Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Final Day in London

This morning, bright and early, we headed out for the Science Museum, had a mishap that landed us back at the hotel, then headed out again for the Science Museum. When we finally arrived, the kids were excited to see what this enormous museum had in store for us.

In the basement of the museum, the Garden, for ages 3-6, awaits. Finn was able to play with light and color,

stack some giant Legos,

and splashed about in the water play area (and got completely soaked despite the clothing cover.)

We also saw larger-than-life transportation items like the Apollo 10 Command Modul.

Elizabeth was taken with the parachute since she's always playing with different methods of parachuting things from our play structure at home.

After lunch and a resttime, we headed back over to Kensington Gardens to the Diana Memorial Playground. It really is such an amazing playground. I think our kids could have gone there every day, happily.

In the evening, I was fortunate enough to get away for a few minutes by myself to run over to the Steiner House Bookshop where I found some lovely gems. I'll share them with you at a later date as well as some beautiful nature shots we enjoyed seeing while here. Until then, we'll be flying and trying to adjust to EST again tomorrow. Thanks for allowing me to share our journey with you!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 5 in London

We started out this morning bright and early by heading over to the London Eye, the largest ferris wheel in Europe. I was particularly interested to see the Eye since it wasn't around the last time I was in London. The kids were very excited to ride the Eye, and this is been at the top of their list since we first told them we were planning a trip to London.

Finn practically shone at the great view of the Thames with its' collection of boats.

The view of Westminster Abbey was amazing, as well as Big Ben. Since the main view of Westminster tends to be the street side, a view from the air of the river side of this glorious building was a treat.

Despite the pervasive cloudiness, the view of Buckingham Palace, with St. James Park and St. James Lake leading up to the palace, proved to be quite a sight. You really get a feel for just how large the palace is when you see it so distinct from the air.

The kids really had a great time with this activity.

They were even johnny-on-the-spot when the official flight pictures were ready to be taken.

After a quick lunch in the courtyard leading up the the Eye, we headed back to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Gallery. We passed George Washington, who stands to the right side of the entrance to the Gallery. Funny enough, the GW statue stands on soil imported from Virginia in order to honor the vow that Washington made that he would "never again set foot on British soil."

The National Gallery itself is quite an imposing building. Many things about it remind me of The Met in NYC.

The view of Trafalgar Square from the front entrance of the National Gallery spread in every direction. What an expansive view!

Elizabeth was thrilled to see the cast of Da Vinci almost as soon as we walked into the building. Unfortunately, that was the last picture inside since the painting rooms are off limits to the cameras. We saw some amazing Rembrandt, Vermeer, Seurat, Rubens, Van Gogh and Renoir. And it's nice that all the books and other immersion has finally paid off for the kids as they were very excited to see some of their favorites.

As we were leaving the National Gallery, the sun peeked out a bit for the first time in days so I couldn't resist just a few pictures of the fountains.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 4 in London

Bright and early this morning, we headed out to the Tower of London, which is really more of a fortress with several towers.

I recommend that anyone who travels to London with kids definitely put this on the agenda because our kids had the best time visiting the Tower.

Paulie was impressed with the gateway doors heading toward the Bloody Tower, which he was most excited to visit.

He was less impressed with the fact that most of the cannons were corked. :)

We saw how the gates were opened,

and where some execution orders were signed.

After a quick snack, we visited the Crown Jewels. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed there--a rule which Elizabeth lamented many times over as she was drooling over all the gems, crowns and coronation robes.

The wall below was built by the Romans in the 2-3rd century. Kind of a cool sight.

Then we climbed to the top of the wall overlooking the Thames River with the Tower Bridge in the background.

While up on the wall, Paulie was almost an unlucky commoner who had his head chopped off. Luckily, he kept his wits and escaped.

And all the kids made friends with the iron warrior. ;)

Lastly, they were all impressed with the trebuchet on the lawn between the tower and the moat.

After the Tower of London, we returned to our room for an afternoon rest. Following the our rest, we ventured out to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. We decided to follow the path of the Serpentine for a bit. The photo below is the head of the Serpentine.

We brought some of our playsilks to run with in the breeze.

And we discovered some beautiful patches of flowers here and there.

Within too long, the rain began. (Have I mentioned what a trooper Finn has been with all the miles of walking we've done?)

The big kids found more friendly swans to visit.

And we stumbled across the Albert Memorial as we headed for the far end of Kensington Garden.

Shortly past the edge of Kensington Gardens is our closest Whole Foods where we picked up some fixings for dinner. I have to say that walking a few miles in chilly rain to pick up food then carry it back to our hotel makes our kids wonderful at this sort of adventure. Everyone remained in good spirits, and we ate a wonderful meal of spelt pasta with roasted red pepper and stir-fried broccoli pasta sauce with fresh mozzarella when we returned to the room. A wonderful end to a very full day.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 3 in London

Sorry that my titles aren't more interesting. By the end of the day when I'm ready to briefly post a bunch of pictures with captions, I've had no energy to be very creative.

Today started off where yesterday left, at Trafalgar Square. You can see in the daylight what a monstrosity those lions truly are. At Trafalgar Square, we caught one of the open-top, double decker bus tours, easily the highlight of the trip for Finn.

The bus tour was a comfortable way to see most of the big sights of the city, including the Tower Bridge, seen here from the London Bridge.

You can also see one of the towers from the bridge here as well as a small glimpse of the bus we were riding.

We passed by the Tower of London, which we will hopefully be visiting tomorrow, although likely in the rain.

We even ate most of our lunch on the bus today. Being able to sit on the bus for a while was a welcome relief from all the walking!

Eventually, we came to Buckingham Palace. We weren't able to see a Changing of the Guard ceremony, as they happen less often in the off-season, but we did get to see a few of the guards, which Paulie was excited about.

The Victoria Memorial in the front plaza loomed large and beautiful. The whole place is really quite amazing!

Paulie found his coveted guard hat at the palace store and tried to replicate the guard's pose. :)

The next stop on our tour: Westminster Abbey. I took the Westminster tour when I was in London the last time and knew it was nothing our kids would find captivating, but I really wanted them to see the outside and walk around it. What an amazing place!

They had just as much fun playing in the Victoria Tower Gardens, which backs up to Westminster Abbey, spinning their rainbow whirly-gig all over the grass.

One of the casts of Rodin's Burghers of Calais stands in the gardens which makes a regal picture with one of the Westminster towers in the background. This cast was one of the earlier casts Rodin made of Burghers of Calais; one of the later casts (cast 81 years after the one at Westminster) stands at the Met in NYC, which Paul and I have seen on previous trips there. We've also seen the cast that stands in the sculpture garden at the Hirshhorn in DC. Fun little tidbit for you.

Paulie tried to teach Finn how to whirly-gig; that always makes for a good time.

From the gardens, we walked around the side of Westminster Abbey, until Finn yelled, "There's Ben! I see Ben!" And so it was!

I'd forgotten how bright and shiny Big Ben is, in an almost caricature-ish kind of way. The kids were thrilled when he struck the half-hour while we were watching him.

One last Finn smile in front of Ben and we were headed back to the room for the afternoon.

After a quick jaunt out for dinner, we decided to stay in for the evening and try to get some rest. We are all pretty worn out from our adventures, and we're starting to figure out that what you might get to in 6 days with adults or teenagers is just not possible with smaller kids so we're having to amend our itinerary a bit. As long as good memories are made and the kids feel like they had a great time and saw the important things on their list I'm ok with that. :)

Until tomorrow...