London x 2

We are officially done with London now – except for the flight home on Monday. Ian is definitely glad. He’s tired of hearing the announcers at some of the Tube stations saying “Mind the gap.” At one point, the kids turned it into a joke using the GAP sweatshirt Megan was wearing. We stopped at stations and the kids would say “Mind the…” and point to Megan’s sweatshirt. I guess you had to be there.

Lot’s of rail repairs were taking place this weekend, but we lucked out and got the express into & out of London instead of a local that had to be redirected on the bus. We also needed the Tube lines that were NOT being worked on. Ian has a special fondness for the sound of the Picadilly line. Every time we stopped at a station that connected to it, he would say it over and over for at least a minute.

We made it through the ticket line for the Tower of London. Ian was a real trooper, and the line only got bigger behind us so it put our short wait into perspective. Many portions were under construction, unlike when Kurt and I had gone two years ago. They also “enhanced” the Medieval Palace display, but Kurt and I liked it better the old way. They took out a beautiful metal chandelier in the room with Henry III’s chapel and replaced it with a video projector showing not-quite-relevant historical information. It completely took away from the intimate, sanctuary-like feel that used to be in the room. Some of the other walls have had their ancient stone white washed (except for the tiles that bear 500 year old inscriptions from prisoners). It completely messes with the awesome feeling of antiquity that should be felt in a place that’s nearly 1000 years old.

Kurt and Megan braved the “queue” for the crown jewels while Ian and I did the wall walk. We thought the wait was bad…that is until we looked at the wait after a Richard III re-enactment on the green. The line went from the door of the tower, all along the side, turned 90 degrees, went all the way down by the armory/cafe, turned 180 degrees around a central cannon display, and up the length of the green to the sidewalk that enters the White Tower. Unreal!

Navigating the White Tower was an experience as well. They have rerouted the traffic to see the armor & prisoner inscriptions first, then the Norman chapel and the rest of the tower. You couldn’t move on the “ground floor”, there were so many people. Upstairs it smoothed out a bit until the Guy Fawkes display. Megan wanted to watch the videos, but Ian had had it and it would have taken more than 30 minutes.

We all talked to an employee dressed like Robin Hood (though that wasn’t who he was portraying). Ian told him all about Henry VIII while Kurt and I made some history-related-dry-humor jokes. The man asked where Ian lived, then turned to us and said, “But you’re not from America, are you?” When we said yes we were, he gave me the biggest compliment in the world: “Oh, I just – you’re more well-spoken than most of the Americans that I meet.” Quite funny and well appreciated:-)

After the Tower, we walked across Tower Bridge. We followed the Queen’s Silver Jubilee walk markers along Southwark, saw the Globe Theatre recreation & London Bridge, and then crossed the Millenium Bridge (Ian nearly went through the wires trying to see when I stopped to take a picture – serves me right!) We took a look at St. Paul’s then found the neares Tube station. Megan liked retracing “Daphne’s” steps from the movie “What a Girl Wants.”

We arrived back to Reading just when all the disappointed fans were returning home from the home match against Liverpool. I had to sniffle because we tried for a very long time to get tickets to that match. They lost, so I guess it’s just as well. This was, however, Kurt’s first trip to the UK without a soccer/football match. We finished the evening with Pizza Express, a swim in the pool, and Victoria Sponge Cake from Sainsbury’s. A great way to wind down from all the urban stress:-)

As we have to leave early tomorrow and the internet cafe closes early for Easter, this will be our last post from this side of the pond. I’ll try to fill in the last of the blanks on Tuesday from the comfort of my own chair. Thanks for sticking with us and sending us your well wishes. We miss you all and hope to be seeing you (even our far away friends) very soon.


Quote of the Day:

Ian, after noticing some stations were handicapped accessible and some weren’t: “Is there such a thing as a cat wheelchair? How about a disabled litter box?”

Megan, once the Tower of London came into view & responding to my “Look, there it is!”: “Mmmmm, the ice cream?”
(There was an ice cream van parked next to us on the sidewalk.)

London – AAUUGGH!

Well, we survived our first proper day in London with the kids. Of course I now have a screaming headache and it’s only 17:16. At least I don’t feel so bad now – Ian had a rougher time in the city than I did. It’s nice not to be the most neurotic one in the group for once.

We got up bright and early…for a holiday. We managed to catch an express to Paddington Station and even got seats. The kids worked in their journals on the trip in. It’s so funny to see what they choose to put on paper. When we get home I’ll have to scan some.

Anyway, we squeezed onto a Circle Line Underground train car to go to the Science Museum. We had heard that it was both excellent and free. Ian did not like the Tube trip – he wanted a seat and he didn’t want to be squished. I think the kids finally experienced what it’s like to be in a post-football-match squeeze. There truly is no way to fall down because all the bodies are pressed together (and yes, we still have our passports, money, credit cards, etc.).

Once off, we walked through an amazingly long tunnel to the Science Museum with the longest advert I’ve ever seen for the “Night at the Museum” DVD. I guess they really want to sell DVD’s. It was easily 30 feet long. After having our bags searched, we were in. Ian and I spent a long time at the energy exhibits. So now Ian knows how to be an Energy Minister and build power plants, be an Energy Ninja and smack people around who waste energy, and type energy saving messages onto a giant electric wheel. Hmmm. Kurt and Megan were more productive with their time, checking out all the computing equipment and making it to more floors than we did.

After realizing eating in the cafeteria would require balancing our lunch trays on our heads, we decided to leave and go to the Natural History Museum right next door. NOT! The line stretched an entire block (not single file), so there was no way Ian was going to make it. True to our form, we went off the beaten path and went into Apsley House (where Wellington lived) and up the Wellington Arch. Both were free because of a Heritage Pass we bought at Battle Abbey. Megan really liked the chandeliers and Ian liked the panoramic print of Wellington’s funeral parade. (what is it with him and funerals?)

Finally at 14:00 we made our way to Henry’s for a posh pub meal. Megan had another round of Bangers & Mash, I had Steak & Ale Pie, Kurt had a club sandwich, and Ian? Garlic bread with cheese melted on. Hey, whatever it takes:-) We walked off our lunch in Green Park and waved to the queen in Buckingham Palace (at least we think she was home). We did see Princess Alexandra ride up in a seafoam green sedan at any rate. Visiting Granny, perhaps?

When Ian ran circles around the Victoria Memorial in front of the palace, we knew it was time to head back to the hotel. We caught not-so-crowded tube trains back to Paddington and – thanks to Ian wanting to walk up the escalators – we made the express back to Reading, even though we all had to sit separate. Ian entertained the lady next to him with his drawings of the Eiffel Tower (???), himself as a doctor mixing medicine for a patient, and himself as a chef cooking up stinky food. Megan decided to be quiet as a mouse so that the man next to her could keep sleeping. Kurt talked to some Americans that were across the aisle (go figure). I just ping ponged my head between giving Megan winks & smiles and giving Ian spelling hints for his captions.

So we made it back in time for Kurt to hit Ian’s reset button in the pool and for me to write to you… My headache’s gone already (17:44) – just in time for our supper date with one of Kurt’s friends.


Quote of the Day:

Ian, while looking at a naked marble statue with a grape leaf in the important area: “He should have some pants on. Or at least some underwear!”

Megan, after looking at Apsley House’s spectacular chandeliers: “I don’t know anyone with a house this nice. They must have been REALLY rich!”

Melting Down in London Town

night time is the best time for walking around London

Well, my adjustment to London went as I feared. Our hotel had overbooked and they sent us across town. Shouldn’t have been a big deal, but you know me and my control-freakish nature.

Anyway, on Wednesday we unpacked and walked around Hyde Park (not as scary as the noisy streets). Then we went to bed early.

On Thursday we went to Kew Gardens and walked around half of it (which took 4 hours), then waited on the train platform for 2 blocks of 25 minutes before
catching connections back to Hyde Park so we could see the State Rooms at Kensington Palace. We hung out at the hotel, but decided it was too much of a waste. So we hopped back on the tube (finally running smoothly
again) and walked across Milennium Bridge and around St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Today we toured the Tower of London, walked across Tower Bridge, and used the bathrooms at Buckingham Palace (after viewing artwork in the Queen’s Gallery of course). We are contemplating a night walk around
the Houses of Parliament tonight. We’ll see how the feet feel after dropping all our souvenirs off at the hotel.

Rather than being really descriptive about our last few days (not in the mood), I’m going to give you some comparisons. Use your imagination as to why these
comparisons are being made. I assure you that real life is funnier: (C=Cotswolds, L=London)

best train system: C
best bathroom in train system: C
best park bathroom: L
best hand dryers in bathrooms of any kind: L
(Note: The Tower of London’s Bathrooms won the coveted “Loo of the Year Award” in 1998, 2000, 2003, and 2005 – though the posh stainless steel hand dryers and marble sinks in the Queen’s Gallery were a sight to be seen)
best hotel staff: C (BY FAR!)
most tourist friendly signage: C!!!!!
most history per square km: L
easiest to find history once off the train: C
most English food per restaurant: C
most drunken people per sidewalk: C
best buskers (people who play music for coins): C – (although the guy who played Pink Floyd on his guitar on our tube train today was pretty good – I just
didn’t appreciate being a captive audience member.)
smallest restaurant: L
biggest percentage of Monty Python moments: L (except for the Trebuchet at Warwick Castle)
most sirens in the middle of the night: hmm, can’t decide
best TV reception: C
biggest percentage of British television programmes: home on BBC America!!!!!!