Farewell, San Diego. Over and out.

In our time in California we've visited a number of university campuses, but the one that holds a special place in my heart is where my affection for California first started back when I was just 20 years old: the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

I have been back a few times over the years, but this time was very different. And not because the kids were there, but because it's changed quite a bit recently. The university is expanding massively so the first thing I noticed was that the student hub, called the Price Center, had morphed into this gigantic structure that seemed to be double the size of the old one. Indeed, what was once the back wall of the eateries now has a small tunnel which brings you out into a huge area full of more food places, some glass-walled study rooms, some phone charging banks (all full) and lots and lots of chairs and tables. With an escalator in the middle it actually looks more like an airport departures hall than a student hub, but you know what? I really liked it. Maybe it's all the travelling I've been doing; who knows. I just felt like it would be a great place to be a student. And since all the original open air side of the Price Center is still there, with the Jamba Juice still proudly on one end and the stepped grassy area leading up to the piano walkway (as I always called it - with alternating strips of bricks on the ground it seemed a sensible name for it), it all felt comfortably familiar. The library still looks like a spaceship; the walk up to the theatre building still takes longer than I think it does, and, most importantly, the kiosk outside the lecture room where I learned about Romantic literature still serves the most delicious chai tea. Winner!

UCSD-chai


UCSD-boys

Important note: rest assured we didn't walk any distance with Master H like this. A friend of a friend tripped with his daughter once on to concrete and the poor girl has permanent brain damage. Please please please take heed. #Sorrynotsorry to dampen the mood; it's too important not to mention.

We actually went to UCSD in early December (I just haven't captured it in a blog post until now) so we had a few Christmas cards to post back to the homeland. Little Miss H lent a hand, though much to my mum's disappointment she didn't quite fit into the mailbox too.

UCSD-mailbox

My visit evoked so many fond memories. If I let myself go momentarily I was right back there again, and I loved it. Sure, I'm aware the rose-tinted spectacles effect means I've conveniently forgotten all the boring or difficult times I spent on campus, but when I pretended I was off to a Faust Fragments rehearsal to work with the incredibly talented Marsha-Stephanie and most excellent stage managers Andrew and Dana; or when I imagined that later that evening I'd be conspiring with my fellow Scot Miriam to put on a crazy but inspired version of Ubu Roi; or when I thought I might pop into the sports hall for an aerobics class led by my roommate Aimee despite knowing she'd deliberately incorporate all the steps I told her I found the hardest - when I teleported myself into any one of those memories, and many more besides, I felt a rush of joy.

I wonder sometimes if I'll relive these memories one quiet afternoon when I choose to daydream. Or perhaps reminiscing is more like clearing out an old drawer in your house: you think one day you'll spend an afternoon looking through each and every item with unhurried dedication, but in fact whenever you rifle through that drawer looking for something and your mind is briefly taken elsewhere as you stumble across a couple of mementos, that unprompted interruption of the past into the present is the real pleasure. It's a bittersweet experience, to be sure, but as I watched my little ones skip merrily across the campus I enjoyed revelling in my emotions, all the more ready to impress upon my children when the time is right the things that brought me happiness in my youth.

Fast-forward to a few weeks later, and now a few weeks ago: our final full day in San Diego was the 3rd of January, which saw us packing as much as we could in the morning and then heading up to Del Mar at lunchtime. I was visiting a hairdresser up there (a referral from a friend of my San Francisco hairdresser) and it's near where Jasmine and Dave live so they kept the day free to meet up with us and ensure we had a lovely last day with friends. The weather was quite cloudy so Del Mar didn't look her best, which is a shame - she's actually a very quaint little place, with old Tudor-style buildings, and a train line right beside the water.

del-mar

del-mar

del-mar

del-mar

The next day we set off for LAX (the flights out of there are much cheaper than from San Diego), and as our plane wasn't until the evening we were able to enjoy a final visit to the very pretty Laguna Beach - yep, the one that lent its name to a television series several years ago. We were granted beautiful weather so we found a lunch spot that overlooked the ocean and took in the gorgeous scenery, walked down to the beach for a quick play on the sand, then headed back to the car when Master H lost it, ostensibly over the fact the water bottle was empty. Mr H and I reckoned it was all the change that was underway that was unsettling our little troopers so we scooped them up, took a final few photos and made our way to the airport.

laguna-beach

laguna-beach

laguna-beach

laguna-beach

laguna-beach

And then, after a lot of LA traffic, an annoying rental car drop-off where we had to shuttle run all 4 suitcases, 4 carry-ons, 2 car seats, 2 buggies and 2 children across three lanes from the rental return area into the airport shuttle bus, we were in the airport. Naturally the oversize baggage lane to which the check-in staff directed us was closed so we had to trail all the way over to the other side of the airport, so when we eventually made it through to the departures lounge we decided a celebratory beer / wine was definitely in order. As we flopped down at the bar we learned it served every kind of juice except the one our littlies wanted, so Mr H valiantly went off on a quest to find apple juice while I befriended the family next to me (of course) who, it turned out, were from Sydney!

Time flies when you're having fun, so all too soon we had to say our cheerios and then spend what, conversely, felt like a short eternity in a piece of metal with two overtired toddlers. Thank goodness for technology!

plane-back-to-london

And there we have it. Sure, there was the final mission of getting all our stuff through the airport to the taxi back to the grandparents' house, but the driver met us at the arrivals gate so that helped considerably. And there was the crippling baby jet-lag that meant one or both children were up for three hours in the middle of the night for five days. But these things are boring, so I shall afford them scant mention. Instead... we're back! We did it! We were on the road for five and a half months. We stayed in four fabulous cities. When we started out Miss H's spoon-to-mouth success rate was unwatchably low, and Master H was still in nappies. Now she drinks from a cup without spilling a drop, and he is halfway towards fully dressing himself in the mornings. They've both gone up at least one clothes size, and mercifully Mr H and I haven't. ;)

But we've all changed in our own ways. I used to have to write these blog posts late at night, in one go, when the house was all quiet. Now as I write this my youngest is practising singing the "Go Jetters" theme tune at the telly beside me, my eldest keeps dragging me into the other room to watch him measure things with Grandad's measuring tape, and hubby is making dinner and periodically pinging questions at me about things like what size of car we think we'll need to drive up to Scotland in a fortnight's time. And Mr H has changed too: he now prefers automatic cars, makes excellent margaritas, and is a whizz at getting the cheapest rates for car rental just by patiently playing around with the booking engines.

So what's next? Well, at the moment we're almost continuing our holiday, just in our homeland. We've been to the Natural History Museum in London. It was much better than we had been led to expect: we had heard that the big dinosaur skeleton is no longer in the main hall -  however the animated T-Rex more than made up for that! We've been to a west end theatre show: the Book of Mormon, which was excellent. We've taken the kids to the local swimming pool; today we went to Toddler Tales at the library, and once a week we've found a nice drop-in playgroup to go to. And we're seeing our friends! Hurrah! Old friends, new friends, work friends, family who are friends - all of the above. Some of our closest Australian pals were in Europe for the festive season so we amazingly managed to meet up with them the day after we landed. Young Master H has no concept of geography having seen now his best Aussie mate here in England! And this is only the beginning: we have more visits planned over the next two weeks; I'm going to a dear uni friend's hen do at the end of the month; then we're off up to Scotland to celebrate my nephew turning 4 and my mum turning a wee bit more than 4. Ah, to be able to be with family members on their birthdays! What joy!

Eventually we will have to re-enter the world of gainful employment, we know, but for now we're riding the wave of being back in the U-U-U-K. And with the past six months we've just had, we certainly do know how lucky we are.


Coming up: I'm going to collate all of these posts into a hardback book as a family memento and a gift to our two little travellers, Master H and Miss H. Well done kiddos!

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