Sunday, November 16, 2014

Europe Trip: May 3 to May 9 Part 2

I was very excited to see some things in London like Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, and St. Paul's cathedral. It was fun to see those things, but honestly, they looked just like I'd expect them to look. Like every picture of them you've ever seen: In movies, on TV, on Google. I'm still glad we went to see them. But the time spent navigating around London with Dave and Joshua was just as much fun. I took pictures of a ton of buildings and scenery, but who likes to look through other peoples' pictures of buildings in Europe? That's what Google Images is for.
First off, it doesn't rain often in Utah. When it does rain, we tend to just stay indoors. It rains in London, and did on one of our days walking around. Joshua had a blast playing with the umbrella. Here are a few shots of our rainy day:
 By the Tower and Tower Bridge
 Walking to/across the Tower Bridge
 Wait, what? that's just a building. That's St. Paul's cathedral.
 No, look again. See the teeny red dot? That's Joshua! St. Paul's Cathedral is HUGE!
 OK, OK, here's a building shot, but we actually traipsed up the hundreds of stairs in a tiny, claustrophobic spiral staircase up to the balcony place. (Even though it said pregnant women shouldn't do it.)
We saw the "Saints and Apostles look down as she sells her wares." They were smiling.
See!? Huge.
Unfortunately there were no birds to be fed. That happened later in St. James's Park.

Remember how we packed a bunch of food for our roadtrip to LA and then for our flight over because we thought we wouldn't be getting any Airline food? Well, some of that was PB sandwiches. They were pretty gross by the time we got to London. So we fed some birds in St. James's Park. Those ducks, etc. (so many cool birds!) were not shy. These mallards came right up to Joshua and would snatch the sandwich pieces right out of his fingers. I think they even got his fingers once or twice.

 Then the pigeons came and swarmed us. Such gross birds.
 We sat to rest our feet for a bit while Joshua fed some more birds. These mallards sure were persistent. They knew what was up. "Gimme that food!"
In this park I kept thinking of old videos we'd watch of when my parents went to London when we were little. There were a bunch of swans at a park (not sure if it was this one), and they'd all waddled into the water, and as they'd get in, they'd wiggle their tails a bunch of times. Was it St. James's Park?
Feeding the birds was fun for Joshua. We tried to do a lot of things that were fun for him, that would be enjoyable for us as well.
We all had a lot of fun in Kensington Gardens.
 Joshua noticed that we would do this a lot to maps, so he started showing us where the map went, too.
 We stopped by to see the Peter Pan statue.
 I tried to capture the angle that they get in the end of Hook, but it wasn't quite the right time of day. I'm really glad that we did go see this statue as Robin Williams passed away later this year.
 Just open space to run was all Joshua really needs. We ended up getting a little bit lost in this one. It's SO BIG! How do people live without giant landmarks like mountains.
 We went to the Diana Memorial playground, and had to wait for about half an hour to get in. They just monitor how many people are in there at once so it's not completely swamped. We thought it was pretty cool, but then we knew it was awesome once we turned the corner and saw this beauty:
 A giant pirate ship!
 Joshua had so much fun climbing around on it...
 and in it...
 and watching other kids do things he couldn't quite do yet.
He waited for his turn at the steering, then I'm pretty sure he ran us into a few other boats, maybe some cars.
Here's a random one: Someone had left their dog outside of the park, tied to the fence. That dog was bound and determined to get free. He was gnawing and gnawing at that leather strap on the leash.
Wow, there is still so much to write about. This might be a 3 or 4 part series. I'll end it with another picture from John & Christin's house in the evening. After a long day of exploring London, we let Joshua veg-out and watch a movie (Planes? Frozen?) on the tablet.

Europe Trip: May 3 to May 9 Part 1

Frankly I don't remember what day we did what, in what order, and how long it took us and what we ate, and it's not really that important. This is the time we spent in England. We stayed with our friends John and Christin Whitton and their two little ones in their little apartment in Chigwell. They were there for a year for John's school. It was so much fun to see them, and I think we stayed up late talking every night even though we were all exhausted. Then Joshua would stay up even later, struggling with jet lag, and crawl all over us while we tried to sleep on an air mattress in their living room. Christin was starting a new "diet" which avoided animal products like milk, eggs, and cheese, as a protest to the animals' living conditions. Unfortunately that's just about all we eat, so we stocked up her fridge with all sorts of delicious dairy and eggs. She did make this delicious granola that John said tasted, "like old people." I thought it was fine.
Most of the days we were there, we'd take the Tube into London and see the sights. We got Oyster cards, but didn't end up getting a week pass because one or two of the days we were there we didn't end up going into the city, so it wasn't really worth the extra cost. We went to church with them on Sunday and man, I was sooo jet lagged and tired. I ended up sitting in the foyer for sacrament meeting because it was hot, and I just could not sit in there anymore. Remember now, I was about 7 months pregnant. One nice lady asked if I was OK and I had to explain that I was jet lagged, and pregnant, and tired, but fine.
Christin and her two kiddos were able to come with us to a few things, but her youngest was sick that week, so he was cranky, and Christin was tired, so they didn't end up coming to many things. Mostly because London is not very stroller friendly. There are many tube stations with only stairs. No elevators or escalators. Joshua enjoyed playing with N, but she was in a stage where sharing is not an option, so for several months after coming back, when we'd mention N, he'd say how she'd say, "No! Mine!" We have since seen them again and their friendship has grown past that.
 Here they are playing at a park near their house.
 Dave and Joshua washing dishes together in the cute little kitchen.
 Playing at the toy museum.
 Building (and knocking down) towers at the toy museum.
 Building more towers.
 Pretty sure this tower lasted all of 10 seconds.
 N playing with the magnetic hair for faces at the toy museum.
 Joshua was more interested in the magnets than the hair. To be honest, the hair didn't move around very well.
Later they headed home for nap time while Joshua made us some lunch at the toy kitchen at the toy museum.
Quick side note: Transportation was very pricey in London. We spent probably about $20/day just to use the public transportation. It would have been more if we had used any buses. The weekly pass was not considerably cheaper. One nice benefit about London is that most of the museums are free. If we lived there, we'd probably go to this museum at least once/month. Since transportation was so expensive, we tried to go to one area, and explore the whole area on foot, rather than hopping on and off the Tube to see everything. This meant that there was a LOT of walking. They do say that walking is a good way to get rid of jet lag. Oh our feet ached by the end of the day. Even Dave's and Joshua's. After a day or two, Joshua got carried a lot. Like I said, London isn't stroller-friendly, but maybe some sort of back-pack carrier would have been a good idea.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Sightseeing

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Europe Trip: April 30 to May 2

Road Trip and Flight

On April 30 we were packed up, Monkey was at Christian's house, and we had things in order with our business and home to go on our trip. So we left about mid-day and drove down to Vegas to stay at "Hotel Fleming" with Danielle and Austin. We were able to have a nice visit with them, get a good night's sleep, and head out the next day for California. In California, we stopped at Allen and Alisa's house for lunch and a quick visit, and then Uncle Kent and Aunt Emiko drove us to LAX in our car so they could park it at Allen and Alisa's house while we were gone. Unfortunately Allen, Richard, and Cynthia were all busy and we couldn't see them on our very brief visit. We booked our trip directly from LAX to Copenhagen because it was significantly cheaper than trying to book from SLC. It was also significantly cheaper to drive down to LAX than it would have been to fly. Bonus: we got to see some friends and family on the way.
Just outside of Vegas there are these solar power plants. They have a ton of mirrors reflecting the sun to this tower full of water, which makes the water boil...and create energy. That's about all I know about them (and that might not be 100% correct either). You can google them if you're interested. They are pretty cool.

Let's back up a bit. We got an amazing deal on tickets, so round trip for all 3 of us was only $2000. We opted out of the meals on the plane to save like $50 each, and just packed a carry-on full of food. So we got to the airport, boarded our plane, and took off on our 11 hour flight to Copenhagen. A few hours in, they started handing out food to everyone, including us. So we got crappy airline food PLUS our suitcase full of snacks. I don't think we even opened our suitcase the whole flight. So we were left with a ton of snacks to use throughout our travels. Joshua slept for about half the flight, so we were also able to sleep a bit, which was nice. 
We landed on May 2, then took another short flight from Copenhagen to London. Turns out there was no public transit from that airport, so we took a bus in to Stratford. Also, no one knew where the Chigwell station was, which was comforting. We finally figured out buying Oyster cards, and hopping on the subway to get to Christin and John's house. Being at Stratford station at night was interesting. It's not the greatest neighborhood and some guy got all in my face, but there were security people right there that got on his case about it. 
When we were almost there, I suddenly remembered that it was May 2. "Happy Anniversary" I said to Dave as we struggled to stay awake. It was pretty funny that our actual anniversary was spent traveling and not even knowing what day it was because of jet lag.
We had no way of contacting Christin & John, just their address (SIDE NOTE: If you fly into England, you must know the address and phone number of where you are staying to even get past customs. Thank goodness I had remembered to ask for that before we left.). So we got to their station, and asked the station master where to go from there, and he said that John had been coming by every once in a while to check and see if we had gotten lost. Turns out their house was right across the street from the station, so that was a relief. I don't remember much else from that night except crashing on the air mattress.