Friday, May 15, 2009

It's Been A Year Since We Were in London!!!!

Last May we had the opportunity to travel to London, England for a week. My husband's great uncle, who teaches and does research at the Burlington House for the Linnean Society in London, had wanted to take the kids on a trip to London since they were small, this was the year we all got to go to London. He has been visiting London several times a year since 1964, when he attended college there.

Portabella Road Flea Market was one of the destination I HAD to go to while in London. We would meet Uncle James for breakfast in the hotel every morning at 8:00 a.m. before heading out for our daily adventures.

We had studied the map and discovered that the flea market was not that far from our hotel. We had somewhat mastered the "tube", which is the subway, so with map in hand we took off at 6:00 a.m. We arrived with out a hitch and was I in heaven!!! The only thing was that our items had to be able to fit into the suitcase because otherwise it would have to be shipped. I could have spent the whole day there but we had plans for the day so we were limited on time.

My favorite item that I brought back with me was the toast racks, which would be on our breakfast table every morning with our toast in them. I, of course, repurposed them into organizers for notes, paper, or mail.

This is Trafalgar Square which is right next to the National Portrait Museum, which houses all the painting you learned about in art class, VanGogh, Monet, Renoir and more. It gives you goose bumps to stand next to those paintings.

Buckingham Palace, where the queen lives, you can't tell from the photo, but the flag is up which means the queen is in the house.

The architecture is throughout the city, no matter which way you look there is something beautiful. In America we think if something is 200 years old, we are amazed, where in London, 200 years is nothing, it has to be at least 1000 years old to be important.

Every building is beautiful..... it's amazing...

Big Ben is on the banks of the Thames River, it is a beautiful place to stand and look at the river and the history it holds.....

Westminster Abbey, this is an amazing site. The history of this structure started before the year of 1045. Imagine standing at a place that is that old and holds that much history.

A view of the Palace of Westminster, The Abbey, and Big Ben from the other side of the Thames River, we took a boat trip down the Thames River to the Royal Navy Academy and the Maritime Museum.

This is the Tower Bridge, not the London Bridge, this is where some of the queen's treasure is stored. It is a striking structure and I love the turq color trim. It's another icon that can be seen from different locations throughout the city.

More architecture, there are so many details in every nook and cranny of the city.

More details......

The flowers in the city are everywhere and they are all spectacular, this was in May so imagine how they must look by the end of the season.

There are three towers on St. Paul's Cathedral, this is one of them, the kids went to the top by climbing 478 steps on a skinny metal stairway, from here you can see the entire city. It is simply amazing!

We were fortunate enough to attend the theatre while in London, one was the Lion King and the other was Mamma Mia. This was right before Momma Mia had hit America, we had heard about it but that was really about it. If you travel to London, definitely go to the theatre, another amazing experience! At intermission we ran into one of the kid's teachers from our school. Can you believe that? Seven million people and we run into someone we know while in London.

One of the most intriguing place we visited was Hampton Court Palace, this is where Henry the VIII lived with his seven different wives, not at the same time but one at a time as he had them executed for different reasons. This was one of the most beautiful places we visited. The grounds and gardens are simply unbelievable.

Madison and Uncle James in the King's personal gardens.

This is one of the courtyards of Hampton Court. As you walk through the castle, again you are reminded of the history you are walking upon and you try to imagine what it must have been like in the days of Henry the VIII as all of the servants and royalty wandered through the grounds.

The wisteria in the back ground is real. It was a long tunnel of bright yellow that seemed to never end. I will never probably see wisteria as beautiful as this again.

The entry into Hampton Court Palace..... Amazing......

More of those beautiful flowers that line every street.

Another view of St. Paul's Cathedral......

The red phone booth is definitely an icon we are all familiar with when it comes to London, these are on every street throughout the city.

The graphics are on each building in the city are a work of art, with each one being individual to the business that it houses.

Not only is the architecture some of the most beautiful things I have seen but there are many things that are painted as well. The artistry in this city is over the top.

Loved the side of this old building, it had some familiarity to it that related to America.

One of the gates in the Lincoln's Inn Way. Like I said the artistry covers every part of this most magnificent city. There are so many things to see and do, no matter where you go the history surrounds you and wraps itself around you like a blanket.

This trip was one of the best experiences of my life and the life of my children. I would definitely suggest you take a trip there some day if you have not been.

My tips for traveling to London would be:

1.) Study the map of London before arriving, it will help you to navigate around quicker during the day when you are trying to find things you are going to see.

2.) If possible, stay in a hotel with a concierge, they are very helpful, if you have questions they know the answers.

3.) Buy an Oyster card for riding the "tube", you can purchase them for a week, two weeks, a month, whatever you need, this will save you on fare for riding the tube, and you won't stand in line to enter, just swipe your card and on you go.

4.) Wear comfortable shoes, you will be walking MILES a day. Just a walk to the "tube" is several blocks.

5.) Study the "tube" map, this will help you to navigate throughout the city. It only took us about two days to get use to how the tube works and to get from one place to another.

6.) Take a good camera, there are so many things to photograph, you may not get another chance to get back to London.

7.) If you need postcards, there are many souvenir shops throughout the city, they are cheap, the hotel can mail them for you.

8.) Wear black, for two reasons, one being it is the most popular color for clothing in London, you will fit in with the locals better. Second reason, it doesn't show as much dirt, the tube produces a black sooty powder from the rails and it seems to be throughout the city, white or light colors will show up on your clothing especially when you are walking all day long touring the city. Don't wear open shoes or flip flops, you feet will be black by day's end.

See something at the theatre, take lots of money, water is bottled in London and it is expensive, a bottle of water, which is the size of a wine bottle, is 4 pounds 50, which is around $8 in our money. You drink lots of water because you walk everywhere you go, so water becomes a big expense.

They do have toilet paper, someone told us to bring our own, that was not true, and the bathroom is called a lieu or water closet. There aren't many public bathrooms and if they are public you need coins to use them but if you are eating or touring any sites, those places have restrooms free of charge, so make sure and use the restroom whenever you see one, it may be along time before the next one comes along.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip, we cant wait to go back. There are so many things to see, my suggestion is to stay for two weeks, the first week you can get familiar with the city, the tube and the sites to be seen, the second week I would spend exploring the little shops which line every back street of London. It's like a treasure hunt, never knowing what is behind the next alley way.

If you are planning on going soon, shoot me an email if you have any questions I can help you with. I have tons more information on London and Uncle James, who is an expert on the subject, would be happy to share any information that would be helpful. Hope you enjoyed your virtual trip to London as much as we enjoy discovering London!!


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