Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pauline and Clem in London

The last of the visitors. Liam's parents, Pauline and Clem, have arrived in London to begin their 5 week trip in Europe. Once again it is great to have visitors. Our 5m by 4m flat is once again full to the brim.

Mum and Dad arrived on Thursday and made their way to Kings Cross via the tube. We met them there on the platform after taking the afternoon off work. That afternoon we did the truly English thing and stopped at the local The Winchester for a couple of swift pints. I don't think Dad could wait to say that he had his first pint in London. On Friday they took the Big Bus tour around the city, did some of the walking tours and the Thames cruise.

So come Saturday there was some serious London pavement stomping to do to see as much as possible. First stop was to drop them off at Green Park to do part of the Big Bus tour they missed the day before and then they joined the changing of the guard walking tour. Once again Kelly and I jumped on the end of the tour and pretended like we belonged. As usual, changing of the guard was packed. Of the three or four times we have seen it I think only once there was a small crowd and it was cold and drizzly. Honestly, the Londoners just plant their asses in a pub as soon as there is a spot of rain.

Once a year, for three weeks, Buckingham Palace is opened to the public while the Windsors are in their Scottish hide away, Balmoral Castle. Fortunately we had tickets to walk through the palace and the gardens. It is an amazing sight to see the working palace.

Leaving the palace we did a walk through Westminster, past the Abbey, Jewel Tower, Big Ben and up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, via a number of pubs. We would have liked to have gone to a Westminster service, but we just missed it. The Motorola Red concert was on and Scissor Sisters were the main act. Starting to head home we catch the always reliable 4 bus through to St Paul's for some night photos and then back on the 4 to home.

There is something wonderful with having visitors in London, although we have seen all the sights before it is great doing it with other people. Maybe it is because they are family.


Come Sunday and the skies had cleared. Today we went to Camden markets to show Pauline and Clem the other side of London. Not everything is high tea and up-market houses! Clem has always shown a liking to sweet things and did his eyes light up when looking at the food area of the markets. Before we knew it we were eating a very rich concoction of chocolate, crepe, strawberry and cream - of the likes not known of before (not even in the great Nutella and banana crepe ordering balls-up in Paris!)

We took the long boat cruise up Grand Union canal to Little Venice, past the London Zoo and Regent's park. There is a nice little cafe moored in Little Venice and we had lunch there. However time got away from us very quickly and the Westminster service was due to start in 20 minutes! Pauline and Clem were going to get a taste of a cross-London tube run.

Now some may curse having to run for a tube and run between the connections to get across the other side of town in record time. There are plenty of obstacles on the way - the Central line and weekend works on the Piccadilly line between Green Park and Earl's Court being some of them. We dashed up to Warwick Avenue on Bakerloo line and with a quick change at Baker Street for the Jubilee line we made it to Westminster on time.

That evening we walked up through SOHO and Carnaby Street before getting back onto the tube at Piccadilly Circus.

As I mentioned, even two days in London is a great time with family. We loved having Pauline and Clem with us for the five days before they headed off to the Cotswolds for two nights.

Click on the photo to see more of London with Pauline and Clem

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hampton Court Palace

Armed with our annual Royal Palaces pass, Kelly and I took a train out west to Hampton Court. The palace and surrounding gardens take up a large portion of land. It was a gorgeous day. We took a picnic lunch to have in the gardens before we completed the hedge maze.

The Tudor, and later Renaiessance, style palace was home to Thomas Wolsey, Archibishop of York and Chief Minister of the King. Henry VIII took over the palace in the 1500s and later it was occupied by William and Mary.

The palace and gardens are very well kept. The kitchens are massive and they could spit roast as many as 6 pigs at one time. The food was lavish and the wine free flowing in the banquet halls. Must be one of the reasons that Henry VIII was a largish fellow in his later years.

It is amazing how all of the pieces fit together throughout English history. Each statue, monument, church, palace we go to all keep mentioning the same names. Every time a guide tells the story of the history of England and London in a slightly different way and all of the pieces fall together. Maybe that is one of the things that keeps it interesting for me.

Our afternoon at Hampton Court Palace was more than enough and as the sun set the lovely burnt sun rays streamed across the buildings leaving a very warm glow.

Click on the photo to see more of Hampton Court Palace.
Hampton Court Palace

Monday, September 04, 2006

Tour of Britan

Pro-cycling made its way to Britan this week. The final stage ended in London with 20 laps around St James park, from Buckingham Palace, up the Mall, along Horse Guard's parade and Birdcage Walk.

We didn't have plans for Sunday, so we made our way down to the park hoping to get a close look at the cycling without the crowds of the Champs Elysses.

It was a fast paced 20 laps, with T-Mobile leading the pack at most stages. There was a pile up on the Mall two laps from the finish but the main contenders were still upright. World Champ, Tom Boonen (hence his rainbow jersey), lurked in the middle of the pack before taking the stage in a dramatic final sprint for the line.

Click on the photo to see more.