Last night we arrived home after a few days in London. I absolutely adore London. It is always wonderful, however, to be back to the quiet, slow pace of the island after the frenzy of the city.
Our trip started with a bumpy ferry ride. Bumpy is putting it mildly. They should have had a thrill ride sign at the ticket office with one of those height requirement measuring sticks. The captain told us it would be rough because of the choppy seas and big swells. This was an accurate description but he failed to mention the feeling of being airborne that we encountered. Poor Miss Judy had such a look of terror on her face while Elise clung to my arm. Anne and William, on the other hand, had their arms in the air yelling, "Look! No hands!" and were squealing with delight. We were so thankful when it finally calmed down but William turned to me and said, "I wish he would make it go again." The ride was so rough, Emme got sick.
Once in London, we were quite a sight maneuvering through the Tube and crowded streets. There were eight of us with three suitcases and assorted backpacks. We had booked rooms on laterooms.com and had gotten a good price so there was no telling what we are getting ourselves into. We were pleased with the results. The rooms were small but the place was clean and the location was decent. We ignored the rain that began to fall and trudged ahead. Thankfully, it was only a passing shower and the kids were able to enjoy the Diana Memorial Playground again. It is the BEST playground in the WORLD! The designers took the park in Kensington Gardens and added other elements of nature to give the kids' imagination a boost. No bright plastic. Everything is wood, stone and plants. Next, we squeezed in a quick tour of Kensington Palace. This is the palace Queen Victoria lived in as a child and Diana also lived here. After that, we headed to Harrod's, another playground of sorts. The kids visited their favorite departments which in addition to toys, include the amazing bathtubs, the pianos, the Pacman machine you can play for free and the 24-carat gold bars for sale.
On Friday, we took the train about 35 minutes out of the city to tour Hampton Court Palace which has been home to several monarchs, most notably Henry VIII and William III. The latter is better known to us Americans as the William of William and Mary. There are five palaces in and around London that make up the Historic Royal Palaces. We have been to the Tower of London, Kensington Palace and now Hampton Court. They all do a fabulous job of making your visit enjoyable and educational, especially for families. We toured the apartments of both Henry and William using audio guides geared towards the kids. They enjoyed it and we, the adults, learned a lot as well. The rooms as well as the gardens were stunning. It boggles the mind to think that such historic figures walked the same ground. The shops have anything and everything you could imagine with the likeness of Henry VIII, including a Russian doll set of him and his six wives. I didn't check to see if they had their heads or not. Might be a scary way to teach kids this bit of history.
Saturday morning, we went to the playground one last time. The last visit we arrived just 30 minutes before closing so the kids had been asking for more time to play. We headed home via the Waterloo train station. I was thrilled when I realized that one of the two shops I wanted to visit was just minutes from the station. It is called I Knit London. With my new found hobby, how could I resist? I bought a book about knitting toys and some yarn to make this adorable gingerbread man. Just before we got on the ferry to head home, Elise said, "Mama, I not going on the ferry." I think Miss Judy felt the same way. Thankfully, the ferry ride back was smooth sailing.
Today, we spent the day packing up Mark and Miss Judy. Mark is going home for some meetings so we are taking the opportunity to send home as much stuff as possible. He was able to coordinate his trip home with his mom's leaving tomorrow and his brother's coming next Monday. We are sad to see Miss Judy go. We had such a great time, despite the rainy weather. It is nice to know another visitor won't be long.
Time to hunker down with the kids, clean the house and get as much school work done as possible. It could be a long week, if it rains. Wish me luck.
PS. I tried and tried to upload a photo but it was taking forever. I will add photo albums of Austria and this London trip to Facebook. Check them out, if you get a chance.