The Clinger’s Visit

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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!

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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.

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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.

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We all rode the double decker bus to church.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle has been on our short list of places to see.  We didn’t pass up the chance when a sunny Saturday presented itself a few weeks ago, and headed out on the train with some friends.  Lynn stayed back with Cade, who was recuperating from bronchitis and an ear infection.  We made sure to get our passes stamped so we can return at leisure throughout the year for them join us.

Our friends, the Hintze’s invited us to join them along with a classmate from school.  I expected it to be further away, but in less than an hour we arrived in the quaint, adorable town of Windsor.  Before cars, it would take a day’s march from the Tower of London to get to.  The streets are lined with inviting little European shops and cafes.



The grandness of the castle is apparent right as you enter the town and trek up the hill to its entrance.  We all got audio guides to teach us the unique history of this oldest working castle in the world.  It was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1066 and has been inhabited, renovated and altered ever since by subsequent heirs, beginning with Henry I.  Today, more than 500 people live and work within its walls.



The grounds were lush and beautiful with hints of spring blossoming.  I’ve never seen such perfect grass in the courtyard area, which is closed to the public since it is inhabited regularly.  The flag atop the Round Tower indicated Her Majesty, the Queen was inside, which we learned was a regular occurrence on the weekends.  I can see why she loves it here compared to Buckingham Palace.


We started at Queen Mary’s dollhouse exhibit.  This interested me after spending many hours with my own beloved dollhouse as a girl.  However, mine was nothing like this one!  This was a gift given to the queen, wife of King George V in the 1920s and was never played with.  It was fashioned after an aristocratic family’s home with real silver plates, a vault with real miniature jewels, running water, electricity, a flushing toilet, working lifts, real wine in cellars and a working vacuum.  No detail was forgotten.  Even the tiny books are written by real authors and the paintings done by real artists.  All four sides are filled with intricate, detailed furnishings with cars in the garage underneath and a garden out back.   They don’t allow photography, but I found a few pictures on the internet someone took which really doesn’t do it justice, but gives you a small idea of it.


The rest of our time was spent winding through the castle looking at all the fascinating weapons displayed, collections of china, armor, artifacts and artwork.  This is the first castle that we’ve been through that uses some of the very rooms the public is allowed to view.  St. George’s hall has space for an enormous table that seats 162 people.  They showed how they use a ruler to set each place setting exactly uniform.  We saw all sorts of King’s and Queen’s drawing rooms, King’s bedchamber, dressing rooms, audience chambers and other grand reception rooms filled with priceless art,  painted ceilings and royal collections.  We weren’t able to photograph anything inside, but it was impressive and lovely.  Here is a picture courtesy of the web that shows what a dinner in the St. George’s Grand Hall would look like.

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We learned that Queen Victoria’s family spent most of their time there and her husband Albert died in the castle of typhoid.  During WWII, the royal family secretly stayed there, blacking out all the windows and reinforcing their rooms.  It wasn’t destroyed due to Hitler’s plans to own it for himself.  The boys were hoping they’d see the Queen peeking out her window, but had no such luck.  However, they did get to see the guards march in to protect the royal residences.


A massive fire in 1992 destroyed much of castle, but it has been restored to its original beauty.  I’m amazed how many fires have engulfed this country.

The boys loved finding all the cannons and seeing the castle walls built with sharp flint to keep enemies from scaling them.


Of course we had to get a picture with the guard on duty.  I’m not sure how he’s able to see with that hat on.


Though we didn’t go inside St. George’s Chapel, we walked all around it marveling at its architecture.   Started by Edward IV in 1475, it took fifty years to construct.  It is the Chapel of the Order of the Garter, Britain’s highest order of chivalry founded by Edward III in 1348.  We’ll have time to go back and take a look inside since it’s full of rich history and the burial site of 10 monarchs, including Henry the VIII.



A quick trip inside the gift shop for treats and souvenirs, and we were ready for lunch.


Trusting the guards’ recommendation for lunch, we dined at The Carpenter’s Arms.  Tyler was thrilled to be eating at a restaurant from 1518.  They seated us downstairs right next to a dungeon looking space that was once used to smuggle things back and forth from the castle.  All the boys thought this was the coolest thing ever, until I shined my phone’s light inside and they were completely creeped out by all the spiders and questionable slime on the stone above them.  That was the end of that.


However, the food was great.  Tyler scarfed down his royal double burger and we shared the sampler platter of British food, which was surprisingly good.


With a few minutes to spare, we strolled around the town looking at all the quaint shops and signs.  We spotted the Crooked House built over 400 years ago that reminded us of the nursery rhyme.  It is now a cute little restaurant.  We finished off with gelato (which happened to be the worst we’ve ever tasted) before boarding the train back home.


I will never forget this day.  Though it was lovely and memorable, it was also the day I received the news that my dad had a brain tumor.  The original news was bleak and terrifying.  Not being able to talk to him immediately because of the time difference was agonizing.  The rest of the weekend was indescribably difficult waiting for more results and praying for a miracle.  It also happened to be the weekend our family was asked to speak in church.  Oh how I wish our talks had been written before this news.  Cade, Tyler, Lynn and I spoke about the blessings of obedience to the prophet’s counsel.  While it was so hard to even concentrate, I actually felt a peace and calmness that I may not have experienced by going through that process of study.

My dad is amazing.  He was the one to calm our fears, along with my mom, that all would work out.  It wasn’t until later the next week that we learned it wasn’t cancerous and he would undergo immediate surgery to remove the tumor.  Nearly all my life I have lived a short distance from my parents and have been so blessed by their support, help and love.  Being this far away during their time of need was, and continues to be, one of the hardest experiences of my life.  I can’t express the gratitude in my heart for the outpouring of love, service, prayers, well wishes and friendship that has been extended to our family at this time.  I can feel it even though I’m thousands of miles away, so thank you dear friends!