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.

DSC_6658 DSC_6659 DSC_6667 DSC_6665 DSC_6663 DSC_6661

IMG_2249

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.

IMG_2250 IMG_2253 DSC_6669 DSC_6673 DSC_6672IMG_2252 IMG_2251

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.

DSC_6676 DSC_6687 DSC_6685

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.

IMG_2255 IMG_2256

998120_10201358562434165_1071393144_n

 

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_0351

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.

IMG_2194DSC_6541 DSC_6551 DSC_6552 DSC_6576 DSC_6574 DSC_6571 DSC_6569

IMG_2199DSC_6557 DSC_6556 DSC_6554 DSC_6580 DSC_6578DSC_6584 DSC_6585DSC_6587 DSC_6591

IMG_2203 IMG_2201IMG_2207 IMG_2210DSC_6592 DSC_6593DSC_6596 DSC_6599 DSC_6601 DSC_6600 DSC_6604 DSC_6602 DSC_6605 DSC_6625

 

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.

IMG_2216 IMG_2215

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.

IMG_2154IMG_0388

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.

IMG_2156

IMG_2157 IMG_2160IMG_0092IMG_0143

DSC_6417

IMG_0187

IMG_0159 IMG_0163

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.

DSC_6420DSC_6422

IMG_2172

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.

IMG_2166

IMG_2173 IMG_2184 IMG_2183 IMG_2179 IMG_2177 IMG_2176 IMG_2175 IMG_2185

DSC_6453IMG_0201IMG_0200 IMG_0219 IMG_0273 IMG_0270 IMG_0262

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.

IMG_0252

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

DSC_6431 DSC_6449 DSC_6447 DSC_6437

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.

IMG_0068

IMG_2188DSC_6534 DSC_6522 DSC_6504 DSC_6487 DSC_6474 DSC_6465IMG_2189

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.

P1020704 P1020707

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!

IMG_0052 IMG_0055 IMG_0057 IMG_0060 IMG_0061IMG_0059IMG_0081IMG_0082

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.

 

P1020717

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

P1020776

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!

IMG_2120IMG_2068DSC_6367P1020750

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

Nicole was in heaven taking pictures.DSC_6356

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.

DSC_6376 DSC_6388 DSC_6387 DSC_6384 DSC_6380

 

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.

DSC_6402 DSC_6403DSC_6404 DSC_6405

The lions at Trafalgar SquareDSC_6407 DSC_6410 DSC_6413 DSC_6415

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

IMG_2140

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

 

 

We are off to London!

So here we are at SFO before our 12 hour flight to London! It has been a lot of work to get to this point. We spent the day packing and cleaning and shutting down the house before our trip. It was nice to have the whole day to prepare. I wish I had a little more time, but I got everything important done. Erik had a few hours to work. I went on a walk with Nancy this morning, and she will actually come and stay at our house part of the time while we are gone. It feels comforting to have someone here to look over the house.

We got to the airport and waited in line for a half hour to check in with our passports and luggage. It feels like all those months of work are coming to fruition. I can’t wait to get to London with the family.

P1020702

We saw the Etheringtons in the airport. They are off to Italy. We settled into the plane. Everyone has their own entertainment screen. Erik and I sat with Maren. Brandon and Nicole sat together, and Camille and Robin sat together. It is a full flight. We had dinner and watched movies and played games. It was hard to actually get to sleep, but we dozed for part of the trip. We will wake up and be most of the way to London!

Seminary Graduation

Last night was the seminary graduation for Nicole and her senior friends from church. I was proud of them for their hard work and sacrifice with early morning rising and scripture study over the last four years.  What a great accomplishment and start for their lives. I will be excited to see what they all do and accomplish and become in the next few years. They have all been a great support to each other over the last few years in high school and church and seminary.

IMG_2013 Receiving the diploma from her old seminary teacherIMG_2014 Shaking the bishop’s (Dad’s) handIMG_2015 IMG_2016 Fun with friendsIMG_2020 With the key note speaker, Mark MadsenIMG_2022 IMG_2028 The seven graduates – Miko Josh Sinclaire Lena Nicole Spencer DanteIMG_2030 The siblings hanging outIMG_2031 With Janet- dear friend, seminary teacher, Young Women’s PresidentIMG_2033With Jammie and Grandpa

 

Mom and Daughter lunch

Today we went to lunch with one of Nicole’s best friends and her mom. We wanted to surprise the graduates with a special mom and daughter lunch. We did not tell the girls we were meeting, so Nicole thought just the two of us were having a special lunch, but surprise, we had four for lunch instead! We had some yummy food and special time with these girls. They were both excellent students and great buddies since middle school.

IMG_2011

Last day of school!

This was our earliest end of school since my kids have been in school. They ended in May this year. We have adjusted to the new time frame just fine. Here are the kids with their teachers and buddies. My parents were here for the day after graduation. We took Nicole to lunch after her early morning arrival and a few hours of sleep. We had a delicious fish market lunch. I feel blessed they were able to come help celebrate Nicole’s graduation from high school. They are dear and blessed in our lives.

IMG_2002 IMG_2004 IMG_2006