London, part one: Travel notes and photos

London, England: August 22 – September 1

Saturday, Aug 25

Our day started not too early so everyone got caught up on some much-needed sleep.  We headed to the restaurant in the hotel and enjoyed a traditional English breakfast.  It was okay but I am certain that Elsa will never want Black Pudding again.  After breakfast the kids coerced us into taking them to a small carnival near the London Eye.  We all rode the sky high swings ride that takes up 500 feet into the air on swings over London.

500 feet up!

Boarding the next round of “victims”

Once we were done seriously reconsidering even saying “yes” to the kids in the first place, we headed to the Westminster Tube stop. On the way we saw a large group of German Paralympic athletes in town for the games that begin on August 29.

Took the Tube over to our next stop and walked around a bit before lunch. The weather was terrific – sunny about 70 degrees and a light breeze.

We found a good place for lunch nearby – The Dickens Inn – and while we were eating the storm came!  It rained heavily for a while but we could not complain because since we’ve been here the weather has been terrific.  We waited for a let up in the rain so we could make a run to Tower Bridge.  We took our chances and made it almost the whole way until it really started raining. Our new 5 GBP Union Jack umbrellas bought from a man on the street were no match for the rain and wind.  We were soaked.  Ducked into a Starbucks with about 100 other wet people.  Charlie is now officially known as “husband of Liz” — at least that’s what the super smart people at Starbucks called him.

Our refuge from the storm

After a bit we got a chance to tour the Tower Bridge which has a really fascinating history.  The man (Horace Jones) who designed the bridge in the 1870’s won a city-wide design competition when the idea to traverse the Thames with another bridge to ease congestion in the East End of London was put forth by the city council.  Now, the Tower Bridge is easily one of the most recognized landmarks in the world.  He went from relative obscurity to owning a place in history.  Now, that’s cool.

The Tower Bridge

Monday, Aug 27:  Settled into the new apartment yesterday.  We are located on Earl’s Court Square – a very nice residential street not too far from grocery stores, pubs, etc.  There is also a private park across the street that can only be used by the residents. The kids will have a big time there.  Today is a bank holiday here in UK so this afternoon they are hosting tea and jazz in the little park across from the apartment.  Will share more late.  Time to figure out the washer/dryer combo.  😉

Park across from apartment

Row of homes off our balcony to the left — our place looks similar.

What a great day today!  Homeschooled for a few hours and headed out to the Tube – figured out our path to Westminster where we picked up the Big Bus and rode it over to Harrods!  I have totally confirmed my suspicion that I am not a shopper. Granted, I  was in one of the WORLD’S best department stores filled with Prada, DVF, Dior, etc. and I was not at all interested. Dazzled? Yes.  There was the most amazing selection to gorgeous gowns, dresses, tops, shoes, watches, etc.  but honestly even if the kids and Charlie were not tailing me through the store, I would have little interest.  Give me a TJMaxx or Nordstrom Rack any day!  That’s what I am talking about.

Here’s me and the kids saying “let’s get the he$$ out of here”

The Ritz, anyone?  Elsa has the right idea.

After our trip to Harrod’s (where the guy at Green Pub and the pub itself no longer exists — I am talking to you Goose) we headed to lunch.  Boarded the bus again and headed toward London Bridge to see the HMS Belfast.  It was a neat exhibit.

HMS Belfast

The artillery room aboard the HMS Belfast

“Calling all kids to the dance party in the lounge”

I should just grow up!

HMS Belfast

That’s my girl, Captain Elsa!

Once we were on our way back to the apartment, we saw two groups of Paralympic tickets – one group from Argentina and another from Russia. I have promised myself that next time I see a group of athletes that I am going to ask them for a photo.  Completely dorky but they inspire me.  🙂

Tuesday, August 28  – We home schooled this am and then set out to the Tube Station at Earl’s Square.  Took the Tube two stops to the Science Museum.  What a great Museum.  We saw an interesting exhibit on Alan Turing who was a WWII code breaker. He was a brilliant man who worked for the British to break German codes, he studied for a period in the US at AT&T Bell Labs and then sadly committed suicide at the age of 41. You can read more about him by clicking on the link above.

We came back a little early to just hang out in the apartment — I am having a cocktail while the kids and Charlie throw the frisbee around.  I could get used to this.

No UK Astronauts as far as we could tell. 😉

The abacus – the world’s oldest “calculator”

Pure joy

Wednesday, August 29 – tonight is the Paralympic Opening Ceremony in London and the closest we’ll get to it is through tons of people in the Tube station.

Though not without trying, we did our best to find tickets into the venue for this evening.  From what we can tell it is much more difficult for Non-UK citizens to get tickets.  Oh well.  I guess we’ll be watching them on TV along with everyone else.  Interesting thing is that Steven Hawking is participating in the ceremony as one of the “honorables”.

However, we didn’t let the lack of tickets dampen our enthusiasm.  We took the kids to the Tate Museum of modern and contemporary art.  Most of it was far-beyond my base interest in Impressionist, some modern and Renaissance painters.  The kids and I got a chuckle from some of it.

We saved our sensibilities by visiting the Victoria & Albert Museum – across from the Museum of Natural History.  This place is amazing!

Neptune by Bernini at the V&A

I love this story. This is a sculpture of Thetis dunking her newborn son Achilles into the River Styx.  She hoped that the sacred waters would protect him, but Achilles was eventually killed when an arrow struck the one part of his body that was still vulnerable, his heel.  Interesting when you look at the way in which she is holding him.  Being a parent, I love this parable especially since we all know that we do all we can to protect our children from the hardships of life but in the end, you can only do so much and the rest is left to ….

Thetis and Achilles

Gallery of Sculptures at the V&A

Tate Elevator Placard. Shouldn’t we all celebrate a little bit more often?

Kids at the Tate

Not sure what this is …

Thursday, August 30 – Got a little bit of a late start this morning.  Took the tube to Knightsbridge and walked to Hyde Park.  Went straight to lunch at the boathouse.  Then took a marathon walk across the park to get to the Princess Diana Memorial Park.  What an awesome park! The kids loved the giant pirate boat in the center of the park.

Kids out front of 55 Earls Court Square

Elsa journeying through the Hyde

Clock out front of playground

Once we left the park, we found a great ice cream shop and had a little break before we headed to the Tube and over to Trafalgar Square.  When we arrived, we stumbled upon a BT (British Telecom) live viewing party of the Paralympics.

Kids in front of the National Gallery

The National Gallery was amazing.  I say this despite the fact that the kids had enough and were so “over it.”  So, our time was brief but great.  We saw the Impressionist room where we saw many Monet, Manet, Cezanne and VanGogh paintings.  Amazing!  Below are a few paintings we saw today.

Tomorrow is our last day touring London.  Going to hit the British Museum early – before the kids get too tired.

We leave for Paris Saturday at 2 pm.

Renoir masterpiece

Pissaro masterpiece

Monet Masterpiece

Friday, August 31 – Left early for the British Museum after realizing that our kids are better earlier in the day especially after walking between 5-8 miles, hiking up and down stairs, etc.  What an amazing place.  We all got the mobile headsets and toured the museum starting with Ancient Egypt.  Kids were totally mesmerized by what they were seeing and listening to.  It was great to see.

British Museum

One of the first things you see when walking into the Ancient Egypt exhibit is the Rosetta Stone  and the bust of Ramesses II  which is one of the largest and heaviest pieces in the entire museum.  Ramesses II ruled Egypt for 67 years.  “In his 67-year reign he probably built more temples and sired more children than any other Egyptian king, and today is known as Ramesses ‘the great'”.

Ramesses II

Sarcophaguses on display

The best classroom I can imagine…short of being there.

Model of Olympia

One of the greatest exhibits at the Museum (in my opinion) is the statutes of the Parthenon.  There is still some “bad blood” between Great Britain and Greece about them housing and exhibiting these treasures but all I know is that I was glad they were here for us to enjoy.  It was amazing.

The sirens

Main Parthenon Room

Bust of Iris

After we finished up at the British Museum, we headed to Olympic Park with the hope that we might be able to get some last minute tickets into the Olympic Village. No luck. Even though we didn’t get into the village it was neat to walk around in the area next the park because it was filled with tons of fans, athletes, etc. We found out that one of the department stores had a viewing area of the Park.

It was as close as we were going to get.

We joined a bunch of other fans in the Beer Garden for a beer and a watch. What a beautiful day.

Olympic Stadium

Right outside the viewing area was a giant model of the Olympic Stadium made out of a bazillion Legos!

Giant Lego Olympic Village

Saturday, September 1: Leaving London today.  Taking the EuroStar through the Chunnel to Paris.

Stay tuned.




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