Friday, May 20, 2011

Last Day...

CG's last day of kindergarten was yesterday. It was a great day. They had a pj party and watched tangled. :) We love that movie!!

For me, I've been having the feeling that you feel after you run a great race and it's suddenly over. It's been quite a race, but all the ups and downs don't matter because we finished! :) I'm so grateful for that and so grateful for C's wonderful teacher. She is so amazing.

Here's one of my favorite stories that C wrote this year. I'm not sure what it is about it that makes me smile when I read it. It's so very simple - maybe it's the suspense factor - how it builds up and builds up until whamo. I don't know, but I love it.

I think the other reason I like it so much is because of the illustrations - the chocolate chips keep diminishing and diminishing - so cute...We'll miss kindergarten and all of it's charm, but we're excited that C is maturing and growing in so many wonderful ways!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Our Trip to England & Wales Part V: Last one!!

Well here I am again. :) And here's our final travel log for our trip to England and Wales.

On Tuesday we got up and decided to go get some breakfast and head over the Buckingham Palace for the horse-guards parade and changing of the guards. We inquired at the consier's desk in our hotel and he said it started at 10 and we had thought it didn't start until 11 (and it was 9:30 when we inquired) so we decided to hurry and go over there before breakfast. We hopped on the bikes and rode down there. We saw the guards at horse-guards first and there was no action going on so we figured we had missed it (we didn't get there until around 10 after 10). It was fun to see the guard on the horse there. I guess they have special horses that can stand there for 4 hour shifts, perfectly still. Pretty amazing, huh?
So we walked through Jame's park and the green park over to Buckingham palace. We must have looked pretty lost at one point because this old gentlemen came up to us and asked us if he could help. His name was Don. He was an old Englishman and it turns out he was an expert on Brittish history. He started talking and there was no stopping - he just had a wealth of information about the Brittish flag and all the ceremonial stuff that went on during the changing of the guards. He told us how to tell where the queen was staying because she had a special flag that was flown. And how to tell which car she drives because it has no license plate. And other really interesting stuff like that. He explained the correct way to hang the Brittish flag and how he noticed that it was actually hung wrong on some of the streets in preparation for the royal wedding. He explained all about what would happen at the royal wedding - I guess the ceremonial stuff is the same at every one. Anyway, it was really neat talking to him. He was such an interesting gentleman - I could have talked to him for hours. As it was he spent about an hour and a half with us taking us around and showing us the parades and giving us a history lesson. His daughter is an administrator in charge of one of the bands that plays during the ceremonies and he told us about a practice they were having at 2:00 a.m. in preparation for the royal wedding. Anyway, we were very glad that we came early (it turns out it really didn't start until 11) and happened to run into him. It made this part of our trip so much more interesting and fun. If we had just done what we had planned to do and go to horse-guards and the changing of the guards, we would have missed one of the highlights of our entire trip.

Here's Buckingham Palace
Here's a picture of some of the special set-up they had in preparation for the royal wedding. Normally the grounds are just kind of a park that you can wander around, but they had this structure put in place for the news crews and other people broadcasting the royal wedding.This is Charles I palace - there's a bunch of history about him that Don told us about how he was beheaded because the people rebelled against having a king. And then they didn't like not having one so they went and found one of his sons and made them king and there's been one ever since. I'm paraphrasing and probably messing this up, but that's kind of the idea.Here's a picture of Don. He just looks like a cute, little Englishman, doesn't he? :)
And here's some pictures of the changing of the guards parade.Here's Buckingham Palace in the background.
I loved listening to English accents while we were there. You can here Don's voice in this video telling us all about what was going on.

After we said goodbye to Don we were starving so we decided to go back to Covent garden for some food. We found this yummy yummy pie shop that had these chicken and bacon pies with mashed potatoes and gravy and peas. It was so good eating some real food (after a lot of street food) and it was delicious.
After that we headed over to the British Museum. We weren't planning on going (actually we weren't planning on going to any museums), but we were kind of tired so it was a good thing to do. It is HUGE! We were there for 2 1/2 hours and were going pretty quickly through it. We only got through 1 1/2 floors out of like 5 or more. We saw the Egyptian Mummies and statues. It was pretty cool.

Then we went back to our hotel to rest for a little bit cause we were tired of walking. That evening we went out to dinner at a really cute little Italian Restaurant. I had this yummy pizza and Brandon had pasta. We bought the rest of our souvenirs and found another waffle place for dessert. Yummy! Then we headed back to our hotel and packed our bags and went to sleep.

The next day we got up early and left to catch our subway to the airport. My back was hurting pretty bad after all of the walking. We got to the airport in plenty of time. It was a good thing too because they ended up searching both of my carry-on bags at the security check. Tons of people got searched. It must have been a high-security week due to the Royal wedding and everything.
They went through every single item in our bags and took them out and searched it. Crazy. Took like an hour! Anyway, then we found a little place and had omlettes for breakfast. And got on our flight home. It was a really long flight - it seemed to take forever.

Finally we got to Atlanta at what was like 10 p.m. London time. We were pretty tired. we only had an hour and a half layover to begin with but the plane got in late due to some high winds and we had to sit on the plane for another 20-30 minutes after we had landed waiting for our gate to clear. We rushed off the plane as soon as we could (luckily we were sitting pretty close to the front). We went to the passport place to get our passports checked and there were more than a hundred people in line in front of us. We thought we'd never make our flight (as it boarded in only 15 or 20 minutes). Somehow we made it through that line and then still had to go collect our bags, go through customs (luckily we didn't get stopped) and through security (luckily we didn't get stopped again) and then catch a train to the other end of the airport and run to our gate on the other end of the terminal. Crazy! It was after midnight when we finally arrived home. Totally exhausted, but we had the best time! Thanks, Brandon for a wonderful 10 year anniversary trip and thanks for the last wonderful 10 years!! :) I Love you!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Our Trip to England & Wales Part IV

Back again...

On Sunday (Actually it was Easter Sunday) we had a wonderful breakfast on the china tea set that they brought us at the hotel. We felt very English :). Of course we didn't have tea (we don't drink it), but we enjoyed milk, muffins and fruit that we had bought at the grocery store the night before.
After that we began our long walk to church (I think it was 2 or so miles - a bit uncomfortable in my non-walking shoes). We made it about an hour before the meeting started so we decided to go to the Natural History Museum which was right across the street. We figured it'd be a good thing to do on a Sunday since it was free and we could study about "things that are in the earth, and upon the earth ". :)

The museum had this really cool escalator that took us up through the middle of the "earth".
Here's just a few of the pictures we took inside the museum.

After that we went to church and enjoyed the wonderful meetings there. The people were very friendly and really made us feel welcome. Here's a picture of the LDS chapel in London.
After that we went to the Science museum to study more about "things that were above the earth". It was also free and right next to the museum of natural history. Here's a few pics of that.
Then we walked back to our hotel. Here's a little tiny car we found on the way.We stopped and went inside this beautiful church - we actually wanted to go to a singing service in one of the cathedrals to hear the lovely music, but they were all during our church block.
So instead we went back to our hotel and had a rather quiet evening. It was actually really nice after our busy week.

Monday morning we got up and rode bikes over to Portabello road. We got there a little early before most of the shops had even opened, but we found some yummy waffles and crepes for breakfast. The waffles we got at a wafflemeister shop - they had strawberries, whipped cream and belgian chocolate drizzled on the top...yum!
The crepes had strawberries and nutella - they were really good too.
We bought a few souvenirs on Portabello rode and then biked over to Paddington station. We mostly just wanted to see it, but while we were there we found some sausage rolls that came highly recommended that we picked up for lunch.
From there we rode over to Picadilly circus and Trafalgar square.

Then we walked by St. Martins in the field chapel and they happened to be having a piano concert right then so we got to go listen to it. It was a lovely setting and the music was beautiful.
After the concert we rode bikes to covent garden where they had lots of street performers and stuff. It was a fun place to walk around and see. Here's an opera singer that was doing a performance. He was good! There were also unicycle riders and other more humorous performers. There was this old man singing and playing the guitar.
Brandon gave a little performance of his own.We also went inside the royal opera house - which was beautiful. Sorry for the blurry picture
I guess I haven't mentioned the royal wedding. Yes we were there the same week, but we left 2 days before. There were a lot of this decorated for it and stuff. Here's an example - this building was wrapped up like a present.
After that we rode bikes/walked to waterloo station and then over to the borough market. Unfortunately by the time we got to borough market it was after 5:00 and those places kind of shut down at 5:00. We ended up riding on 2 different bike stretches (about an hour of riding) back to our hotel and then another bike ride over to Taza's again where we ate for dinner. We also visited the same delicious gelato shop for our last enjoyable gelato in London.

As you can tell our days in London were completely and utterly exhausting. We walked/rode bikes the whole time, but it was a blast. There's so much we were able to see that I never would be able to include it all on this blog, but this gives you the highlights at least. Well that's all for now. I think the next post will be my final one for our trip. Sorry if you are already bored!!! :0)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Our Trip to England & Wales Part III

Friday morning we got up and had another huge English breakfast and then drove to London. We were feeling a lot more confident about the driving and did pretty good until we missed the turn off the motorway to Birmingham. One thing that is very different about driving there is if you miss a turnoff, there's usually no second chances. It's very unforgiving. But it's okay, we managed to find another way too get to the airport without having to go through central London (fortunately!). Once we were at the airport, we dropped off our rental car and hopped on the tube, which took us to our hotel near Hyde Park. We walked with our luggage about 1/2 mile (which seemed like a lot longer) to our hotel and checked in. Here's a blurry picture of Brandon walking in the tube station where we got off.
Then we decided to go find some dinner. Some friends had told us about a good place to eat called Taza's which was fairly close to our hotel so we headed in that direction. We went through Hyde Park and found a bike station that I had researched before our trip. They're called Barclay's Cyle Stations and you can rent the bikes with your credit card. As long as you keep all your trips under 30 minutes, it's only a pound a day per bike. So we rented 2 of those and started off to Taza's. We got turned around a few times, but finally made it there. We had chicken shwarmas and freshly squeeze carrot juice - yum! It was delicious. And a very popular place - we waited in line for a little while... But they were worth it! We ate them in Hyde Park.
Then we got a couple of more bikes (we had dropped our other ones off before we got our food) and went up a few streets to a place called Gelato Mio. They had delicious Gelato there and all different kinds. I wanted to try a scoop of each flavor they had! But I settled on just two. YUM!! :)
Here's me on one of the Barclay Cycles:
If it looks like I'm having a blast it's cause I was. We loved riding the bikes around London.
It was the perfect way to travel, cheap, but a lot faster than walking and we weren't stuck underground missing the charm of the city. After the Gelato we got a couple more bikes and rode back to our hotel.

The next day we got up and decided to start out at Tower Hill and make our way back to the hotel, seeing sites on the way. We decided to ride a bus out there so we tried to figure out the bus to get on. It was a lot harder than it sounds. It took us 2 hours before we finally figured it out! They had construction all over the place and the bus stops weren't listed exactly, just generally so you had to walk until you found the right one. Anyway, after much ado, we finally found the bus and got on it. The bus ride was fun - we got to ride on the top level of the double-decker bus. We snapped pictures as we went and got to see a lot of London that way. Then we made it to Tower Hill and saw the Tower of London
and walked across the Tower Bridge.
It was neat. On the other side we saw the HMS Belfast ship docked in the bay.
Then we walked over to Southwark Cathedral. We went inside and it was beautiful! They let us walk all around. Beautiful place.
Then we went to the Borough Market. We loved this market! They had everything from produce stands
to aged cheese shops
They had exotic meats like Ostrich Eggs
And this really yummy freshly-squeezed orange juice maker.
They even had (and my Dad will appreciate this one) a Gluten Free Bakery!!
Borough Market is probably not on most people's list of favorite attractions in London, but it definitely was on ours! What a fun place!! The only thing disappointment was that we had already eaten and weren't hungry enough to try everything we saw. We did try the orange juice and a few other things though. :)After that we walked by the London bridge
and got on some bikes and rode over to St. Paul's cathedral. We walked all around it, but didn't pay to go inside - we walked inside the entrance and peaked around. It was also a very beautiful place.
Then we hopped on some more bikes and rode over to the Houses of Parliament (Big Ben):
and Westminster Abbey
On the way we also rode near the London Eye.
Then we rode back to our hotel, and went and got some dinner and walked around some of the streets, did a little window shopping and bought some souvenirs and stuff. It was a fun day.

And once again, that's all I have time for today. Hopefully I'll be able to finish this at some point!! :)