A Travellerspoint blog


Once More From Across the Pond

London, England, Part 2

semi-overcast 22 °C

Trafalgar Sqaure, eh. Diplomatic immunity on Canada Day (but still in England!)

July 1


Here's a Canada Day to remember that initially we forgot. We were in the famous Hamley's toy store on Regent Street (established 1769) when I saw a bunch of people all decked out in red and white Canada clothing. They even had maple leaf face paint. Now I've heard some people go out of their way to show they're not American tourists, but this was ridiculous! Then it dawned on me - it's July 1st. Canada Day! This year is the 141st anniversary of Canada's Confederation. We're not as old as the Hamley's toy store, but still...it's a special day. Especially when we Canadians have been away from home soil since July of last year.

I got talking with the Canadians and they said the Embassy (sorry, "High Commission") was throwing a party in Trafalgar Square. So the three of us walked down there, and took in the scene. "Welcome - step in to Canada" read the banner. Here's some of the things going on: music (by Canadian performers we'd never heard of), ball hockey, face painting, flags, and booths promoting our various tourist regions. There were also some "typical" Canadian products being sold, like Tim Horton's donuts and Moosehead beer. Or the guys who were selling the Canadian grab bag, which included Kraft Dinner and Dad's Oatmeal cookies. My colleagues used to tease me because I ate those exact cookies every day for years at lunch. Hey, at least they're quintessentially Canadian!

After we'd had our fill of the festivities, we headed over to the Sir John Soane's Museum. It's actually just the house of a famous architect, left to the City of London exactly as it was when he died. He was extremely eccentric. Lots of mirrors and tricks to increase space and light. Lots of objects from all over the world. Soane has Seti I's sarcophagus in his basement having outbid the British Museum for it. The security guard showed Anica how, in the Picture Room, the walls open up like pages of a book to reveal more pictures behind.

What really captivated Anica was Sir John's devotion to his favourite dog, Fanny. This pet has a huge tombstone in a courtyard of the house. There are several oil paintings of Fanny elsewhere in the house. Mrs. Soane isn't quite so well-represented.

By this point in the day, Jenn was pretty sure that her right foot, which had been troubling her for a couple of days, was going to need some serious rest. She's apparently aggravated an old injury to do with the arch of her foot. It's strange, but fortunate in a way, that she's made it through over eleven months of travelling, and this is only flaring up now. She's going to take the day off tomorrow, and suggested that we finish today by going on the London Eye. That's something new in London that we wanted to do.

Keep an Eye on the neighbours

It was a beautiful evening for a ride on British Airways (who built the London Eye). The crowds were huge, but they move 25 people onto one of the 32 ferris wheel cabins every minute. It goes up 135 metres. You can look straight down (because of the shape of the cabin) to the Thames River. For Jenn, her fear of heights and bad foot meant that she enjoyed the ride from a seat on the bench in the middle of the cabin. Still a great view, but no vertigo.

We ate at a McDonald's (pretty sad, I know, but it had a play-area for Anica and allowed us to use free wi-fi for as long as we wanted), then headed back to our flat. The temperature hit 27.8 today - the hottest day of the year in London so far. Happy Canada Day, eh!

July 1


Today we went to Hamleys. I bought a panda with a bamboo shoot in his mouth. Also at the store Mum and Dad bought me a fairy coluring book and 24 crayons for coluring on the plane home. We then Hamleys and found out there was a Canada Day party at Traflager so we went there. It was really cool. Then we went to Sir John Soane Museum. I liked seeing Fanny, the sargophagus and painting. We then went to the London Eye. It was really cool and seemed pretty fast but from far away it seems slowwww...! We then went to McD for dinner, went home, introduced Chengdu Xinhha [the new panda] to Quacky Quackers, Baby Young, Nessie Bell, Lizzie Johnson and Pickles Sour [the other stuffed animals]. G.N.! P.S. My nose is snuffley!

July 2


Anica and I were missing Jenn today, but she was hoping a day off her foot would help her get through the last three days in London. I took Anica to places that Jenn and I have been before, but wanted Anica to see.

In our opinion, no trip to London would be complete without a visit to the Tower of London. Anica now agrees. She said that the Yeoman Warder (i.e. "Beefeater's") guided tour there was the "best guided tour ever." They are really funny, and they have great stories to tell. We heard about our old friend William the Conqueror again, who built the first tower there after his conquest. And of course we heard about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Jane Grey, and all the other bloody anecdotes. The Tower of London also houses the Crown Jewels, and a pair of ravens (because one king believed if the ravens ever left, the kingdom would fall).

Don't call me a Beefeater!

Next it was St. Paul's Cathedral, essentially the national church of England. It is beautiful - white, light and glittering with gold. It's the second-largest church we've been in (only St. Peter's in Rome being larger). Westminster Abbey is fascinating as well, but too crowded. Anica read aloud the Rick Steves' guided tour of the cathedral. Clearly, she was in the mood for sightseeing today. Very enthused, full of energy. It's great when she's like this. She even had the energy to go all the way up the 539 steps to the "Golden Gallery," 350 feet above the church floor. There, you can step outside and get a view of London that's actually as good as the London Eye. We had stopped after 250 steps for some time in the "Whispering Gallery," which is half-way up the inside of St. Paul's dome. The acoustics are so good on the rounded wall that you can whisper to someone on the other side of the gallery, and the sound will travel along the wall. It's like the person's right beside you, not a hundred feet away, when it works. Anica and I spent lots of time on that.

From the top of St. Paul's

There's lots to look at in St. Paul's. A Henry Moore sculpture, John Donne's effigy from before the 1666 fire, the American-themed stained glass (in the American Chapel, a WWII tribute), new-in-2005 paintings by a Russian artist, the Wellington, Nelson and Cornwallis monuments. As for Christopher Wren, the architect? The floor under the dome has a Latin inscription, reading "Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you." I love that.

Back on the tube, we went to Kings Cross station. Can you guess why? That's right, the ultimate Harry Potter photo-up, platform 9 and 3/4. Anica has read all seven Harry Potter books and seen all five DVDs while on this trip, so this was a must. They now have a sign set up and a trolley that looks like it's gone halfway through the wall, so there really is something to see.

She's no Muggle, then

Unfortunately, by now it was raining. So much for Hyde Park and the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. We took refuge in the British Library, next door to Kings Cross. When Jenn and I were in London in 1999, this was my favourite attraction. It's probably the only library to display a better collection of rare, priceless books than Chester Beatty has in Dublin. The large, dimly-lit (to protect the books room) called "Treasures of the British Library" contains a Shakespeare first folio, a Gutenberg Bible, pages from Leonardo's notebooks, a Wycliffe Bible, handwritten manuscripts by Austen, Hardy, Wilde and others, even rough drafts of Beatles lyrics in Lennon and McCartney's own hands. It is absolutely stunning.

Anica found her own interests there. They have interactive computer screens called "Turning the Pages," where you use your fingers to (virtually) do just that. She mainly looked at those while I stared with wonder down into the glass cases housing the real thing.

Then Anica wanted to see a special display room of the Ramayana. We've seen numerous versions of this Hindu epic on our trip, notably at Angkor Wat and Bangkok's Wat Phra Keo, but also several places in India. This was a much clearer way to learn about the Ramayana because all the panels are explained in English. Anica spent almost an hour reading the gloss and looking at the illustrations. There's hundreds of illustrated panels, once folded into a book, but now individually framed to preserve each one.

By then, despite clearing skies, it was time to get back to Jenn. We went out to a Chinese restaurant near our apartment. Her foot's still hurting, but perhaps the rest helped.

July 2


Today (without Mum) we went to the Tower of London. We went on the Yeoman Wader tour. It was hard to understand at first but then it was easy. Even though I don't usually like torture, I sure like the chopping-of-heads, executing killing stories he told!! We then had lunch and went to St. Pauls Cathedral. Its been a cathedral since 604 AD. My 2 favrite things are: modren paintings of the crucificacions and the life of Christ and the Whispering Gallery: you can whisper into the wall and evreybody will hear you. So don't say anything to secret. Then Kings Cross. It was really cool and they'd put half a trolley in the wall for Harry Potter fans to pretend to push. Went home, met Mummy, went out, had dinner, went home, G.N.

July 3


We waited for the bus across the street rather than walk to the tube station. This helped Jenn, whose foot is still quite sore. Then we hopped (no pun intended) on another bus at the station, avoiding the stairs to the underground, and took the double-decker to the British Museum. Anica thought this was pretty cool - we got to sit upstairs right at the front - but soon realized it gets pretty hot up there!

Has Elgin lost his marbles? The Grand Court at the British Museum

The British Museum gobbled up several hours, including a lunch break. We admired the Great Court that surrounds the round core of the Reading Room, restored in 2000, then concentrated our attack on the ground floor: Egypt, Assyria and Greece. Hey, you can't do it all. Anica loves Egypt, but is developing a fondness for things Assyrian, which we've also seen at Berlin's Pergamon and at the Louvre. She spent the last of her allowance money for the year on a illustrated kid's book called "500 Things You Should Know about the Ancient World." That's about 490 more than the Ontario curriculum thinks you should know about ancient history!

Feet in the Fountain

Jenn didn't join us for Hyde Park. Too walking intensive for how she's feeling right now. But we'd promised to take Anica to the kids' stuff concerning Diana. First, there's the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, near the Serpentine Bridge in Hyde Park. It's not much to look at, but is a very interesting, varied, oblong course of water. A circular river. Children and adults alike take off their socks and shoes and dip their feet in, sitting on the marble edges. Anica found it cold, but fun to splash around in.

How do pirates spell "aaarrrgggghhhh?" At the Diana Playground

After a long walk through Kensington Gardens, we finally came to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. It's not big, but definitely one-of-a-kind. All the equipment is subtly based on a Peter Pan theme. The centerpiece is a pirate's ship. It has a mast kids can climb (safely), right up to the crow's nest. Anica met and played with a girl from Delhi, India. A thunderstorm
cut the visit a little short, but it was a great time at the park.

July 3


Today we went to the British Mueseum. We saw stuff from: Egypt, Assyria and Greece. I have 1-5 favrite things in each one. Egypt fav things: Ramses II face statue - a really cool Egyptian face. Ginger - a poor man that died before the Pyrimids were built. His hair and body are ginger. But the Egyptin dealer had a brother. When Ginger arived the brother dissapered. The Egyptian dealer might of killed his brother and made him look like a 5000 year old Mummy. Assyria: human headed lions - big lion gaurds the doorways to the Assyrian exibithion. Greece: Achilles and Penthisilla pottery - it was really cool. Sent Mum back home, went to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountin. I did a whole lap around before finding out not to by a meany guy. Went to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, met a girl called Nyla, played in a house with bark and leaves, hurt my knee, went home, had dinner. G.N.!

July 4


The day's just beginning. It's our last full day in London. The last full day on "Our Big World Trip." Tomorrow we fly home to Toronto.

We're very excited. Just as excited as we were when we left. That's partially the point of travelling so long: the return to so-called "normal life" becomes part of the adventure. We're lucky; we have lots to look forward to at home. We've only lived in our condo for three months, and now we've been gone for over eleven, so it will be like moving into a new home again. While we were there, we had it painted and recarpeted, and had pretty much finished the decorating. My parents and Jenn's have taken turns visiting, living in and lovingly caring for the condo while we were gone. We didn't want to rent it out and risk having our new condominium investment wrecked.

Covent Garden street performer

Slow Train Coming - at the Transport Museum, Covent Garden

For the grand finale today (inshallah, as they say in the Arab countries we've visited), we'll go hang out in Convent Garden, then see a late afternoon matinee of "Spamalot," the Monty Python-inspired musical in London's West End "Palace Theatre." Then we have dinner reservations at "Rules," which purports to be London's oldest restaurant. It's certainly one of the more traditional. A splurge for our last night.

Then we'll be zooming home on Zoom Airlines. Inshallah. We'll continue the blog for a while, deal with the return/letdown/adjustment, etc. So you'll hear from us when we complete the lap.

Posted by jennrob 03:37 Archived in England Comments (4)

Back To The Big Smoke

On the way to, and in, London

semi-overcast 18 °C

Anica's favourite London landmark, Big Ben

June 25


How much of the British Isles can you drive on one tank of gas (sorry, "petrol")? It seems we're unintentionally trying to find out. We filled up while we were still in the Republic of Ireland, and then drove up the east coast to Larne in Northern Ireland. Larne pretty much closes at six o'clock on a Tuesday, it seems. Metal grilles are pulled down over store windows, and the only things left open were a bookmakers, a wine shop, and the Chinese-Thai restaurant where we ate. By then we had turned the car off (gasp) and spent the night at a B&B before driving just 1 or 2 more kilometres and parking it on the ferry. So it didn't take any petrol to get across the sea to Scotland. Is that cheating? Then we drove south from Scotland into England, passing by Liverpool, and stopping for the next night in Chester. Still a quarter tank of gas left.

Chester turned out to be a great place to stop en route to London. We have a room at a small inn just outside the famous city walls. These narrow ramparts of brown sandstone are one of the main draws. You can walk all the way around, passing by many different styles of gates and towers. So we did. At two miles long, it was the perfect way to stretch our legs after all that driving. From the walls, you get great views of the river, canal, Chester racetrack,and even peoples' back gardens. There's also a nice pedestrian-only area in the city centre where we had our dinner.

Chester: we break for walled cities

June 26


After a charming night's layover in Chester, it was on to London. Our final stop. But first, since we had time, why not stop in Oxford?

As it turns out, there's lots of reasons not to stop in Oxford when you only have a couple of hours to spare. It's busy and it's hard to find parking, for example. Then there's our own special reasons, like not having a guidebook, and the fact that we did lots of stuff, and thought clearly, only just yesterday. Two days in a row was obviously pushing it at this point in the trip.

Oxford does look like a lovely, historical town. It seems there may be a college here. We were almost going to take the hop on/off bus tour, but then the ticket-seller didn't want to accept our pounds sterling because it was issued in Northern Ireland. It looks funny! What a kick in the teeth to the loyalists of Northern Ireland. The rest of Britain doesn't realize the United Kingdom includes them. Finally, the guy said he would take the money, as long as it wasn't "Southern Irish, because we don't accept that." "That would be the Euro," I said. By then we'd missed the bus.

Back on the motorways. After a false start, we left Oxford behind successfully on a second attempt. We'd promised friends we'd come for dinner at 5:00 PM, and we didn't want to keep them waiting since they'd so graciously invited us on short notice. The Jones family, in case you're trying to keep up, live in Guildford, just south-west of London. We'd met Phil and Melanie, and their three daughters Rhiannon, Rachel and Alice, on our Egypt tour. It was great to visit with them in their home, and tell our travel stories again, and hear theirs. They do a lot of home exchanges, which is something we'd like to look into.

Our final task for the day was to find our hotel. Due a very complicated series of arrangements done to secure a week-long London flat rental, we were staying in the east end for the night. Our Etap hotel (which are an insult to the word "hospitality" but irresistibly cheap) was charmingly described as "behind the Esso station" off the North Woolwich Roundabout. Somehow, we found it. We just headed for where a whole bunch of Docklands hotels were and then went into the first one we could park at (a Travelodge) and asked them for help. Basically, I was asking: could you please direct me to your competition?

June 27


Back and forth across Greater London we go! After picking up the keys to our flat, we asked the owner for directions to Heathrow. He got out the London A-Z and plotted a course for us through all of London that, miraculously, we followed to a tee. Even after 21, 675 kilometres of driving in Europe, Jenn and I were quite proud that we'd negotiated this route through London without a wrong turn. The rep from Peugeot took the car off our hands (with less of an inspection than a rental company would even do) and suddenly...we were car-free! And completely relieved about it, after the frenzy of driving we've done in the past few days.

Immediately, we got on the Tube. The owner of our flat, Ron, had set us up with Oyster Cards (for the public transit; they just needed to be topped up) and a London A-Z. That's all you need to get around London. Plus, we've been here twice before. Samuel Johnson wrote that "If you're tired of London, you're tired of life." The good news: we're not tired of London! All three of us are tired of some aspects of travelling (for me, it's unpredictable showers and dingy kitchens), but we still love all that London has to offer. It's the reason we're ending the trip here.

Anica thought the Victoria and Albert sounded like a good place to start. She had read about the "Family Backpack" activity kits they had. We'd been talking it up as a recap of things from all the places we've been. We saw a piece called "Tippu's Tiger," symbolizing the victories of Tippu, the Sultan of Mysore, over the British, for example. In India we'd seen his summer palace and tomb when we visited Mysore. And they had artifacts that belonged to Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who commissioned the Taj Mahal. That's interesting because both the Taj Mahal, and the Agra Fort are empty inside. We saw casts of the coffins of Richard the Lionheart, Eleanor of Aquaintaine, etc. who were so prominently a part of the French Chateaux we'd visited. Jenn said that the V&A was a museum she'd come to many times if she lived in London.

V&A's Very Amazing chandelier

Next up was Harrod's, just down the street. Anica was amazed by this place, as we thought she would be. Last time we were here, Jenn was six months pregnant, and we bought a teddy bear from Harrod's that became Anica's first stuffed animal. This time Anica played with all the toys in the toy demonstration area, and we looked at the Egyptian room, Egyptian escalator and foodhalls. But we didn't buy anything!

I guess we saved our money for a night at the movies in Leicester Square. We have tickets to live theatre for later in the week, but London's West End is also a great place to see a big-screen movie. As long as you don't mind paying twice the normal price. You can stand in the middle of Leicester Square and see four huge movie-houses with one-of-a-kind enormous marquees. "Indy!" one read, trumpeting the new Indiana Jones. Another had giant models of the Panda from Kung Fu Panda. We went to see the second Chronicles of Narnia movie, "Prince Caspian," in a theatre with the best movie sound system I'd ever heard.

The square was packed with Friday night partiers when our movie let out. We went "home" on the Tube - back to our London neighborhood of Canada Water/Surrey Quays. Although this East End neighborhood is far from posh, there's really nothing wrong with it. The diverse ethnic mix reminds me of Toronto, like walking down a stretch of Bloor or Dundas streets.

After that final, fifteen minute walk from the nearest tube station (the closest one is being rebuilt) we were happy to be calling it a day. A very long, but fun, day.

June 28


Jenn went out with friends today, Lottie, who lives in London; Marny, who lives in Hannover, and spent the weekend with us in Berlin back in March; and Davy, who had also made a trip into London to meet Jenn. It was just Anica and me for a whole day out in London.

I took her to the National Gallery of Art, because Jenn didn't care if she saw that again. Anica printed out a themed trail on the gallery's "Artstart" computers. Her theme was "cats," so she learned about paintings with cats on them from the computer, and a map to follow. We also got her an activity booklet (the junior one, even though she could have handled the senior one, because it was just for fun). So that gave her lots to look for and do. I was looking for the Turner paintings, such as "The Fighting Tememaire," or "Rain, Steam and Speed," as well as the Impressionists, and other key paintings like Leonardo's "Virgin of the Rocks." Along the way, we spotted some paintings with "tricks" in them, like the distorted skull on the floor of Holbein's "The Ambassadors" painting. Basically, the NGA is one of the best collections in the world, a cross between the Orsay and the Louvre.

Despite dazzling sunshine, we ate lunch in a church basement. A crypt, actually. Why? Because St.Martin's-in-the-Fields' "Cafe in the Crypt" serves great food. It's one of London's worst-kept secrets. Lunch today was delicious, and reasonably-priced. As for the bodies? They've long been moved to a suburban cemetery, so it's not as ghoulish as it sounds.

They also have a brass-rubbing centre there, and Anica did one of William Shakespeare. She's going to give it to her Mummy, whom she's really missing today. A whole day apart!

Finally, the dazzling sunshine was ours to claim. We let the fountains spray us in Trafalgar Square, walked down The Mall, walked through St. James Park, looked at all the waterfowl, rented a deck chair and sat in the shade, listened to the concert band who were playing in a bandshell, checked out the front of Buckingham Palace, used the playground, and walked back through St. James Park...

...to the Cabinet War Rooms. Another one of my choices, of course, although I never got the feeling I was dragging Anica to these sites. She listened quite intently to the audioguide. It was easy to imagine what it was like during the Blitz, in World War II, with Churchill working in those underground rooms. They've been left untouched where they could, and meticulously re-created in other cases. It's a simple, but eerie, collection of rooms.

June 29


Art imitating art imitating a train that never came

It might have been a nicer start to the day if the Jubilee tube line hadn't broken down. Our 20 minute commute to Charing Cross ended up taking two and a half hours. The worst part was waiting. The best part was the walk. After the train took us just one stop, then conked out completely, we decided to walk from Bermondsey rather than wait forever for an overcrowded bus. It was about a mile long walk, then across the Tower Bridge (very cool) and past the Tower of London to Tower Hill tube station. Since it's on a different line it was running, and got us to Charing Cross where we were to meet Lottie and Marny. Which we did, but we were already exhausted.

Marny had a very sweet gift for Anica: a collection of things she bought in Berlin, when she was with us before, including some photos, and also some postcards of Hannover, so Anica could see what Marny's hometown is like. It was very thoughtful.

Back across the river, this time on foot by way of Hungerford Bridge, we ate lunch at "Giraffe," overlooking the Thames and in front of the National Theatre. It was a good choice: very kid-friendly for Sunday lunch.

Lottie then took us to the Imperial War Museum, which is also in Southwark. She was quite enthused about the war artists' galleries they have, and Anica liked the "Children's War" floors, which showed what evacuees and other children went through in England during World War II. They even have reconstructed a Anderson Shelter and an entire war-time house. I liked their large-scale collection of tanks (like Monty's), guns (from WWI to cold-war antiaircraft) and planes (from a WWI bi-plane to the front end of a Lancaster bomber). Normally, I'm not a big military historian, but they've got these displayed all in one big hall, and other than the Smithsonian in Washington, I've never seen such a large and comprehensive collection in one space.

Lottie treated Anica to some children's novels set during world war II. They're books that Lottie has loved, and she thought Anica would love them too. She probably will! In fact, she's already starting reading Judith Kerr's "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit."

Soon it was time to say goodbye. Marny had to get her flight back to Hannover. We ate dinner at an Indian restaurant in our neighborhood of Canada Water, where the waiter was amazed at how much Anica read!

Thanks, Lottie and Marny, for a great weekend.

June 30


At long last, today was the day for Legoland! This was Anica's choice for an amusement park day out in Europe, even over Disneyland Paris (where she thought the rides and the mascots would both be too scary).

Legoland is in Windsor, and we got tickets in London at the Waterloo station that covered the return train and shuttle bus, and park admission. Very easy, comfortable ride, but, like any theme park, expensive. Windsor is a gorgeous town, that exudes history and money. The castle dominates, looming over the train station and main street. Various building works are labelled by the monarchal monograms "VR," "GR," or "ER," depending on when they were built. Windsor is also the home to Eton and Ascot, and we rode past perfectly-manicured stables on our way to Legoland.

London is so much more compact than I remembered

Anica's writing about the Legoland rides, so I'll just give a few of my impressions of the place. First, there are a lot of things built out of Lego, mostly decorations (25 million lego bricks apparently). Mini-land is truly impressive: they've built all the London landmarks from west to east, and then huge areas showing other places in Europe. We could have saved a lot of time and money by just touring mini-land instead of full-size Europe! They had Amsterdam and Dutch windmills, Edinburgh castle, Mont St. Michel, and many more unusual choices.

Anica got her "driver's license" at the Legoland driving school. They watch a video, then head out into the mini electric cars on a realistic road layout. She has new respect for all those roundabouts I've driven through! Despite the safety talk, I think Anica was the only one to obey the stoplights. Good thing traffic was light!

Anica drives the blue car through Legoland traffic jam

As for the rides, they were quite creative, and the emphasis was not on rollercoasters. Anica does not like rollercoasters, we found out today (feel free to read between the lines of this massive understatement). But she enjoyed all the other rides and attractions.

All of us seem to be coming down with colds, and the lapses in brain power continue. Somewhere at Legoland lies Jenn's polar fleece jacket, left behind, after touring 28 countries with us, just days before we go home. She bought a zippered hoodie as a replacement because it's not consistently warm enough here to go around in just shirtsleeves.

Tomorrow is July. We left home in July of 2007. Wow.

June 23-26



1) Our guest house in Larne is big and very fancy. Larne is also a very quiet town.

2) I love P&O ferries! They have a restaurant, bar, shop, beruau de change, play area (2-6 year olds, so I'm to old), and everything! We watched a movie called "Click" on it. This time wasn't as fun/good as the other time exept the movie.


3) In Chester we walked the 2 (oh-my-gosh-long) miles on the city walls. It was very enjoyable.

4) We ate at Bella Italia which is a chain (for dinner).


5) We just dropped our car off! We take the tube.

6) We saw Prince Caspian.

7) The tube is very hot!

8) On the first day we went to the V&A. We got the family backpack and saw world wide stuff.

9) We had much fun with family backpack with cd player, fans, toys, colouring, guides and lots more!

10) We saw artwork from Europe and Asia. From Roman columens to Islamic carpets, it had everything!

June 28


"I Miss Mummy!"

Today Mummy went off with her friends Marny and Lottie. Plus Davie (a boy). But me and Dad had fun. We first went to the Natinol Gallerey and saw my favrite paintings! I have 3! 1. The train and the bunny: it had a train and a brown striped (?) buny. [note: this is Turner's "Rain, Steam, and Speed"]. 2. Minerva, Venus, Juno, Paris, and the goddess of war. Minerva, Venus and Juno are competing to win a golden apple. Paris is handing it to Venus (Minerva or Juno are prettier). The goddess of war is upset that Minera or Juno diden't win. [note: this is Rubens' "Judgement of Paris"] 3. The children, the cat and the eel! Simple! Read the title! [note: this is Judith Leyster's "A boy and a girl with a cat and an eel"] We had lunch at St. Martin in the fields. YUMMY! We then did Brass rubbing. And then we went to St. James Park. We saw a bird with a blue beak (?). Went to Buckingham Palace, saw the guards, played in the playground, saw the Cabinet War Rooms! Went home, had dinner, G.N., saw mummy, G.N.! For Sure. At least tonight.

June 29


"I see Marny! I see Marny!" Jumping up and down as I saw out of a papershop window. "Hide, hurry, run!" It was everything. We walked over and she said "Hello." And then she gave me my present. "Ooooh, ah?!" It came with: a beatifly lighthouse covered box with an Ampleman pen and pencil, a view from the Reichstag pamphlet, a photo booklet by Marny, postcards and candys. We then met Lottie and had lunch. Off to the War Museum! My favrite part: the Children's War (especially cartoon place). Lottie bought me three books! My favrite is When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. The others are Goodnight Mr. Tom and Carrie's War. Went back, said g.b. to Lottie, tube, coffee break, g.b. to Marny, decision time, tube, dinner, G.N.

June 30


"Legoland Day!"

Here the rides we did and what they were. Sky Ride: ride around slowly on a view ride. Fairytale Brook: take a boat ride through a fairy tale forest. Traffic ride: ride a Lego car through roundabouts and roads! Ballon School: push your ballon up while it turns itself around for great views. Charioplane: basic swing ride. Rat Trap: go on this playground and your sure to get lost! Only one slide and hard to find, go wild! Dragons Aprentice: a too fast and long queue ride. Spinning Spider: go crazy with spinning! Loki's Labrinth: A Viking-themed maze. Mini Land: see all the "mini" sights in lego. Sky tower: pull yourself up to the top and drop down. Show was excellent, dinner was, train wasn't, tube ok, bed, well lets just say G.N.!

Posted by jennrob 03:33 Archived in England Comments (1)

"This Other Eden"

This Week, This Realm, This England

semi-overcast 14 °C

Sunset in Stoford, our first night's stop in England

May 13


We've crossed over! Or under. We took the Eurotunnel (can't I call it the "chunnel?" We call our two-dollar coin the "toonie" in Canada, after all...). It was really weird to go under the English Channel on a train going 140 km/h while sitting in your car. Since we were the first car, when we exited it was like we were leading everybody into England: "Come on, everybody! Follow me, and let's drive on the left!"

The Eurotunnel: our car takes a train ride

Jenn and Anica were chanting "left left left" to remind me, and right away we were negotiating highway speeds, roundabouts, turns, and stoplights. We took the route across the south of England, and it was a beautiful day. We hugged the coast for a long time, passed WWII Home Defence bunkers, Hastings (William the Bastard again...oops, I mean Conqueror), and stopped to walk on a beach. A beach! This is England in the spring? Maybe not the usual. With a "scorching" temperature of 26 degrees, BBC radio was soliciting phone-in tips for how to "beat the heat" from its listeners.

So the weather isn't what we expected. But we were very pleased to be enjoying it, and were enjoying even more being able to understand the language being spoken, and being able to read every sign. Although - it must be noted - even the English haven't mastered English. We kept seeing signs for "Disabled Toilet."

Enjoying the drive so much, we decided to push on to the area of Salisbury. We stopped for lunch in a place called Icklesham, at a "freehouse" called "The Robin Hood." Very popular local spot, about 300 years old, a real find considering we passed right by it on the highway.

We are spending the night in Stoford, between Salisbury and Stonehenge, at a place called the "Swan Inn." Expensive, but in a pretty setting. We had dinner in their restaurant, and, again, it was way above average pub food.

May 14


Salisbury became the first town in England that we strolled around in, and, predictably, we couldn't resist going into a bookstore. All the books were in English! Ooooh. Aaaaah.

Then we "cooled off" (here's a tip for sweltering Brits) by going into the cathedral. There's lots of see in Salisbury Cathedral, including one of just four copies of the Magna Carta. It's in very good condition, although it won't be for long with the way they've got it displayed, sunlight streaming directly onto it. There's also the oldest working clock in Europe, so old it never had a face; it just chimes the hour. It wasn't a relaxing look around the cathedral for us, though, because Anica was so intent on completing the search sheets that the cathedral workers gave her that she nearly drove us crazy.

Stonehenge followed. Predictably, Anica thought that it wasn't much to look at. I agree. Unlike the intrinsic, awe-inspiring appeal of the Great Pyramids, Stonehenge has to be appreciated in context. It's probably the largest monument we've seen anywhere in the world that predates the Great Pyramids. It's also every bit as mysterious, and almost as exactly measured (especially with how Stonehenge functions as a calendar). Still, without the audioguide, it wouldn't be a long visit. You do get to come closer than I thought to the stones, and the crowds weren't huge today, so we had a pretty good time.

Much bigger than the ones Spinal Tap had

When I told Anica that Stonehenge is one of the most famous "World Heritage Sites," she said it wouldn't be one of her top ones. So I said, ok, if you could pick 10 places as your "Anica World Heritage Sites," what would they be? Thinking back over the trip, as we ate lunch at Stonehenge, here's what she listed:

Anica's World Heritage Sites (in the order she thought of them)
1) Pompeii
2) The Muslim Quarter in Xian
3) The Forum
4) The Great Pyramid
5) The Mummies Room of the Egyptian Museum
6) Roman Amphitheatre of El Jem (Tunisia)
7) Roman ruins of Umm Qays (Jordan)
8) Summer Palace, Beijing
9) Cao Dai temple (Vietnam)
10) Sagrada Familia

Interesting choices! Let us know what you think!

From the Salisbury plains, it wasn't a long drive to the little town of Hullavington. We were slowed down by laneways marked "tank crossing" (which we had to take pretty seriously because we could hear the booms of firing tanks), and narrow roads enveloped by leafy green trees and hedges.

But we found it easily. Hullavington is the little village we're staying in for the next week. Really little. Their main street is called "The Street." It actually says that on the signs: "The Street." Then there's "Mere Avenue." Well, it's no street. There's also the shop. It has a name, but, still, it is the one and only shop. The fact that there's a nice pub says a lot about English village life too.

"So, go down The Street, and take a left on "The Mere Avenue"

May 15


The heat wave is over! Rain and much cooler today. But off we went, to Stratford-Upon-Avon. Practically a pilgrimage, really, to the birthplace of the Bard. The title of this blog entry is a Shakespeare allusion.

The thatched roof kept out the rain: Anne Hathaway's cottage

All of us enjoyed seeing the houses associated with Shakespeare. We started with Anne Hathaway's cottage. Parts of it date back to the 1400s. We also saw Shakespeare's birthplace, and two of the houses his descendants lived in. They're all staffed by soft-spoken, but engaging, people who almost casually tell you about the rooms. Even Jenn and I learned a lot, such as the origin of the phrases "sleep tight" and "upper crust." I can't think of anywhere where we've seen middle/working class homes that have survived. Shakespeare was already a tourist draw in the 1700s, so they've been preserved.

The gardens are beautiful, and the town in general is really picturesque and full of quirky old buildings. We got to enjoy Stratford on a day when it wasn't too busy. Even in Anne Hathaway's cottage, we were essentially given a private tour. It made us feel like we were the ones living in the homes. We also ate lunch at the Garrick Pub, the oldest in Stratford, which was pretty neat. We all had "jacket potatoes." A novelty for us, although I'm sure it won't be for long.

May 16


With rain again threatening, we set off today to nearby Avebury. What an incredible complex of prehistoric sites. Driving there, Jenn said, "Is that one of those prehistoric horses carved onto that hillside? I guess it is!" And it was. A huge white horse outline carved into the side of a hill. It could be mistaken for advertising, but, nope, it's about 4000 years old! Then she said, "Look at that barrow, could it be one of those prehistoric earth mounds?" And it was. It was Silbury Hill! The largest of all the mounds in Britain.

Avebury was more scattered than Stonehenge, but more fun, too. You walk through the village, among the stones in the various fields. You can touch them, lean against them (hug them? If you wanted to, but "no climbing"). You share the space with sheep. The Avebury stones are arranged like landing strip lights (see, it could have been aliens....). The rain held off, but the skies were threatening. Just the right look for our walk through the pagan countryside.

Isn't this the cover of a '70s progressive rock LP?

May 17


We haven't seen the sun for three days - now that's England! Yet, with no sign of rain either, we decided to make the drive to nearby Bath today. Bath is one of the few places on "Our Big World Trip" that Jenn and I have visited before. It's a prosperous, stately town (or small city), filled with identical-looking rows of Georgian townhouses, all with multiple chimneys. When we were here before, Jenn was pregnant, and her feet started hurting to the point that she sat down and cried. We never got to the "Royal Crescent" and Royal Victoria Park part of town then, so we started there today.

The Royal Crescent, Bath

Of course, we had to visit the Roman Baths. Anica again enjoyed a kid's audioguide AND visual search with a sticker sheet. They've done a great job updating this already world-class attraction. As we travel the world, it's usually either an awesome natural display or an incredible human construction that captures our imagination. In my opinion, the Roman Baths have both. The water you see there has taken 10,000 years since it fell as rain to emerge from under the earth. It gushes forth at the rate of over a million litres a day. The Romans built a series of drains to handle that flow of water - and they're still functioning two thousand years later. Amazing.

Bath time!

May 19


For a purely fun day out, we went to Longleat House (i.e. castle) today. It's practically been made into an amusement park in the last few decades. Apparently, the original noble owner probably would have whole-heartedly approved: he is described as greedy and cunning, and tried to get out of hosting Elizabeth I because it was too costly.

View from the centre of Longleat's Hege Maze

Present-day Longleat has one of the best hedge mazes in Britain. It took us over half an hour to find the centre! They have many other attractions (I've read Anica's diary about this, so I'll let her describe it). I will mention the "Safari." This is a drive-through experience like Ontario's "African Lion Safari." The lions were quite active, and passed right in front of our car. We wisely took the "no-monkeys" route, so our leased car wouldn't get trashed.

May 20


Our visit to the "Big Pit National Mining Museum of Wales" today was one of the coolest things we've done on this whole trip. First of all, to call it a "museum" is very misleading. Big Pit was a mine, perched on the side of a huge, barren hill overlooking a small Welsh town. Now you get a tour underground, conducted by a former miner. The guy who led our tour was very good, with a dry wit. His favourite saying was "maybe tomorrow." As in: "There are often dangerous gases in the mine tunnels. Not today, though. Maybe tomorrow." His little pauses, and deadpan delivery, were priceless. He took special interest in Anica, who, at age 8, was the age children became colliers before the 1842 legislation. In fact, from age 5 they worked in the mines, opening and closing the doors to the tunnels.

Speaking of school-age children, we were the only other people at Big Pit, other than four busloads of French students from Britanny. Their teacher translated the tour as we went, except for the parts where our guide suggested what we see in Scotland. Yes, he was a Welsh miner, but he sure loved his Scottish holidays!

So there we were, with hard helmets, head lamps, and (on our hips) portable gas masks, 90 metres down, seeing where the pit ponies were stabled, seeing how the miners worked, and hearing about it from a fifth-generation miner who was still working there when Big Pit closed in 1979. It had opened in 1815.

There was also a more typical "museum" display building, but also well-done. Miner's lockers are decorated with exceptional real-life stories. Even the "baths" area is left intact, to show what the miners went through to clean up.

Part of the complex of buildings at Big Pit Mine, Wales

Even more impressive was the multi-media building. It used a virtual guide who "talked" to us over a series of screens, leading us from room to room, each roaring to life with light and sound effects. That showed even more what kind of machines were used, and what kind of life it was. Amazing - and (even more amazing) - there is no cost for admission.

So, that's our visit to Wales. We may be back to see more, perhaps after Ireland, but if not, Big Pit made for an unforgettable day.

May 14


Today when we woke up we had a very good breakfast of bacon, eggs, cereal, toast, and drinks. Then we checked out of Swan Inn Stroford and drove to Salisbury (10 km away). When we got there we parked in a parking lot for the old George Mall.

We bought (in a bookstore) a Barbie Magazine for me, workbooks for me, and a guidebook for M & D. We also got pounds from a atm. Then we saw a beautiful Cathedrel. M & D got a pamphlet and I got a "Introduction to the animals of the Salisbury Cathedrel." It was really intresting and big too! We also saw the Magna Carta which was one of the choices on a t.v. show between the Bayeux tapestries! Then we drove to Stonehenge.

As we came over the hill and got our first glimpse at Stonehenge I asked: "Is that Stonehenge? I thought it was bigger!" I thought it was bigger actully! M & D laughed and laughed and laughed! We got audio guides for Stonehenge but I diden't listen to evrey section - probaly 4 out of 7. Though I did find the rocks very cool. for lunch I had a sausege roll, for Mum a sandwhich and for Dad a sandwhich. Then we drove to Hullavington and saw our lovely place then we got groceries, went home, hand humus, pita, olives, vegatables and chips for dinner, had my shower, G.N.! (P.S.) We went on the chunnel the day before thats how we got to England! Goodbye.

May 15


Today we went to Stratford. It was a long drive there and I did get motion sick (Gravol not taken). When we got there we drove to Ann Hathaways cottege (Ann Hathaway was Shakesperes wife - Stratford is Shakesperes birth place and home town). We got a book about all the Shakespere houses. Plus a guy gave a tour (a little one) for just us! He told us all about the living room before we headed towards the bedroom. Then we met the guy again and he told us about the kitchen. Then we had a lovely lunch at a inn called the Garrick Inn. Then we headed for Shakespere's Birthplace. We didn't have to by tickets because we had tickets that let us in to most of the houses. This women told us about the main living room before we saw the bedrooms on our own. It was very cool and there were this Canadian couple that looked Indian and were from near Richmond Hill. Then we moved on to Halls Croft where I got a quiz. It was a fun one of course like all the others. Then we saw Nash's House which was like the others! Then went home, had dinner, G.N.!

May 16


Today we went to Avebury. Avebury is a bit like Stonehenge but not world famous. It specialized in prehistoric rocks. When we got to Avebury we parked, payed 10 dollers (Canadian) to park in a parking lot. Then we walked into a town, walked onto a feild full of sheep poo and viewed the rocks. Avebury is diffrent from Stonehenge because in Avebury you view them in a town and can actually touch them and Stonehenge is a sight and roped off. After we saw Avebury we went a diffrent way home, had dinner, G.N.! P.S. The rocks were very beautiful and I found them way better than Stonehenge. Bye, gotta show Dad this one!

May 17


Today we went to Bath. It was not a very long drive but it was still about half a hour long drive. When we got there the first thing we did was park and see the Royal Victoria Park followed by the Royal Cresent. We alked around for a long time before finding a place called Cafe Hub which had free internet connection which let me do my diary and read. We when went to the Roman baths where I got a kids audio guide and they got a adult one. The tour was log but we got to find out a lot of stuff about the place. It was really intresting especially because they still had water in it! But it was really gross. I also did a family fun trail and got it corect which ment I got a certifacete. We then walked around a bit before deciding to drive home. Had dinner, G.N! P.S. G.N.!

May 19



Today we went to Longleat. Longleat is like a no ride amusement park. When we got there the first thing we did was park and do the maze. It was a really hard maze but there wern't many dead ends but a lot of choices but we finally made out way there and high-fived each other when we got there. Then we moved over to pets corner where we saw otters, guinea pigs, bunnys, etc! We also saw a show on parrots where they did: roller skating, soccer, basketball, driving, recycling, races and lots more! They were also really good at saying hello. (P.S. Before the Longleat hedge maze we went on a fun-railway train ride). Then we had lunch and di the safari boats! The seals came right up to us and we bought feed. Then we went to the Adventure Castle Playground and I went on three diffrent slides, two I had to sit on my fleece to make it the kinds I liked and the other one was good! I also liked the trampoline a lot! Then we went to King Arthur's Mirror Maze which I really liked. Then we went to the Safari. We saw lots of stuff before getting Indian food and taking it home! Had dinner, G.N.!

May 20


"Starting Work on Monday"

Today we wento into Wales to a place called Big Pit Coal Mine. It started out by getting on a big motorway (PS Canadians and Americans: Highway) M4, with a choice of South Wales and Bristol or London and Swindon. The bridge to Wales is huge! We then drove to tiny town Blanevon where the Big Pit Coal Mne was the signed. When we got there there was four big tourist buses carrying French students from Brittany. We were at the back of the line up nd the teachers told us to go with the first group! "Merci." we said hurrying to the front to go on the tour. Then we got fitted up in tool belts, head-protector helmets with lights attached and that's it! Then we took a very fun elevator ride going 2 meters per second. But it seemed fast. When we got down there the guy said ok now we are going to see the ponies stables. Everybody kept on bumping there heads! Exept me. The guy asked me are you starting work Monday. No I answered but I am eight. "Then take care of the ponies!" The tour went on pretty well but I laughed when Dad knocked out his light for the second time. Then we went up checked out some more stuff, went home, rested, had dinner, G.N.

Posted by jennrob 12:35 Archived in England Comments (8)

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