shops. For so many years, it was exceptionally difficult to listen to our bodies and eat food that doesn't ruin our guts and trigger allergy symptoms. It isn't just the affordability that we are grateful for, it is the labelling and ease of access that makes it much easier.
August has been pretty packed compared to July. We are well aware that that we won't be getting as much daylight. At the end of June, the sun rose at 4.41am and set at 9.32pm. Days were long and we barely used our car's headlights in the height of summer. But by the end of August, we will be losing as much as 3 hours and 40 minutes of daylight. The seasons really teach you to seize the moment. It is either now or next summer.
We wanted to maximise our time and resources and so we tried as much as possible to visit the countryside and attractions that don't require an entrance fee. We've also opted not to stay overnight for all of our trips. Hotels can cost between £60 to £100 a night for a "budget option". With two storms in a month, we gave up toying with the idea of camping.
We wake up early and get on the road early from our home, spend the whole day at a place and leave by early evening to make it back in time for the kids' bedtime. It is a lot of miles but we managed to to visit London, Bristol, Eastbourne, Twycross, Coalville and Mam Tor in the Peak District. We've got to adapt to make these travels possible and it made us many core memories!
To be really honest, we didn't manage to enjoy the British Museum properly. The place was jam packed with tourists and school groups. If you don't like queues and crowds, don't come to London in August. Wait until the 2nd week of September when school holidays are over! It is also generally cooler by then and you won't have to be cooked alive in the older Underground lines.
We got a glimpse of the mummies that the kids have been learning about in their world history curriculum. It was an eerie but intriguing sight. Although I must admit looking at dead people was a rather peculiar choice for our 11th marriage anniversary...
After a lot of walking (and some ice-cream), we tried looking for an Asian/Malaysian restaurant because I've been having Sambal cravings! (Sambal is a chili paste made by a mixture of chili peppers, shrimp, onions, garlic etc...). We had some satays, fried rice and green curry and they tasted good but still lacked the authentic taste we love. I guess we'll try again the next time we are in London...
-Twycross Zoo, Leicestershire
This was the only significant ticketed attraction we paid for this summer. Paying for the day ticket entitled us to a year pass. This was a good investment because the kids never get sick of going to a zoo and we live in the same county as the zoo! Graffalo land (a walk through experience) was also included. What I liked the most about the zoo is that children get to interact with people instead of screens. They get an activity sheet that guides them to explore the zoo and look for stations where a staff member will ask questions and share interesting facts with them. It makes the Zoo experience less of a passive one.
-Cattows Farm, Coalville
Gwyn decided she wanted to wear her bright pink dress that morning for no apparent reason. It was the dress her late-grandpa bought for her just 3 months before he passed on. It was a surprise because we didn't tell her our plans that day and we didn't know she could finally fit the dress. The blazing hot sun and clear blue skies made it a perfect day to roam the sunflower fields and take photographs that pop!
-Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
I was just unwinding at the end of the day and looking at my socials before I saw an amazing video of hot air balloons glowing in the night sky. The next moment I was all over google maps looking for the best way to get to Bristol. The next day, we left home at 4pm after Matt's radio show and headed straight for Bristol. The weather was very very unpredictable. When we arrived and parked, it started POURING. Fortunately all of us came prepared with waterproofs and boots on. As with any large scale event with rain pouring down on the fields, it was a mud fest. Somehow the clear brolly became a really fascinating toy for the kids and they thoroughly enjoyed huddling under it. We did get a few breaks between downpours to enjoy some fish/nuggets and chips before the night glow.
It was an amazing experience being in a crowd on a huge field singing to famous tunes in the rain. Keep calm and carry on indeed. We've learnt that if you are determined to have fun, not even the rain can stop you. The balloons were slowly inflated and started glowing to the rhythm of the music in the night sky. It was magic.
This boy loved it so much he had tears in his eyes. He told me he wanted to do Glastonbury next year because he loved being at a festival. I knew it was a core memory created there. We can't really put a price tag on these things in life can we?
By the time we got home it was midnight and I spent the next two hours washing muddy boots and wiping down our picnic mat and waterproofs. It was exhausting but it was worth every ounce of energy. I'll do it all over again!
-Seven Sisters, Eastbourne
This was another re-visit of a spot we visited 10 years ago. It was winter and we didn't have enough daylight to properly explore the area. It looked absolutely stunning in the summer sun.
This was one of the final spots we visited before leaving the country. I think we were seriously dreading that our holiday/honeymoon was coming to an end and we had a meeting to attend hours after our flight back. I don't think we could have ever imagined that we would be back here with two kids of our own.
After viewing the seven sisters cliff from this side, we took a short drive to the cliffs itself. The sheer height and drop is both terrifying and fascinating. Thanks to modern engineering, there was a strong and stable stairway that took us down to the pebble beach at the bottom of the cliffs. We laid our picnic mat and enjoyed the light sea breeze and comfortably warm sunshine.
I know many people say that a beach without sand isn't a real beach but I absolutely adore pebble beaches. No cleaning up necessary with pebbles. In fact, they are a source of entertainment if you enjoy stacking pebbles! That was what the kids and I did while Debra did her painting on the beach. It wasn't just about being at a stunning location that made this trip really great. It was also being able to see her do what she loves.
As the sun began to hover around the horizon over the English Channel, we soaked in the views on the white cliffs knowing it will be the last time we are seeing it this summer. We'll meet again.
-Mam Tor, Peak District
I've been eyeing these hills since winter. We just never got down to hiking the 2 hour loop. I think it is just the mental burden of hiking with two children. Debra was not exactly keen but I insisted on doing this trip. I must say it turned out so much better than our last big hiking trip in Wales. The terrain was challenging but bearable and we only had to climb an equivalent of 62 floors (haha) and walk just over 11,000 steps. I think whining reduced by 80% and enjoyment increased by the same amount.
I think I was too ambitious trying to attempt the 886m Pen y Fan back in Spring. To be fair to everyone, we did manage to reach more than 700m before heading back down. This hike was a lot more rewarding because it is quite exposed on both sides which makes it possible to see the other valleys and hills around. Despite being so exposed, the winds were much warmer on the 517m high Mam Tor. All of us were way more sure-footed this time with better hiking boots. No busted ankles or knees this time.
It felt so special and exciting to be on that tiny path along the mountain ridge. There was so much to see on either side. I took a couple wrong turns looking at a tiny topographic map on my phone trying to figure out which of the tiny paths to take. We did manage to eventually find the loop that took us down on the side of the mountain through the vegetation down into the valley. We met some sheep, birds and very prickly plants before dodging landslides and mud. That was a highlight for all of us! The abundance of ferns made the little ones think they were time-travelling. They were looking out for prehistoric creatures and naming dinosaurs I have absolutely no idea existed.
We stopped near the end of our hike at a bench overlooking the valley and enjoyed some snacks and PB&J sandwiches. Debra managed to do a quick paint where the kids ran around time-travelling again.
I think this concludes any major adventure for the summer of 2023.
I won't miss cleaning a million dead bugs off the car, hearing alarming cries for help to capture bugs at home or having difficulty sleeping because of the warm muggy nights. I'll surely miss the holidays, festivals, long days and lush greenery.
Sharing our love of art, travel and learning with you.