Lamppostings

Finding and creating adventures in everyday life.


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London – Day 3 – Day Trip to Oxford

London – Day 3 – July 12, 2019

Waking up was a bit rough after my lack of sleep, but I was excited for this day! We were heading to Oxford which was a bit of a pilgrimage for me. Visiting CS Lewis’ home was something of a dream. CS Lewis has played a big part in how I view the world. The Chronicles of Narnia have particularly shaped my view of God and faith and some of my greatest heroes happen to be a Talking Mouse and a Marshwiggle because of his stories. I also love the Cosmic Trilogy and many of the books he wrote about faith as well as his poetry and letters that he exchanged with various people. Jude’s middle name is Lewis for a reason and I have two Narnia-themed tattoos. It’s kind of a big deal to me.

We headed off to Paddington Station. As we were getting closer, it looked like time was running out to catch our train. At one station, the doors were closing on the carriage and I physically held the doors open while the boys got on. A definite no-no, but I was impressed with my strength! I have Ally at BodyRock to thank for that!

We made it to Paddington with a couple of minutes to spare so decided to get some breakfast at McDonalds, waiting for the hashbrowns to cook almost made us miss the train! Should have gotten up earlier and eaten at Gregg’s!

We had a lovely train ride to Oxford. I love trains. You have freedom to move around and do stuff and I don’t get sick!

When we got to Oxford, we walked into the city center. We went through the covered market, past the Bodleian, and under the Bridge of Sighs. I kept expecting Inspectors Morse or Lewis to appear, though that would mean that someone had been murdered! It was quite crowded, but Oxford is beautiful.

Bikes

Friends in Oxford

The Spires of Oxford

The Bridge of Sighs.

In front of the Bodleian.

The back streets of Oxford are lovely.

Oxford arch.

Super strong Zane.

A proper lamppost.

A wee passage.

Lovely day.

Zane

The Bodleian

Zane in front of the Bodleian. I let the boys be photographers sometimes and they got some cool shots.

We walked past several of the colleges and found Magdalen College where CS Lewis taught.

Magdalen College

We grabbed some sandwiches and jumped on the bus to CS Lewis’ house. We got off in a very suburban area with detached and semi-detached houses from the 70s and 80s. Not at all what we were expecting and we were getting a bit worried. I love all the different lampposts in London and Oxford, but we found the least Narnian lamppost of all time on CS Lewis’ street. We came to the Kilns and need not have worried at all. It is a lovely old cottage with an amazing garden and attached nature preserve.

Bus time with Friends

Lewis Close.

The least Narnian lamppost in all the world is on Lewis Close.

In the Kiln’s Garden

CS Lewis’ Blue Plaque

We had a great tour guide. It was wonderful to hear the history of the house and learn more about Jack, his brother, his wife and the other members of the household. It seems he was a jovial and lovely man with foibles and quirks and they had a very interesting domestic life. He was also incredibly frugal which impressed Colin! I really liked that they didn’t deify CS Lewis or sugar coat his humanity. We saw a photo and learned about The Kilns gardener, Fred Paxford, who Lewis said was the inspiration for Puddleglum and my heart nearly burst! I thought I knew a lot about CS Lewis, but there is still so much to learn. So thankful to share the experience with Colin, the boys and G&B.

The Kilns

Jude and Zane, much like Jack and Warnie.

Just hanging out in CS Lewis’ Room, no biggie.

After the tour, we wandered through the Nature Reserve. It’s a beautiful wooded area that was very important to the the Lewis brothers.

CS Lewis Nature Reserve

Then we walked to the church Jack attended – Holy Trinity. We visited his and Warnie’s graves in the churchyard. I got to sit where he sat every week. There’s a beautiful, etched glass window about Narnia there. For some reason as we wandered through the graveyard, this inspired the boys to design their own graves and grave stones. There will be lights, electricity, moving parts.

Kiln Lane

Jack and Warnie’s Grave

Sitting in Jack’s seat at Holy Trinity.

Etched Narnia Window

We caught a bus back to Oxford (we are not as tough as CS Lewis who walked the 3 miles from The Kilns to Magdalen College and back home everyday!). We went to the Eagle and Child and had a drink. This is the most famous pub where CS Lewis, Warnie, Tolkien, Charles Williams and many other members of The Inklings, met to discuss their writings. I ordered Colin the drink that he used to get when the rest of us had beers and ciders – half orange juice, half diet coke. It’s not bad tasting, but it sure is ugly! We raised a glass to CS Lewis.

The Eagle and Child

The Eagle and Child

At the Bird and Babe

Raising a glass to friends, family and heroes.

We went in search of dinner and found a Wetherspoon pub called The Four Candles. Had a lovely dinner. Everyone was feeling a bit tired and cranky, but food helped to revive us.

There were several things in Oxford that we would have liked to do, but simply ran out of time.

Back on the train to London. Wonderful conversations with G&B about a wide-range of topics. I love these friends so much and am so thankful for what quality people they are.

Trains are the best.

At Paddington Station, we found Paddington Bear and also saw a brass band playing in the station. Then we began the journey back to Stratford. Everything takes longer than you think it will and it was nearly 10 pm when we got back to the hotel.

The Boys and Paddington Bear

Zane and Paddington Bear

20,657 steps

8.61 miles

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London – Day 2

London – Day 2 – July 11, 2019

Colin had a rough night with not a lot of sleep. Jet lag is tough!

We headed down to the mall, met up with G&B who were staying at the same hotel as us, had some Gregg’s and took care of some money stuff. We loved the location we picked to stay at. Stratford is well-connected transportation-wise and having the mall and shops close is so helpful.

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Greggs for the Win!

Our first stop was the Emirates Air Cable Car. Only a few pounds and we got to go on a cable car over the Thames. We had great views and it was a fun ride.

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High Up!

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View from the Cable Car

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Emirate’s Cable Car

After that we walked to Canning Town station and took the DLR to Island Gardens. We walked under the Thames through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. So many memories! I think it’s a fun way to cross the river.

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Cuppa Tea?

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Heading down into the Tunnel to walk underneath the Thames to the other side.

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Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Don’t mind the leaks.

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Greenwich Foot Tunnel

When we got to Greenwich, we went to the Noodle House we used to go to and had a great lunch. Noodles, of course, and Jude got a big bowl of ramen. It was all super tasty and everyone was very satisfied.

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Noodles!

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The noodles were as good as we remember!

We wandered through the market after refilling our water bottles at a local store that refills them. This was an interesting thing for us – finding places to refill water throughout the day and finding toilets! Also, the boys did not like London water! We are a bit spoiled here in Bend with our lovely mountain river water. London water doesn’t taste super good. The boys almost wouldn’t drink it at all, but within a day or so they had adjusted and were drinking plenty. I love the Greenwich Market – lots of vintage stalls and interesting homemade items. It was here that we had our first experience of losing one of the boys while in London. It wouldn’t be the last. Eeeek! Becky bought some lemon drops and lemon sherbet candies at an old fashions candy store – these sustained us at many times throughout the next week!

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Greenwich Market

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Sweet Shop

We headed to Greenwich Park – it’s a lovely park with lots of space and trees and hills and, it turns out, art. We found a Henry Moore sculpture while taking the scenic route to the Observatory. The Observatory was crowded and the actual Prime Meridian Line was not accessible due to work being done, but I love that hill and the view of London and the buildings at the base of the hill.

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The Union Jack atop the Greenwich Observatory.

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Greenwich Meantime.

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Overlooking the City

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London Town

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Henry Moore’s Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge

We wandered down the hill to the collonades between the Maritime Museum and Queen’s House. It was a hot and sunny day so it was lovely to take some time to sit on the benches in the shade and rest and chat. Zane wanted to do a bunch of running – go figure. Colin, on the other hand, was struggling from his lack of sleep the night before.

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The Blacketts in the Colonnade

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Colonnade Companions

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Resting in the breezy colonnade.

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Greenwich Grins

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Where does he get his energy?

We carried on and decided to check out the National Maritime Museum. It wasn’t on the plan, but we went in on a whim and it turned out to be a great museum. There was all sorts of ship stuff. The figureheads and ship badges were especially fun.

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National Maritime Museum

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That’s a big propeller.

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Representing New Zealand

Mastheads – Note the Sylvester Stallone masthead in the top right corner. Most of the female mastheads seem to be having wardrobe malfunctions.

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Ship Badges, the Boys got create their own, there were cats involved.

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Amazing Stained Glass Room

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British Bulldog

We left in search of a fast food joint to have a cold drink and a rest for Colin. We walked past the Naval College on the way – amazing buildings.

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Naval College

Colin revived enough for us to go to Canary Wharf in search of the Traffic Light Tree. After a bit of a walk, we found it. Sadly, the lights weren’t working, but it was fun to see it. I love going through different areas of London – Canary Wharf is very business and posh.

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Testing his balance skills on the DLR

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Canary Wharf Wall Walker

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The Traffic Light Tree

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On the DLR

We got a bus to take us back to Stratford, it was the boys first double decker bus. It was great to see some of the Isle of Dogs – I lived there for over a year. The bus took us through more of the true East End neighborhoods. It was good to see more of what we were used to.

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Traveling

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Bus Riding Buddies

When we got to Stratford, Colin took the boys back to the hotel and G&B introduced me to Lidl which is an amazing supermarket – super cheap! I got stuff for us to have a little picnic in our room. Colin headed to bed and I took the boys down to the playground outside the hotel which conveniently has a pub right next to it with outdoor seating. I sat with a drink, writing in our journal while the boys played. I have to say, that little playground (and the pub next to it) were a regular fixture in our lives and so good for the boys. They created a workout course that they did repeatedly (they were not playing, they were working out). They interacted with kids from all over the world and it made me so happy.

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Playground/Pub Combo is a great idea!

20,007 steps

8.34 miles

Middle of the night thoughts (it’s my turn to have a rough night):

I still love London. I was worried that I wouldn’t feel the same about it anymore.

I love it though. I love the crowds on the streets, the diversity of people – colors, religions, socio-economics, languages. I love that there are pockets of quiet and peace to be found in parks and pubs and museums and galleries. I love that more people take more care with their clothes and that there is a lot of diversity in fashion. I love that there is real style going on.

I love that there is the unexpected all around. I don’t “love” the smell and the grime, but at the same time, it wouldn’t be London without it.

I love the West End with its poshness and variety. I love the East End with the people and shops and grit. I love the business districts with the people in business suits and fancier clothes.

I love the ancient and ornate buildings and the modern, innovative architecture and the random 60s and 70s ugliness thrown in.

I love the public transportation system in London. I think it’s the best in the world. The Underground, the buses, the Docklands Light Rail, the trains – connectedness and ease of use. I love that each line on the Tube has its own personality and quirks.

I love that I still know it. 20 years later and I would still feel confident wandering around town on my own.

I love that I can be walking with the crowds towards Trafalgar Square and know that if I wanted, I could turn right and walk up stairs into the National Gallery and be in front of The Execution of Lady Jane or a Van Gogh in a few minutes.

I love that this city continues to change and evolve and grow and yet there are things that are unchanging and constant.

I love that the Evening Standard is still free. I love that people leave newspapers on the Underground for other people to read.

I love the escalators and poems on the underground and the advertisements on trains and in stations. I love the breeze in an underground platform when a train is approaching. I love that they still say “Mind the Gap”.

I love that we saw a rat by the spot we got engaged. I love the Thames and walking over, under and beside it.

I love the cheap and the posh. I love the ache in my feet and legs from all the walking that is a part of life in London.

I love the overwhelming amount of choices when it comes to food. The smells and flavours, the old favourites and new options, all the international possibilities. I love the choices on the supermarket shelves. The mix of British and foreign.

I imagined, though I didn’t know for sure, that at the end of two weeks I’ll be ready for home, but that might be more to do with comfort and convenience. There were certainly things that I already missed and appreciated about Bend. Clean, fresh tasting water from the tap, availability of water and toilets. The fresh air and mountains and forests. Getting around quickly.

But I needed not have feared that my love of London had died. It was strong and sure.

The boys were doing so well. Good attitudes in the face of a physically demanding schedule, constant change and new things.


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London Day 0 – Travel Time

I love planning, preparing and packing for a trip. This was no exception. I had lists and lists of lists. We left on a Monday, so had the weekend to prepare the house and pack. We decided it would be nice to come home to a clean and tidy house and the backyard looking good.

This trip was so fun to plan for. From the time we confirmed with Graeme and Becky that we could all be in London at the same time, then setting dates and buying tickets. Colin’s brother and his family planned a European trip and put some time in London on their itinerary so that we could have some time together.

Thinking about the things that were important to us that we wanted to experience again and that we wanted to share with the boys. Scouring Pinterest for ideas of things that we haven’t done. Planning out the days and thinking about what places and activities are close together has been so fun. Looking at maps and websites, booking advance tickets to things. I made a master calendar and put all the things we wanted to do on it. It was slightly overwhelming to look at, but we were going with a flexible attitude and knew that we might not get to everything. I would say that having that calendar and plan took so much stress out of the trip. We knew each day when we woke up what the plan was and where we were going. Everyone had contributed their thoughts and desires ahead of time and we had come up with a plan.

My Dad took us to the airport – 3 hours early, of course, because it’s an international journey. However, since it was our local airport, we were checked in and ready to go in about 10 minutes. We played some 500 and wandered a bit.

Bye Bye Big Guy

A bit of 500 to pass the time before our flight

We flew into Portland and had quite a long layover, so we played some more 500 and then the Smiths came and picked us up and we went to dinner together – it was so good to see them and have time together before the rest of our journey. Portland also has great moving sidewalks near the gates which were great for burning off kid-energy.

On our way

Little flight to Portland

Gotta do the Portland Airport Carpet Photo

We love the moving sidewalks in the Portland Airport

Airport silhouette

Then it was the long flight to Iceland. None of us got much sleep, but it was uneventful – watched some movies. It would have been nice to take advantage of being in Iceland, but the layover was short and we didn’t want to take any time out from our London trip.

Please don’t eat the Headphones

The bathrooms in Iceland were great – every stall was a little room with a toilet and sink. Fully enclosed – no giant gaps between the doors – what is it with US bathrooms? The sink had what looked like handlebars which I totally grabbed – only to find out they were air jet dryers underneath.

Bird is the Word

Acres of Toilets

Those are not handles

Iceland

The flight to London was about 3 hours. Jude slept for about half of it and Zane crashed about half an hour before we landed.

We touched down at London Heathrow around 4:30 pm and proceeded to get our bearings. We got our weekly travel cards (Oyster Cards) with the help of a lovely Transport For London employee who was just what we needed as we arrived feeling tired and knowing we still had to get all the way across London at rush hour. He’ll be getting a great review from us. What a difference it makes for people to be kind, share knowledge and have a laugh.

Amazing costumer service!

We jumped on the Picadilly Line and got seats, of course, since it begins at Heathrow. When we got on the Tube and the boys sat down, I felt a huge grin spread across my face. It was such an amazing feeling to see my boys on the Underground.

I had such a big grin on my face when we got on the Tube.

Then the tiredness kicked in. Zane fell asleep, first laying his head on Colin’s shoulder and then switching to the shoulder of the man on the other side of him. Jude fell asleep hard too. We had to switch trains at Green Park and then it got a bit crazy since it was rush hour. The boys and I and two of our bags got on the carriage, but Colin didn’t make it on with the other two of our bags. So the boys and I travelled to Stratford on our own standing for much of the way with our bags – a true Underground experience. Zane was so tired and not feeling great by this time. We got off at Stratford and Colin arrived on the next train.

Losing steam.

We headed for our hotel, checked in and then headed down to the mall in search of SIM cards and dinner. The boys got their second wind and we got connected with UK SIMs and found some dinner. By this time it was after 9 pm and time to head to bed, but not before a bit of play time on the playground conveniently located outside the hotel for the boys while I got our room and belongings organized in the hotel.

Off to sleep feeling content and excited about the adventure ahead.

Travel tips:

Travelling with slightly older kids, it was great not to have everyone’s bags filled with toys and things to do. We kept it simple by loading books, Netflix shows, and games on our tablets and phones. Less stuff on the plane is always nice. The in-flight entertainment was also great and we all watched a movie together by syncing when we started the movie on our individual screens. We packed some games for down time at airports, though as the journey gets longer, you tend to want to spend airport time walking around rather than sitting. Water and snacks were our other important take alongs.

While the journey across London was long and tiring, we saved a lot of money by not taking the Heathrow Express into the center of London – money we would rather spend on experiences. And let’s face it, any trip on the Underground qualifies as an experience!


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London – Day 1

London – Day 1 – July 10, 2019

After some sleepless hours in the night, we were awakened from a deep sleep at 9 am with that “Where am I and what’s going on?” feeling. Took some time getting ready and then headed down to the mall to have savory rolls and pasties from Gregg’s Bakery, a UK bakery chain, kind of like a McDonald’s for baked goods. Zane was very impressed. He called it Greasy Goodness and wants to eat there everyday – he had a cheese and bacon wrap.

We started on the Proposal Scavenger Hunt. A bit of backstory – Colin proposed to me via a scavenger hunt that he put together using some London landmarks, with the help of friends (Graeme was one of these helpful friends) meeting me at each stop to make sure I stayed on track. Becky was also involved as Colin’s plan was to take me back to my flat where Becky and my flatmates had filled my room with candles and flowers and got us a lovely Chinese takeaway to eat. We wanted the boys to experience the scavenger hunt so I printed off all the clues and we planned to use the morning to complete the hunt. St Paul’s Cathedral was first. It was as beautiful as ever and it was fun to see the boys on the steps and at the doors solving clues.

St Paul’s is a beauty.

Counting stuff.

The doors of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The boys in front of St Paul’s.

Then it was on to Bank. It was busy, but the boys solved the clues and we had a phone call from Graeme coordinating their arrival and where we would meet.

Love! It really is all around.

Bank

At Bank solving clues and chatting to Graeme.

We headed to Monument and the boys worked on the clues there. We planned to go up the Monument which wasn’t on the original hunt, but it was a good time to do it. It’s 311 steps to the top! It was warm and challenging, but super cool to do and gave the boys their first view of the river and Tower Bridge.

Monument

At the top of Monument.

We just climbed Monument!

We knew we wouldn’t have time to finish the hunt before we were due at the theatre so we met up with Graeme and Becky and headed to Leicester Square. Now I always say that we won’t go to McDonalds or Burger King when we are travelling, but I’ve got to say that if you’re looking for a cold drink, some air conditioning and toilets, they’re a bit of a lifesaver. So we had a drink and a catch up with Graeme and Becky (going forward referred to as G&B) in Burger King.

More backstory. Who are Graeme and Becky? I worked with Becky in YWAM (Youth With a Mission) when I lived in London many years ago. We were also flatmates. We taught and helped at a community project that worked with the long-term unemployed, homeless and mentally ill. She is one of my dearest friends and a true English Rose. Graeme was a friend of Colin’s from New Zealand who came over to live while Colin lived in London. Becky and I started a drop-in center for recovering alcoholics, a place where people could go for fun, friendship, food, games and help. It was called the Cavern. We received some wise counsel that we should gather some help as the crowd we were working with could get a bit rough sometimes. We asked Colin and Graeme if they would help us out. They said yes. We’re quite glad they did! G&B are now based in New Zealand, but come to the UK regularly and we’ve been wanting to organise a time when we could all be there together. We’ve visited them in NZ and they’ve visited us in Oregon, but it really was amazing to share time together in London.

After our drink and chat, we headed to the Queen’s Theatre to see Les Miserables. Now there are many amazing musicals and shows happening in London, and we’ve seen quite a few and would love to see more. They’re not super cheap though and we knew we had to pick one. I’ve probably seen Les Mis 10 times. It’s my favourite. It’s full of meaning and amazing music and an incredible set. The plot is all about grace and mercy and is so rich. So that’s why we chose Les Mis – I wanted the boys to experience that. It did not disappoint. It was amazing and I needed many, many tissues. Pro Tip – we watched the musical/movie with the boys before we came so that they would have a good grasp of the plot. Also, see a musical early on in your time here and it will be the soundtrack for the remainder of the trip. We all talked about our sleepless moments at night being filled with Les Mis songs. We also used the tunes of the songs and added many of our own lyrics. We often caught each other singing, humming and whistling the songs.

Les Mis

Sad Miserables.

Intermission

Chinatown with Pikachu

Afterwards we headed to Chinatown and had an amazing dinner at Mr Wu’s buffet. Yummo!

After dinner, we resumed the Proposal Scavenger Hunt at Monument. Over London Bridge, along the South Bank and past the HMS Belfast solving clues along the way. We popped in to Hay’s Galleria which has a cool Steampunk ship in it and got a photo in red London phone box that didn’t have poop in it – that’s another story.

Counting across London Bridge.

Down the freaky steps.

Hay’s Galleria

Getting more clues from the HMS Belfast.

Graeme and Becky

Classic

Tower Bridge was next and we were close to the end which was outside the Tower of London and the spot where Colin proposed. It was fun to stand with the boys in the spot where Colin proposed to me. The family of rats we saw was a nice touch! Ah, London.

In all her glory. Love this bridge.

The Boys crossing Tower Bridge.

Tower of London

So fun to have our boys with us at the spot where Colin asked me to marry him,

Right after Colin proposed on September 22, 1998.

I’d still say Yes!

Back to the hotel and to bed having done 17,770 steps!