Monday, May 26, 2008

London post #2

Note: some of this was written by Mandy and some by Jeff so I hope it’s not confusing!?

We are on the train to Scotland right now and are blown away by the beauty of this Country. Farm land is beautifully divided by hedgerows or rock walls and the forests are very dense. The train ride is quite relaxing and we finally have a second to update the blog. I think we will take it from the second day since the day we arrived we just sort of hung around the flat and we’ve described what we did that night. See previous post for exciting news about Asher’s milestone!

Asher was still teething and had a fever but was still a little champ traveler. We got on a double-decker guided tour bus that took us all over London and pointed out important sights to see and gave us a brief history of all the sights. We saw amazing buildings, more luxury cars than we have ever seen in such a small radius and experienced a wonderful atmosphere. Our family, Lisa and Pedro, Scott, Maggie and Marli all hopped on the bus and off we went!

We were of course amazed at Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London; the list could go on and on. We caught the bus at Victoria Station and rode west through a really nice part of town called Chelsea. I recognized names from Jane Austen books and had fun picturing the history there. We saw Marble Arch where lots of executions took place. We passed Kensington Palace, museums, and other amazing things before we got off in Notting Hill. Scott and Maggie showed us where they used to live and showed us their favorite pub. It was a fun neighborhood and we walked to another bus stop to continue the tour.

We had a great live tour guide on the next stretch and learned a lot about the city. We passed the famous Madame Tussauds museum, Oxford Circus and Regent street (crazy shopping area with SO MANY people!!!), some places famous from Beatles songs (Jeff loved that!), and got off at Trafalgar Square. We spent some time there and Asher enjoyed playing on the grass in front of the National Gallery and seeing the pigeons. We took some photos and videos there with the birds and the lion statues. Maggie took Marli home after that because she was tired and hungry but the rest of us carried on.
We had a terrible tour guide this time! Hard to explain in text, but I felt really bad for him! We saw some cool stuff though… #10 Downing Street where the Prime Minister of Britain lives (not much to see), St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, etc. Our tour included a river ride down the Thames so we hopped on the boat and floated down to Westminster. Our guide on the boat was hilarious and he made the few drops of rain we had well worth enduring. From there, we headed home and enjoyed Maggie’s gourmet cooking!! YUMMY! We had a nice relaxing night and poor Asher was still teething, but what a great sport! Announcement: ASHER WALKED TODAY!!! See previous blog for details! On to the next day…


We had a splendid time at Camden market today. What a mad house (and that’s an understatement!). There were so many people… I mean shoulder to shoulder people. It was really funky stuff and I (Mandy) loved it!! I wish we had something like that locally! We found a great purse and cool sweater for Mandy’s mother’s day gift. They were made in Nepal and the man who owned the store was so nice. Mandy got information from him and will hopefully be able to import some jewelry and other products to sell here at her shows and to friends.

A highlight for me (Jeff) happened after the market. Scott, Maggie, Marli, Mandy, Asher and I went to get our picture taken on Abbey Road. When we found the famous street, I have to admit I was quite disappointed, in that there was not any hype around the crossing. I guess I was expecting to see major Beatles memorabilia around the site. All that was there were people walking across the street getting their picture like us. You can see ours on the slide show. Not a lot of different things happened today because we got a slow start and spent a lot of time playing in the market. We were pretty tired from walking around the market and it was a bit of a walk from the Tube station to Abbey Road so we headed back to the house and chilled out. Asher needed some time too. He was still teething! Poor thing!


On the 5th we went to Windsor Castle. This was my favorite place (Jeff) so far. What history, elegance, and… drum roll… the queen was there. Unfortunately we did not get to see her but she and Prince Henry were there. I guess Prince Henry was receiving recognition for service in Afghanistan. The Chapel at Windsor was breathtaking. It was cool to see where the Order of the Garter met and where the members sat. Intriguing society! There was a great large dining hall that had all of the Knights shields on the ceiling with their crests, and those that had betrayed the Monarchy or had done something else wrong, their shields were blank reminding people of their dishonor. We found out that Prince William will become the 1000th Knight in June.

The castle also had wonderful works of art from Van Dyke, and the famous self portrait of Renoir in a flat black cap. The doll house in the castle was also very cool since I like miniature things. It was a replica made for a queen. It had all the bedrooms, the dining room with real silver plates on the table, all the other rooms and even a room with bars where the crown jewels were kept! Amazing how they miniaturized everything to the detail! In the rest of the castle, there were really cool weapons, treasures, and gifts in the rooms. I liked the door lock which, if fiddled with, had two pistols that would fire. Most people miss that item. Beware the queue. We saved hours by jumping in a tour group that was going through. Sneaky!

We ate at a fun restaurant across from the castle called the King _________. We had a great view of the castle and enjoyed fish and chips… yummy! Asher was starting to feel a little better.

The funny event of the day is when Mandy decided to get some candy from a vending machine minutes before the train came. The machine on our side of the tracks was broken and so she crossed over to the other side. As the train arrived she was still making her choice on the opposite platform. She thought that the train would be there for a few minutes so she crossed quickly, but as she was coming through the building, some kids were blocking the door. As the train was starting to close the doors Mandy was coming through the gate. The door in front of me closed so I went down a door and started to get in thinking Mandy was going to be able to get in. The train pulled away from the station and Asher and I peered out the door window at Mandy standing at the terminal. As brief anger passed I was left laughing at look Mandy had on her face as we passed. I just waited at our destination in Waterloo station for a half an hour for her. (Mandy’s version…) I was craving something sweet because I had after taste of fish and chips so I ran across to grab some candy. I hurried, but when I missed the train, panic struck! I didn’t have any money, my ticket, a phone, any identification or anything. The next train didn’t come for ½ hour so I asked the attendant if there was anything I could do to get to the destination any faster. I also didn’t know if they’d let me get on the train without my ticket! He said I’d be fine, but I’d have to wait for the next train to come. I was FREAKING OUT! I went to sit down to wait and found Asher’s blanket on the bench where Jeff had left it. So I guess it was meant to be and it all worked out. I caught the next train and I’d check each stop in case Jeff had gotten off to wait for me. I met some really nice guys from different parts of Africa. They were concerned that I didn’t know where I was going since I kept checking each stop. We had a great conversation and they helped me realize that the situation was quite funny and that everything would be fine. They walked with me to find Jeff to make sure I was fine and we all had a good laugh.


Today was a great day. We took a tour to the Cotswolds, the City of Bath and to Stonehenge. Our tour guide/drive was so great. He knew a lot about the history of London and all the areas that we visited. Everything we experienced today was fascinating. On the way to Bath we stopped at an amazing village in the Cotswolds called Lacock. There was a beautiful house there or small castle that was just breathtaking. Unfortunately we could not go in as we only had twenty five minutes to experience the whole village. The village had great little homes that had limestone shingles and some thatched roofs.

When we arrived in Bath we were greeted with a beautiful Abbey. This Abbey had an amazing facade. It was very detailed and was in great condition considering how old it is. We had a few hours to wander the city and enjoyed it a lot. I (Mandy) loved seeing all of the dancing halls and old houses. I love Jane Austen novels and she writes about Bath in some of her books. It was fun to imagine her characters and herself around the city. We went to the Roman Baths and were amazed at the technology they used to make the baths from natural hot springs. It was incredible how they piped the water in and cycled it through to keep them clean. Next, we wandered around and found a place to eat. The weather was incredible that day and we enjoyed sitting outside catching some rays. We walked around a bit more and then had to catch our tour bus and headed to Stonehenge. It’s quite a ways from any town and is amongst some beautiful green fields. Our guide pointed out some mounds that were actually burial sites and he told us lots of interesting things about the area and about the history. We only had 45 minutes so we had to rush, but we got some great photos and enjoyed our time there. We headed back to London and Kris had arrived so we had a good time that evening relaxing at the flat.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Big day!

(written on May 3rd)
we've had a great time so far in London! first of all though, i have an announcement... ASHER WALKED TODAY!!! =0 we knew he was so close to walking so we kind of didn't push it so that he could take his first step in London. He's had a couple of really rough days because he's teething, but after an especially long day, he took his first steps in Scott and Maggie's flat! he kind of pivoted first and we weren't prepared with the camera so we had to wait so we could get out the cameras. he took a few more steps and then practically collapsed because he was so tired (not from the few steps, but from a very long day.). that being said, let's find out why he was so tired...
well, our trip didn't exactly start out well. jeff had set his alarm for 6:15 pm instead of 6:15 am, so luckily he woke up at 6:40 or we wouldn't have made the flight! jeff's brother trevor took us to the airport and since we hadn't left when we'd planned, we hit a bit of traffic, but not much. we had trevor drop us off at the international terminal... well, little did we know that you can't check in at that terminal, so we had to run back to terminal 2 to check in. so i limped on over and we tried to check in at the kiosk, but we couldn't because we had an infant in arms. so we rushed up to have someone check us in... mind you we had less than 45 minutes before our flight left. the clerk was all put out, but got us checked in. jeff suggested that i should go back over to the intl. terminal and stand in line. so i hobbled back over quickly and just as i was walking in the door, jeff called and told me that the clerk needed the tickets to finish up... yep, you guessed it, i had the tickets. so i ran back and gave them the tickets then we all ran back to the intl. terminal. we had 1/2 hour now! jeff told the security guard our problem and he pretty much said "too bad, so sad." so jeff made an announcement to everyone in line that we were totally late and asked if anyone had a problem with us cutting in line. everyone told us to go ahead so we butted in and got through security. we were at the last gate in the terminal and made it just in time. pessimist jeff said, "90% chance our bags won't make it on the plane." jeff! think positively! we had to shuffle seats with some people so that we could sit together, but they were nice so we had aisle seats across from each other... in the last row of the entire plane! oh well, we made it and we took a deep breath and tried to relax. asher was great. he slept for a while and was fine the rest of the time. we flew into newark and switched terminals, went through security... again, and went to eat in the food court. we had lasagna and the guy at sbarro was really nice and gave us a plate of spaghetti for asher at no charge! we ate and headed back to our gate. there was an open area with no seats for asher to crawl around (i know... gross, but he needed to move and we washed his hands afterward!), so we let him play for a little while. we loaded up had great seats on this flight. people were nice again and moved so that we could have 3 seats together. we were told by the pilot that we'd be off shortly because they were still loading luggage into the plane. then a few minutes later he informed us that there was an emergency situation on an incoming flight so we'd be a little later. then he told us that we could finally start taxiing, but that it would be 45-60 minutes before we could take off... are you kidding me!? once we took off the flight started out okay, but oh my, it went downhill! asher struggled getting to sleep and he'd scream, so we'd let him play some more so that he'd stop crying, but we'd have to do it all over later. finally, i gave up in frustration. jeff stepped in (what an AWESOME daddy!) and took him into the lavatory to let him scream it out and he finally wore himself out. he slept for a few hours until we landed and dozed in our arms until passport control. he was fine after that... for a while. we got on the gatwick express to victoria station where we planned on meeting scott. i didn't know if he'd gotten my text and my cell phone doesn't work over here, so we wandered around trying to find scott. we didn't see him anywhere and we debated asking someone to borrow their phone to call him. i went to a payphone and was trying to figure it out when scott showed up. yea!
we headed to scott's on the tube and were delighted to have 2 more hands to help with luggage. we made it and were relieved to be there. we hung out with scott, maggie, marli, lisa, and pedro (who had flown in the day before). maggie fed us yummy food and we hung around for a while chatting. jeff got asher to sleep and lisa, pedro, maggie and scott went to the market while jeff and i crashed! asher woke up screaming and had a hard time getting back to sleep, but jeff is a great daddy and took care of him. he had a pretty bad fever (stupid teething!), but slept for a little while longer. when we woke up, we all got ready and went to the London Eye. We walked up out of the tube station and Lisa told me to look up and whoa! there was Big Ben! it took me by surprise and it was really cool. we walked over the bridge and looked at all of the cool buildings... we're in London!!! very cool! the Eye is really cool because you can see so much. Asher really enjoyed being able to walk around in the pod and loved looking down. the pictures are funny because you can't tell that the glass is there so it looks like he's just standing at the edge of a platform or something. he's so cool! anyway, after the Eye we took photos on the bridge and walked over to Westminster Abbey and then on to Victoria Station... long walk! but it was a really nice night and we had fun seeing the city.
ok, i'll end this one and start a new one for the next day. i'm a few days behind! love to all, MK