Thursday, August 16, 2018

Across the Pond, Part 3

June 9, 2018

This was one of those days that went nothing like we had planned! I haven't mentioned the various minor setbacks and events that led me to repeat several times, "We will not let this trip be defined by disappointment!", but they were there: Money (already exchanged!) left behind, a fender bender (while we were parked in a Waitrose parking lot!), the British Library was closed ... We chose to focus on the positive instead  - we were in England, after all and this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Day 3 dawned with us bidding farewell to our first Airbnb - a sweet little flat in Harrow. 

Kaity and me inadvertantly twinning on this chilly morning!
We had a long day of driving ahead as we headed west out of London and into the countryside of Somerset.

First stop: Stone Henge! It was different from what we'd expected, being surrounded by farmland and sheep grazing in pastures. You can't approach it too closely, though a family member told us that when she went 40 years ago people could actually walk among the stones and touch them!

The scenery along the way was simply stunning! We were constantly pulling over whenever we could find a spot on the winding, narrow roads just to enjoy the view a little longer. As tiny as our car was, the hedges still came nearly to the side mirrors at times.

After being thwarted by time and circumstances, we had to skip a couple of places we'd wanted to stop, but the drive was so gorgeous that it consoled us. We had lunch at a charming pub in downtown Salisbury, The Chapter House. Jeff had a fantastic burger, I enjoyed a spicy South African bobotie, and Kaity loved her fresh spaghetti primavera.

We arrived late that afternoon to our most anticipated Airbnb: Munty Cottage! It was absolutely everything we imagined in a delightful English farm cottage.

Lovely little gatekeeper.
This is the road we drove in on - you can see how narrow it is! The whole time we were in England, particularly the countryside, we kept remarking how inspiring it all must have been to writers like Tolkien and Lewis. So many times we would point to a certain aspect and say, "Oh, it's the Shire!" We keenly felt the magic of the landscape with its hollows and hedges, abundant flowers and quirky little structures in fields or tiny villages. Elves and fairies and hobbits seemed entirely possible!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Across The Pond, Part 2

Day 2 and we hit the ground running! First up on the agenda was a Royal Walking Tour with London Walks. Our tour guide, Claire, was funny and engaging and an absolute drill sergeant about keeping us moving and getting us to where we needed to be! The pageantry and pomp were fun and fascinating to see.

Buckingham Palace

I know, this Jag isn't especially interesting, but I put this picture in to illustrate something that happened that sent our tour guide into giddy paroxysms of joy ... As we stood outside Clarence House, a police escort and cars sped into the gates and out of the car stepped Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall! Just a few moments later, this Jaguar and more escorts whizzed through the gates, taking Prince Charles off to do something enormously important, I'm sure.

This is Prince Charles's standard, flown to show that he and his wife are in residence.

This is the oldest castle in the city, and it's from this balcony that all royal announcements are made.

Horse Guards Parade

10 Downing Street

This is one classic London icon we were looking forward to seeing, but alas, it was not to be. Elizabeth Tower, the clock tower in which resides the bell known as Big Ben, is undergoing extensive renovations. It will take years to finish!

So, our royal walk ended ... or did it?? As we passed by Westminster Abbey on our way to lunch and our next tour, we noticed a small crowd had gathered. A fellow tourist told us that she had heard the queen was inside and would be leaving soon. Sure enough, she was and she did! Just as the bells tolled, Queen Elizabeth II rode by in her car, wearing her signature hat and waving.

Not the queen, but her police escort.
Resting before heading off on our next walking tour!

Also, as you can see from the pictures, the weather the whole week we were there was absolutely divine! Lots of sunshine and blue skies: Perfection. No London fog for us!

Next tour: Harry Potter! This was a lot of fun, with a charming tour guide who really knew his stuff.

St. Paul's Cathedral! I got lots of pictures of this one, and couldn't wait to show the little girls. We were in the middle of the Bird Woman chapter in our read-aloud of Mary Poppins when we left for England. We brought them each back a tuppence, too, so they could "feed the birds"!

The Tower Bridge in the distance as we walked across the Thames on Millenium Bridge.
We made an extra Tube stop to see Platform 9-3/4 at King's Cross Station, of course!

The entrance to Kaity's future workplace ... The British Library. We didn't make it here before it closed on this day, but were determined to find a way to get there later in the trip.

Can't go to London without a visit to a proper chippy to get some fish and chips with mushy peas!

On the Underground! Dumbledore's scar above his left knee would have come in handy here ...

Kaity, always with a book handy! Personally, I never go anywhere without my Kindle: At one point, Kaity finished her book and complained that she didn't have another one to start. I looked up from my Kindle and said, "Gee, that sounds terrible." Then laughed.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Across The Pond, Part I

For Kaity's high school graduation and our 20th wedding anniversary, Jeff and I took Kaity on what was likely a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to England! We loved plotting out every minute of our itinerary from flight plans to restaurants to tourist must-sees to ancestry connections to out-of-the-way quirky places we didn't want to miss. We left off far more that we wanted to, but felt that our schedule was as packed tight as possible. My mom asked me when we were planning to sleep and I told her we could sleep when we got back home!

June 6, 2018

On the plane, direct from Atlanta to London! Jeff's first airplane flight.
We rented a car at Heathrow and drove straight out to Windsor Castle.

St. George and the dragon!

After Windsor, we drove to our Airbnb to park the car. We spent the rest of the day using our Oyster cards to travel around London using the Tube.
"Mind the gap!"
One of the places I was most looking forward to was the Churchill Rooms at the Imperial War Museum. I'm fascinated with WWI/II history and could have easily doubled our time here!

I loved this sign! Kaity is going to make a replica for me.
The rooms were preserved as they were abandoned at the end of WWII, allowing for a truly unique insight into what the atmosphere was like.

The classic London phone boxes were everywhere, so naturally we did the tourist thing and took pictures!

We made a special stop at Earl's Court just so we could see a real live (not really) TARDIS (Doctor not included).

From a distance, we also spotted another iconic London landmark ...

... which is unfortunately undergoing restoration at this time, so the scaffolding obscures it. Elizabeth Tower is famous for being the clock tower which houses the bell we all know as Big Ben.

So that sums up Day One! Stay tuned for the next installment in which we see the Queen, discover the Leaky Cauldron, feed the birds, and eat proper fish and chips!