Well, we’re back in Rio after three weeks of being away, using up some of the kids summer holidays and Gavin’s eensy cache of accrued leave.

We had planned the week of Christmas for some time, and went up North to a place called Praia de Forte (Fort Beach), to a resort for five days. Being a resort meant that it could have been anywhere in the world, (not a particularly cultural experience), but it was very beautiful with a constant, warm breeze, a series of pools and an exceptionally toasty corner of Atlantic Ocean which meant that even I spent some hours swimming each day. They also had an amazing kids club where you could drop children at 8:30am and pick them up again at 10:00pm. It had all sorts of activities, games and water sports and all the kids we saw participating, looked very happy. Unfortunately, none of them were ours, who flatly refused to go, preferring instead to spend their time cajoling us off our deck chairs.

One of the swimming pools at Praia de Forte

One of the swimming pools at Praia de Forte

A feature of the resort were some pretty tame creatures. Huge iguanas would come and graze on the lawns and there was a substantial colony of the tiny tufted marmosets that we’ve seen in Rio. True to form, the little beasts were intrepid raiders at the al fresco buffet and after a few heated tussles to defend our food, we soon learnt not to sit at the outer tables.

This iguana was definitely too cool for the pool.

This iguana was definitely too cool for the pool.

As per Brazilian custom, Christmas was celebrated on Christmas Eve and the resort organised an outdoor feast and a local choir, who sang carols. (We think). It was very nice, but odd not to be spending the time with our families and friends, and although we rang and Face Timed everyone in Oz and New Zealand, we missed not being in the same place, or even the same time zone. Luckily, Santa, the clever old bugger, found out where we were and managed a visit, much to Mitchell’s relief.

We were only back in Rio for a night, before we headed off again, this time to England. This was only organised at the last minute, because, (for silly and frustrating reasons), we had to vacate our apartment for a few weeks. So, we arrived at Heathrow, took a train into London and then had to detour via ambulance to Chelsea paediatric emergency for three hours. This was on account of Mitchell fainting in Hammersmith tube station, falling face down on the porcelain tiles and crunching up his head. All most unfortunate, but the only lasting damage was a chipped tooth. Incidentally, whilst there is much in the English media about the public’s dissatisfaction with the NHS (National Health Service), our whole experience was free, (including the ambulance) and the treatment Mitchell received was excellent and very reassuring for us tired and anxious parents. We truly couldn’t have been more grateful.

Somewhat rudely, England is experiencing a winter, but believe it or not, the cold temperatures, (apparently mild for an English winter), were quite a nice shock and after one night in London, we weathered the first week of our visit on a canal boat, floating west of London towards Bath. Gav had devised a clever exercise regime, with a route comprising many locks and swing bridges, (bridges you have to ‘swing’ out of the way for the boat to pass).

Our boat in front of a staircase of 18 locks. Now there's a marriage tester...

Our boat in front of a staircase of 18 locks. Now there’s a marriage tester…

After two fairly strenuous days, we then had a couple of rest days, which poor Charlotte spent chained to the bathroom, enduring a bout of a nasty gastric something. Unfortunately it meant we had to abandon the Bath visit, but we were stationed in a town called Bradford on Avon, which was very lovely and which we were reliably assured, was just like Bath – albeit without the baths. It also meant we had an opportunity to find a dentist and get a cap for Mitchell’s tooth.

Returning to London for a final five days, we met up with some friends, (hello De, Al, Rory and Ollie!!), and had a lovely time behaving like true tourists, visiting the Tower of London, British Museum, Natural History Museum, Buckingham Palace and, (with my mother and her partner, Roger who are also in England), Hamsley’s toy shop – five stories of childhood paradise.

At the end of it all, Gav and I probably needed another stint at Praia de Forte, especially after a rough trip back. Passengers clapped and cheered when we landed, and Mitchell celebrated by throwing up everywhere. Where the hell is an airsick bag when you need one??? However, as we drove back through Rio to our apartment, we both found it strange to feel a stronger sense of familiarity than we expected. It’s not exactly like home, but it was nice to be back.

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