Timing is a funny thing. Wanting to return home immediately upon hearing about my dad’s health, and being advised not to, I was grateful that my sister Crystal and her husband Kevin were able to carry out their plans to come out to see us. It felt like a piece of home with them here during this rough time.
This was both their first time to England and we decided to pack as much in as we possibly could. The weather could not have been more glorious all week, blue skies and sunshine near 70 degrees! With Jace now having an ear infection and horrible cough and Cade still on the mend, they stayed home to recuperate for a few of our outings.
First up was Big Ben of course! It’s a must to get pictures in the perfect spot with the telephone booth, even if we have to wait in line a bit.
We walked all around Parliament and arrived just after they closed the doors to Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret’s Church, but admired it from the outside. There’s no way to capture the magnificence of the architecture here, it needs to be seen in person to truly appreciate and grasp its scale.
With jet lag kicking in (at least with Kevin!), we forced them to stay awake a little longer and took them on a stroll through Green Park. The park was absolutely beautiful. I’ve heard how lovely spring is here and I can see why now. Tyler attempted to make friends with a nearby goose, nearly losing a finger in the process! We got double ice cream cones and made our way to Buckingham Palace.
Because the changing of the guards schedule didn’t jive with our plans, we decided to just show them Buckingham Palace without all the fan fare. It’s definitely not as exciting and easy to see why the Queen loves Windsor Castle in comparison.
We briefly showed them Trafalgar Square before the sun set and walked down Oxford and Picadilly. I think they crashed pretty quickly back at our place and caught up on sleep for another packed day.
Crossing the Westminster Bridge over the Thames River has the most spectacular views. I just started my first oil painting of this very scene, I love it so much.
Clear skies made our view from the London Eye perfect. Inside the largest ferris wheel in the world, we were able to see a magnificent skyline! We’re still learning what the majority of the buildings are, but it’s so vast and beautiful just to take it all in at such a height. We felt on top of the world up top!
The London Dungeon tour was not as good as it was hyped to be. We were herded through the depths of smelly, dark spaces to experience the recreations of gruesome stories of London’s history with Jack the Ripper, Guy Fawkes, beheadings of Henry VIII’s wife and the like. Tyler thought it was great, but I think we adults would like those 90 minutes of our lives back!
Sometimes you stumble on the greatest finds. All Bar One for lunch was a nice surprise of modern British food. Kevin experienced the fish and chips with mashy peas and we all loved our meals, which is rare at a British joint.
It’s not easy deciding on a show here, but the vote was to see “Once” again since they heard how much we loved it the first time. What we didn’t know was nearly the entire cast had changed and they had a fill-in for the lead lady so it wasn’t nearly as good, but I still loved the music. On our way there, our taxi driver pointed our Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh (and husband to the Queen) in his car next to us. I was astonished to learn he is 92 years old, not looking a day over 70 in my eyes!
They headed out early Friday morning to Paris for Kevin’s birthday and spent the night right near the Eiffel Tower. I think they had fun doing the tour bus and seeing the major sites there.
Saturday afternoon, they returned and we celebrated Kevin’s birthday with his new favorite cookies from Ben’s Cookies. They really are so much more delicious than they appear!
Since Portobello Market is only open on Saturdays, we headed there to explore and shop. They found some fun things for their four girls. Low and behold, we bumped into Tyler, Cade and their friend Mike who happened to be there too! It’s Tyler’s favorite place on the planet. He may be the only teenage boy to truly appreciate antiques I know.
We walked down Kensington High Street and stopped in St. Mary Abbot’s church on the corner which we’ve always wanted to do. You could spend hours in just about any building, reading all the rich history of days and people long past.
Hyde Park was full of people. This weather really brings the locals out. They checked out the grounds of Kensington Palace. Our favorite duck pond was under construction, so no feeding the birds today.
Unfortunately our favorite little Italian restaurant was booked for dinner so we chanced it going to a different one we knew nothing about. Sadly, it disappointed but the company was nice!
They were able to explore inside the Tower of London and see a few other sights on their own.
We all rode the double decker bus to church.
Later that night we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral, showed them our first flat, and walked along the passenger bridge to Tableau to show them Lynn’s office.
Monday was spent at Windsor Castle again. Cade wanted to see it this time, but unfortunately Lynn had meetings and was unable to join us. Guess we’ll have to go back yet again. The Queen was there again, and we watched her caravan leave and the flag change.
This time we made sure we went in St. George’s Chapel and were not disappointed. King George IV began its construction in 1475 and it took nearly fifty years to complete. It was built as a chapel for the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Britain’s highest order of chivalry. It’s considered a masterpiece of Late Medieval Perpendicular Gothic. It was an overload for the eyes to take in everything at once. I am constantly amazed at the beauty of the ceilings in such places, in awe how they were constructed such a long time ago given their tools and technology.
The Quire area is impressively built with medieval wooden-carved stalls with banners overhead where the knights of the Order assembled. Seven hundred 700 engraved brass plates of former knights attached to the backs of the stalls. Prince William became the 1,000th knight of the order in 2008. Here’s a few pictures courtesy of the web.
Ten monarchs are buried in the Chapel including Edward IV himself, Henry VIII with his favorite wife Jane Seymour, Charles I, George V and Queen Mary and George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Several notable weddings have taken place there as well, including many of Queen Victoria’s children’s.
Our grand finale evening was a night out to dinner and Les Miserables. The show did not disappoint with spectacular voices, special effects, creative sets and powerful music. The songs have been stuck in my head for weeks now, which is okay because I love this music too.
It was sad to say goodbye, the time flew way too fast! Thanks Crystal and Kevin for making the trip out and experiencing life out here with our crew. Great memories!