Relax & Explore Le Mottay

Another day to play games, read, and relax. We explored around the house some more, and just took the day to be still. I am getting our laundry done from the last week. Erik and I drove to the town Evran to pick up a few things for dinner. But otherwise we just explored and relaxed. We got some radishes from their garden. We went on exploration and photography expeditions. It has been a delight to be here.

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Swimming in Dinan and Le Mottay

We slept in since there were curtains that kept the sun out. We got some croissants and juice and pain au chocolate for breakfast. I am loving these pastries in France. We packed up and then Erik swam with Maren, Robin, and Camille. They even had a hot tub. Fun times.

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We heard from Rob Flanigan that the cleaning crew that cleans their country house was going to unlock the house for us! So after the swimming adventure, we walked around Dinan and took some pictures along the river.

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We drove up to the house, Le Mottay, and the door was unlocked! What a fantastic house. It is an old stone house that the Flanigans have restored and added bathrooms and running water. It was fun for the kids to explore and get settled in.

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It was great to relax and explore and discover a new part of the world. Erik and I got some groceries and gas back in Dinan. We are happy with eggs and sausages and crepes and nutella and baguettes and fresh fruit and vegetables after eating out for so many days.

After dinner we went and explored the surrounding area. There is a lock and canal next to the house and lots of old homes and lovely walks in the woods.

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We feel so blessed to have this time out here to relax with the kids and play card games and play and read.

Out to the French countryside

We had a leisurely morning in Paris at the Flanigans. I walked over with Jennifer to pick up her kids from school. We stopped in a bakery to get sandwiches. I fumbled through a few attempts at some French, but picked up some baguettes and pastries for lunch. We ate and slowly got ourselves ready to make the drive out to Brittany. We are borrowing the Flanigans Volvo that has 7 seats! We made it to the Arc de Triomphe.IMG_2362 IMG_2363

It was a wild ride around that driving circle but Erik was fearless and we made it out to the Peripherique and toward the highways that take us out of Paris. We just kept driving and made it out toward Brittany. It was a four hour drive.

We stopped for some pizza and dinner and arrived at Le Mottay, the Flanigans’ country house around 10 pm. It was still very light outside. A neighbor met us to let us into the house. The key did not work! We tried several times but there were keys in the locks from the inside and we just could not get in. What to do?DSC_6897

The neighbor recommended driving into Dinan, about 15 minutes away, where there was a Best Western he knew about. So we did, and they had room for us, a pool to swim in the morning, and we unloaded for an unexpected adventure! It was a very nice hotel. We had three rooms and got settled in. Off to bed after midnight.

 

Last day in London, and on to Paris!

Our last day here in London! I could use a few more days to see everything, but we for sure wanted to see Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. We decided to stop by the Courtauld Gallery on the way. It houses some art of the Impressionists and has a cool staircase that we took some pictures of, more fear of the dizzying heights. But with Camille’s fearless camera work we got some cool shots of the building.IMG_2284 IMG_2286 IMG_2285

We then ran over to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. We enjoyed learning more about the amazing transportation over the hundreds of years in London. Going on all the busses and trains and boats and the tube has been a highlight of our trip!

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They had a history of many of the posters from the tube over the years. There is some brilliant graphic design in all of that.

We headed out to Covent Garden to find lunch and got a feel for the outdoor markets there.IMG_2296 IMG_2297We finally found lunch at a noodle place called Wagamama. Fun place.

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We hopped on a bus over to Westminster Abbey. Erik found an app for the busses in London that has helped us navigate that part of the transport.

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Westminster Abbey is massive and impressive and full of history. So many people are buried here, from British royalty over hundreds of years, to poets and authors. We had a children’s tour that kept us moving and learning in our hour at the abbey.IMG_2301 IMG_2302 IMG_2304 DSC_6794 IMG_2303 IMG_2307 IMG_2305 DSC_6791 DSC_6787 DSC_6786 DSC_6782 DSC_6781Many of these places don’t allow photography inside, so we just settled for some pictures outside. Parliament was in session, but the line to get in was two hours long, so we visited Jewel Tower across from Parliament. It is a building form the 1600s that housed many documents from the government.

Here is the view of Parliament from Jewel TowerDSC_6801IMG_2309 IMG_2311 Jewel TowerIMG_2308 IMG_2313 IMG_2310 It was time to go and get packed up for our train through the chunnel to Paris. So we got back on the tube and back to the apartment. We changed beds, vacuumed and left some goodies for Rob Flanigan who lent us the use of the apartment. We got all our bags out the door and headed for the tube.IMG_2317 IMG_2334 IMG_2318

Somehow there were not many trains heading the direction we needed for St. Pancras. So we waited about 15 minutes for a tube train, it was around 5:15. And when the tube train arrived it was packed and we had 7 rolling bags and our other hand carried items. We barely squeezed on and were on a packed train. We made it! It was a little stressful. But we got to the train station, and it was a very nice station to get on the Eurostar over to Paris. We got sandwiches and dinner. And then we waited for them to call our train. We had to go through a passport line again, but we did not have to check our bags. We did have assigned seats. We read and played games and relaxed on the train. It was very smooth and fast. We were only in the chunnel for about 20 minutes I think. The whole trip from London to Paris was just over 2 hours.DSC_6806 DSC_6805 DSC_6803We arrived in Paris a little after 10, got some euros, and then found 2 taxis to the Flanigan’s apartment in Paris! We arrived and got buzzed in. Jennifer was there and was so kind to us. Her eight year old boy was still up. And they shared some bunk beds, the front couch, and a downstairs bed and loft bed with us. We got settled in, had some drinks and snacks, and then went to bed. What a blessing their hospitality has meant to us on this trip!

Sunday in London with Friends

Somehow we got ourselves up early and ready for church and brought our lunch and some changes of clothes in a rolling bag. We took the tube over to the Hyde Park Chapel.

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DSC_6691We got there just as sacrament meeting started. We saw the Miners! It is so comforting to see some of our best friends from home. We had a great meeting about missionary work. So many young people are heading out to serve all over the world. The kids got to go to their classes with their siblings and friends. We had some interesting lessons in Sunday School and Relief Society and the youth classes. There are a lot of Americans in these wards. And they are also very international.

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We met the Robinson family from the Heritage Oaks ward. They also have five children close to our kids’ ages. The three of our families had similar plans for the day. We all brought lunches with us, so we didn’t have to buy much on Sunday, and we all wanted to go to Hyde Park for lunch. So we took the tube and busses over to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. We ate and tried to give away a Book of Mormon. There were people up preaching religion and about other issues they were passionate about.

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After a little while in the park, we all caught a bus to head to the British Museum. It is full of amazing antiquities from all over the world. We saw a lot of things from Egypt and the Mediterranean area. Todd was a great tour guide. Andrea was a great friend to the girls. Maren and Erik went off on their own adventures. I took Robin and Camille to explore and go up and down stairs. So much to see, never enough time.

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Photo credit to Todd Miner

We grabbed another bus, all three families, and headed toward St. Paul’s Cathedral. We enjoyed seeing the amazing architecture of the church, and then listened to an organ recital. I have to admit, I slept on Erik’s shoulder during much of it. I saw a few others dozing. But it was nice to hear music in a large cathedral. And we enjoyed being with all of our friends and seeing the building.

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A nice missionary couple was at St. Paul’s and snapped this picture of all of us, photo credit to Spencer’s camera

It has truly been a highlight of our trip to see all these great friends this week in London!

We tried to find dinner at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, an old pub where Charles Dickens used to write. We found the place but it was closed on Sunday.

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So we headed back toward where the Miners were staying and finally found a place for some burgers and fries and shakes.

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It was some yummy food and great to be with friends. We stopped in and saw the Miners’ flat and then said goodbye. They are heading to Italy in the morning. We have one more day in London and then on to Paris!

 

Hampton Court Palace and Friendship

Today was just what we needed after a long day of walking and touring yesterday. We let the kids sleep in a bit. We decided to just take our time and just go to Waterloo Station to catch a train out to Hampton Court Palace. We got some sandwiches and had a half hour to relax and be in the station until our train took off. Escalators and good pastries keep us happy when we are in between events. We had decided to go the half hour out to Hampton Court and then the Ashtons invited us to dinner. Shannon has helped me so much while I have been planning this trip. We are excited to see the palace and have some time with our friends.

DSC_6634 DSC_6653 DSC_6651 DSC_6647 DSC_6644 DSC_6642 DSC_6640 DSC_6638Hampton Court Palace was built by Henry VIII and was full of history. We learned so much about the history of Henry the VIII and his many wives, as well as the history of monarchy and how they lived. It was amazing to see the majesty and art and extensive palace and gardens here.

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One of the highlights at Hampton Court is the maze. We all spent 20 minutes trying to find the middle. It was harder than I thought.

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After we left Hampton Court, we headed across Bushy Park toward the Ashton’s home. It was a big park with some fountains and even wild deer that live in a section of the park.

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The front door of our friend’s home.  We had a delightful tour of their three story home and had some great talks and a great dinner with delicious hamburgers and hot dogs and salad and ice cream. We laughed and laughed and the kids played and jumped on their trampoline and just relaxed.IMG_2254

The two photographers getting the shot of our families set up.

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Photo credit to Shannon

The kids took us part way to the train that was just around the corner from their house. We laughed and had so much fun visiting with the Ashtons. It was great for us to just be in a family home with books and games and great food and conversation. We loved our evening catching up in London!IMG_2257 IMG_2258 IMG_2259I wish we could have stayed longer. It makes me grateful for loving homes full of learning and the gospel. I hope our home feels like that refuge for people. We needed some home time after being on the road for 5 days! We took the train back to London and found our way back to the apartment. We will have to get up early for church tomorrow, so we had some showers and reading and then went to bed.

 

 

 

 

Tower of London and lots more!

Boy, we saw a lot of London today. Some of my favorites. We started the day by packing up to leave our apartment. We packed up and got our things to the lobby. Erik had decided to rent a taxi and just take all the bags over to our new place in Aldsgate area. So we had breakfast and packed up. Then headed over to Victoria station and picked up a simple cell phone to use. That way we could stay in touch with Erik until we met up at the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

The kids and I went up to Westminster area and got on a cruise boat up the Thames toward the Tower of London. The captain gave a fun description of many of the buildings and sites along the way. This is the view from the boat as we left.IMG_2218This is the Globe theater where they many Shakespeare plays are performed.IMG_0446There are many new tall buildings like the Shard.IMG_0455It took us about 30 minutes to get to the Tower of London. Here is the impressive view of the Tower Bridge as you arrive.

IMG_2219We got off and headed in to the Tower. We saw the Beefeaters who live there at the tower and give tours. We listened in for a minute and then just decided to do our own tour. We saw some more great exhibits. We decided to head up around the edge of the tower and walk along the walls and into all the towers along the way.IMG_0338 IMG_0374 IMG_0359 IMG_0354IMG_0350

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IMG_0379We had decided to meet Erik outside of the Crown Jewels but it was taking him longer than we expected to get there, so we went through the Crown Jewels. They were impressive.IMG_0372IMG_2224Then we went into the White Tower in the middle of the Tower of London and toured through it until we finally spotted Erik outside waiting for us. We ran down the stairs and were glad to be reunited.IMG_2221We went and toured the Bloody Tower and saw Traitor’s Gate.IMG_0477We walked along the Thames toward Tower Bridge. We stopped to get some hot dogs and sandwiches and took a little break to eat.IMG_2226We walked up the stairs to Tower Bridge. We went into the Tower Bridge Exhibition. This was also on the London pass, like the river cruise. It was a great tour of the bridge up to the two walkways on top. I was trying to suppress my fear of heights and just enjoy the exhibit. They had historical exhibits and art from the book “This is London” up on the high walkway exhibits. And of course, we had great views and some long rides in elevators up to the top.IMG_2225IMG_2228IMG_2229We had about 30 minutes after we toured the tower bridge until we had to catch a boat back to the Westminster area. So I took a few kids down to the HMS Belfast that you can see docked in the Thames, and Erik and Nicole ran over to the Design Museum that was a short walk away.IMG_2230The kids actually could not stand the smells in the below deck walkways. It was a strong smell, but it was like a village under there. There were dentists and bakeries and post offices and a whole village. This was a war ship that served in World War II. Erik and Nicole enjoyed the design museum. We ran back to the boat and caught it. We took another ride down the Thames. It was nice to rest and get another tour down the river.

We jumped off and walked over the Churchill War Rooms.IMG_2232It is the underground war rooms where Churchill and his team ran the right in World War II. It is impressive to see the map rooms, and telephone systems and sleeping quarters of the men and women who masterminded the resistance to HItler and also in the Pacific. There was a new museum about Churchill with very impressive and extensive information about Churchill’s life. We had audioguides and the kids enjoyed it down there. We spent as long as we could until it closed. When we headed outside, we went into the park across the way, St. James’ Park. I didn’t remember this park from when I was in London. Right where we were there were lots of swans, ducks, pigeons, and also people feeding squirrels. There was a cottage for a bird keeper.IMG_2236IMG_2235IMG_2233 IMG_2234We needed to find some dinner and the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery were open late on Friday nights, so we walked over to Trafalgar Square.IMG_2237IMG_2239Back toward Trafalgar SquareIMG_2245St. Martin’s in the FieldIMG_2244In front of the National GalleryIMG_2242We found dinner at a spaghetti place and had salads and pizza and pasta. Then toured through some paintings. If there is an escalator, it always captures Robin’s attention. The museums were open until 9, and then we headed home by bus. We weren’t quite sure how to get to our new apartment, so we ended up walking over a mile after we got off the bus through some interesting neighborhoods, past Brick Lane full of Indian restaurants. It felt a little bit unsafe but when we got to Woodseer Lane and got to the apartment, it felt tucked back and on a safe little lane. We had a couple great beds and some couches and Erik had picked up some sleeping bags for the kids. We were ready for some showers and bed.

Whew, we packed a lot into today. I love this city of London!

Harry Potter Studio Tour/Singin’ in the Rain

We got up and had our great breakfast again. Then we headed out to the Foundling Museum before heading off to the Harry Potter Studio Tour outside of London.

The Foundling Museum commemorates the orphans who were left parentless in the 1700s and 1800s. It became a place that musicians and artists would come give concerts and exhibitions. The work continues today.

I am amazed at all the great artwork found in each museum and palace. Even a small museum has a treasure trove of paintings.

IMG_0292IMG_0294We got ourselves over to Euston station where we transferred from the tube to an overground train up to Watford Junction. The ticket person was very familiar with people going up to the Harry Potter tour on that particular train route. We jumped on the train and took a 20 minute ride up to Watford Junction, grabbed a few sandwiches and waited for our shuttle. We saw our neighbors headed for the same shuttle!

IMG_2190What a small world over here in London! I have seen one of my best friends and some of our neighbors. We took a bus ride out to the tour. We really enjoyed the whole place.

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We loved this room filled with the model of Hogwarts!

So we took a train back into London for a play. We had gotten tickets for Singin’ in the Rain at the half price ticket booth in the Leicester Square tube station. We grabbed dinner at Pret a Manger and then ran over to the theater. We really enjoyed the production. There was a dancing scene in pouring rain onto the stage. The first few rows were splash seats. It was a very fun show in the theater district. We saw Heidi, Brady, and their kids afterwards. They were down below and we were in the balcony.

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DSC_6628It was a full day, saw lots of magical things!

 

Buckingham Palace/Kensington Gardens

Our first full day in London. It is so fun that Heidi and her whole family are here in Europe at the same time as us! We decided to head over to Buckingham Palace to see the Royal Mews and the changing of the guard together.

Robin woke up at 4:30. Jet lag is hitting us. I actually woke up around that time too. It was already light outside. She tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. So around 6:30 Erik headed out for a walk with her. The other kids got up around 8-ish. We went over to the Georgian House Hotel lobby and then down to the basement for the breakfast that came with our apartment rental. We had lots of choices, from a full English breakfast (which I got) to pancakes or croissants or fruit and toast.

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After that, we got on a bus toward Buckingham Palace. We took a short tour of the Royal Mews, which is the working stables for Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, most of the horses were out getting ready for the changing of the guard ceremony that happens every morning around 11:30. But we saw many of the ceremonial carriages that are housed there. It turns out that 150 people live in this area of Buckingham Palace and help the stables run smoothly. We had met up with Heidi and her kids. So we spent the next few hours together.

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We had a front row view outside the gates. But it was a drawn out affair. My favorite part is just the red and black uniforms and pageantry. After that, we headed through Green Park toward a bus and went to Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens. We wanted to let the kids play for awhile. So we found the Princess Diana memorial park near Kensington Palace and the kids played for awhile. We found some sandwiches and pizza and drinks. It was fun to be there with the Mickelsens.

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Heidi and her kids headed off to Westminster Abbey, and we decided to go see the grounds and take a tour of Kensington Palace. I have never been there. The palace was interesting, the exhibits were very creative. This is the palace where Princess Diana lived most of the time. When we were nearby a helicopter came in and then took off. Prince William and Kate live here sometimes too. Queen Victoria lived here when she became queen and reigned for years.

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All throughout the exhibit they had recordings that told about secrets from the palace. So we would sit down and listen to the recordings that told of tragedy and loss and royal intrigue.

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There were interactive exhibits and people playing card tricks. Very entertaining.

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We relaxed in the park, spent some time talking about how we can all be kinder and more respectful to each other, and then decided we needed a change of pace. So since we had just started using our 6 day London pass we noticed there was a bowling alley nearby where we could play a free game of bowling on our pass. It seemed like a good diversion from walking and touring.

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We found the tube back, grabbed some cereal and milk and croissants and Hobnobs to take home, and headed back to our apartment. Maybe after tonight we will be over jet lag. Tomorrow is Harry Potter Studio tour!

London arrival

We landed around 2 pm London time, middle of the night our time. Five of us slept for a fitful 2-4 hours, and two of us couldn’t sleep at all. It will be interesting to see how jet lag hits us all. We landed in Heathrow. We got through customs and passport check-in quickly, picked up some pounds at an ATM, and then found our way to the tube, London’s underground system. Heathrow is the end of one of the lines into London, so we had our 7 day travelcards already purchased. It covered busses, trains, and the tube anywhere in London in Zones 1-6 which is pretty much everywhere. It was so nice to already have the travel all covered here.

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We had one hiccup when we had to make our one transfer to another tube line. Nicole forged on toward the other train but we didn’t see her go and lost sight of her. We were separated for 10 minutes, and then made a rule that before we head to a transfer we make sure we can see everyone.  We got off at the Pimlico tube stop and headed for the Georgian House Hotel. It was a long 15 minute walk with all our bags. We were in a basement apartment, but a kind bellhop helped us bring all our luggage down and brought down an extra folding bed. We have beds for everyone, a kitchen, bathroom, and wifi!

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We got settled and decided to head out to a bus that would take us over to the London Eye. We have tickets to go on it at 8 pm. We are feeling a little tired but excited to get out and see London! The bus stop wasn’t too far from our apartment.

 

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When crossing the street, these signs definitely helped out since the cars come from the opposite direction than we are used to.

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We were worried about long lines at the London Eye, but we checked in with our tickets we had printed at home, and then saw a short movie that showed some of the views from the London Eye. Then we walked over and got right on our 30 minute ride around on the giant ferris wheel. It goes very slowly and gives wonderful vistas of the city of London, with the Thames right below and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben present right across. We love being in London!

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Robin was nervous about going up so high. But she quickly got interested in the interactive guide that showed what sights we were seeing and she ended up loving it, and asked us many times if we could go on it again.DSC_6355

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I was dealing with a little bit of fear of heights especially with the kids being up so high, so sitting down helps me with that.  Still very excited to be in London, one of my favorite places on earth.DSC_6362 DSC_6366DSC_6368 DSC_6369 DSC_6370 DSC_6372IMG_2045IMG_2093 IMG_2114After we finished, we found a fun park to play on for awhile with great views of the London Eye behind it.

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We decided to cross the Waterloo Bridge nearby and head toward Trafalgar Square. I am so excited to be in London with everyone. I can’t stop smiling.

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We got on a bus and headed back to our apartment. We passed Westminster Abbey and lots of views of the city.

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We are ready for bed. It is still light at 9:30!