January 8, 2007

January 8: Kings Langley and London

Roz and Alan's property is along the left hand side.

Kings Langley, Roz's living room: Tuesday 7:30 am GMT

We took our time getting up and about on Monday. We are, after all, on vacation. So after emailing the kids and the rest of the family, having some tea and eating some breakfast, we headed off for the train station to London.

I took a photo of the canal behind Roz'€™s house. They own a fair little plot of land along the left hand side of this pic. Then we walked past the façade of the old Ovaltine factory (which is being made into ultra contemporary apartments). From the train station in Kings Langley till we popped out of the underground at Charing Cross station was only 45 minutes. I stopped and took a picture of a "Way Out" sign. We got quite a kick out of that. As in, groovy, dude.

Once we were in London, I got the feeling that we weren'€™t really. I believe we spent most of the time in the City of Westminster.

We saw Trafalgar square and got a picture of me in front of one of the lions so the kids could see. The main thing that interested me there was the statue of Charles I that his son managed to save from destruction by Cromwell. I'd love to know the story of how that happened. It'€™s not like he could stuff the thing under the corner of his rain slicker on his way out of the country.

We walked down to Buckingham Palace and saw some sort of pomp (Roz says it was the changing of the guard, though the man with the gun stayed in one place the whole time and didn'€™t change in the least bit). I got a couple of pictures of horses there as that's what the kids would be most interested in. The men with hats came out blurry. And I thought my brother-in-law, Ryan, might be interested in the submachine gun.

From there we wandered toward Westminster Abbey, where I found several lizard type figures that I thought Nathan might enjoy seeing) and, of course, Big Ben, which Garfield saw on his visit so I figured we should check it out as well. ;-)

We were starving at this point and every little sandwich shop I saw Rob went sprinting past so we hopped on the underground and arrived somewhere near the Japanese embassy where we found a yummy Lebanese restaurant that was rather expensive and posh (and here we are with our massive backpacks that looked very out of place there). We ordered up a deal where we got 6 appetizers: hummous, falafel, sausages, tabbouli, spinach pies and something incredibly yummy that I don'€™t have a name for, but it tasted similar to an au gratin and was incredibly yummy. It was 40 pounds, though, which means we spent $80 on appetizers. !!! (The exchange rate just happens to suck pretty bad at the moment.)

We got back on the underground and came out onto Oxford street which was exactly the sort of place Rob had been hoping for. We hit several book shops and then found a cafe (Nero'€™s) and stopped and had some tea and read awhile. We were astounded by how many Body Shops we saw. And we were even more in shock by the English distaste for road signs. Though many buildings had the street names plastered on them, several of the newer buildings had nothing of the sort. And the maps are incredibly difficult to read because there’s not a decent amount of space between streets so all of the lines and words get munched together.

We caught the 6:09 train back to Kings Langley and just happened to see Roz as she coming toward the train so we called her on to join us. We had stir fry for dinner (made with cous cous instead of rice, which was very good) and then were introduced to several delightful little books, the first of which is a travel guide by lonely planet called Micro Nations. I a€™m considering becoming a citizen of Lovely now. ;-) We also discovered Ben Schott€™s three books of Miscellany: Schott'€™s Original Miscellany, Schott's Food & Drink Miscellany and Schott's Sporting, Gaming & Idling Miscellany.

And I had the best night of sleep I've had since last Thursday night. :-)

January 6-7: from Denver to Kings Langley

I got a picture of Rob in front of the house, but I had the shutterspeed set to some crazy thing (from taking to take pictures of Brownies skating past me at the Cookie Rally last friday). So that turned out as nothing more than a Rob shaped blur. I got a couple of blurry Roz's as well until I got to this one.

Denver International Airport: Saturday 4:30 pm MST

I had gotten a lot of packing done on Thursday and Friday which meant Saturday was fairly laid back. I ran out to a couple of drug stores in the morning trying to find saline in a 3 oz. or less container (the only allowable size for a liquid or gel on airlines these days). I ended up buying some expensive multi-purpose solution in a 2 oz. container having no luck finding the saline. :-P

When I returned I found Rob up on a ladder (which was firmly planted on a bunch of snow and ice) scraping the 5 inches of ice off the top of the gutters and removing as much snow as he could reach from the roof.

My sister came over around noon to switch out cars with my cousin (my cousin wasn’t comfortable being left with our manual transmission) and I gave her a hefty packet of child care info. (what time school starts. when the kids have extracurriculars. etc. )

My mom arrived at 1:30 and we packed up her mini-van and were ready to go. Next came the hard part.

When Anna woke up this morning the first thing she said to me was, “I don’t want you to go. I’m going to miss you.” She cried for a teeny bit, but then seemed to get over it. Later in the morning Nathan pulled me aside and told me that he was really go to miss me. (I managed to keep it together then, but when I told my sister about it later on the phone I got all choked up.)

So we gave hugs before leaving. But then the kids got busy with Lego Star Wars on the computer and playing with Mary and it seemed that they were content to go back to life as usual.

Rob and I have been amazed at the wonderful feeling of lightness at traveling without having to keep tabs on 3 little monkeys (and help them schlep their stuff). We checked our luggage in without any problems. The “normal people” line moved 2 or 3 times as fast as the first class line. Woo hoo! Even security went smoothly. The only boo boo so far is that we didn’t exchange our cash before hitting security. (I had no idea where the exchange was and Rob didn’t mention that it was before security until we’d already taken the train away from security. :-P So I sent him back with the cash and he’ll just have to do security again. But this time I have all his stuff so at least he won’t have to worry about that.)

Kings Langsley: Monday 3:20 am GMT

Our flight in Denver ended up leaving an hour late and since we had only an hour layover in Chicago we raced from one plane to the other. But we ended up sitting on that second plane for about 45 minutes before taking off. :-P

We got in to Heathrow on time and buzzed through rather quickly to Roz. We were a little taken aback by the state of the airport, though. As we walked off the plane we were greeted by buckets on the floor catching the rain as it dripped into the building.

Roz drove us back to her place in Kings Langley (though no one seems to know what a “Langley” is) and we met Alan for the first time. After some good conversation we headed out for a bit of a walk in the misty rain along the canal that runs behind their house. We saw ducks and two swans and I thought I saw a pheasant but Roz says it must have been something else because they don’t have pheasants around here. (And it was a bit small for a pheasant, but didn’t look very chickeny.)

Then we went to Hemel Hempsted for high tea with Roz’s parents and more great conversation. Rob and I were definitely drooping by this time (after having not slept more than a couple of hours on the plane) but Roz is a hard task master and told us that we shouldn’t go to bed until 9 each night if we hoped to adjust to the time change within 3 days. Otherwise she says it takes 4 days.

We have hopes of taking the train in to London tomorrow and bumming around a bit.