Category Archives: Mom Camp International– Great Britain

We interrupt Mom Camp to bring you MANGA CARTA DAY..

So I had to interrupt Mom Camp to discuss that today is the 501st anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. 

Mom Camp has done a Magna Carta Day (click this link for details). So this morning when I pointed out today was Magna Carta day and The Princess asked me what the Magna Carta was, I responded that she should know! (To be fair to her, she was pretty little when we did it so I am going to give her a pass). Although, she did suggest it was a British Declaration of Independence. Incorrect but at lest she knows it has to do with self government. 

Cinco on the other hand quickly explained that the Magna Carta was a document signed by King John.  He explained that it was to prevent the king from taking any more land.  He was of course discussing the provisions in the document regarding the king’s forest and hunting privileges. 

I did remind him that while it did discuss that.  The big point is that the king has to consult with his nobles to raise taxes. 

What’s more, yesterday was primary day in Nevada so I took them with me to vote.   We came full circle on self government. 

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All Things British: Mom Camp Day 23

20140710-152608.jpgOf course we did many things to prepare for our trip to Great Britain. (See the Blog posts on Stonehenge and Dunkirk). But we kept up the Anglophile spirit when we returned home as well!

One of the first projects were clothespins soldiers! If you want to make your own here’s all you need to do…

What you need :

Red paint
Black paint
Gold paint
A paintbrush
A glue gun and accompanying glue sticks
Black pom-poms

Here’s what to do :
Have your kids layout the clothes pins.

Avoiding the roundhead, paint the top half of the body red. Then let it dry. We live in Las Vegas so the drying part happened very quickly! Still if you only do one light coat it shouldn’t take long. By the time you finish the last red body, the first red body ought to be dry.

Follow it up by painting the bottom black. Again let it dry!

Use some gold glitter paint to buttons and a belt! Let it dry!

Paint on the face. If you have other colors like blue or green those would work well for the eyes. If not, Just use the black paint again–simple.

Now, it’s glue gun time. Personally, I think Cinco and The Princess are too young to use the glue gun on their own. I always do it. Glue gun the black pom-pom on the head of your soldier.

Then with the kids have fun playing with it.

Cinco was inspired by the British soldiers, he used a little duct tape to create some knights!

We also read the book A Walk in London written and illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino. I cannot recommend the book enough. It offers a delightful presentation of London. The pictures capture the city and appeal to kids. This book is a winner. Plus, it allowed us to re-live our own trip through the city!




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Mom Camp Day 22: Saying Good-Bye to Britain

Finally, it was time for our trip to end. Both Cinco and I weren’t ready for it to end. I was wishing I had added on the extra week for Ireland. The kids did so well, I think we could have made it 3 and 1/2 weeks. But, when I was jjkoplanning The Captain convinced me it would be a nightmare to push forward. Better safe than sorry. If the kids had been more difficult or enjoyed the trip less and extra week could easily have been a bridge too far. Plus, this way, maybe some day we will do a trip to Ireland and Scotland… you never can tell.

We had a long, but direct flight from Manchester, UK straight to Las Vegas. Bags were packed— including the kids back packs (and yes they were re-filled with goodies and treats!) Car drop off was okay, although it finally started to rain on way out of town. But really, the last day there… who can complain!

Again, Virgin Atlantic saved us as the kids mainly watched the TV’s in front of them. Although, they did dive into some of the treasures I had for them. We kept them for the bulk of the time on the plane and when we finally landed, Queen Gram was at the airport to meet us.

Coming off the jet lag took about 3 days, but that was fine. No school, no camp, just hanging out and getting used to being home! But, don’t worry we won’t be home for long this summer— stay tuned… more adventures await.


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Strange Things The Princess Said on our Great British Vacation

I know this is odd, but on the trip The Princess was constantly discussing the various smells she encountered in Great Britain. After awhile, I started writing down her olfactory observations. I am listing them in order of my favorites. A few of them are simply spot on!

  • At Hard Rock Café in the bathroom:

It smells like bubble gum and vomit.


  • In our London Flat:

The walls smell like farts.  I am not saying you farted.  The walls smell.


  • In a Turkish Eatery in London:

It smells like Z in here.  I am not sure what Z is.  But it smells like Z.


  • At a Welsh B and B:

What’s that smell? Chicken or something?


  • At Chepstow Castle:

It smells like horse poo in here.

Trust me, there were a LOT more discussions of the smells of Britain, but I am only going to share the best! “

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Our Penultimate Day: Caeraforn Castle Mom Camp Day 21

2014 06 14_England 2014_0006the end of the vacation, we went to King Edward I’s castle at Caeraforn, The castle was built by Edward after he subjugated the northern welsh people. He wanted an amazing military fortress to dominate the country and express royal power. There is no question he got what he wanted. Everything about the castle says power and strength!


Additionally, his son, Edward II was born here and become known as the first Prince of Wales.

Instead of either square or round towers, Caeraforn features hexagonal towers. This design change allowed more bowmen to be placed in each tower and gave them directional flexability.

Placed near the ocean with towers as high as 128 feet, the views of the country side are vast. You can look out on the water to see any approaching ships or watch the land to see any advancing troops.

The kid had a good time imagining the castle full of warriors and bowmen at the ready to defend the place. Even The Captain was impressed by the design of the castle.

It was good to end our castle tour with such a spectacular building. Visiting it before the Marshal castles would have made them seem pretty insignificant. Although, to be fair to the Marshal castle they were built much early and they were not built by a king!

Back in the car we drove to the north Wales town of Llanduando (don’t ask me how to say it!) It is a Victorian seaside resort town full of B and Bs. Again, the weather was great and as a result the place was packed.

Personally, I didn’t love the place. It had a sort of trashy holiday feel. After a quick lunch, we started off on another of my walking tours. This one took us away from the own up a hill to the Great Orme. Personally, I think it was more of a hike than a walk so The Captain was having a great time. It might have been one the highlights of the trip for him. In true Captain fashion, at the end of the hike we strayed from the path and it took us a while to get back down the hill ad find our car.

Exhusted we drove off to the hotel.

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In which we talk to sheep or…Pembroke Castle and the Welsh Coast: Mom Camp Day 20

2014 06 13_England 2014_0057The William Marshal tour continued as we went to Pembroke Castle.  This was a Marshal castle–he had a lot of castles.  But, it was also the birth place of Henry Tudor, known after the Battle of Bosworth as Henry VII (father to his more famous son, Henry VIII). 2014 06 13_England 2014_0050But, back to William Marshal.  The Marshal was named the Earl of Pembroke and this was an important castle for him.  Again, he added many improvements to the structure.  Prior to becoming Earl, he journeyed to the Holy Land (although, he did not participate in any of the crusades).  While in the Holy Land, he had the chance to see the defensive improvements crusaders were making to their castles. 2014 06 13_England 2014_0027 He brought back those ideas to Wales and revamped many of the castles in his possession.  One of the biggest improvements borrowed from the crusaders was the round tower.  Traditional Norman towers were squares which made them more vunerable to attack.

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Graffiti shields

Touring Pembroke Castle was lot of fun.  It lends itself to lots exploration.  There many hallways leading off in different directions and tons of nooks and defensive arrow positions to explore. I even came across medieval graffiti… What’s more fun than that?   We had a limited time at the castle, but I could have spent a full exploring the various passages and towers. As noted above, the castle was in use for many years and there were many modifications made during the Tudor period.  This makes it a little more difficult to envision the castle as it was under The Marshal.  But, it also added a layer of history to explore with the kids, which was great! 2014 06 13_England 2014_0053The castle is built into the side of a cliff and under the castle is a natural cave.  Many people thought the cave was a former dungeon.  This is NOT the case.  It was used as a food and beverage storage area.  You see the cave from a walking path outside the castle and access the interior of the cave from inside the castle itself. In case you don’t know, Cinco is the more cautious of the two kids.  2014 06 13_England 2014_0026He was less than thrilled to go into the cave.  But, with a little sweet talking, I managed to get him down there!  I also got him to climb to the top of the Great Tower.  It wasn’t actually, that high.  However the stairs seemed rather treacherous!  He did a great job at Pembroke Castle overcoming his fears!  Hip-hip-hooray! Next to the castle was a brass rubbing center.  Sadly, it was closed when were at the castle.  However, a very sweet woman in the gift shop allowed us to pop in and purchase a few brass rubbing kits to take home.  (I’ll cover our brass rubbing experience in a later mom camp blog, don’t worry!) Then it was time for our drive up the Welsh coast.  Again, its really not that many miles up the coast, but it takes forever: slow and rural. So rural in fact we had a nice little run-in with some sheep!  No, they were not in the middle of the road, but I wouldn’t have been surprised me.  There was lot construction along the road and we were stopped for quite sometime waiting in traffic. A dead stop.  I had my window down to enjoy some of the fresh air and Cinco was in the back of the car whining.  He let out a very cranky nasally, “Mom…” and not two seconds later we heard a sheep answer back!  No joke!  So I started making braying (I know you use the term bray for horses but this sheep really made a noise more like a bray) noises and the sheep kept answering back.  Sadly, we couldn’t see the sheep because he/she was behind a large hedge.  I quickly whipped out the camera phone and started filming the experience.  I mean, who would believe that?

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Yes, our weather was that good!

We decided to stop along the Welsh coast for a little picnic.  The beach was lovely and again, the weather co-operated!  We played along the beach for awhile and the kids made a few bench-henge structures!! 2014 06 13_England 2014_0075 2014 06 13_England 2014_0074

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Salisbury, Lacock and Bath: Mom Camp Day 17

We woke up in Salisbury and made straight for the cathedral. It came recommended by a facebook friend and boy was she right! Salisbury Cathedral turned out to be one of The Captain’s favorite places on the trip.

If you are worried the cathedral doesn’t have a William Marshal contention, fear not it’s got plenty:

  • His cousin by marriage, William Longspee is buried there.
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    William Longspee’s Tomb

    Longspee also happened to be the illegitimate son of King Henry II and Ida de Tosney.  Later Ida went on to marry Earl Bigod and their son married William Marshal’s oldest daughter—  you got all that right?

  • One of the best preserved original copies of the Magna Carta is kept here. And, you know William Marhsal and William Longspee played a major role in the negotiation of the Magna Carta.

SalisburyIn addition to such wonderful history related to The Marshal, the building itself is truly a wonder.  Unlike Winchester Cathedral, the spire at Salisbury seems to shoot straight into the sky and reach for the clouds.  In the middle ages when most the buildings were wood, this amazing structure certainly proclaimed the wonder of god.

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2014 06 10_England 2014_0339The inside is quite dramatic, as well.


After finishing with the cathedral and a glimpse of the Magna Carta, we drove on to Lacock Abbey.

Again, you may wonder what is the connection to William Marshal?  His cousin founded the Abbey after her husband, William Longspee died.  So again we have found a connection–its Medieval Kevin Bacon.

The village of Lacock was very cute and the kids had a nice time walking around.  We stopped for lunch at a little pub and visited the town’s small church.  The village was also used as a filming location for one of the Harry Potter movies–the kids liked that of course.

Then it was back in the car for the drive to Bath…

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STONEHENGE! Mom Camp Day 16 part two

I know, it’s a bit unfair to split one mom camp day into two. But, Stonehenge deserves its own post.
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Before getting to the main event, we had a little time to kill and decided to go to the Woodhenge site. Yes, it is lesser known. Yes, it was made of wood– so it has disintegrated. But, archeologists have placed markers where the wood beams would have stood. Stonehenge is not really its own independent site. It is the most striking element of a larger complex that spans thousands of years in its development and use.

I wanted to share that the larger significance of the place with the kids. To some degree Cinco got it! We watched a National Geographic show about the complex and how the subsites might fit together. He really took it in. The theory is that Woodhenge and Stonehenge were part of a day long elaborate ritual of life and death.

2014 06 09_England 2014_0437Today, Woodhenge is just sitting there in wide open field.  The sheep keep the site company and you must use your imagination to envision life the ancient word.

After getting a little taste of things at Woodhenge it was off to the big time! The last time I was at Stonehenge was in the mid-90’s and at that time, you couldn’t get too close to the stones. Tourists sort of viewed them from afar. While I was researching this trip, I discovered that English Heritage will still allow SMALL groups of people to enter the stones before and after normal visiting hours. It is not prohibitively expensive, but it can be tough to get the tickets. I made our reservations in September 2013. It was completely worth it!

What I did not realize is that the Stonehenge site has JUST been revamped to make it more tourist friendly and you can get near the stones again. Although, you must keep to a path and cannot go into the center of the stones–like we did!

2014 06 09_England 2014_0456We arrived early enough to take a look at the some of the outside exhibits that English Heritage added to the site. The kids and I attempted to push a replica of one of the colossal stones.

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Inside the roundhouse

hutWe also toured the roundhouses. At this point our weather luck started to run out…a evening rain began falling on our heads. I tried to get the kids thinking about what it would have been like to live inside one of the houses. The rain added to the idea of roughing it!

Lucky for us, it only rained for a little while once we actually got to the stones!  I took a picture of Cinco at the stones and I have never actually seen him smile so wide!  It was the most amazing, happy mom feeling in the world.  I got the chance to live my own excitement and look at the world through my son’s eyes!  It was the BEST moment of the trip.

2014 06 09_England 2014_0484We got up close and personal with the stones. We spent time learning how the stones fit together before we left so seeing in person was very exciting for Cinco.

2014 06 09_England 2014_0489We also got so close to the stones we could see the graffiti that other tourists left behind!

The kids got hold of the camera and went wild snapping pics and telling us where to stand.

We only had one hour inside the stones, but the kids LOVED it and we had a very nice time! It was something special that we will always remember!

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Stonehenge and Winchester: Mom Camp Day 16

It was time to say good-bye to our tournament tent. I think we were all sad to leave such a lovely place. But, more adventure called.

The next stop was a day trip to Winchester. In case you don’t know, Winchester was the Saxon capitol of England.

The King Alfred Statue

The King Alfred Statue

It was where the West Saxon kings ruled including, King Alfred the Great. (Shameless plug for my King Alfred book.) So you know we had to stop here!

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Walking Tour Anyone?

I found a great walking tour of the city and we started at the famous King Alfred statue.

After the statue, we followed the river walk. Again perfect weather allowed us to enjoy every minute. The walk took us past the town’s old Roman Walls to Wolvesey Castle.

The Castle was occupied by King Stephen’s brother during The Anarchy and the city and castle played a role in the battles between King John and the rebelling barons. All this means William Marshal would certainly have been familiar with the place. (Shameless plug for my William Marshal book.)

2014 06 09_England 2014_0384_edited-1Wolvesey Castle is now a ruin, but Cinco and I had a great time exploring it.  We practically had the place to ourselves and Cinco took a number of photos on his own!

Finishing up at the castle we followed the walk to Winchester Cathedral.  We opted not to go inside to save time and because we also planned to visit Salisbury Cathedral.

It was time for lunch at the Wykcam Arm.  It is an old pub in the town.  But, the kids couldn’t eat inside so we had our meal in the garden out back.  The best thing I saw there was the toilet.  It seems they have an antique toilet and it was made by Thomas Crapper!  (No, I am not kidding you. The inside of the bowl had the name printed on it and everything!)  The walls of the WC were also decorated with copies of old ads for the toilet.  Now I know where the saying crap comes from— a famous British toilet maker.  Really, how did I forget to bring my phone to the bathroom?

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Photo by Cinco

After lunch we stopped by the Winchester Museum.  Each floor of the three-story building covered a different time period from the Romans, to the Saxons all the way to the present day.

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Roman Mosaics– Photo by Cinco

The kids got another scavenger hunt and away they went!  Cinco had a great time.  He dressed up as a Roman Senator and took lots of photos.

We moved on to the Great Hall and West Gate.  The gate is from the middle ages and the Great Hall is all that remains of the royal palace in Winchester.  The rest of the palace was destroyed by Cromwell.

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The Round Table

Inside the Great Hall, we examined the rendition of King Arthur’s round table–that is about 700 years old!  When I first planned this trip Cinco was much younger and really loved the Knights of the Round Table.  Now, he liked seeing it.  But it was NOT a major highlight.

2014 06 09_England 2014_0421The windows also had lovely stained glass shields of the English Royal houses.

Outside the Great Hall is the Queen’s Garden.  It is a recreation of a 14th century, formal garden.  It was much smaller than I expected.  I was a little disappointed.

After our day in Winchester, we got in the car and headed off to Salisbury.  We arrived too late to check out the cathedral (but don’t worry, we saw it the next day).  A rest and dinner followed and then it was time for STONEHENGE!

And, yes…. I am making this mom camp day into two posts!


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Castles and Camping, or Should I say Glamping: Mom Camp Day 15

2014 06 07_England 2014_0720_edited-1We started the day by waking up in a medieval tournament tent in the middle of a vineyard on the grounds of Leeds Castle! 2014 06 07_England 2014_0665_edited-1

2014 06 07_England 2014_0663_edited-1The night before we arrived at Leeds for two nights of Glamping! Our tent was The Kingston and we had a lion crest! We got rolling and headed off to Dover Castle!

At Dover (based on one of my tour books) we went2014 06 08_England 2014_0602 straight to the War Time Tunnels.  Now, I have to say the Dunkirk evacuation is truly an AMAZING story.  They managed to save most of the Brits in France after Hitler rolled over the country in a few short days!  But, sadly, the exhibit at Dover really did not do the story justice.  We had studied the evac before leaving for leaving for Britain.  So thankfully the kids had an idea of what happened, but still the presentation could and should have been much more dramatic!

2014 06 08_England 2014_0590_edited-1After finishing with the War Tunnels, it was off to the main castle.  You may or may not know, the Castle was originally built by Henry II (who employed William Marshal, insert shameless plug for my book here).  The castle was also restored and decorated to reflect the period around Henry II’s time.

2014 06 08_England 2014_0595_edited-1We were there on a weekend and a few performers where milling around pretending to be people from the era.  We had a nice chat with one of them.  He said he was on a mission to petition the king to   have land returned to him.  He claimed his Earl had confiscated the land when his family purchased it a generation ago.  We decided to go to the throne room and watch the proceedings.

2014 06 08_England 2014_0588_edited-1Prior to seeing King Henry, we explored the castle a bit.  We saw the kitchens, the armory, the bed rooms.  One thing I noticed were all the colors.  They favored very vivid blues and reds and of course, gold!

When it came time for the knight to petition about his land, he claimed The Captain was THE EARL who stole the land from him!  What?  The Captain was a good sport and played along trying to mount a defense in front of the king.  But the “people” (ie the other tourists) were chosen as jury and sided with the knight over The Captain!

Next, I was called forward. 2014 06 08_England 2014_0598_edited-1 The claim was I killed my hubs, a local potter.  Gulp.  We explained that it was all a show to the Princess, but when I was sentenced to death, I think she got a little nervous.  It all turned out okay of course.

2014 06 08_England 2014_0608We also explored the grounds and saw the old Roman Lighthouse or Pharos built at Dover.  For thousands of years, it has been a major point for crossing the Channel.

The weather was really cooperating so we went off to walk the famous white cliffs of Dover.  We could see France across the way and it was simply a lovely afternoon.  We didn’t walk too far because the kids were hot and tired, but it was still neat.

Then it was back to Leeds.  The boys played some chess at our tent and then we walked the grounds and had dinner.2014 06 07_England 2014_0713_edited-1



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