Sunday, August 31, 2008

London Adventures Part II

Saturday morning dawned bright and early and we rushed to catch the 9 o'clock train to London. (We always seem to be rushing, even when we plan ahead).

We were going to explore the markets in Greenwich.

It was an easy trip to make...

We took a train from Farncombe Station to London Waterloo. From there were rode the Tube on the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf. Here we changed tube lines and rode the DLR line to Cutty Sark- our first destination of the day.

We enjoyed browsing the markets in Greenwich looking at the artist stalls and antiques. Madison got a first edition book signed by the author.

On our walk back to the station we enjoyed a treat of ice lollies. Here they have two scoop cones that are side by side- it is great!

We left Greenwich and returned to the DLR station and rode the tube back to Canary Wharf. From there it was back on the Jubilee Line to Green Park where we switched trains again and road the Piccadilly line to Covent Gardens. It was another market filled with stalls of bits and bobs. We then walked to Leicester Square and rode the tube (along the Northern Line) back to London Waterloo. From there we took the Jubliee Line to the London Bridge exit where we switched back to a regular train and went to East Cloydon. Upon arriving in East Cloydon we exited the station and road a tram to Ampere Way- our last destination for the day.

We wanted to visit the Ikea store (which is not as cool as the website).
We browsed around the shops- bought small suitcases for Germany and had another gourmet dinner of, you guessed it- McDonalds.

We returned to the tram station where we continued on the tram to Wimbledon. Here we took a train to Woking and changed trains for our final leg home.

Seems that we spent the majority of our day on the train, tube, and tram- we certainly got our moneys worth from our travel card.

Another adventure is done!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bank Holiday in York

Our weekend adventure found us traveling, by car, on a 4 hour trip to historical York. Since Monday was a bank holiday, we were able to spend Sunday and Monday together as a family exploring the sites and shops of York.

While we had been warned against traveling on a Bank Holiday weekend (traffic was supposed to be horrendous - it wasn't; crowds were supposed to be unbearable - they weren't) we decided to try our luck and make the best of the weekend together.

It was splendid. We left Sunday morning (later then we expected, but that's what happens when you travel with children) and were on the road by 10am. Lucky for us that we did not leave as planned since part of the motor way in which we were scheduled to travel was completely shut down (special thanks to our trusty navigator - Garmin - which helped us avoid any extra delays). After a stop for petrol and lunch, we arrived at our destination, The Marriott in York, just a little over 4 hours since our departure.

After dropping off our belongings in our room (two queens size beds with fluffy pillows and a cot for Lillian) we set out to explore the city. We rode bus #13 (supposed to be bus #4) the five minute ride to the train station where we walked to the center of the town.

We began our explorations at the beautiful York Minster Cathedral. While normally charged £5.50 per person to visit the Minster, we entered without a fee and had over an hour to explore and photograph the gothic church. It was during our visitation that the Evensong ceremony was in progress and while we were not inside the chapel itself we could hear (through a stereo system) the beautiful choir and monotone sermon.

With my Rick Steven's book in hand (I am so becoming my mother) I presented (what I thought was brilliant) our own guided tour through the minister.

We entered the Minster at the tourist entrance on the south end of the cathedral (also where you can reach the cathedrals undercroft and tower). We proceeded through the nave (the widest Gothic nave in all of Europe) toward the west doors. Here we examined the statue of St. Peter holding a key and a bible (representing that the key to Heaven is through the word of God) and the list of bishops (unbroken) dating back to the 600's.

The north transept (made in 1260) is dubbed the Five Sisters and is dedicated to all of the British women who died in the wars. This piece is made up of over 100,000 pieces of glass.

Looking down toward the west doors, on the right side of the nave is a dragon statue. Perched high on a pillar, 2/3 the way down the right side, it is thought to have been a mechanism to raise the lid of that baptismal fount (Madison and I just thought it was neat).

The choir screen, at the east end of the cathedral, is lined with the English Kings starting with William the Conquer to Henry VI. Past the screen is where the last daily mass is held (evensong). At the completion of the service, we were able to explore this area and see up close the intricate word carvings.

Monuments (not graves) of the dead are located at the east end of the cathedral. This is also where massive restoration is being completed to restore the masonry and stained glass. 80% of the masonry of the cathedral is original to the building and 20% has been replaced due to decay.

(This is a picture of the stained glass of the East Window that is being refurbished.)

We left the Minster and continued our Aliza guided tour on the Wall Walk.
We began our walk outside the south entrance of the Minster at the Roman Column, directly across the street from the statue of Constantine (the exact spot where he was crowned emperor). Continuing past the Minster and the west doors, we traveled down the narrow lane to Bootham Bar (one of the four gates of York's medieval wall).

We walked along the top of the wall to the far corner of Monk's Bar where we descended the narrow stone steps back to the street. We crossed under the portcullis and examined the 15 arrow slits of the building where archers used to protect and defend the entrance.

With the completion of our walk we began to seek food for dinner. We passed many old fashion pubs but just as in Liverpool, had missed the time where they were allowed to serve children. So we enjoyed another gourmet meal of... McDonalds (Madison and Rob are in heaven with the amount of times we have eaten at McDonalds since arriving in our new home).

After our supper of chicken sandwiches, fries and cold cokes, we returned to the Minster for our final adventure of the evening... A Ghost Walk.

Madison needed to be reminded (quite frequently) that the stories she heard were only stories.

We paid our small fee and joined the crowd at the west doors of the Minster for our journey. It was fun to hear the "ghost stories" of the area. It was more story telling and history then masks and surprises. We walked from the Minster, stopping at the school house (painted an ugly shade of mauve), to the Treasurer's house, past an old church and tenements flats, and ending at the square outside of the Shambles. It was a quaint and informative 90 minute experience.

Then we took Bus 4 (we rode the correct bus this time) to our hotel where Madison and Rob enjoyed an hour in the pool together (Lillian and I went to bed).

Monday morning dawned dreary and damp but it did not stop us.
We quickly packed up and enjoyed a traditional cooked English Breakfast (sausage, bacon, waffles, omelets, fruits, cheese, and a cuppa tea) before heading back into the center of York.

We chose to forego the bus and walked into town (it was only about a 20-25 minute walk and we would have had to wait that long for a bus to come).

With my trusty Rick Steven's book in hand (again), I read aloud the other attractions of interest and we decided to head to the York Castle Museum for the morning.

We strolled down the re-created Kirkdale street, complete with two costumed guides, and looked at exhibits of clothing, toys and shops of the era. There were re-created rooms of the 17th-20th century and an area explaining how York castle had been used as a prison. There is even a newer exhibit dedicated to the 1960's.

It was a lovely 2 hours that ended with ice cream cones at the base of Clifford Tower (the ruins of the 13th century castle).

We left the museum and headed to the acclaimed shops on the Shambles (once the street of the butchers). The small specialty shops offered a variety of goods from wooden statues to homemade fudges and toffees. We spent the remainder of our afternoon wandering down the different lanes, popping into shops of interest.

Then it was time to return to the hotel and travel the 4 hours home (we had been warned that bank holiday traffic could make the trip take up to 7-8 hours). Luckily we had an easy trip back to our flat (just at 4 hours plus an hour stop for supper and petrol).

York was lovely and we all voted it better than London.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time, in the far off land of Godalming, there lived a petite princess named Lillian.

Princess Lillian lived with Queen Mummy, King Daddy, and Princess Madison in the family castle of 14 Surrey Cloisters.

Each day, Princess Lillian like to swing in the morning as she “spoke” to her subjects.
aka: babbling to her baby and cuddle.

After conducting her important business, Queen Mummy would dress her for the day and then let her play with her favorite things- like her royal library and ball.

Playtime ends when Princess Lillian gets grumpy. Then it is time for morning snack- rice cereal. The princess has just entered the world of solid foods this week.

While her royal highness awaits her meal, she enjoys tummy time with the courts Lion.

Lunch time!

"What are you doing?"

"Yuck, King Daddy, what is this stuff?"

"Hey, this is not too bad!"

Wash it down,Princess Lillian!

Finally it is time for Sister Stories with Princess Madison before heading down for a nap.

Good night Princess Lillian. Sweet Dreams!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bowling in Guildford

For an outing during summer holiday, Madison, Lillian and I joined our friends, Freya and her mum Becky, for a game of bowling.

It was traditional 10 pin bowling with computer scoring. It is the same as bowling in the states- including the ugly shoes.

With the help of bumpers and a ball shoot, Madison and Freya enjoyed bowling together . Lillian slept the entire time we were there. (amazing the child can sleep in a crowded and loud bowling alley).

Madison had 3 spares and Freya scored her first strike. This was only her second time bowling, (Bowling does not seem very popular in the UK).

Final scores:
Freya 89
Madison 77
Aliza 82
Becky 74

After bowling, we went to Stokes Park in Guildford for a picnic and play.

It was a great day!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Relaxing Weekend at Home

We rode the train into Guildford to do a bit of shopping.
It was nice to pick up a few bits and bobs on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Sunday we played Rounders in the park. It is the British equivalent of baseball (shorter, heavier bat, soft round ball, no gloves).
We took turns bowling (pitching) and rotated playing the field and batting.

By no means was it an organized game but we had a lot of fun.

We played with Jim and Emma (the owners of HGL), their 8 year old daughter Bethan and another couple Paula and Gary and their 8 year old son George.

After Rounders, we relaxed over a cuppa tea and Jaffa cakes while the children had a bit of play on the playground. Then it was home for supper.

Skinny Lillian is still wearing her 0-3 month clothing but I could not resit putting her in one of her 3-6 month rompers for a day at the park. She looked so cute in her yellow romper and matching hat.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Business Trip to Liverpool

We left early Tuesday morning (6am) to make the 4 hour drive to Liverpool where Rob was completing a project with Rolls Royce. We decided to go as a family since Rob would have the evenings free to spend with us and it would give the girls and I the opportunity to explore another new place.

Liverpool has been voted the Cultural Capital of England for 2008 (yippee).
But we were not staying in Liverpool. We were staying in Bootle (8 train stops from Liverpool Central).

We settled into the hotel with a picnic lunch packed from home and with Rob off to work, the girls and I took a long nap.

Tuesday evening we all went on the train (not far from our hotel) into Liverpool to explore the sites of the area and to help me plan out what I would do with the girls the following day while Rob was working.

We learned that there are many shops and a few museums to visit in the area (like the Liverpool Cathedral) although like all things in England, everything closes at 6pm. We settled for a gourmet dinner at McDonalds (the other restaurants stopped serving children at 7pm).

Wednesday was a terribly rainy day and after spending the morning at the hotel and having lunch at KFC with Rob, the girls and I headed out on the train to Liverpool. Much of our day was spent running from shop to shop to avoid getting soaked.
Despite the rain, we made an amazing discovery....

SUPERLAMBANANAS (statues with a lamb's head and banana tail).
** for all of my Chicago relatives and in memory of my Grandma Joan- the European Cows!

All throughout Liverpool there are 118 of these statues to discover. Each statue was purchased and decorated by individuals and will be auctioned off at the end of the month with the proceeds going to various charities.

Madison and I found 16 of the statues during our exploration of the city and enjoyed looking for them. Unlike the other tourists, we did not have a map of where the statues were located and thus the ones that we found were by sheer accident. The statues were displayed everyone (in the malls, along the sidewalks, in window displays and restaurants).

While we had hoped to find more (Madison's goal was 29) it was great to simply come across one of them as we walked along, rather then trying to follow a dictated path.

Here are the one's we found (names below each picture).


Superlambanana- Port Traits

Boyle Sebastiam and 24 Hour Superlambanana

Superlambanana- Baa Netiz


Superlambanana- I love Granaland

Pete Price's Super Laugh Banana

Superlambanana-Walking Towards the Future

Superlambanana- Friendship Forever

Superlambanana- Petite Fleur


Twinnylambanana 2

Superlambanana- Reflectana

Superlambanana- Baa New World


Wednesday evening we visited Crosby Coastal Park to see Antony Gormley's exhibit "Another Place". One of Rob's co-workers suggested we go there - we did not know what to expect. When we reached the beach, we were surprised to see what looked like people standing still scattered along the beach - even very far off shore. Had it been high tide, I would have been in horror of the thought of these "people" drowning! We soon discovered that the people were statues.

Some details: this exhibit consists of 100 cast-iron statues of life size figures (the artist's own body). Each statue weighs 1300 pounds. The statues are displayed along 2 miles of the foreshore, stretching over half mile out to sea. Each statue is shown at different stages of rising out of the sand, all of them looking out to sea, staring at the horizon in silent expectation. At particularly high tides all the figures will be completely submerged under water.

Seeing this exhibit at the sunset on the horizon was awe-inspiring. It was a truly beautiful site.

Thursday morning we packed to go home and made one final train trip into Liverpool to visit Albert Dock.

First we went to the Merseyside Maritime Museum (Liverpool is a well known shipping area - many large ships such as the Titanic, Lusitania, and several others-were either built, funded, or launched from Liverpool). The museum was filled with exhibits of the different boats and the changes that have occurred in the engines and structures of the ships. This was definitely more of a Rob thing then for the girls. Each of us found something of interest.

Albert Dock is also the location of the famous Beatle's museum, but we couldn't be bothered.

The drive home took a bit longer then we expected due mostly to traffic, a food stop, and trying to find an open petrol station. But we did make it home safe and sound. There was a terrible rainstorm as we were driving but as we stopped for dinner we looked to the sky to see a beautiful rainbow. God is good!!

I can say that it was fun to visit Liverpool and we definitely enjoyed the sites we did see but it is not high on my list of places to return.