Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Meeting Zarich and Will

Here it is.  The last, but certainly not least, of my London posts. 

My friend Zarich lives in the London area, and we have known each other for 5 years now.  But we had never met.  We were both so excited to finally get the chance to see each other in person!

What was interesting was that it didn't feel like we were meeting for the first time.  Nor did it feel like it was the first time meeting her husband Will.  It was so comfortable and easy, which really shouldn't be a surprise since I do know Zarich very well!  And I had heard so much about Will, I felt like I knew him, too. 

We spent our afternoon together walking leisurely along the south bank of the Thames, then meeting up with the rest of our family by happenstance.  (In all of London, who would have thought?)

Zarich and I laughing about who-knows-what during our walk

We also got to visit with them again on Friday evening, when they came to dinner at our place.  If we didn't have to leave early the next morning, I think we could have stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking and drinking wine.

Will and Zarich are such a fun, smart, entertaining couple!  I wished they lived nearby or at least closer because I could see us getting together a lot.  Knowing that they are actually interested in moving over this way for a while excites me so much.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Will can find a job of interest on this side of the pond.  We had such an amazing time with our new-but-not-really-new friends!  I can't wait to meet up with them again.  The Olympics, maybe?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hever Castle

Did you think that I was done with my posts on our London trip?  Not yet.  And this post isn't my last one either, so bare with me.

On our last day, we took a day trip to Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn.  It was in the smallest English village we visited, and I wished that we could have stayed longer to explore the area better.  As we walked up to Hever Castle, I was amazed at how stereotypical it was.  Not in a bad way, but in a you've-got-to-be-kidding type of way.

It has a moat and drawbridge!  I thought that maybe they were added later for the tourists, but in paintings of the castle from Anne Boleyn's time, you could see the moat and drawbridge.  Unbelievable!

This was actually a fairly small castle, and the interior was a mix of Tudor style and more modern styles from when the Astor family owned it early in the 20th century.  The collection of paintings was amazing.

The gardens were unexpected.  As we walked up to the castle, we saw the adorable shrubbery.

Then we walked through the huge Italianate garden.  (I told you it was unexpected!)  Supposedly, it was built to house William Waldorf Astor's collection of Italian sculptures.  It felt like we were in Italy.  (Well, what I can only assume it feels like to be in Italy.)

Since some of us were leaving the next morning, we had to head back early to pack.  But we did get to finally have afternoon tea with clotted cream!  I could not leave the country without having clotted cream!

Check back tomorrow for my last London post.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Marching Men

Our Thursday in London started off with the entire family going to the Natural History Museum.  The building itself is worth the trip there.  It was built to be a natural history museum, and the details were amazing.  As we waited in the long line outside to get in, we were able to spend some time looking over the details on the outside of the building.

The inside was just as detailed as the outside.  Even without the great exhibits, it is worth stopping to look at the building.
A couple of things I learned from this museum: There used to be a bird in the arctic that looked a lot like a penguin, but it's now extinct.  Sea fans and sea whips are animals, similar to coral.  Who knew?

After looking at a few of the exhibits, it was time for some of us to move on to the rest of our day's activities.  We made a quick stop next door at the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the massive chandelier by Dale Chihuly in their lobby.  We are big fans of Chihuly, so this was a must see.  It did not disappoint.

Just the tip of the iceberg of this huge chandelier

I would have liked to spend more time in this museum, but Buckingham Palace was calling us.  During the trip, we bought a book for Sims called A Walk in London by Salvatore Rubbino.  We wanted to make sure that Sims got to see most of the big sights in the book to make reading it more interesting for him.  We were totally surpised that he was so fascinated by these guys.

Sims sat there agape watching him march back and forth.  He has been talking about the "Marching Men", as he calls them, ever since.

We strolled through St. James Park as we headed toward Westminster Abbey.

In St. James Park with the London Eye in the distance

As we turned the corner from the Churchill War Rooms, we got the best view of Big Ben.

We felt lucky that we got to hear Big Ben chime.  Sims talks about Big Ben and says, "Big Ben. Ring ring."  He has also been calling all large clocks Big Ben since we've gotten back.  I figure it's too complicated to explain that Big Ben is actually the bell inside the clock tower.
Westminster Abbey was in the middle of their Evensong service when we got there, so we just perused the gift shop.  But we did get to look around the outside at all the beautiful details.

Sims was really inspired by this particular statue,

and he was moved to imitate it.

I love the way he appreciates art!

As we walked along Whitehall toward Trafalgar Square, we happened on the very end of the Changing of the Guard at Horse Guards.  This Marching Man stood where Jason and Sims could even get a picture with him.

As you can tell, Sims couldn't take his eyes off of him. 

Sims loves to read his book A Walk in London now because of the Marching Men.  He always wants to look at the Buckingham Palace page.  On our next trip to London, we are definitely going to have to see the Changing of the Guards.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Trafalgar Square and Dinner Party

Jason, Sims and I took our own leisurely trek to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.  We had lunch at the Gallery, where I learned that I love arugula (what the Brits call rocket).  I mean LOVE arugula!  But that is neither here nor there.  Since Sims was in tow, we couldn't see a lot of the National Gallery, so we chose to go through the 18th and 19th centuries section only.  Sims didn't pay much attention to any of the paintings, until we went by Seurat's Bathers at Asnières.  He was fascinated, and we stopped for a while to look at it.  I may have to find a print of that one for him.  Then he had a tantrum in the gift shop, and we knew it was time to leave.

We walked outside and enjoyed the nice weather by the fountain at Trafalgar Square.

We then strolled through Leicester Square and Covent Garden to do a little shopping.  I was disappointed in their lack of cheesy Will and Kate mugs, but Jess didn't let me go home empty-handed.  She bought a fantastic one for me that is now my preferred work mug!

We got back to the homestead early because we were having a dinner party.  Tina had invited her vicar and some close friends of hers to dinner, and we were so excited to see him again and meet them, respectively!

We had such a nice evening.  The company was great, and the food was delicious.  Thanks, Tina!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pilgrimage to Canterbury

Being the good Episcopalians that we are (ok, stop laughing now), Canterbury was numero uno on Jason's and my list of day trips.  The whole gang joined us on our pilgrimage.  This was Sims' first train ride above ground, and even though he loved the Underground, he really enjoyed this.

Canterbury Cathedral was amazing, serene and downright huge.  It's hard to believe that for over 1000 years, people have been making pilgrimages to this place to pray or be healed.  Many spent all the money they had to make it to the cathedral, which is really humbling to think about.  I wish I had more pictures, but our nice camera died during the visit, so we lost a lot of photos. 

The large stone seat for the Archbishop behind the altar

The Cloisters

A subset of our group also went to the Roman Museum, where you can see some of an excavated Roman home with lots of trinkets found around Canterbury.  Who knew that Canterbury was built over an old Roman town?  The museum was small, but it was awesome to see the beautiful mosaic tile floor that's still intact in the excavated home.  And Sims and I sat in a Roman gutter.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Around town, we walked by one of the best named pubs.

We also saw The Fiddler's Elbow and The World's End pubs around London. These really make me disappointed at the lack of creativity in bars' names back home.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Boat Tour to Greenwich

On our first full day in London, we took a boat tour on the Thames to Greenwich.  The tour started at Westminster Pier, so we saw Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye as we got on the boat.  The tour took about an hour, and it was a nice, relaxing way to see the sights along the way.

In front of Tower Bridge
Our destination was Greenwich, which is bisected by the Prime Meridian and whose local time is known world-wide. 

My goal was to be in both the eastern and western hemispheres at the same time.  Not as exciting as it may sound, but here are the pictures. 

You can't tell, but Sims and I are straddling the Prime Meridian here.

And so is Jason.

The view from the Royal Observatory, which I am assuming is the only place in the world where they have a laser line showing you the exact location of the Prime Meridian, is fantastic.

The fact that you have to pay to see the Prime Meridian is, well, genius.  There was a very long line of people wanting their picture made in front of the statue marking the line (the silver thing behind us in the photos).  We cheated and got our pictures made with all the people behind us.  Then we bought a mug.  'Cause that's what we do.

While in Greenwich, we also walked through the Royal Naval College, which had a lot of Latin that some people spent a lot of time trying to translate.  I loved the domed buildings and statues.

And here's another picture from Greenwich, just because I like it.

Jason with his mom, our nephew and Sims

I'm a sucker for photos of people laughing.  They always make me smile.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

London Part 1 (of many)

We have returned from our fantastic trip to London!  We had a fantastic time being with family and friends, and I am ready to start planning our next big trip.  (I can see your eyes rolling, Jason!)  Sims did so well the entire time that we can actually think about travelling some more.  What a relief!

I am going through all of our photos now, and it will take me a long time to go through them all and narrow them down.  And it will take me a long time to share all of our adventures, so bare with me. 

My sister-in-law, Tina, was so generous and made our trip so easy.  (Thank you, Tina!!!!)  We were all able to stay in her friends' home, while they were away on vacation.  Having an actual home for our home base was ideal.  And having a garden out back where the kids could play was amazing.  I don't know what we would have done without it.  The kids (and adults) also loved having Hampstead Heath an extremely short stroll away.  It had a huge playground, a hill to fly kites (Parliament Hill) and wild blackberry bushes with fruit that was ready to eat.  If we could afford to live in this house, we would happily move to London!

Here are a few pics from where we stayed and the heath:

Sims and Ian in the garden

View from Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath (Tina's church is the tall tan steeple near the middle of the photo.)
Jet lag on the return home has been a little worse for us than usual, but I'm going to blame Sims for that.  The first night back he woke up at 3:30 in the morning ready to start his day.  He's gotten better every night, but he's still waking up a bit earlier than normal.  Jason and I have been ready to pass out as soon as Sims goes to bed every night.  Oh, wait.  That's normal for me.

I will be sharing more photos and details of our trip in the coming days.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Year's Goals Update

Since (a little more than) half of the year is already gone, I thought it might be a good time to look back at the goals I made for this year to see how well I am doing.  Before I looked at my New Year's post, I was feeling really good about everything.  Now I realize that I still have some things to work on.

1.  Read the entire bible.  I have been working on this faithfully and am very proud of myself.  I have the bible that is set up into daily readings, and I have not gotten behind for even one day.  Therefore, I am over halfway through it at about 1000 pages out of 1600.  Of course, this reading goal has made it so that I haven't read any other books all year.  I already have a nice pile of books I look forward to reading in 2012.

2.  Keep up my fitness routine.  I have had no problem doing this and have even one-upped my goal.  Not only am I still working out with my fitness group 3 to 4 times a week.  I (and Jason, too) am now running 3 times a week.  We have finally joined a gym (gasp), and I am running at least 6 miles a week.  I am quite proud of myself!

3.  Learn to sew.  Okay, this is where I really have failed.  Not much has been done with the sewing machine for a while.  I will have to do better this fall.  Maybe I will make some holiday pillows or something.  Just thinking about it gets me all excited about doing it!  (And that's really the first step, right?)

4.  First plane ride for Sims, doing special stuff with Sims, etc.  Sims is definitely excited about his first plane ride, which is on Friday!  Actually, we are all excited about this one.  He's also excited about riding his first train and bus on this trip, too.  London or bust!  Once we are home and settled again, I am hoping that we can take him to one of the children's art events at the art museum and maybe a toddler story time at the library.  It might not be super special, but I think he will enjoy it a lot.  I am always looking for ideas of fun stuff for Sims to do, so let me know if you have any ideas.

There was also an addendum to my goals to see my old friends Jana and Siobhan.  We need to start planning that NOW!  2011 will be over before we know it!