Sunday, 6 December 2009

Thanksgiving with the Queen

So she declined our offer. Maybe next time...

We flew out of Naples Wednesday after lunch. We flew into Gatwick airport south of London. From there we caught a train the rest of the way into London. One more trip on the tube (subway) and we were at the hotel. After some quick sandwiches from the restaurant down stairs, which were really good, we were off on the tube again to go see the Lion King. It was good. It was what I expected really. The high parts of the movie were the high parts in the show. The slow parts in the movie... I think I mostly enjoyed watching the kids reactions. The woman who played Rafiki was outstanding.

Thursday we got up early and made our way up the street to get some breakfast and then we caught our tour bus. We toured Windsor Castle, Stone Henge, and Bath. The tour was worth the money. It would have been nice to have a little extra time in Windsor but if we spent to much time there we would have been at risk of boring the kids. They again did really well this trip. They stayed interested and paid attention and asked questions. Stone Henge is impressive when you take into consideration it was started 5000 years ago. I could swear when we were growing up Stone Henge was one of the seven wonders of the world. I just looked and I guess we all just agree the aliens built it because its no longer on the list. The stones were brought there from hundreds of miles away. The vertical stones have a big convex bump on the top. The horizontal stones, on top, have a corresponding concave hollowed out spot so the stones "lock" in place. Aside from aliens there are some pretty reasonable explanations. Bath is a city on top of some hot springs. The early settlers channeled the water into pools. The Romans when they came in built bath houses. There were cool pools, warm pools, and steam rooms. The water from the springs is about 100F. The Romans built furnaces to help heat the entire place and some more of the water.
We got back into London around 7:00 PM. At that point we met up with another couple in Piccadilly Circus (like Time Square) for dinner. Fish and chips, steak,... not Italian...

Friday morning we slept in a little then went to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We didn't get there quite early enough so really the kids saw the changing of the guard from our shoulders. There were a number of other couples we knew in London that weekend so all of us walked to Trafalgar Square. We mostly split up for lunch with the thought of everyone being done at the same time and then we would regroup. Instead we proved again that if you don't really have a plan, you're going to waste time. Some where running late so we went into the National Museum but then they were ready so we left. We, 3 families, walked up to West Minster to meet a fourth family. We were told it was about 15 pounds each to get into the Abbey so we decided at that point to walk over to the London Eye. A giant Ferris wheel but the carriages are big glass observation rooms. After the line for tickets it actually worked out to be decent timing. It was about sunset time so during the thirty minute ride we saw the city go from light to night. Good views. If we had it to do all again we would have committed to one thing or the other, the museum or the Abbey. All the museums are free. They take donations of a couple pounds. They have some Monet's and Rembrandt's that I would have liked to have seen, among other things. The Abbey, we read later, should have a family entry fee which would have made the kids essentially free. There we could have seen 1) were they crown the Kings and Queens and 2) the tombs of A LOT of very historical people. Generals, poets, Kings, etc. Next time...

Saturday we started off by going to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels. The Tower of London itself has some history too. Old quarters, prisons, defence of the city and beheading. Most of the tour was narrated by a Beefeater. At one point they served a military like purpose of guarding prisoners and the crown jewels. Now they are the tour guides. They still live in the quarters within the walls. Now they are retired E-9's (Sargent Majors/ Master chiefs) and Warrant Officers. After that we went to the Natural History museum and the Science museum. Again free. Of the most memorable, space exploration (satellites, Hubble, space station, moon landing), flight, and dinosaurs. Lots of dinosaur bones.

Sunday we tried to go back down to Harrods. The Brits apparently don't take Christmas shopping as serious as we do. They were closed (didn't even open until 11:30). At that point we got ready to go to the airport. We took a bus up to Stansted Airport and then flew back into Naples.
London is very New York City like (with some extra history and royalty...). Definetly worth going to. I would expect to go again while we are here. I'd like to go for just a couple days. Enough to see another Broadway show and to get back to a museum or two.

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