This past week we were blessed with a visit from my son, his wife, and their two children. Those visits aren’t as frequent as I could wish, but that’s not their fault. They live in the south of England, which makes it quite an ordeal for them to get here. A long drive to London along clogged motorways, then navigating the tangled maze of roads around Heathrow Airport, parking, and getting through security, all come before they even get on the plane for the eight to nine-hour trip. The only mercy is the direct flight from London to Raleigh, so at least they don’t have to change planes.
The first couple of days were mostly about rest and getting over the jetlag for them. The children played in the yard or at the park down the street. The adults dozed, talked, ate, and took walks with the children.
When everyone was finally mostly functional, we went to the Greensboro Science Center, which is both science museum and zoo. The children were fascinated by the extensive and well set-up aquarium, watching the penguins waiting for feeding time or doing zoomies in the water. The sharks swam in their enormous tank ignoring the smaller fish and the moray eel who kept himself mostly tucked into a hollow space in a display log. Feeding time in the other enormous fish display was fascinating as the zookeeper dropped in lines with the preferred cuisine of the mantas and other varieties of fish kept there.
The day was pleasantly warm for early April so we spent more time outside in the zoo, walking a circuit that started with the meerkat habitat, wound past the gibbon exhibit, the crocodiles, various birds, and some play areas before reaching one of the highlights, the tiger area. Tigers are impressively huge and graceful and the weather seemed to suit one in particular, who was prowling around his area, trotting across grassy areas, climbing a rocky outcrop with stunning grace and leaping from one rock to another.
Then it was onto the maned wolves (all sleeping), a serval, a sand cat (almost unbearably cute), and a longer stop to gape at the adorable red pandas. Fortunately one of the two was awake and roaming around, giving the children an up-close view once or twice. Beyond that were flamingos, then the pygmy hippopotamuses (hippopotami?), an Okapi (which looks like someone threw together with spare parts from several other animals), and a Cassowary. I overheard a man from another party refer to the Cassowary as a giant prehistoric turkey. Pretty accurate, actually. We ended the zoo part in the barnyard, where sheep, goats, and a donkey were roaming in large enclosure.
The de rigeur stop for snacks inside came next. Our last stop was in the snake and insect lab in the basement area. James, the younger of the two children, is a fan of bugs. When he heard there was a tarantula, seeing it became his main goal. It took a little searching but we did, in fact, find the tarantula cage. While the rest of us kept out distance, James moved in for a closer look (through the glass, of course).
The next couple of days were filled with visits from relatives, taking advantage of the rare opportunity to see our son and his family, visits to a few other favorite places, and them spending time with one of Joe’s oldest friends and his family.
Then it was off on a trip to New Bern, where my older daughter and her husband are located. But that’s a whole ’nother story. Actually a couple of stories.