Lamppostings

Finding and creating adventures in everyday life.


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London – Day 5 – Sunday in the City

London – Day 5 – July 14, 2019

Headed off to Tower Hamlets Community Church. This is the church that Colin and I attended when we were dating and after we were married. Our friend, Tony Udin, from YWAM and his wife Anni are the pastors. It’s a great, multi-cultural, community-focused church and it was a joy to be there. Both the boys attended classes and had a great time.

Tony at THCC

There were still people attending from when we used to attend and it was good to see them as well as meet new people over tea and coffee afterwards. Zane was impressed with the treats on offer afterwards.

A bunch of the old crew headed off to Spitalfields Market after church – G&B, Tony & Annie, Claire and her son, Micah. We met up with our other Clare and everyone dispersed to get some lunch. There are heaps of food trucks as well as more permanent places in the market. When we used to go to the market after church on Sundays, the market had a few food places and a rustic market where people sold handmade goods. It was actually at this market that Colin and I decided on a design for my engagement ring and local jewelry maker made it for us. It wasn’t ever super crowded. These days, it’s crazy on a Sunday afternoon – there are heaps of built in shops and restaurants, tons of vendors, and thousands of people!

I really wanted to get falafel as that was one of my favourite things to get in the past. We found a falafel place and they made us an amazing falafel pita. It just so happened that right next door was a Jamaican place so we got a patty, a Ting, and a grape soda. Now to find a place where we could all hang out and catch up.

Amazing Falafel!

Jamaican Tastes – Patty

Jamaican Tastes

Jamaican Tastes

One of my favourite things about London is that you are never very far from a green space. Parks, church yards, and gardens. Right next to the bustling market were some gardens that belonged to local residents, but they were open to the public at certain times. Clare let us in on this secret and we found ourselves in a lovely green and quiet space and were able to spend time enjoying our lunch, chatting, laughing, and catching up while the boys ran around and played with their new friend, Micah.

Sunday afternoon lunch and chat.

Longtime friends.

Friend selfie. (It was quite bright.)

After saying goodbye to some of our friends, another friend, Karen, and her family joined us and we sat and chatted for a while. It really is amazing to reconnect in real life with all these quality people.

Catching up with friends.

On a side note, when we were preparing to go to London, we had a serious chat with the boys that they would be near us the whole time we were there – never far away, always in eye sight. They were getting a bit restless by now as we chatted and told stories. We had seen a koi pond earlier on the other side of the market. They asked repeatedly if they could go back to it. I took a deep breath and gave stern instructions to stay together, and just sent them off by themselves into the wilds of London! They were fine.

After we said goodbye to our friends, we still had a few things on the list for the day and they were all pretty close. We had a look at the Gherkin, which used to stand out so much, but is more understated now that there are more buildings around it, it’s still a great building though. We went to Leadenhall Market and found some cool art. Graeme was following the cricket and keeping us updated on the results.

At the base of the Gherkin.

Us and the Gherkin

Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market

Then we wandered through The City towards St Dunstan-in-the-East. The City on a Sunday evening is perfect to see the sights, and enjoy the architecture and art as there are no crowds. St Dunstan was one of my Pinterest finds and it did not disappoint. It’s a garden inside the ruins of an old church. We had it to ourselves for most of the time we were there and it closed right after we left. It was a bit magical.

Foliage wall and wrestling brothers.

Strolling through The City on a Sunday evening.

Colin’s favourite building.

St Dunstan-in-the-East

St Dunstan-in-the-East

St Dunstan-in-the-East

St Dunstan-in-the-East

St Dunstan-in-the-East

St Dunstan-in-the-East

St Dunstan-in-the-East Photobomb

St Dunstan-in-the-East

By this time, everyone was feeling a bit hangry and we headed off to find dinner. We happened upon Savage Gardens which was quite cool as Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden was one of the songs at our wedding that my sister and brother-in-law sang. Colin sang a lovely rendition for us.

Savage Gardens

We had a lovely pub meal and everyone revived a bit. Had a great pint of Black Dragon cider which had such a different taste – very honey-like, but not too sweet.

The Tower at Twilight

We went over our plans for the next couple of days and headed back to the hotel. It was nearly 11 pm and time for bed!

16,360 steps

6.82 miles


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London – Day 4 – Old Stomping Grounds

London – Day 4 – July 13, 2019

We all slept through the night. It was amazing! Didn’t start the day until 10 am – breakfast at Gregg’s – no more of this neglecting breakfast business!

We headed off to Whitechapel. This was a big nostalgia day! We wandered through the market and I bought some earrings. I love to see all the different fruits, vegetables, and products from other cultures.

Back in our old stomping grounds. Whitechapel Market.

Amazing variety of produce.

The Kray’s Pub and where Ronnie Kray was shot and killed. Proper East End.

Jude and me on Whitechapel Road.

We took a bus back the way we had walked and went to the Whitechapel Gallery. I was a frequent visitor here when I lived in London and particularly when I was at art school. It’s one of my favourite galleries and they have expanded it significantly. There were some cool exhibits with pieces about rural life in other countries. There was also some art that we didn’t quite “get”, but it was fun.

Waiting for the bus.

At Whitechapel Gallery

Whitechapel Gallery

We wandered down Brick Lane and saw heaps of street art. The boys sure were getting an education! We stopped at a park by Code Street and the boys played on the zip line and the cool obstacle course-like playground. I had a look at more of the graffiti and actually got to see people working on some of it.

Brick Lane

Checking out the Street Art

Zip Line!

Kid Time

Street Art in Shoreditch.

The Brick Lane area was pretty rough and undeveloped when I lived there, but it is now a super trendy area with lots of restaurants, shops and galleries. One of the strangest things was walking down Hanbury Street and seeing all the shops – it was so odd. The only thing that used to be of much consequence there were the Hanbury Community Project where Becky and I worked and where we had The Cavern, and the Jack the Ripper tours that stopped across the street at one of the spots where he killed one of his victims.

Me outside Hanbury Hall.

We went into what was the Hanbury Community Project and is now a cafe. It’s a really beautiful space inside and if I lived in London, it would definitely be a place that I would hang out. The building has an amazing history and is a listed building. Here’s what it says on the Blue Plaque outside the building: Hanbury Hall:

Built 1719 as a French Huguenot Church. Used by La Patente Church 1740 onwards. John Wesley preached here. 1787 it became a German Lutheran Church. Used by the Baptists then the United Free Methodists. Charles Dickens gave public readings here. 1887 Christ Church bought the building as its Church Hall. 1888 Annie Besant and Eleanor Marx-Aveling held the matchstick girls strike meetings here which helped to establish the British Trade Unions. Throughout its life this hall has served Church, community and nation.

Becky and I weren’t sure why they forgot to include our time there! It’s quite cool to think that in this amazing building we taught classes, had the Cavern, and it’s also where Colin and I had our engagement party.

With my boys at Hanbury Hall

At our engagement party at Hanbury.

Hanbury Hall has changed a lot!

Hanbury Hall

We decided to have a curry for lunch and were sad that Cafe Bangla didn’t exist anymore, but were thrilled when we went to the place where it was, to discover that the Princess Diana painting as well as the other creative art pieces were still on the walls. Sadly, they weren’t serving lunch, but the owner let us go in and take photos. Then we went to his other restaurant which also had cool art on the wall. It was so good! Poppadoms, amazing curry, peshwari naan. The owner kept checking in with us and we had some great conversations. When it was time to go, he called us family, gave us all hugs and wanted to take a selfie with us. It was a fabulous experience.

Back under the watchful eye of the lovely Princess Diana!

Favourite foods, favourite places, favourite people.

London Mural at Aladin

London Mural at Aladin

London Mural at Aladin

Poppadoms and chutneys.

So good!

Garlic naan for the win!

Family Curry!

Curry at Aladin Curry House.

Colin

With our new friend at Aladin Curry House.

We carried on down Brick Lane and headed to Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium on Bethnal Green Road. Zane was so excited and then so brokenhearted when we discovered you have to be 12 to go in. He coped well though and we carried on down Bethnal Green Road and memory lane. We passed a shop where a friend used to work and it turns out she still does and was there so we got to catch up a bit with Marlene.

Once again, we ended up at a McDonald’s for a cold drink and a 99 Cent Flake Ice Cream cone – they’re still 99p at McDonald’s while being more expensive at Mr Whippy.

99 Flake

I wanted to get some photos of St John at Bethnal Green which is where I used to help and teach art classes with the homeless and also got to put some of my art in an exhibit. When we got there, the doors were open and there was an art exhibit happening. It is such a cool space for art and the art was amazing. The exhibit was in the sanctuary, up in the balcony and down in the Crypt which was where the classes that I taught were. It was great to see the space being used so much for the community. There are all sorts of classes being held throughout the week down in the Crypt and we saw some people making sparkly costumes for the Notting Hill Festival.

St John on Bethnal Green – hidden by the lovely trees.

St John on Bethnal Green

The balcony of St John on Bethnal Green

Art at St John on Bethnal Green

Art at St John on Bethnal Green

Art at St John on Bethnal Green

One of my angels in an exhibition at St John’s Bethnal Green years ago.

One of my pieces that was in an exhibition at St John’s Bethnal Green many years ago.

Art at St John on Bethnal Green

In the Crypt of St John on Bethnal Green where I used to teach art classes.

It’s hard for me to explain how meaningful it was for me to share these spaces with the boys. It’s probably not as meaningful to them, but it is amazing to see them in these places that were so important to me and such a big part of my life.

We walked back to Weaver’s Field Park and the boys played on the playground while the adults sat and chatted. Again, there was the variety of cultures in the space and I loved that the boys just jumped into and were nonplussed by it all.

Bethnal Green Station.

My heart! Heading down Bethnal Green Road.

Heading into Weaver’s Fields. Part of the sculpture is a security camera.

Relaxing at Weaver’s Fields

We carried on to see our Cheshire Street flat. So many good times in that place. Also the cold and the rats in the garden and the endless pasta bakes.

Becky and me at our Cheshire Street Flat.

Back to Brick Lane to the bagel shop and then toward Liverpool Street. We found a place hear Spitalfields Market to sit and eat our bagels. There was a big screen tv showing Wimbledon and lots of people watching.

Bagel Shop! Meeting all your bagel needs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

Ordering our bagels.

I loved seeing my boys in so many places that are meaningful to me. Brick Lane.

Enjoying our Brick Lane Bagels.

We took the train back to Stratford. Back to the pub for drinks and talks while the boys played on the playground.

Training.

Lovely day on Memory Lane.

20,997 steps

8.75 miles


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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!