Friday, December 27, 2013

London Trip

In mid-October Jonathan had a conference trip scheduled in London.  Jonathan's mother and sister, Christine, kindly offered to watch the crew for a week so I could go with him.  Bless them!! 

This was my first trip outside the US with the exception of Canada, and Canada hardly counts.   Needless to say, I was excited to go!

Once we arrived at Heathrow airport, Jeremy picked us up and we spent the first few days visiting Andrea and Jeremy in Windsor.  They live in a little cottage that is so old it doesn't have a number, but is referred by its name instead.  Their postal address is Ilex Cottage followed by the road and the town. 

Andrea took us to see Windsor castle and high street (downtown) Windsor.

The Queen's garden used to be a moat in medieval times.  Now it is filled with flowers. 

The queen lives in the center part of the castle, shown in the center of the picture.  
More pictures of Windsor castle.  

It is a HUGE structure.  We toured the inside as well, but unfortunately weren't permitted to take pictures.  Inside we saw the banquet halls, reception rooms, more intimate receiving rooms where distinguished guest are entertained, galleries, armories, knighthood halls, and on and on.  Each room had so much history.  Here Napoleon and his wife stayed, there a treaty was signed, another gallery was devoted entirely to royal artwork from hundreds of years ago to Prince Charles's paintings. The Queen's massive doll"castle" and toys were also on display.  The replica castle had working lights, plumbing, real miniature books and paintings.  Gwedolyn was at preschool during our trip, but Andrea said that in the past Gwendolyn has become very frustrated that she can't play with the dollhouse and toys.  I can understand why!

Saint George's Chapel

Standing guard

This is where the clergy live.  I love the architecture. 

Andrea and me!  No she isn't missing a leg, that is just her bag held in her hand.
Andrea was having trouble with her hips due to the pregnancy, hence the crutches.  She was gracious enough to accompany us on our visit though.

After staying with Andrea, Jeremy and little Gwendolyn for a few days, we hopped over to London to see the sites.  The aerial shots are taken from the London Eye.

Here is the London Eye. One rotation takes about 30 minutes.  

You can see Big Ben in the distance and the Houses of Parliament. 

Double deckers!  No we didn't use the bus system but I had to get a picture of London's iconic buses.  We traveled solely by underground. 

This is a map of the underground:

It took a little getting used to the many transfers, but we managed.

In contrast, this is Austin's train service:

While in London I really wanted to see the London Symphony Orchestra.

 So we did!
 My date.  

 Next on our must see list was the Tower of London.
 We both highly recommend making a stop here.  The place was choke full of history, artifacts and stories and was well worth the visit.  Here is their site, but if you want a simple summery, check out wikipedia  If you go and want to see the Crown Jewels, get there early and make that your first stop.  We did and had no wait or crowds.  An hour or two later there were long lines "queues" outside the building.  Again, no photography was allowed, so I don't have any pictures of the sparkly things from the many reigns dating back to Charles I.  However, as Jonathan said, it can all be found on google anyway and the picture quality is undoubtedly better than the little phone camera. 

Jonathan in front of the White Tower. 
 It was built in the 11th century as a fortress.  11th century!  It just boggles this American's mind that so many buildings, structures, and things in Europe are so old!  Sure you read about them in history books, but is different to actually see and touch something that ancient.  Here in America, we think of the Alamo as old and it is less than 300 years.  Incredible!

Here I am with a Beefeater.  They provide a colorful tour and are more than happy to answer questions.  We really enjoyed the stories and history during the walking tour.  Definitely recommend.

One of Henry VIII's many suits of armor.  We saw some others at Windsor Castle. 
Didn't see other codpieces quite like his, compensating you think?   

Jousting pieces

A browning pistol given as a gift in the 1970s.  Later used in a murder.  

 Traitor's gate

Gilded gold armor

A giant and child's armor

On the day of Jonathan's conference, I took the train to Windsor to spend the day with Andrea.  She took me to the Cadbury factory.

Here is Diggles aka my adorable niece Gwendolyn.  Her curled mop of hair makes me think of a Hobbit.

Gwendolyn has been to Cadbury before and knew the drill.  She was looking for the chocolate before we'd even reached the building.  

We'd planned to visit the London Museum while in London, but when we stopped by they were closed due to an unexpected electrical problem and weren't sure when they would reopen.  New plan!  Instead we stopped by Trafalgar square to see the National Art Gallery.  Trafalgar square is an excellent place to people watch, btw.  There were lots of street performers and things going on. 

The National Gallery is free and open to the public.  However we decided to purchase headsets to listen to more information on the paintings.  We spent several hours pursing the artwork and I only saw a portion of it.

After the gallery, I met Andrea for high tea for two.   She'd purchase it earlier as a birthday present.  Thanks Andrea!  We had miniature finger sandwiches, camomile and peppermint herbal tea, pastries, and sweet breads all elegantly served.  I'm all in favor of importing the concept of afternoon tea.  On the other hand, I am not in favor of adapting the English concept of breakfast.  Their idea of bacon is sliced Canadian ham and a full English breakfast includes a hearty helping of pinto beans.  ???

More iconic London.  No, I never saw anyone actually using the telephone booth.

Saint Paul's Cathedral 

Big Ben

Jonathan and Churchill

Our last night in London Andrea and Jeremy met us for dinner and then we saw Wicked.  
Baby bellies!  

Isaac's Christmas

Isaac had a good Christmas.  He is crazy about his new knight armor, courtesy of Brian and Kirsti.  He also got a "UFO" helicopter in a protective cage; so far it has proved indestructible.  Matthew is super jealous of the helicopter but so far it has not ended in tears.

Unfortunately the Woot special "Tuff Cam" below (epic Isaac hair!) was DOA.  Yet to be seen if Woot will offer a replacement, since it was purchased back in September.  Fortunately, Isaac took this setback with good grace -- probably because the armor was so cool.

Corinna's Christmas

This was Corinna's first Christmas to be more interested in her presents than in the boxes they came in.  Her very favorite is her new pink dress.  We kept taking it off when she would get into treats, like the chocolate orange here, and she kept putting it back on.

She is also a big fan of her Miss Piggy doll ("Piggy!" she cried, when she opened the box), and her Dora doll and backpack (seen here worn upside down, as she insisted).

Brian and Kirsti gave her a Dora guitar which we immediately banished to the upstairs toy room.  Whenever I hear it I resolve to find something suitably noisy to repay their children with.