Sunday, August 28, 2016

Kew Gardens and the Hive!

Palm Tree House 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a beehive?  After watching the bee episode of Magic School Bus, my kids think it might be kind of fun.  Well, the Kew Gardens currently have an exhibit about bees about an hours underground ride from us so we took the opportunity to find out.  The day was beautiful and the garden was lovely.

Beautiful Roses

We got off to a late start so ate our lunch upon arrival at the gardens.  We explored the rose gardens, took a walk in the treetops and then off to the Hive!

Treetop walk

Hanging out on a downed tree by the treetop walk.

The Hive

It was kind of mesmerizing inside.  There was a soundtrack that was really quite beautiful and meant to simulate bee communication.  It was really a cool experience, though hard to describe.  At one point all of my kids were on the floor, feeling, listening and taking it all in with all their senses.  (Frankly, I wanted to lay there with them.)

Looking up through the center of the Hive.

After the Hive, we went to the playground for the obligatory "run around" of the day.  We saw a magnolia tree with a single bloom on it.  The fragrance was delicious, even my kids enjoyed it.  We found so many varieties of trees and flowers.  It was a lovely way to spend our day!

Looking through the floor of the Hive

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