Posts Tagged ‘london’

Off to the Tower!

May 27, 2014

Hello again – I’m back! That’s a nasty bug Babess has been sharing around, but I seem to have collected the worst of it. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I’m on the mend again now, and ready to write up some more of our adventures.

Let’s wind the clock back to Thursday, when The Dad fell ill early in the morning, poor love.  I hustled the children out of the room as quickly and quietly as I could after breakfast, and left him to rest and sleep it off while we visited the Tower of London.

I’d never really thought about it very hard, and must never have seen pictures, because in my mind the Tower of London was one tower.  I knew the Crown Jewels were there, and some ravens were around it, but I suppose I thought you could do the whole thing in an hour or two.

Wrong.  It’s well worth a full-day trip.  It’s a whole castle complex, with lots of different towers and a mediaeval palace as well.


For some reason I hadn't expected to see an elephant either! (This one's made of wire mesh).

For some reason I hadn’t expected to see an elephant either! (This one’s made of wire mesh).


Ever since he heard we were going to London and he did some reading, Fainjin has wanted to see the ravens at the Tower.  He was well rewarded for his patience in waiting most of our week there, as the ravens were hopping around and very much in evidence.

We had stopped at the Welcome Centre and been given three badges – an “Apprentice Knight” and two “Practising Princess”es, three matching pencils, and three different activity trail books, so we were well set up for a few hours exploring.

First of all we had to see the ravens, so we went straight to their “patch” in the middle of the Tower.  Well satisfied that they were indeed in residence and the Tower was safe for another day, we carried on.  Next was the Mediaeval Palace trail, which had us looking for shield decorations in the King’s bedroom and walking along the castle wall.

The Crown Jewels trail was a little hard to follow in the book, because it was crowded and dimly-lit so we couldn’t keep stopping to read questions or write answers, but we got to see lots of gold and diamonds and regalia.

Finally we enjoyed the “VIP – very important prisoners” trail, which involved hunting for particular pictures in the graffiti left by Tudor prisoners in the Beauchamp Tower.

I could certainly have stayed longer, but the children were reaching the end of their energy, so we stopped in the Ravens gift shop – where we were excellently helped by a wonderful assistant despite the shop being overwhelmed with school groups every few minutes – then headed home.

Just as well, too, because we got caught in a thunderstorm & downpour just 100m from our hostel and were able to sprint for the door without getting too terribly wet!

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Pomp and circumstance

May 22, 2014

We had a royal kind of day today.

We started at Buckingham Palace and regaled the kids with stories of royal weddings and family gatherings on the central balcony.  Then we walked through St James’ Park eating icecreams and admiring the police horses as they passed by.  We could hear a brass band, and see a crowd of people up towards Horse Guards Parade.  We were heading there anyway, wanting to catch the changing of the Horse Guards at 11am.  It was half an hour early at least for the assembly we saw to be that… and in any case there were very few horses.

A knowledgeable gent standing nearby told us we were watching an early rehearsal for the Trooping of the Colour, “just the foot regiments today” but still about 950 of them including the brass bands.  It was most impressive, and we watched for a good 45 minutes.  Babess looked at me at one point and remarked, “They really are very good at standing still!”.

We walked around to Whitehall just in time to catch the end of the changing of the Horse Guards on the other side of the building, so everyone was happy and satisfied.

From there it was on to the Elizabeth Tower (which houses Big Ben, which as Babess will tell you is the name of a bell) and the Houses of Parliament.  Fainjin quite liked the big statue of Richard the Lionheart.

The Thames River Service trip from Westminster to Greenwich takes about an hour and was enlivened by a humorous and informative running commentary from the captain.  It was a most enjoyable way to see several landmarks from a different vantage point and give our poor feet a rest!  We returned to the central city by Docklands Light Rail, which gave yet another perspective and set of interesting views.

My feet are aching.  The children are exhausted.  Tomorrow is our last day in London, and we haven’t even scratched the surface.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Quick days

May 21, 2014

Today we visited the Science Museum.  I’ve always loved its collection of model polyhedra and glass klein bottles, but the children found these only mildy entertaining.  They were vastly more enthusiastic about the interactive area.  Babess helped construct an arched bridge – then happily walked across it; Fainjin was drawn back again and again by the granules of dry ice dropping into a pool of water and smokily whirling across its surface; and Pearl attempted lots of puzzle-type activities.

We also got to see a water-rocket demonstration, which was great fun. It is the last week before half-term (a one-week school holiday) here, and it seems to be the week every school takes a trip within London.  Yesterday we were surrounded by schoolchildren at the British Museum, and today they were all at the Science Museum. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of fun to go around.

As we were walking back to our accommodation to get ready for a playdate & dinner with friends, Babess mused, “The days in London seem to go very quickly.  They go slower at home, but here they go really fast.  Which is strange, because days are the same length wherever you are.”

“Perhaps it’s because our days here are really busy,” I suggested, “they seem to go faster.”

“Mmmm,” she said neutrally, clearly not giving that idea much credence. But she wasn’t overly concerned.  “We’ll probably get used it in a little while.”

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Better watch out…

May 20, 2014

Today we spent much of the day at the British Museum, one of my very favourite places in London.

We started off at the Rosetta Stone, which Fainjin quite liked because he can write his name in hieroglyphs and finds it odd to think that people didn’t always know how to do that.  His class studied myths and legends last year, so he had funny comments about some of the statues in the same room – there were several Horus falcons, of which he remarked, “I thought Horus was the one with the smurf hat…”

No smurf hat.

No smurf hat.

One of the things I really like about Twitter is the contact with some amazing people – and one of my twitter-friends is an Egyptologist who has spent lots of time in the museum!  She gave me some real-time tips on what to see and where to look, which was great fun – rather like a treasure hunt.

I could spend hours looking at the Sutton Hoo treasure, but the kids were only interested in the 2-minute video showing how the ship was buried, so we wandered on.  The Egyptian mummies were a big attraction, but the thing Fainjin liked most was the mummified crocodile.

We were all entranced by the Assyrian Lion Hunt friezes, and Babess was very sad.  “Why are they killing lions?” she asked.  “Do they eat them?” We assured her that the lions weren’t being killed for meat, and she found that incomprehensible.  “They were killing lions because they [the lions] were big and strong,” Pearl suggested.  Babess found that simply outrageous.  “That‘s not a reason!”




We decided to move right along…

The crushed head of a lady from Ur, with fancy headdress still entangled, was grotesquely fascinating.

The kids were itching to spend some of their pocket money in the museum’s excellent gift shops, so we eventually made our way out through halls of Greek vases.  Babess asked where Herakles was, and I was able to say “right here!” as we had stopped next a vase depicting him and Apollo.

“You’d better watch out,” Fainjin cautioned us, “… they forgot to put their undies on.”

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

London Calling

May 19, 2014

Well, here we all are!  It was an eventful trip, with an unplanned stop in Iceland due to malfunctioning toilets on our plane (ugh!), plus Babess picked up a tummy bug and threw up from Vancouver to Keflavik to London.  She’s better now, and we’re all slowly adjusting to the time zone.  I could wish the children would adjust a little quicker – a jet-lagged child is a terrible thing, and three of them together are hideous.  (Much as I love them).

It is amazingly warm and sunny in London at the moment, which is about as good a cure for jetlag as there is, so we spent the day yesterday out and about as much as possible.  Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square… At St Martin in the Fields we took refuge in the cool of the crypt and the children all got to try out brass rubbing.  It was the perfect quiet afternoon activity for a tired family.

I have photos, of course! but I haven’t transferred them to my computer yet.  As my own brain fog starts to clear I’ll get more organised about writing these updates.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Museum fatigue

May 31, 2011

“It’s very sad,” I said to myself as I gazed wearily about a hall in the Victoria & Albert Museum, “that the human mind seems to have a finite capacity to absorb beauty in a set period of time.”

Plaster cast of Trajan's column, V&A Museum, London

We had been to the Science Museum in the morning.  We all (our friend C was with us) loved Launchpad, an interactive learning area full of very cool things to see and do.  Pearl was less impressed with the Mathematics section, despite the amazing beauty of models like this:

Uniform polyhedra at London's Science Museum

We ate at the museum’s little cafe, then went across the road to the V&A.  We just wandered, looking at all the wonderful things, and gazing open-mouthed at the enormous ceramic collection.

After a while, our brains went into overload and we just couldn’t look at wonderful things any more.  The marble floors (I think?) were making my sore leg ache, too.

So we took the tube and went to Buckingham Palace to see where the Queen lives.  She wasn’t home, so we didn’t knock on the door.  Handy, that flag system.  We collected ice-creams from a kiosk in St James’s Park, and wandered along the lake towards Horse Guards Parade.

We got there at just the right time to see the Changing of the Guard, lots of horses and shouting and Pearl was thrilled.

The Horse Guards, London

And then, worn out but still exhilarated by all we had seen, we scoured some tourist shops for obligatory postcards and SMALL! souvenirs, then took C out for dinner on The Strand.  My ambitions of a show or night-time ride on the London Eye were foiled by general exhaustion and the need to get up early in the morning to get our next plane.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

Almost as far from home as it’s possible to get

May 28, 2011

Pearl and I were very lucky to have a second chance to get together with WhyMommy, and she invited Jessica and Jean and Kristen to join us for tea, donuts and chocolate.  It was a wonderful morning, full of laughter and joy and I got to hold Baby Alice who is very sweet.  I feel blessed to have finally met Susan, we clicked instantly and I feel like I have another best friend!

But now, already, we have left the US and are in London.  The flight over was very bumpy to begin with, but we each got a couple of hours sleep and managed to stay awake to walk around and look at some of the city yesterday afternoon.  The weather was typically unpredictable, with sunshine, thunder, lightning, hail, and torrential rain all taking their turn.

We got to bed at about “bedtime”, and slept through until morning – how wonderful!  Very nice to feel awake and refreshed at the proper hour of the day, especially after such a long trip.

We spent today at the British Museum.  Our friend C, who is hosting us, came along to add local commentary which was great fun.  We picked up an activity booklet on my favouritest-ever exhibit, the Sutton Hoo treasure, and Pearl happily found all the bits and pieces and learned lots.

cool old gold!

Then we wandered through the Roman Britain rooms and through to see some Egyptian mummies – Pearl was keen until she realised she was looking at dead bodies.

We had lunch near the museum with another friend, G, and swapped family news and tales.  Letters and emails are all very well, but it’s more fun to talk in person!  Even if it is only every five or six years…

G accompanied us all back to the museum, where we picked up a children’s activity backpack on Roman Britain.  I cannot recommend these packs highly enough.  When we had finished the Roman one, we went back and got another, this one on South Asia.  Not just Pearl, but we all four of us, learnt a lot about the exhibits we saw, and they have wonderful activities which bring the history and cultures to life.  Pearl made a mosaic, tried Roman sandals, “built” a couple of temples, and learned quite a bit about Buddhism.  At a large sculpture of Siva and Parvati, we had objects to compare to the carvings.  A passing Indian tourist showed us how to play the little cymbals, and was glad to explain the significance of other pieces of the sculpture as well.  Just this one day in the museum probably justifies the 3 1/2 weeks of school Pearl is missing!

Pearl reading the Roman Britain backpack instructions

Pearl dressed up as Lord Ganesha for the South Asian backpack activity

We managed to escape the gift shop without too much damage, startled to discover that it was nearly 7pm by the time we got home. Now it is already past “bedtime”, and with another very full day planned (probably over-planned) for tomorrow, I had best be off.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

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