14 July 2010

London walking tour

On this day we spent a lot of time walking all over London. This was the same day we were at the British Museum. Afterwards we went to Buckinham Palace and hung out at St. James Park.

Here we are at Buckingham Palace. We didn't bother to come for the changing of the guards at 11am. London is already crowded, and we don't like huge crowds, so the idea of sitting in a crowd stacked 10 people deep to see some soldiers march by with music playing didn't appeal. This above picture is a fun game called, "Where's Karen?"

Elora making her goober face outside of the palace gates.

London is surprisingly not stroller accessible at all. Steps everywhere. Even at their train stations. The same person who designed the subway in Barcelona seemed to design the Tube in London. We'd carry the stroller up stairs, turn the corner, and carry it back down stairs, only to turn the corner and carry it up more stairs... My arms are the size of bazookas now.

Where's Elora? Oliver is playing around the monument. Elora is hiding in the tiny bit of shade...smart girl.

Oliver's hair gets all curly when he sweats and Elora (and us) like to play with it. He was being remarkably tolerant at this point. Normally he freaks out when Elora starts messing with him in the stroller.

Here's Westminster Cathedral, not to be confused with Westminster Abbey. This one is the Catholic church. The other one is the church of England. Which explains why the Church of England charges 15 pounds a person (22 bucks) while the Catholic one is free. Guess which one we went to?

Elora quietly whispered, "Daddy can I go pray in there?" as she pointed at one of the prayer rooms off to the side. Then she ran in and tried out a few different kneeling cushions and laid down like this on it to say a prayer. She came back and told me what she said. More on that in a future post.

Oliver likes the candles. He says, "Foyer! Hot!" (again in a fake Boston accent, must be from Nana's New England side). But he's so cute. We love this picture. He wanted to fold his arms and say a little prayer. Oliver says over and over again... "Thank you for... This day... this day... this day... this day... bees and butterflies, roll choochoos (Elora got him saying that), and AAAAAMMMMEEEEEENNN!"

Old cathedrals are cold. So we sat down for awhile. The kids giggled a lot.

On the way out, the kids started hold hands. It's nice because usually Elora wants to hold hands, but Ollie wants nothing to do with being tugged around by her. So he pulls away and she cries. But today they held hands all afternoon.

Check out this sweet building in the background. It reminds us of the movie Up. A little (well this one is not that little) building in the middle of a huge city. And the name on the truck is Williams. So either this picture is telling us we need to start a trucking business... or maybe we need to have a little old house.

More hand holding kiddies.

This is Westminster Abbey. We didn't feel like spending $50 for all of us to go into a church. I imagine it's really nice. I also imagine it's not a whole lot different than the other 100 churches we've seen across all of Europe... I know, we flew all the way to London, and were too cheap to go see the huge famous church...

Instead, we enjoyed the grounds while eating some ice cream. It's really hard to buy things in London. You're constantly doing the math... "wait a minute, we just spent $13 on 3 ice cream cones!" But it was still lots of fun. Ollie's getting pretty good at eating ice cream cones. Mom was going to share with him, but he horked it down so fast she didn't get much. Should have shared with Elora, she eats much slower.

Big Ben at the House of Parliament. It was a beautiful day.

The kids had fun hanging out on the bridge.

Aren't they cute? We didn't go inside the parliament building, we just walked around outside and enjoyed the views. There was a huge security gate to get in and tons of guards, so we didn't know if visitors were allowed. I guess we could have asked, one of the nice things about London is that everyone speaks English! We didn't take any pictures, unfortunately, but across the street there was a tent city of anarchists who were protesting against everything... even the people who made and sold them their tents.

The kids are enthralled by rivers and boats.

Back around the Parliament. The statue in the background is of Oliver Cromwell. Interesting story, Oliver Cromwell's grandfather changed their name from Williams to Cromwell, which was his grandmother's last name, so his descendent should actually have been named Oliver Williams. Ollie Cromwell-Williams, was a leader in the revolution which overthrew the monarchy, set up a parliament, beheaded the king, and declared the office of king to be useless and they had no more monarchy in England. Until Oliver died. Then a new king came and took power, dug up Oliver's body and had his dead body executed (We're not making this up). Score one for the British Empire! Right after the king was re-instated the great plague came and killed 1/5 of the population of London.

One thing we learned about English history, compared to the Autrian monarchy, is it's pretty messed up. Although the Austrians are probably just really good at glossing over the bad stuff, while the Brits love to sensationalize their past.

The world's largest ship in a bottle?

Here we are at Trafalgar square and the National Art Gallery. We went inside, it was very nice, but couldn't take pictures. It was even nicer because Oliver was taking a nap, so there was no child chasing in the musuem, just a nice time enjoying the paintings.

Afterwards we were hungry and wanted to try a British Pub and get some Fish and Chips. We picked an authentic looking pub, but apparently we're sucker tourists who don't know what authentic British is because everyone who worked there spoke Russian.

Oliver was happy to spin the 10 pence coin around on the table while we waited for food.

Chris got a hamburger with a fried egg on it. Karen got the Fish/Chips. Elora insisted we pray before eating. Oliver started eating his french fries before Elora could start praying and got his tongue burned, which is why he has that awesome face in the background.

On the way home... have you seen a more sad face than that? In Austria and Germany I think 15% of the population is actually employed to clean windows, streets, and train stations. And I'm certain the street sweepers in Austria had to take 4 years of schooling and get certified to do it (no joke). But in the UK, although they have these things called, "stair railings" you're actually not supposed to touch them. If you touch the railing next to a stair, this is what happens when you remove your hand. Ollie didn't like it. We would like to point out that all the stair railings were like this, not just one that the cleaners missed... but we actually don't mind that much since our idea of a good vacation is sleeping in the dirt and drinking out of mud puddles.

Meanwhile, Elora is pretty pleased. It's interesting to compare the different reactions to dirt among the children. Elora is proud of herself, while Ollie is disgusted and appalled.

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