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


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.


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.



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.


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!