Sunday, July 20, 2008
This must be a positive, meaning I had an enjoyable enough experience that I'd like to go back someday.
It's definitely must be a different experience with kids, since we were limited by how much they could do in one day. When they needed to stop, we stopped. Most of the planning was around them. There were many walks in my "24 Walks In London" book that there was just no way I could do with them. If we ever were to go back, I would certainly want to either 1) go with just Bret or 2) hire Grandma! Of course, it will be many years before we would even begin planning something of this magnitude again in terms of a vacation, so the kids will be much older at that point as well.
Now that isn't saying I didn't have a good time, like I said I'm just thinking of some of the things I would have liked to do vs. what we did. The touristy things were fine. The Harry Potter film locales became old quicker for me than for Bret, but he's the Potter fan along with Allison so I was just along for the ride. I did get to see some beautiful English countryside, villages, and cathedrals however.
Didn't get my burger, chips, and beer in a pub for 5 pounds though. That's a definite must-do next time around!
When not trying to maneuver in the Underground, I enjoyed the people. They were always very nice when we asked for directions, or where we were at. In the hustle and bustle of the Underground though, it was typical city-rudeness.
It's also a much more environmentally-conscious environment too. You do not really grasp how UN-environmentally conscious the US is, until you've experienced how they run things in Europe. Rather sad when you think about it. The US should be much further in this than we are (I know in many instances I'm preaching to the choir in this statement).
The food is probably what I liked least about England. We found a hit in Nando's, and the first time I had fish and chips it was good. The second time after a couple of bites I was pretty greased out. Most of the other food I tried was quite bland, and you needed to add salt and pepper to everything just to make it semi-edible. The kids did ok, as they are not fans of really flavorful food anyway. They enjoyed chips with vinegar.
Coming home, we found security is much more normal at their airport than in the US. First off, you didn't have to remove your shoes. Secondly, their xray machines can see THROUGH laptop bags, so they didn't have to be taken out. Just an all-around better experience to not be hounded by the TSA and pseudo-security.
Yes, I would most definitely like to do more traveling abroad. If my experience was this good overall WITH my young girls, it can only get better as they get older!
I am hoping Bret will write his thoughts soon, as I'm sure he has his own perspectives from the week he would want to share- including driving in London!
Thursday, July 17, 2008
We're here in the Boston area until Tuesday, then we start our trek home with our flight back to Kansas. I assume by no phone call from Bret's mum that our van hasn't been whisked away by a tornado! ;-)
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Today begins the trek homeward. We fly back to Boston tonight, getting in quite late. I have a feeling we all might sleep a lot of the day tomorrow. I will be writing my post-thoughts on being a visitor in another country eventually, but for now I must go help the husband finish packing- IF this silly Viddler video* ever finishes uploading! At least we are in no rush to get to the airport, flight doesn't leave until 7:30 this evening! (London time, that is!)
*(Video is a bit of the walk we took to the train station for our trips into London. Just a 5 or 6 minute walk, and then the train took us right to Victoria Station where we could catch the Tube anywhere we wanted to go. If the video isn't up yet, it's still encoding- check back later!)
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The main reason for driving up to Oxford was to get a couple more Harry Potter film locations in. Stop number one was New College, where there were more cloisters to see, but we weren’t able to get in until Thursday (can you believe we’ll be back in the states by then?), but they have beautiful gardens to walk through. The girls were in a much better mood today, and were holding hands and walking ahead of us on the path, trying to stay far ahead. We ended up letting them go around one more time by themselves while Bret and I waited. So many beautiful flowers and colors all around. After that we wandered to the Bodleian Library, where the entry room was used as the infirmary in HP #1, and it was also used in HP #4 in the scene where they are being taught to dance before the ball.
From there we found a great indoor market to grab some lunch, although we had a hard time finding something Samantha would eat. It’s hard enough at home finding food for a picky eater- in England you can double it! Eventually we found a place that would make a simple grilled cheese sandwich (though we did have to explain), and I finally got to try a potato jacket. Which was really not all that great (sorry Katie!). I keep forgetting that if you order “chicken salad”, you’re going to get simply chicken, lettuce, tomato, and no dressing at all. It was very bland, and I was very disappointed! It’s a neat idea for a food, but I know I could make them MUCH better. ;-)
After lunch we headed over the Christ Church, another stunning site. This has the staircase in HP#1 where the student’s are met by Mrs. McGonagall, and also the great hall where they ate. On another historical note, walking through the church also had many Alice In Wonderland references and points of interest. Which I thought were much more interesting, as there are references in the stained glass, and many ideas for the story came from little things on the grounds.
At this point our tour leaders were becoming grumpy, so it was time to head back to the bus and drive back to London. We had fish and chips again for dinner. It was good the first time, but didn’t have the same impact this time. I think tomorrow I’m going to try and lay off the grease. Bleh. Chips doused in vinegar however, are becoming my new favorite food!
Tomorrow is our last day to go into London and we’re going to try and get an earlier start than we’ve been getting. We’re going to the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and Leadenhall Market (yet another site used in HP). Then Wednesday morning will be packing it all up, getting the car back, and then tomorrow evening we fly back to Boston! The days really flew by, but I’m finding that we could have been finished at 5 days and been equally as happy. I’m starting to get that itch to begin our journey home, and back to normalcy.
(PS- I hope you will all excuse the typos throughout these posts- remember I'm writing them very late at night and I'm tired! Then rushing to post in the morning before we head out- no time for spell check!!)
Monday, July 14, 2008
Day 3 (Thurs.): We traveled more into the center of
After that we took advantage of one of our many walks in the
Day 4 (Friday): This was one of our two out-of-London travel days. It started out by heading down to
After that, we headed up towards the
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
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 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
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
Today was my day sightseeing first- and we went to the most popular Beatles spot in
From there we spent the rest of the afternoon at the London Zoo, after walking through Regent’s Park to get there.
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
Thursday, July 10, 2008
That’s what today was, so we ventured out (armed with our day passes rather than Oyster cards) and began our first day closer to center city at the Museum of Natural History. Seems everyone had the same idea on this rainy day, it was quite packed. I think the schools must still be in session as well, because there were a bazillion field trips happening. Honestly? I enjoyed the architecture of the building itself more than the museum. For the most part it mirrored New York’s. A few differences, but really, if you’ve seen one T-Rex, you’ve seen them all…although the space and astronomy portion was pretty neat. We also got a little time with Mr. Darwin as well. ;-)
The girls are having fun spending their souvenir money, a Bday gift from Grandma Tari, and they are making the conversions to dollars in their heads (So is Bret, but for different reasons, hehe). After almost two hours at the museum however, signs of not being quite with it were showing in the girls. Allison’s fun meter dropped considerably. Sam accidentally dropped her tray of lunch on the floor as we were sitting at the table in the food court of the museum, and a meltdown ensued. They felt a little better after getting some food in them, so we made an attempt to head to the science museum.
I say attempt because as soon as we got there, Allison realized she left her souvenir on the floor at the entrance of the Natural History museum as we were putting our jackets back on. So she and Bret walked back to see if it was still there (it wasn’t) while Sam and I waited. By this time even I was ready to go back to the hotel, which we did. Bret was a little frustrated, but really what could we do? Force them to keep moving and walking when they were clearly still out of whack? That wouldn’t make it an enjoyable experience at all, for anyone.
We rested for a lot of the afternoon, then headed out for dinner. So far we’ve not been overly impressed by the food, and rather than trying to find something “ethnic” (if you will), we kissed the floor of the TGIFriday’s and had dinner there. Then when we returned it was showers and bed for the girls. Allison has been so tired she crashed before any of us. Sam I think is so tired she just can’t stop moving or she’ll go into a coma. Luckily now she has settled down (it’s about 12:30am here as I’m writing this, to post in the morning).
The B&B we’re staying at is rather weird too. I think, at least. See, this morning we had breakfast at our own table in the sunroom, while everyone else was inside at the table. The owner said it was to make sure we could all sit together and the kids wouldn’t be separated from us. And that was fine, it was nice out there, even though I was hoping to talk with the other guests. When we returned to our room, there was a note saying we were set up through the weekend to eat at the kitchen right outside our room, which is completely detached from the main house on the other side of the garden. The owner said it was going to be very busy this weekend, and again wanted to make sure we all had places together to eat. Then Monday we could come to the main house to eat.
Ok, so my mind starts spinning. Is she worried about us and the kids, or is she worried about the other guests? I don’t think my kids were obnoxious at breakfast this morning, actually they were pretty quiet, so I doubt there were any complaints. Anyway, I’m probably thinking too much into it, but I found it odd. Sort of like “keep the Americans separate!” Most of the guests were at least from England, based on their accents when we all said good morning, and I would LOVE to talk with them.
I think tomorrow everyone will feel better and more normal, so we might get more in. We bought our tickets on the Eye in advance, and that is at 2. The rain is passing, and I’m told it will be around 70 and sunny at times, so a great day to do that. Finally we’ll see some of the landmarks we’ve only seen on TV! We’re also going to find a Nando’s chicken (Allison’s teacher recommended it so she’s dying to try it), and St. Martin’s in the Crypt for dinner.
And I’m sure many, many rest points throughout the day. :-D
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
My goodness, I don’t even know what day it is. I can’t even post this until the morning because there is no internet access in our room, only in the main house. It’s been the longest two days! Monday around 5 we left to take the rental car back, and then check in for the International portion of our adventure. Since we needed the car back before 7, we ended up being checked in for the flight with nearly two hours of waiting in the terminal. The flight left a little late, but we actually ended up arriving on time, so no worries there. The girls were taken back by how big the airplane was- it had a middle section of seats! They also enjoyed their own video monitor, the kids pack British Airlines gives out (which includes an electronic game!), and being served dinner and breakfast. All for no extra charges (take that American Airlines!).
I ended up not taking advantage of the drugs supplied to me for sleeping, and was up the entire flight. Not that Bret and the girls slept any better. At least the flight wasn’t full so everyone could move and stretch out a bit more. All in all it was an uneventful flight.
THEN. We ended up spending an hour longer in the airport than we thought we would simply because we were at the wrong terminal to pick up Allison’s Oyster Card (the transportation card). She and Bret took a bus to another terminal to do that while Sam and I stuck around the one we came into with the luggage. I resisted the urge for a Starbucks, knowing we were going to take a nap when we got to the B&B, and we just sat there and people-watched. Even in the airport the atmosphere seemed different.
So once we got the Oyster card mishap taken care of, it was off to the rental car place. Bret was paying close attention to how the shuttle driver was moving through traffic, since we would soon be driving in it himself. And I must say, he handled
We all felt a little better after that, and then we ventured out to see what this bus system is all about. Lesson number 1- the Oyster card isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What took us two hours by bus (granted we did make a few mistakes and needed to backtrack a couple of times), we could have done in one trip by rail, which isn’t covered on the Oyster card. We could get a day pass for that instead. The plus side is the girls rode in a double-decker bus for the first time, and we saw a whole lot of the southern suburbs of
Allison is especially excited to be here, I think it’s because of Harry Potter. She is just taking it all in like a sponge, and it’s really fun to watch. I’m so happy we have the opportunity to expose the girls to other cultures and countries. They area couple of very well- traveled ladies!
So now it’s time to try and sleep. Tomorrow was supposed to be
Monday, July 07, 2008
It's going to be so wonderful weather-wise! Jumping ahead another 5 hours should be quite an interesting experience though. We plan on relaxing at the B&B tomorrow morning (we land in London around 8:45am- that's London time!), so I will jump online to make a quick post and assure our family that we have arrived!
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Hope everyone had a nice 4th of July weekend! We ended up having a really great time. Katie and her Brett had a bbq on the 4th, and we ate much, met some of their friends, AND my friend Scott came over as well! Scott (for those of you who do not know yet) and I met about a year ago through another friend of mine, CJ. He calls himself "the Podcast Guest", and is always appearing on shows throughout the podosphere, including my own! He's on the left in the photo.
Unfortunately, that evening both myself and my nephew Elliot were not feeling so great, so we didn't go out to see any fireworks. We did however get a private show from neighbors a few houses down! Apparently you can buy fireworks in New Hampshire, but they are illegal in MA. You know, sort of like buying them in Mexico and smuggling to AZ. Doesn't seem to stop some. ;-)
The podcaster meetings didn't end there. Last night we had dinner with Scott again, along with other podcast friends Steve, Maureen, and their sweet baby Rebecca. Steve and Maureen do a show called the Wicked Good Podcast, and Steve also does a fantasy football podcast called Extra Points. It was great to see them again and actually have a conversation! When I first met them it was the Podcast Expo last fall, and with all the noise and things happening you're lucky if you have more than a 2 minute conversation with ANYONE. So this was good. I'm also very happy that Bret came along to meet my podcaster friends!! He's not into all this social media stuff, so it's always great when I can share a little part of my interests with him and the people I meet along the way. :-)
Today is getting things together as we head into our next chapter of the Cutler Summer Adventure- London! We leave tomorrow night, so today is laundry and packing. Not that we have to pack much, that's one thing that has been nice with all the moving around- the packing is done! I've been thinking a lot about simplifying lately as we have been living with one week's worth of clothes and with pretty much nothing else. It's rather freeing, and well, simple! It's giving me the urge to look around the house when we get back and re-assess what's really necessary...
I'm not sure if there will be another blog post before we head out of the country, but keep checking the flickr site for photos! I'm also not sure what the wifi sitch will be in the B&B we're staying in in London is either, so online communications might be sparse for the next week or so. I'm finding however that the longer I'm away, the less I mind...
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Following seeing the WTC, we journeyed into
We had a terrific visit, but all things must end. We returned to her apartment for a short visit before taking the subway, ferry and bus back to Greg-dad’s place to pick up the car. Nearly two hours later, we were on the road back to
Returned to Mass late and tired so we decided going to
One of Brett’s favorite things to do is take visitors to get fresh lobster from a lobster shack in
The weather was nice, so we took a trip to the beach. The girls knew this was not a swimming beach, but they were excited to collect shells and rocks. The tide was on it’s way out, so we had fun tromping through the muck that is loosely referred to as the beach.
A little fun, but now it was time for Lobster!!Alli really wanted one of her own and liked the taste but wouldn’t touch the thing to get any of the meat. “It’s staring at me,” she said.
D on the other hand…
That woman is sure in her element so far this trip. I’ve got to go help Tari-mom as she prepares to move into her newly renovated condo, so will end this here. Hope all is going well with everyone!