<Paula> So the month of May was a busy one and I think we have just recovered. At the beginning of the month Ella started clapping her hands, which we found to be very exciting. She stopped for a while, it was an old trick and there are other things to spend her time on. The first two weeks of the month were spent doing the same old thing, and frankly I am slack and it has been so long since May that I can't remember anything else specically. Only sometime around now, a friend took some photos of Ella for us. Click here to see some of our favorites. On the 14th however we all went the the airport and left for London at 11.55 pm.

It was a long 24 hour flight. The first leg to Singapore was very traumatic for us and probably those sitting near us too. In NZ it was the wee hours of the morning and Ella, who was just excited by all the people to smile at had not been to sleep and about 8 hours into the flight she started hysterically screaming and nothing was going to stop her. We knew the second flight from Singapore to Heathrow went better when we were leaving Heathrow airport building and some people stopped us to say that she was much better on the second leg of the flight. I was embarrassed because I have been that person that can't understand why the parents can't keep that child quiet. Now I know the other side. It is not pretty, but one we learned from and all flights from then on went much smoother. All I have to say is, that flight will forever be burned in my memory.

Playtime on the floor at Singapore Airport after the first flight from Auckland.

This would be the most deceptive photos from the whole trip. It looks like it was me that nursed Ella for 24 hours from Auckland to London. It couldn't be further from the truth. It was actually Chris that rocked her to sleep and paced the floor and fed her and changed her nappy. I don't know how it worked out that way.

We stayed in London for a couple of nights with my friend Andrea. It was really good to see her, Ella took to her as well. In fact we were very shocked at the ease with which Ella adjusted to the 12 hour time difference and the different surrounding. One thing I noticed straight away was when we all went for a walk down the street to get some breakfast and I don't think Ella had ever seen so many cars, buses and trucks at one time and her little head was moving so fast like watching a tennis match in fast forward. It only took her a day to realise that she wasn't missing anything and they are always there for her to look at whenever she wanted.

We visited with some of Chris's family on the Friday - Allison, Mark, Bradley, Curtis, Elaine and Nick. It was really good to meet them all, we had a great extended lunch together and got to spend some time with Allison and the kids at their home.

On Saturday we headed north, stopping off at Kettering to visit with Chris's Uncle Bobby. We got to see their newly renovated house and had another great lunch in a local pub. We continued on after lunch to the Potterys area where we booked into the Trentham Gardens hotel. Chris's work was near here and there were shops and gardens to walk around right outside the door for Ella and I while Chris went to work every day. Last time we were here we stayed at the most gorgeous estate, and we considered going there again, but it wasn't going to be the best for me and Ella during the day so we went with this more budget hotel, but it was also brand new so it was fairly decent, except for the service which I am informed that the English aren't known for good service at the best of times.

While at Trentham, Ella and Chris were sick, although poor Ella we thought she was teething and just proceeded to put bonjella on her gums, it wasn't until she started coughing at the same time Chris did, that we realised that she had the head cold that Chris also had. They ran a temperature and Ella was not good. One night she spent the night crying, I felt for the people in the room next to us, but more so I felt for Chris because he was sick, very tired, and still had to get up in the morning and go to work for a full day. I however was having a great holiday. I bought some cross-stich to do while Ella was sleeping during the day, I only got a small project, never having done it before, but finished it in a couple of days so went back to the craft shop for a knitting project. Ella and I walked around the gardens and forest. We also went to the monkey forest and got to see the monkeys having lunch. Ella was not that impressed, I think it was the height of her cold and she cried most of the time. One evening we went to dinner at one of Chris workmates place and I have to say that the drive there was amazing. It is just like you see in the British TV shows, one lane roads lined with hedges and then a little stone village. It was amazing, and while the dinner and the company for the evening was great, the drive there was a real experience. I enjoyed the whole evening.

After lunch with Chris's family. From left: Chris, Ella, Elaine, Alison, Bradley, Curtis, Mark & Ian.

Waking Auntie Andrea up with some toys:-)

Lunch with some more of Chris's family. From left front: Callum, Chris, Ella, Kelly, Uncle Bobby & me.

Trentham Gardens. They are massive and the camera cannot get an overall picture so this is just one tiny part of it.

Ella all rugged up, while other children ran around in summer dresses and sandles.

This is the playground, again massive and you can't get it all in one picture. I liked the deck chairs. They were scattered around everywhere, to me they look so out of place, but apparently not.

In our hotel room. Ella playing with some toys and watching BBC TV for kids her age. There were some fantastic programs on

The monkey forest. It was a great place and we got to see them really close. However Ella was very sick and not a happy tourist this day. We didn't get to stay long.

A walk through the forest. All the bluebells (I think that is what they were) were out and it was just the most beautiful and enchanted place. I was expecting Robin Hood to jump out from behind a tree any moment, hopefully with a cure for my very sick screaming baby.

Chris left early Friday morning to head down to London for some meetings and Ella and I followed a couple of hours later in the rental car to pick him up and head to Stanstead Airport. There we hopped on a 45min flight to Eindoven, Holland. I just can't get over how big airports are, Stanstead was surprisingly large. When we got to Eindhoven we were met by Ans and Jan (my Aunt & Uncle). We had booked a rental car but our booking was messed up, I had booked it from NZ and they had booked it incorrectly and I didn't pick up on that, so we all squeezed into Ans car (a 2 door hatchback), 5 people and all our luggage and pram. I was very impressed at Jan's packing job. Ella counts as a whole person because she had her car seat and had more room than anyone else.

We had a great time in Holland. We sorted a rental car the following day, thanks to Ans coming with us and speaking the language, although everyone speaks English it can still be difficult. We visited with my Opa every day and the whole family had dinner together every evening. We also took a couple of days to travel around and see Holland. I had seen some of it before, but Chris had never been here before.

Opa and Ella

Dinner at Ans and Jan's .

My crazy cousins, Michael and Tony. Although saying that, the last I was talking with them, they are single. They are fun loving (if you hadn't noticed already), and yet very responsible individuals. However if you are interested I will only pass on details if you live on this side of the world, because I would love it if they lived over here.

Ella explaining to Tony the fine art of squishing toast through your fingers. We were having lunch at a Cafe/Bar in Maastricht.

This is the town of Old Heusden. We had just had apple cake and coffee at the cafe behind Ans with the green verhanda.

We wandered through a lot of the streets all lined with the most amazing old buildings, all with their own individual leaning. Lots of shops to brouse.

Tony, Chris and Ella at the town square of Maastricht.
Maastricht is a walled city, with beautiful old buildings and a lot of history. Of course all the signs explaining the history were in Dutch, translator Tony did a great job. One of the things about this place, unlike where we were staying was that it wasn't bombed heavily during the war and therefore a lot of the buldings and streets were still standing and in use.

I don't think I have ever seen so many bikes in one place. The whole Street was lined with them. The white building on the corner (right of the picture) is where we had lunch in Maastricht.

Maastricht again, more cobble stone streets and cafes.
We came to the wall soon after this. It was a very enjoyable walk around.

What is a visit to Holland with out a picture of a windmill.

This is Ans, Jan, Ella at Loevenstein Castle. That isn't the castle behind us...

This is a side picture of Loevenstein. We went for a guided tour of the interior. A look into the times and the people that lived here. It was used to house political prisoners at one stage. All very interesting.

Ans and Jan. Behind them is what was the soldiers houses outside the castle.

De Groot, escaped Loevenstein in this crate (well one like it). And who is De Groot...? He is the founder of the Western Worlds Justice system. That is a bit out there to say but basically our system of justice is based on a lot of his ideas that he wrote about.

Opa and Ella having a deep discussion about toy mobile phones and buttons.

Chris, Ella and Tony on the ferry at the delta works.

This is the amazing hi-tech opening dyke across the mouth of the delta - "The Delta Works". It can protect all the low lying land when a storm surge is expected.

At the delta works they had this cool water playground. Tony is trying out a water pump, it is one of the first types of pumps used in Holland. They have had dykes in Hollland since the 1st century and they used these pumps to get the water out of the rivers. It is a really cool corkscrew pump and you turn it and water works it way up. I have never seen anything like it before (but that doesn't say much). We tried out some other of their activities in the playground, although I think it was designed for smaller children, you are never too old to learn or play!

Ella has just had enough and wanted the world to disappear. If only it was that easy.

"Yes Daddy, but I think it would be put to better use by chewing on it. See, like this."

Ella's first pair of clogs. Aren't they gorgeous, she thinks so. You will notice that I cut Chris's head off in a lot of photos... what can I say? He is just holding up the main attaction, but I should work on that.

While we were there Ans and I got to do some shopping, we bought some clothes for Ella. Also, something very significant, Opa took us to the cemetery where Oma's ashes were laid to rest a year ago. It was a beautiful place tucked in behind the houses, a little oasis of trees. It was sad for our week to come to an end. I really enjoyed spending time with family. I rarely get to see them.

Our flight home started with a drive to Amsterdam Airport in peak hour traffic. Negotiating the massive Amsterdam Airport and then a flight to Singapore and then to Auckland. The flights went well, Ella was hard work but manageable. We arrived in Auckland on Saturday 31st May at 10.35pm.