Saturday, March 3, 2012

David and Kellie's London Adventure

David had the unfortunate assignment to travel to London for the week for work and we took the opportunity to extend the work trip a bit for a personal holiday.  We decided to arrive early and enjoy ourselves for a few days before David got sucked into the work week.  My mom was able to secure some days off from work which took care of the kids and so away we went!

We left the kids with my mom Wednesday evening and flew out from Portland at 8am Thursday morning.  We had a short layover in Chicago before taking the 8 hour "overnight" flight arriving in London at 5:30am local time.  London is 8 hours ahead of us so it's not too surprising that neither of were able to sleep on the flight since we arrived at 10:30pm our time!  After sleepily purchasing week long Tube passes we figured out how to get to the stop nearest our hotel.  Three stops and an hour later we arrived at our hotel, tired but determined not to nap and waste our valuable London time.  Instead of sleeping we took a shower, changed clothes, and found Starbucks for some coffee and a quick breakfast.

Our first stop was to Shakespeare's Globe Theater which was one of the highlights of the trip.  For those who don't know, we attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival every year (11 years running!) and enjoy theater.  While it was disappointing that photography inside the theater was not allowed it was because we had the privilege to observe a rehearsal of Midsummer's Night Dream which was a more than acceptable substitute.  We watched a scene from the lower seating level and again from the upper level.  It was surprising how close to the stage the seating was, and I can't imagine standing through one of Shakespeare's long historical dramas.

After Shakespeare's Globe Theater (and the lengthy walking tour we took to find it!) we had lunch and hit up The Tower of London which was at the top of my list of Must See places.  The Tower didn't disappoint.  We arrived just in time for a Yeoman tour which I highly entertain.  Our Yeoman guide was quite the comedian and had a lot of great information.  We spent quite a bit of time touring several of the towers (there are quite a few!) and of course we saw the Crown Jewels.  Pretty amazing to see jewels that large and sparkly, but the ginormous gold punch bowl took the cake.  The royal armor collection is pretty cool as was the graffiti on the stone walls left by prisoners.  Graffiti certainly has changed in the past few hundred years, I haven't seen any modern graffiti quite so neatly inscribed.

We both fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow before 8pm.  Staying up for over 24 hours will do that to a person.  Saturday we were better rested and we set out to visit Westminster Abbey, Parliament, and the Churchill War Rooms.  Westminster Abbey was pretty awesome, the architecture of the cathedral is beautiful but it's the sense of history that is most striking.  Everywhere you step, turn, or look there's a monument or grave marker.  I still can't get over the fact that I stepped on King George II's grave.  Heady stuff.  We were able to sign up for a tour of Parliament which was really interesting.  The tour lasted about an hour at took us through Westminster Hall as well as the Commons and Lords Chambers.  The Churchill War Rooms was also really interesting.  I didn't know a lot about Churchill but the exhibit and museum was very informational.  There was a museum dedicated to Churchill the man in addition to the tour through the war rooms.  The map room had been perfectly preserved as they had simply turned the lights off and closed the door at the end of the war and the room was left undisturbed for decades.  You could see the millions of pin hole dots in the maps marking troop movements over the course of the war.

Sunday we hit up the British Museum and National Gallery.  The British Museum has an overwhelming amount of historical objects on display.  Of course we saw the Rosetta Stone right off the bat and toured the incredible Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman sculptures.  There were thousands of pieces of pottery, jewelry, coins, and more ancient objects than you can shake a stick at.  Remember the long lines of people at OMSI's mummy exhibit last year?  Well I saw more mummies than I can count including a few mummified cats in about 10 minutes.  Pretty incredible.

The National Gallery is home to several pieces of art that I was very excited to see.  I've taken enough History of Art classes and studied artwork in college to be pretty excited to see some of those paintings in person.  I am partial to the Monets and was stoked to find Van Eyck's Marriage of Arnolfini just before the museum closed.  It was also pretty humbling to see a few Van Gogh's that are pretty well known.  David was much more excited about the Rembrandts and Dutch painters but to each their own.

Monday morning I made my way to see Buckingham Palace and the London Museum while David was working and got a pretty comprehensive education of the town from pre-historic times to modern day.  The information on Roman London and the Great Fire of London were both pretty interesting.  There were several school tours at the museum that day and I kept getting caught up in groups of exuberant elementary school students.  I met up with David and his work colleagues in the afternoon and we toured the Victoria and Albert Museum until they kicked us out to close.  The V&A museum holds tons of historical treasures like gorgeous textiles from the Middle East and one of Mick Jagger's velvet jumpers.

I took off for home Tuesday morning after breakfast and traveled 22 hours and spent time in 3 different time zones to get from the hotel home.  In those 22 hours I took the Tube, airplane, a shuttle, and finally drove home via Sherwood to switch vehicles and pick up my kids.  I left London at 12:05pm local time and reached home a little after 10pm our time.  The jet lag is definitely harder going to London then coming home, but the long trip is definitely worth it.  We had a great time!

And now for some pictures...

 Big Ben and Parliament 
 Buckingham Palace
 David in front of Westminster Abbey
 One of the zillions of doubledecker buses in London...and yes we road a couple!
 Me in front of The London Tower
 London Bridge
 One of the many Pret a Mangers in London...they have free wi-fi!
 Obligatory red telephone booth photo
 Westminster Abbey
Our fabulous Yeoman Warder tour guide