Happy Birthday, Sofie!

29 November 2018

Yahoo, Cornelia slept for over twelve hours, waking just after 08:30, when she came into the front room with her happy “Good morning!” before asking me to come into her bed for a cuddle. What a way to start the day! 🥰 I told her about a bit of a dream I’d had, and she made up her dream, so she could share the weirdness. She told me that she’d been playing tennis with (pretend friend) Ellie and the ball landed on the grass, but there was a sign saying “please keep off the grass”. Asta (another pretend friend) went to retrieve the ball, but the ground started sinking. Then a pig nose appeared at the end of a tentacle and tried to wrap around them all, but luckily a giant fly arrived and pulled them out. Blimey, that was a bit intense for so early in the morning!!!

We all had breakfast together, then I showered while Ian packed his stuff (I’d done mine last night 😇) and Cornelia played on her magic pillow, visiting various lands, before turning into a lost penguin that I had to adopt.

Whilst playing penguins and dinosaurs, I tried to back up my iPhone with the unlimited wifi we have been given here. But it was a slow process and it all collapsed before we had to be out of our unit by 10:00.

Ian took Cornelia to the playpark while I sat in the car trying to complete it again, but even with over an hour to do this, it only made it halfway through the sync. Sigh…. I gave up and went to find Cornelia and Ian, who were still in the playground, where Ian was chatting to a couple while Cornelia bounced on the trampoline with their daughter, Sofie, who had turned five today!

I was over an hour behind the conversation but quickly caught up. Laura and Howard are from Utrecht and are also travelling with Sofie, for about six months in total. It was absolutely brilliant to find another family doing the same as us, and they were terrific and easy company. So much so, that the kids played for nearly three hours while we chatted in the unexpected sunshine! As 13:00 ticked by, I said we really would need to go, as we needed to get lunch before leaving. And we ended up agreeing that we should go to the nearby mall and have lunch together.

Cornelia and Sofie stopped off in the little Christmassy area that had been set up for kids, and had the whole attention of both enthusiastic Santa’s helpers, who helped them colour in Christmas stockings and were enchanted by them both. Sofie was slightly shyer than Bugsy, largely because she doesn’t speak English, but they both enjoyed the colouring creativity, before we dragged them off towards the Food Court for lunch, pausing briefly for a quick play in the indoor area.

There were construction works taking place in the mall which were quite noisy, so we chose the Lone Star, an indoor grill pub, which was perfect for us, especially as it had a good selection for children. The girls were very happy to be given a kids’ menu with a picture on the other side, which they coloured in with the pens they’d received earlier in Santa’s workshop. Cornelia signed her name on it and declared that she would give it to Oceane and her colleague back in the workshop, after lunch.

We had originally been seated at a high-rise table, but we were happily moved to a “normal” height table before our food was served. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch. Laura and I both had the Prawn Star (hohoho) – tiger prawns cooked with garlic, chilli and coriander, with rice and they were really tasty. Ian took the girls off to the indoor play area again, leaving me with Laura and Howard, to whom I could quite happily have chatted for hours and hours. We would dearly have loved to stay with a bottle of wine, but we still had a long drive ahead, and it was nearly 15:00 and we really needed to crack on!

We swapped phone numbers, hugged and hoped that we would meet again down in Queenstown in a few days.

In order to save time tonight, I went in to Countdown to buy some pasta and sauce, via Warehouse in search of a scrapbook. Well, I found one! Sort of. It’s not perfect, but has a hard cover, firm paper and although it’s much bigger than I would have chosen, it should do the trick. Hurrah! Ian came to find me in the supermarket and Bugsy was very happy to have made a reindeer headdress and been given a Santa pompom by the guy she’d given her picture to. He was, by all accounts, quite touched. 🤗

Pasta and beer bought, we wandered back to the car and set off towards the West Coast, 215 or so kms away, listening to Christmas tunes, singing merrily away together.

As we approached the mountains, Howard’s earlier forecast was proven, as the dark clouds covered the tops of the hills, threatening rain, and we started driving through the clouds. But amazingly, we skirted around the edge of the worst of it, before being basked in gorgeous sunshine, which we followed for the rest of the drive.

Every time we came over the brow of a hill, we were treated to another unbelievable view. Mountain after mountain, covered in grasses, rocks, tors, yellow broom, trees, mist, clouds, snow, sunshine – you name it! It was glorious and magnificent. And to polish it all off, the Trans-Alpine train passed by on the other side of the river, tiny like a model railway in the distance. Truly awesome. The photos cannot do the size or beauty of it justice.

We ploughed on through Arthur’s Pass, a small ski-resort town, warning us of avalanches and steep gradients as we traversed the mountains, crossing Peg Leg Creek, the Otira Viaduct and Reid Falls, to name but a few. We LOVE a good car journey and this was one of the best to date, purely for the sheer vastness, epic beauty, and scale of it all.

Once through the mountains, the road flattened out a bit as we approached the coast and our home for the night, Greymouth. It was anything but grey when we arrived, and the small seaside town was basking in the late afternoon sunshine when we arrived, just before 19:00. The friendly staff checked us in quickly and told me a good run I could do, and as soon as we’d unpacked the car, Cornelia was off to the playground which is right opposite our unit, and I threw on my running kit and headed out along the beach for a very quick run.

It was absolutely breathtaking to be running alongside the sea again, with perfect waves rolling in, and no-one around. I really wanted to stop and breathe it all in, but I was quite aware that we were already very late for supper and I didn’t want to risk a meltdown ruining such a terrific day.

Back on site, I found Ian and Cornelia in the park still, where she had befriended a little bit, Thomas. His parents were nowhere to be seen and when I asked Ian about them, he told me that his parents had just left him there, telling him they were going down to the beach and would be back in a bit! 😲 He was younger than Cornelia- maybe three years old. We couldn’t believe it! Anyway, he loved having someone to play with, and they ran off together before Cornelia came back yelling to him “I just need to ask my parents!”. Good girl! He’d asked her to go to the Games Room with him, so Ian escorted them both and I gave her a fifteen minute warning for supper.

I was just boiling some pasta, so it was a quick and easy meal, and apart from dropping a tomatoey spoon on the floor, all went according to plan, and Ian came back a bit later, with Cornelia following reluctantly.

Ian told me that Thomas’s parents had come back to the beach and were furious that he’d left the park and gone to the Games Room (at the side of the park). Ian explained that he’d asked to go with Cornelia and that he had supervised, to which this ridiculous woman had replied “Well, it’s not up to you, is it?!” From the woman who’d left her kid alone on a campsite for over half an hour! She added that he was left on his own plenty, and knew that he was supposed to stay in the place she’d put him. Words fail me that such parenting still exists. 🙄

Anyway, we enjoyed our meal, although Cornelia asked me to make a cheese sauce out of cheese and milk, then seemed surprised how chewy the melted cheese was. 😂 We polished it all off though, and as it was now 20:30, I took her off to bed in the hope that she’d fall fast asleep after such an exhausting day. No such luck. As I sit and write this up, it is past 22:30, and I can still hear her reading and talking to her Gang. Argh, tomorrow should be interesting!

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