Monday, July 14, 2008

Getting In The London Groove...

All right, so I realize it’s been three days (at the time of writing this it’s about 8:45pm on Sunday), but it’s been so very busy here! I think the flight home will be the first time in a LONG time that I actually sleep on a plane! We’ve been running all over southern England since last I wrote. Allow me to recap:

Day 3 (Thurs.): We traveled more into the center of London this day, starting off in Trafalgar Square and just taking it all in. We had tickets for the Millennium Wheel that afternoon, so while waiting we let the kids play in the playground at the base of it. The wheel is quite a huge structure when you’re standing at the base! The girls and Bret loved the ride, which is about 30 minutes, but I was more ambivalent about it. It was nice to see the entire city from that high, for sure, but I honestly was done after about 10 minutes. So we got our many photo ops, and paid way more than the ride was worth.

After that we took advantage of one of our many walks in the London book Katie bought us, and went over the Westminster Bridge towards Big Ben and the Parliament building. It’s absolutely magnificent- and the detail around the clock is just amazing. From there we went up Whitehall Street (gee, where did NY get their street names from?), which is one of the most populated streets in London, since it’s smack dab in the middle of the financial district. It also is where the Ministry of Defense and Downing Street are (Downing Street naturally is gated off). It’s a nice walk filled with history and beautiful buildings and it took us right back up to Trafalgar Square. We weren’t quite ready for dinner yet at this point, so we then decided to take the Tube up to King’s Cross Station, so Allison (and Bret) could get one of her many Harry Potter fixes. A very kind patrolman helped us find the tourist spot for a photo (which I all ready put on the flickr site). For me, seeing Alli’s face beaming was more than worth it all. From there we went back to St. Martin’s in the Field’s to have dinner in the Crypt, and then we headed back to the B&B. A long and very packed day.

Day 4 (Friday): This was one of our two out-of-London travel days. It started out by heading down to Stonehenge. Not too bad of a drive, ONCE we got out of London and on the highway. This driving around in a rental car was probably not completely necessary, but it did give us the freedom to travel as far as we did. I have to commend my husband on braving the traffic, driving on the left, and learning the art of the roundabout. He is now the roundabout KING. Again, without the GPS (which we have since named Cleo), none of this would even be possible.

Stonehenge was really quite neat, but WAY touristy. I didn’t like that part of it, it was difficult to get a decent shot of the formations because of all the people standing around trying to take the exact same photos. There was a group of protestors there, and their beef was the exact same thing. They do their best to keep it roped off, but still close enough to get good views.

After that, we headed up towards the Village of Lacock, which was quite an interesting drive. First, we drove right into rain. Next, English roads are narrow. Very, very narrow. At one point a two-way unpaved road was not able to have two cars side by side, and a couple of times at an intersection Bret had to back up to let cars by. It was so neat though as we went through the villages and towns along the way. It’s like going back in time, only there are cars along the street. I was snapping pictures all along the way so Bret could actually see what we drove through, as he was watching the road the whole time.

Lacock Village is the home of Lacock Abbey, which was founded in 1232 as a nunnery. In 1539 it was transformed into a family home, but the medieval cloisters were preserved. The cloisters are what we were looking for, as they are used as the hallways of good ol’ Hogwarts. The courtyard around the cloisters was also used in the movie. When we went back that night and looked at the DVD’s to compare, it was so very obvious (much to Alli’s delight). I would have loved to see the whole village, but we needed to leave to get to our final destination of the day, Gloucaster Cathedral, which was another hour and a half drive away.

The Cathedral was stunning, there are no words to describe it properly, or photos that can truly capture the magnificence. The building began in 1039 as an Abbey, but it was a place of worship since about 700 AD. King Edward II is buried there. We arrived about 15 minutes before they closed, and they had JUST shut down the cloisters as we arrived. So we tried to track down someone who would take pity on us and perhaps let us have a peek. We did, and we had about 10 minutes all by ourselves, wandering more of the Hogwarts halls. There was also a door used as an entryway to Griffyndor Tower, and one used as the entrance to the bathroom where Moaning Myrtle roams. Again, priceless happy looks on my daughter’s face. Never mind thousands of years of history, Harry Potter scenes were filmed here!

If you're curious, here's a Google Map of our drive around Southern England.

Day 5 (Saturday): Breakfast was served a little later today, so Bret slept in and the girls and I went and ate. The longer we stay at Melrose House, the more I like it. They are taking very good care of us here. I saw another family with children, which made me feel a little more comfortable. Around noon we left for the city, but for some reason the kids were all ready a bit grumbly.

We started out at the London Field’s Inn area, searching out Cyrius Black’s home (yet again, the Harry Potter tour). After that it was off to the British Museum, and an attempt to do another of the book tours I had. I say attempt because we had a bit of a downturn with the kids, and eventually we just gave up. We saw a little of Egypt (and the Rosetta Stone), but we barely made it out of pre-civilization before we just had to give up. Though we managed to see the chess set that was used in the first Harry Potter movie. Not the giant version at the end, but the smaller version you see them playing. It perked up Allison a bit, but we were pretty done for the most part. They really aren’t used to all this walking, and being stuffed into a train like a sardine, etc. etc.

Day 6 (Sunday): I’ve made it to today? Wow, that’s a lot of stuff we’ve crammed into this trip so far! I wish I could have blogged each day, but I’ve been so tired at the end of the day, and no time to do it in the morning. So I’m really sorry that this is such a huge chunk of reading for you all.

Today we had another late breaky, and finally got to interact with the other guests a bit! We met a really nice couple from Hong Kong, and had an interesting conversation about cities growing upward vs. outward. I also met another woman who is another Seeker like myself, complete with 9/11 conspiracy theories, world domination through pharmaceutical companies, and UFO’s (although I’m not big on the UFO thing myself). There wasn’t any good time to record with her, but I do have the info for her cause, so I can set something up in the future (yay skype!).

Today was my day sightseeing first- and we went to the most popular Beatles spot in London- Abbey Road. I was just like Allison with her Potter locations! And oh yes, me and the kids (then Bret and the kids) walked it while the other took pictures. After that it was off to 221 Baker Street, and the Sherlock Holmes shop. 221 doesn’t actually exist, but it’s close enough. A really neat little shop, and there is a museum as well though we didn’t do the tour. I’m a recent Holmes convert after playing a role in the Dream Realm audio drama series, which on the DRE website gives great information on the Holmes stories with each episode. Next door to the Holmes shop is a Beatles’ memorabilia shop. (Are you jealous, Dad and Alan? I hope so! ;-) )

From there we spent the rest of the afternoon at the London Zoo, after walking through Regent’s Park to get there. Central Park would be the comparison, I think. HUGE park in the middle of a major city. Though I think Regent’s is larger, I’d have to check that. We (of course) made our stop in the reptile exhibit for the Potter fans. Samantha LOVED the giraffes, because you could get right up and close to them. We’ve never been that close to a giraffe before.

After a small souvenir rift, we started the trek home, and had Nando’s chicken for dinner. A recommendation from Allison’s teacher, and it was a good one! GREAT chicken! Finally things are winding down today, as we prepare for our second out-of-London trip tomorrow. To Oxford. Why? Two words.


1 comment:

-=Topper=- said...

Someone did take the time to do the Abbey lane cross walk barefoot right, you know ala Paul McCartney.