Saturday, August 27, 2016

Butterfly Adventure

Science and more science.  We're having a great time.  Thursday we took Charity and Moses with us to visit the butterflies.  The Natural Science Museum had an exhibit at the butterfly house.  We went in and not a moment in the door we were surrounded by butterflies.  There was a particularly beautiful blue butterfly that was just couldn't get a picture of.  Finally, as Charity was leaving it landed on her skirt and Hannah got her picture.  Charlotte had one land on her head.  

Facade of Natural History Museum.  I love it. 

We actually spent most of the day at the Science Museum.  After all the neat "science" around us, the kids loved seeing this "moon machine" from Wallace and Grommit!

The Eye of London is upon you!

Clear blue skies, cool air all around and a city at our feet.  That is what it's like to ride the London Eye which is what we did together on Wednesday morning. The views were spectacular.  The kids loved seeing the sights we'd seen during the week.  We saw Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and the Shard.  

After our ride on the Eye, Hyrum went to work and we headed off to the park, first for some water and then for some sand.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Tower of London

Outer wall in the morning sun.
Rise and shine.  Tuesday morning we left our flat at 7:30 am so we could get to the Tower of London before the lines got there.  There was a chill in the air but it was a beautiful morning.  We arrived around 8:30 and waited until we could get our tickets.  We found a pass that included entrance to 6 historic palaces.  We will be visiting at least one more while we here so the membership paid for itself.  Along with our membership card, the kids got buttons and a little booklet to help them learn about the Tower of London.  They were pretty ambivalent about going but once they got there and learned a bit about this historic building, I think their excitement grew.  

White Tower

It's important to understand that the Tower of London is a castle complex.  There is a central hold or keep--the White Tower ,built by William the Conqueror and then an inner wall which included different buildings, towers and the church and the outer wall added last, which was home to the English mint for a while.  White Tower directly served the monarchy until the 19th Century.

Between the Walls
We started our time there with a look at the British crown jewels.  These were crown jewels done right.  There was information about the crown jewels and where pieces came from and how long they have been in use by the monarchy.  It was amazing.  There were several rooms with a few related piece in them.  It was a simple and spectacular display.  The jewels are amazing in their brilliance but also their simplicity.  There are not a lot of pieces but I think that is what makes it even better an experience.

View of The Tower of London from across the Thames

Our next stop was Bloody Tower.  It is so named for the alleged murder of the two young (12 and 9) sons of King Edward IV.  After that a tour with a Yeoman Warder.  The tour was great.  We walked to 4 stops where he would share information about that particular location and related information about the tour itself.  Our guide was hilarious.  He was informative, engaging and certainly himself.  After that we walked through the White Tower.  There were suits of armor and weaponry.  The boys really enjoyed that.

After White Tower we stopped to eat some lunch and said good bye to Hyrum so he could go to work.  We walked down to the torture room which housed a rack and device called the "Scavenger's Daughter".  It was interesting to see that these tortures were only used for a relatively short period of time and wasn't a general practice.  We then walked along the top of the inner wall.  They had iron soldiers poised their in various positions.  It was a fun way for the kids to experience standing on a castle wall.

On the wall with a friend
After that we got some ice cream cones and waited to meet Charity and Moses for a walk across Tower Bridge to the More London Estates water fountains.  The kids loved getting wet as it was a warm day.  While there, I got alerts for the Tube line we ride and was a bit concerned about how to get home.  We ended up not having any issues and got home with enough time for some school work and leftovers for dinner.

Tower Bridge

The weather has been hot the past couple of days so the kids were a bit grumpy, and so was I and it took a bit of work to get them to sleep.  It was a full day though and I think, everyone enjoyed it.

Water time!

Reflections on a Week

Hyrum here.  I thought I'd pop in for a little guest post from the other side of things.  (Well, not really the other side, since Heather and I are on the same side, but let's just call it another perspective.)

We're a week into the 142 Days of Adventure, and quite the week it's been.  From planes to trains to busses and even the London Eye, we've explored London in a way I've never done before.  Even with delayed luggage, rain and a scary oven, it's been a great experience.  While I seem to pass through the city at least once a year, it's been a different experience to live and work here, if only for a short time.  I miss the larger space we have in Pittsburgh, but I've been grateful to realize just how little we really need to live, and to come to know London a little bit more intimately.

In spite of what Heather will say, mother's get no vacation, and she's no exception.  I've been amazed and grateful for how she's adjusted to running a houseful flatful of children in a foreign land, with different food, and in a stranger's kitchen.  Just when I find myself wishing we'd brought a game or a small toy or something else for the children, she pulls it out of a suitcase.  Heather has thought of everything, adapts when she needs to, and never ceases to amaze.

As for me, I've spent every minute not playing with my family working, largely out of Google's London office.  I've given talks, had meetings with colleagues, and also managed to carry on with my normal day job.  My desk for the week overlooks an entrance to Victoria Station, so when I need a break, I can glance up and see the streams of humanity pouring out on to the street below.  It can be a welcome distraction.

Beyond that, it's hard to believe we've only 135 days left in our European Adventure, and less that two weeks left in London.  Even though I know we're not going to be able to see and do everything, and the children may not appreciate everything, I trust we'll be back again.

London from the Eye

P-day and some other stuff

Everyone needs a day to renew and regroup every once in a while.  Monday was ours.  I cleaned the flat, we ventured to the grocery store and then started school for the year.  After school, we headed to the park near the flat.

Welcome to our classroom.

It was good to take a break from the city and get some order to our lives.  There is so much going on everyday with little time to process and really absorb it.  Our daily schedule usually means getting up early and then we head into the city.  We spend the day walking around seeing things and enjoy spending time together.  After that we go to the park and the kids run around for a bit.

Our flat is still a grungy but it's growing on me.  Thanks to Amazon Prime and my brother- and sister-in-law I've been able to get knives that chop and a few other kitchen items I needed.  It has become our home right now and I can't believe we're already a third of the way through our time in London.

This city has been a really neat place to spend time in.  It has surprised me and now, I have my next trip planned.  I can't wait to come back again.  One of the most surprising things has been how kind people have been to our family.  No one has been rude or upset over my kids and their wonder at the Tube and excitement of escalators or their habit of stopping once they step out of a train or at the top of the escalator, or when they decide to spread across the hallway of a busy train station.  (Can you sense a theme?  Riding the Tube is the most stressful part of my day but also kind of my favorite)  So many people have helped carry Ben's stroller up and down stairs or carry it out of a station for me.  They have given up seats for us on the Tube.  The other day, the guys working on the road stopped their jackhammers while we passed because one of them noticed the kids holding their ears.  This is a friendly city.  The city is also quite clean, so far the cleanest of any European city I've been to.  It has been a very pleasant experience.

School.  It has begun.  We started school on Monday and I had the kids crying within the first couple of  minutes.  Wow, is this a learning experience.  Here in London there is so much to see and do we are trying to squeeze in school time.  I had all sorts of plans for writing assignments and science experiments but I have realized these past few days that we don't have time for all of it right now.  We generally leave at 9 in the morning and get home around 4 pm.  I feel like right now, Hannah and Jonathan need to do their math and Charlotte and Spencer need to do their reading practice.  Other than that, things can wait.  We are experiencing so much and that is the point of this trip.  We'll have more time once we leave London but for now we'll soak in this great city.

Life is good.  We've been very blessed with this opportunity and we are trying to soak as much in as we can.  Jonathan loves the museums and pretty much everything.  The little kids are just along for the ride.  Hannah is stuck in that weird 'tween place where she is too old to really enjoy the stuff Charlotte and Spencer are into but too young and innocent for things teenagers would enjoy.  She also likes doing things with her hands so walking through a museum of stuff isn't really her thing.  We love her and we'll figure it out together.  She is doing a lot of reading.  Ben has gotten use to the stroller and quite enjoys it.  The stroller has been a life saver though.  He naps there and eats there mostly with a smile on his face.