Monday, October 16, 2006

London

Wow, it's been a while since my last post about our vacation. Here's the next leg of our trip (and there are pictures at the end).

After we left Riga, we headed to London. The trip was an adventure all in itself.

We left Riga at 6:00 p.m. with no problem and had a three-hour layover in Stockholm. That ended up being longer because our plane was delayed, but Peter and I were able to run around the small waiting area of the airport while Evelyn and the older kids played games. When we finally made it to London, we discovered that there had been some kind of incident at one of the other airports and so planes were diverted to Stansted, where we were. That meant that the lines for passport control were much longer than usual. Unfortunately, the airport was not prepared for this and only had two people working at the non-EU desk. We watched as people quickly passed through the well-staffed EU line, but Peter was asleep at this point and Evelyn was able to sit with him in a corner. Then midnight arrived and half of the staff went home! We were left with one person at the desk checking passports. But finally, once the EU line was nearly gone, they shifted more people to our line and we finally made it through. What was funny was that our passport stamp was actually one day later than we arrived! We made it to our hotel at 1:30 a.m. and settled down for a good night's rest.

The next morning, we headed to Chislehurst, a town around a 20 minute train ride from London. We stayed there the rest of our time in England at a Salvation Army conference center where they house UK officers who are coming from or going to appointments overseas. It was a lovely large house, and the apartment they let us use had three bedrooms, a large living room, and a full kitchen with washing machine. It was a home away from home, where we could eat a nice breakfast before we headed into London, and then cook a big supper after we returned at the end of the day. And it was only a three minute walk from the train station, so it was a wonderful base for our five days in London.

After we unpacked a bit at the house, we headed back into London for the afternoon. We decided to visit the British Meseum, where there are so many wonders of the world to see. The even had children's guide books you could take that walked you through the collection based on different themes, such as "traveling in Time" and "Hunting for Dragons." Elizabeth had a blast looking at the different artifacts spanning centuries and from around the world. Chris found his own areas of interest, and Peter had a great time with me pointing and saying over and over and over again, "Daddy, what's that?"

The next day, Peter was sick, so Evelyn spend the day at home with him while Chris, Elizabeth and I went to more museums. We started at the Natural History Museum, where Elizabeth was fascinated with the various gems and minerals on display. Chris loved the interactive display on volcanoes, and especially the earthquake exhibit where you stood in a room during a simulated earthquake. We wished Peter had been there to see the dinosaur exhibit, especially the lifelike t-rex that moved and roared at you. From there, we headed next door to the Science Museum, which they found even more interesting. There was so much to see, and we only had two hours left to explore. They spent most of the time in the section that showed about genes and human biology, which had lots of interactive activities and displays that were fun to play around with. They were disappointed when closing time came and they had to head back.

Then next day, Saturday, we felt that Peter was well enough go out, so we took the train and headed to one of the great tourist highlights: The Salvation Army Supplies and Purchasing Department. We couldn't resist the chance to check out some Army books and music. From there, we went to the Imperial War Museum, which was far more impressive than the name makes it sound. They had a moving exhibit on how World War II affected the children of Great Britain. They also had a children's activity about camouflage, and Elizabeth colored a picture which they hung near the activity area. The program leader said that after it was taken down, it would be put into the museum archives, so her artwork has already made it into a famous museum! The activity of the day was beginning to wear on Peter, so we decided to head back to the house.

On Sunday, we decided to let Peter have more time to rest so he and Evelyn spend the day together at the house while the kids and I went into London for the day. We attended church at the Regent Hall Corps. It was interesting to attend a large corps with so many uniformed Salvationists and a big band, but it was Harvest Sunday, so they had a guest band and guest speaker, so we didn't get the full flavour of the corps. After church, we took the Tube to the Museum of London, where they were having a special program that day featuring soldiers and armor from the time when England was occupied by the Romans. Since Chris has an interest in things from that time period, we decided to check it out. After that, it was time for something to satisfy one of Elizabeth's literary interests: a visit to 221B Baker Street, home of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Elizabeth loves the Holmes mysteries and so took great joy in exploring the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It was actually a bit cheesy, with rooms displaying the "bed" of Sherlock Holmes, wax figures portraying scenes from different stories and a guy dressed up as Dr. Watson, but Elizabeth has such a genuine sense of wonder about life that she ate it all up.

From there, we went to Trefalgar Square, one of the famous meeting points in the heart of London. It was crowded with people, but it felt more like a festival than a mob scene. Chris and Elizabeth even climbed up the base of Nelson's Column to stand at the feet of the huge lions. We stopped into the National Gallery, were they had a special exhibit of "Modern Masters" called "from Manet to Picasso." It was incredible to see so many paintings that I have seen reproduced in books, on calendars and coffee mugs. I am a big fan of Monet, and they had about 12 of his works, so I was in heaven. Chris and Elizabeth were more interested in the art from the 13th century, so we took some of that in before heading back to the apartment for the night.

On Monday, Peter was feeling much more like his old self, so the whole family got on the train to enjoy our final day in London. We started off at The Salvation Army's International Headquarters. It was exciting to see the newly-built facility, and we felt right at home when we saw the shield in Estonian on the revolving door leading into the building. Commissioner William Francis had arranged for someone to give us a tour of the building, so we had a real insiders view of this impressive building. Next, the family spoiled me by taking me to the Twinings Tea Shop, which had so many different teas that you don't find in most other places. They even have bins with individual bags of a wide variety of their teas, so I was able to fill a plastic bag with many exotic teas without buying a whole box of each. I could have ended my time in London there.

But we didn't. We headed across town and at the Underground station split up, with me, Elizabeth and Peter going to the Science Museum and Evelyn and Chris going across the street to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Elizabeth and Peter had a blast in the hands-on exhibit area, exploring electricity, machines, bubbles, sound and a bunch of other activities geared for younger ones. At V&A, Evelyn and Chris saw a lot of interesting art, and Chris especially loved the exhibit of samurai armor.

We finished the day by indulging in American junk food that we can't get in Estonia: we had dinner at KFC and desert at Ben & Jerry's. We really love Estonian food, but there is still something about grease and high fat content that we can't let go of ;-)

On Tuesday, after 2 1/2 hours riding a train, then the Underground, then another Underground, then another train, we finally made it to the airport, where we headed off for the next stretch of our vacation.

Below are a few pictures from the trip. Go to this link for lots more.
--Tim

1 Comments:

Blogger Kapten Clark said...

Peter was much sicker than Tim (my darling, but spelling-impaired, husband!) lets on in this post. He was really the sickest I've ever seen him. (Our kids are usually pretty healthy!) So I really thank God that we had the apt. to be in, and not just a tiny hotel room. And also special thanks to Major Tyrrell for arranging it for us!

Thanks also go to Erika's grandmother, who gave us the heads up on the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 10:03:00 AM  

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