Friday, August 16, 2013

School's out for Summer Days 7-10 in London

Day 7

On Friday, we flew from Barcelona back to England & took the train in to London. Some of our friends were in town before setting off on a tour, so we got to meet up with them and visit a little. After Jim introducing Hunter to some cask ales, we walked to Kensington Park so the kids could play at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground.

A little later we walked over to Hyde Park and saw the Princess Di Memorial Fountain, which is an odd somewhat circular shaped ditch but a lot of kids were having fun playing in it.
We finished our evening with the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London at 9:30 pm. Every night they lock the Tower up with guards in their bearskin hats as well as Yeoman Warders in a special ceremony.

Day 8

Because we got everyone to bed last night after 11:00, we got a late start by Pielow standards (almost 10:00).  We walked to the Tower of London to see the things that were locked up the previous evening with the Ceremony of the Keys.  

We headed straight for the Crown Jewels, temporarily bypassing the tour, since from previous experience we knew that the line would get extremely long later in the day.  We walked right up to the Crown Jewels with little to no delay. Cara was very knowledgeable about the different jewels on display and as we were walking about she was asking “where is the 2nd star of Africa ?”  Stacy and I were wondering where this  and other  information had come from and we were informed that it came from a book she and Carter had recently read called the Gansta Granny.  The book was given to Stacy by the librarian at Carter’s school where Stacy had been helping during the year. 

Next we took Yeoman Warder guided tour of the Tower Of London and heard all sorts of grisly tales about its history.  After a brief lunch break, we set off to explore the castle by ourselves.  Cara took Stacy and Carter on a children’s Treasure Trail through the Tower while I got to explore the military exhibits in the White Tower.  We all met up a little later and agreed that we had done the correct thing by seeing the Crown Jewels early since now the queue had to be at least an hour wait.

After a short rest at the hotel, we set off for Covent Garden to meet up one last time with Fellow Fulbrighters; Stephanie, Rebecca, and Christy.  We walked a little while and eventually made it to an Italian restaurant with outdoor seating so we could chat and eat.  It was a pleasant evening with great company and I hope we get the opportunity to see all of our Fulbright friends in the future.

Our final stop of the day was a huge 6 story sports store called Lillywhites.  One whole floor is completely dedicated to football (soccer) clothing.  I had a hard time deciding on what to get but I finally decided on a long-sleeved Scotland top even though it is way too hot to wear anytime soon.   The weather on this trip has been hot by Scottish standards (or “roasting” as my students would say) with temperatures in both Barcelona and London being right around 80 degrees.  We also have found the temperatures to be very warm and are anticipating a rather tough time coming back to North Carolina in a few weeks since that is typically the hottest time of the year with temperatures usually in the 90’s.

Day 9

Today we took the bus to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian.   Carter was very excited about this since he thought he was going to stand in two different time zones, but he quickly understood that this was the place that helped standardize time instead.  The hike up to the observatory was steep and rather warm but we made it to the top to enjoy some good views and interesting museums.  

On our return to the village of Greenwich, we stopped in the market to see if there was anything good to eat.  We found all sorts of things: Carter – calzone, Cara – speck and fontina focaccia sandwich, Stacy – sushi, & Jim – arancini (fried riceball stuffed with ham and cheese).  All of them were quite tasty.  We also tried some much sought after churros at long last. We even picked up a couple of extra sandwiches to eat later for dinner.

Later in the day we headed back into London for a visit to Hamley’s.  Carter and I missed this earlier this year because we went to a football match instead but Carter was desperate to go this time.  Hamley’s is a 6 story toy store with loads and loads of toys and employees playing/displaying toys.  There are so many toys it is a bit overwhelming and I am sure a bit disappointing to find that we are not purchasing anything (although Cara did buy a few small Tatty Teddy things with her own money). 

After a stop at Waterstone’s bookstore to get off of our feet and into some AC, we went a park near our hotel for our dinner picnic.  Stacy, Cara, and I had sandwiches from Greenwich and Carter had chicken and chips.  We also found out that Andy Murray had won Wimbledon, becoming the 1st men’s British champion in 77 years.  What made it really exciting is that Murray is from Scotland!!!

Day 10

We rode the Tube to St Paul’s Cathedral and took another Rick Steve’s tour via the Ipod.  Stacy and I went to St Paul’s 4 years ago but could not go all the way to the top of the dome because it was closed.  This time all of us got to climb the 527+ steps to the top and back down again.  

I really enjoyed the 360 views of London.  We picked out all of the major landmarks –Tower Bridge, Whitehall, Shard, Gherkin, and the London Eye – and we were even able to find the Olympic Stadium as well as Wembly Stadium. 

Leaving St Paul’s, we quickly headed over to the Horse Guards Grounds to watch their version of the changing of the guards.  Maybe Stacy and I remembered it differently from our previous trip but it was not very exciting for large portions, but we did get a few good pictures.  Our lunch today was at the Sherlock Holmes pub with some outstanding bangers and mash as well as the fish and chips (I also enjoyed my cask ale). We took a quick detour to the National Portrait Gallery and saw a small collection of some of the most famous artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, etc.

Throwing a penny in the fountain in Trafalgar

We stopped at M & M World for an AC break and snack and then hoofed it over to the British Museum.  Cara did a kids treasure trail in the Egyptian section. 
Easter Island statue in the British Museum

By then our feet were all extremely sore and tired so we rode the tube to Westminster Abbey and we sat down for about an hour in the shade before entering the church for an Evensong service.  

Evensong is a daily prayer service but most of it is done musically.  The pipe organ was played during the service and the Abbey Boy’s choir provided the song.  It was a most wonderful experience hearing the music in a majestic church that is over 1,000 years old. 


By then, the kids had recovered some of their energy so we walked across the Thames River to get an up close view of the London Eye.  While we were there, we had a quick dinner and the kids played on a playground.  Carter voted it his favorite this year.  Basically it was a bunch of timbers anchored together at all sorts of angles and both kids had fun climbing all over them.  I must admit it looked pretty cool to climb on and I will also say that you won’t see one like it in the States for liability reasons.