On Australian beaches there is sand. The sand gets nice and hard near the edge of the water. The beautiful beach of the Carse Gut is not like Australian beaches.
As you stroll along the rocky beach getting closer to the edge of the water, the ground becomes a bit more sandy. Then it turns silty and muddy. This isn’t ordinary mud. This mud has the consistency of the snot of a congested amphibian. It’s slimy and sticky, and led to me throwing out my toe shoes that I’ve worn almost every day on our travels.
Max and I wanted to play golf again. Zoe didn’t. So Max and I went back to borrow Peter’s clubs. We played much better than the day before and made it through nine holes this time. It was another gorgeous day to be in Scotland.
Afterwards, we drove to join the girls at Mabie Farm; which was a huge play area for kids. We jumped on a massive bouncy thing, slid down a big hill, the kids swung on ropes, and had a go on quad bikes. We just about had the place to ourselves because it wasn’t the weekend and the local kids are at school.
Then we met Rosie. Rosie was hungry. Very hungry. In fact she had a taste for human flesh. In particular, Rosie had a hankering for the hand of a visiting Australian doctor. Mmmmm. Tasty.
Shari was feeding this cantankerous beast when it bit her hand and wouldn’t let go. Shari’s hand now sports a massive bruise, and her hand is “a bit ouchy” which translates to “more painful than being kicked in the nuts, but less painful than childbirth”. Have we just got the second broken bone of the holiday? I suspect so.
Driving through the narrow country roads of Scotland is lots of fun, and the scenery is gorgeous.
I noticed that there were a few golf courses around and remembered that golf was invented in Scotland. So I took the kids to play their first ever game of golf. The first course we went to didn’t do anything so common as hire golf clubs, but sent us up the road to Colvend Golf course. The owner, Peter, generously let us use a couple of sets of clubs. He wanted to know how good we were, thinking that the clubs he had to lend us were not of sufficient quality. This wasn’t a problem as I explained that our score is not effected much by clubs or, in fact, the course.
I am terrible at golf. But I have fun. I know roughly what to do, I just can’t do it very well. So I tried to teach the kids how to hit the ball and we eventually finished the first hole. Hopefully, this will be a lesson in handling frustration.
The view from the top of the golf course was stunning.
On one hole, Zoe was lining up her shot, a look of intense concentration on her face. A hush descended over the countryside. She lifted the club over her head.
“Mooooooooo!!!” Said a nearby cow.
“Mooooooooo!!” Said Zoe.
We let 3 groups of golfers play past us, lost 3 balls, and by the end of the 6th hole, the kids had had enough. Fun though.
We went to an old Scottish castle called Caerlaverock Castle. Construction started in about 1220 and eventually the castle was defeated in a siege by King Edward. It was interesting to see a video of the siege in the information centre. It was hard to work out which side was the goodies and which was the baddies. The castle had about 60 men and King Edward had about 3000. It took about 4 days of continuous bombardment before the men in the castle surrendered. Scotland is still part of England, but I get the sense that that they still hold a slight grudge.
The castle itself was unusual, it had three sides, and was positioned so any attack had to come from one direction. The Irish Sea was on one side and a bog on the other side. Nowadays, the castle is vital habitat for a few different mosses, lichen, and birds. Go wildlife!
It’s pretty too.
Our next stop was Scotland. Getting there from Antwerp is not trivial. Shari’s initial searches showed a massive $3000+ cost for flying there. So Shari waved her wand and found a much cheaper option. Train from Antwerp to Rotterdam, shuttle to the port, ferry to Hull, taxi to car hire, pick up family from port, and drive to a tiny town in south west Scotland called Carsethorn. It even included a night of accommodation.
The ferry had a sun deck. The only problem was that it was bucketing.
The kids watched a movie in the ferry’s cinema, while Shari and I had a well earned beverage; looking out at Rotterdam as the ferry left port. Apparently, Rotterdam is the world’s biggest container port. It is huge and the most starkly utilitarian thing I’ve ever seen. It’s so ugly that it has a sort of beauty about it. No one cared at all about aesthetics when building the place.
On the 4 hour drive to Scotland, we stopped at a shop specialising in folk instruments in York. I’ve wanted to get a better tin whistle for ages, but the options in Australia are extremely limited. It was luxury, being able to try several before justifying to myself that I should get the most expensive one. I also got an Irish Flute for Zoe and Shari. An Irish Flute is essentially a tin whisky that you blow like a flute – sideways.
This is all so we could play it on the shores of Scotland.
Zoe’s best friend in Australia is a young lady called Stella. She moved to Australia from Belgium last year. Stella’s Mum, Naomi, organised an unusual – and awesome – experience for Zoe. We visited Stella’s old school in Antwerp.
We didn’t quite know what to expect, and Zoe was quite nervous. We found the school and met the teacher, Miss Janice, who spoke very good English, unlike the kids.
Miss Janice introduced Zoe in Flemish and we called Stella in Australia via FaceTime. Most of the conversation was between the class and Stella, in Flemish. Miss Janice did a good job of translating for us, but we were quite lost for much of the time.
We tried to maintain the reputation of Australian wildlife to the kids. e.g. Koalas are vicious sharp clawed beasts and there are venomous spiders under every toilet seat.
It made us appreciate how hard it must have been for Stella when she arrived at a new school in Australia in her second language.
With Zoe’s cred as Stella’s best friend in Australia established, Stella’s friends in Antwerp sat with Zoe and they did some art together.
I think Zoe really enjoyed the experience. It will be a pretty big memory of the trip.
Afterwards, we had lunch and found a secret tunnel under the river. It was very long.
Shari’s at a sports medicine conference in Antwerp, so the rest of us are off to see the sights.
First, we sought out kids bike hire deep in the dungeons below central station.
Ada and Max played in the nearby park while Zoe went cycling with her broken finger.
Naturally , all drinks in Belgium are served with moustaches. Zoe is drinking with her broken finger.
When we arrived at Antwerp Clue, it turned out that it is meant to be challenging for a group of adults to escape the room. And I’d managed to book the hardest room. So we changed our booking to an easier room. We needed to kill a couple hours until the room was available so we climbed to the top of this cool building.
And the kids got restless.
Then we did the escape. It was so much fun! I’ve never struck this idea before, but apparently these escape rooms are all the rage in many places – including Sydney. The idea is that your group is locked in a room and have to solve a bunch of puzzles that give you the key to unlock more puzzles until you escape from the room. The puzzles are often quite creative. If you are having trouble, then the hosts put clues on a TV screen; we found this quite useful. Our room was themed around some children who had disappeared, so there were children’s toys and lots of combination locks on boxes. We all really enjoyed the time, even though we only solved about 70% of the room. I’ll definitely try to find some kid friendly rooms in Sydney when we get home. A quick search, on the internet, showed that several of the rooms are not for kids.