Friday, September 2, 2016

Merry Olde England- Part Two

When last we left this blog, we were finishing up our time in the beautiful English countryside and heading to the city. Not just any city... London, baby! I had traveled to London in May 2000 with my mom but I was really excited to experience it with my boys.
We headed to the airport to return our rental car (which took WAY longer than it should have because the traffic around London is almost unbelievable) and then took our hired car straight to the flat we were staying in, booked through HomeAway.com.
Our hostess was an absolutely lovely older lady who welcomed us personally into her home and she and James got along famously. The flat was in Chelsea right near the Royal Hospital Chelsea and we LOVED the area. It was a two-minute walk to the Albert Bridge, which has personal importance to Chris and I (you'll have to ask us why in person, if you don't already know), and we could easily get to the London Underground aka The Tube.

Albert Bridge by day
Albert Bridge by night
Us at the Albert Bridge at night


Having watched Bedknobs & Broomsticks repeatedly, James was insistent on seeing the Portobello Road Market (and singing the corresponding song. Repeatedly.). By the time we walked that way, most of the stalls were packing up, but it was still a neat experience. The multicolored houses in that area are pretty unique in London. Dinner that night was at a great little restaurant called Ffiona's and it was so delicious! We were waited on by Ffiona herself, such a great atmosphere.

James and I strolling down the streets of London!


Sunday morning (which also happened to be Father's Day) we took the tube out to Kew Gardens and I was really excited about it. Visiting local gardens when we travel is one of my favorite things, and this one did not disappoint. 

Happy Father's Day to my husband, who is a phenomenal dad.
James is so lucky to have you!
First time on the Underground. Not actually underground here.


Teaching him to stop and smell the roses. 


Investigating what's at the bottom of the well.

This was a really cool "treetop" walkway that gave you a view from above.

Enjoying the gorgeous weather we were lucky to have that day!

Snapping a shot of my sweet boy.
Chris and James outside this really cool exhibit called "The Hive".
The view from inside "The Hive".
Chris took a break on a bench while James and I explored the rose garden.


As a Christmas/birthday/never-have-to-buy-me-another-gift-ever present, the world's greatest Poppa got us tickets to see Coldplay in London at Wembley Stadium. The concert was Sunday night and it freaking rocked! James has been to a couple smaller concerts in the past when he was little, but this is the first real big concert that he is old enough to remember and enjoy. He LOVED it!

We have tickets and we are ready!
He was dancing and singing and had such an awesome time!
The stadium looked so neat all lit up at night when it was over.


Monday was rainy so we took the tube to St. Paul's Cathedral. It's absolutely stunning inside. They don't allow pictures in a lot of these places so I actually found myself totally in the moment and just experiencing it as opposed to worrying about capturing it with my camera. It was kind of a nice break. 




After finding a little sandwich shop for lunch, we walked past the Bank of England, also known as The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, because James had read about her in a book and insisted on seeing her in person. Then, despite the rain, we decided to walk over to the Tower of London. It was starting to clear up and we figured, it's England. It's just going to rain. Why not?!

We got our first sighting of Tower Bridge on our walk.
The Shard touches the clouds.
James was SUPER pumped to see the Tower of London.
So great to actually experience places you have read about!

James was thrilled to meet a real "Beefeater"
and politely asked him to take a picture with him.
I love this mix of the old and the new. It symbolizes what makes London such a fantastic city!
Trying on a metal helmet in the Tower. It was heavy!


After we finished up at the Tower of London, we walked across Tower Bridge to catch a commuter train out to the suburbs of London. We had been invited to dinner at the home of Chris's former boss, Laura, and her hilarious husband, Steve. Laura is a fantastic cook and we had some of the most delicious Indian food of our lives. It was such a nice treat to visit with them and we enjoyed some really great political conversation centering around the upcoming Brexit vote and our Presidential farce election. Who says you shouldn't talk politics at dinner?!





Love this picture! Laura with a cuppa tea, a puppy, and James reading. So sweet!


Tuesday started out bright and sunny so we opted for a lovely walk along the River Thames towards our destination of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. At the time, the Brexit vote was only two days away so the area around the Houses of Parliament was utter madness. There were news trucks and media outlets everywhere in addition to the large number of tourists who regularly amass there. It was not ideal at all, way too many people for us, but the sites themselves were worth it. The history and sheer beauty of the architecture of these places will overcome a lot!

The view from Victoria Tower Gardens.
Such a beautiful place! Hard to believe this is a government office...


James was so happy to see Big Ben in person that I got a real smile in this picture! 

Oh, Westminster Abbey, you are just too beautifully gothic for words.
This area of The Cloisters is one of the only places you are allowed to take pictures. It's amazing.



After completing a pretty tough worksheet about Westminster Abbey,
he was rewarded with a giant gold chocolate coin.


After finishing up at Westminster Abbey, we took a walk down Whitehall past 10 Downing Street and Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly Circus and the Regent Street shopping area. I was anxious to check out Liberty of London and maybe pick up some of their famous fabric for myself. I did. It's so soft and lovely I don't even want to use it to make anything. Yet...


This was just outside the Liberty store. I loved the quote.
"No minute gone comes ever back again, take heed and see ye nothing do in vain."
Raise your hands if walking all over London exhausts you.


Wednesday was our last full day in London and we decided to spend it at the British Museum. Ever since we studied ancient Egypt in history, James has been dying to see a "real mummy". Since traveling to Egypt is not in the cards right now, this was the next best thing for him. The British Museum is enormous and it would have taken multiple days to properly take in all the artifacts there are to see there. So, we pick and chose the ones that mattered the most to us. Namely, mummies, Greek marbles, and for Chris a fascinating exhibit on the history and evolution of the timepiece. 

We walked past Buckingham Palace on our way to the museum.
There was still an hour until the changing of the guard and it was already a zoo.
We just kept walking.
His first mummy sighting. It was so awesome watching him talk about the things he
remembered from history and get excited about experiencing the real thing.


James asked me if we could recreate one of the pictures that was taken on my trip back in 2000, so we did. How cute is that?! Although, I think we have the same haircut...



Thursday morning, we took the train back to the airport to pick up another rental car so we could finish out this vacation with the number one item on the Chris Shenk Bucket List-- the Goodwood Festival of Speed held in Chichester. On the way down, we detoured over to Stonehenge and then on to the Winchester Cathedral so I could pay my respects to one of my favorite authors, Jane Austen (the cathedral ain't too shabby either).

We opted for the walk rather than the shuttle.
This was a mistake for Chris, who suffered miserably from hay fever for the rest of the day. 

Chris is totally faking this smile through his itchy, watery eyes and red, runny nose.
Thanks for being a trooper about it, honey!
Winchester Cathedral. Portions of this building date back to the 11th century. Absolutely awe-inspiring.
14th-15th century Gothic architecture at its finest.
I hear angels singing just looking at this.
I found it interesting that her original tomb (shown here) makes no mention of her work.
She was relatively unknown at the time of her death, but later monuments
were added as people began to come here to pay their respects as well.


Our "hotel" over the next couple of nights was a great little pub inn called The Old Drum in Petersfield. I can't speak highly enough of this place. We had a beautifully renovated room at the top of the stairs that included a kitchenette. The staff was friendly and wonderful, the food was delicious and the atmosphere was so quintessentially British. At the end of the day, we put James to bed in the room, locked him in, and went downstairs to the pub for a pint. Perfect! I have no idea how I didn't end up with any pictures of this place, but if you are ever in the area, check it out.

Friday and Saturday we spent all day at Goodwood. Chris and James were in car heaven. There were races up the hill by all manner of old and new cars, manufacturers showing off their newest models, some of the most antique of cars, rally car races, and celebrity sightings to boot.

We're finally here!
An art piece honoring BMW outside the Goodwood House.






Chris used this event as an opportunity to teach James about cars and engines and such.
I love that they share this passion.
Chris was thrilled to meet one of his favorite celebrities, Adam Carolla, a fellow car nut who was driving in the race.
This is the 1500hp Bugatti Chiron, billed as the world's fastest hypercar.
As you can see from his face, James was ecstatic to see a Dakar Rally race truck.
Then, he got an autographed picture of the driver and got to stand next to it. He could hardly stand still for the picture.
A while back, James became enthralled with the Koenigsegg One:1, a supercar so rare that only seven were built.
While we hoped that one might be there, we weren't sure so we tried to depress his hopes a bit. Then it was there.
I genuinely thought there was a chance he would pee his pants with excitement. He was just dancing. And grinning.
He asked us if he could touch it. When we said he could, but gently, he caressed it with utter adoration. 
The Formula One cars are really loud but so fun to watch!
This is a Peugeot from 1893. 1893!!!
James charmed this rally car driver with his knowledge of engines, so he allowed him to sit inside this baby.
After James is in the car, he informs us it is worth about a million pounds. Um, why are you letting our 7-year-old in it?
Chris and James on the actual track at Goodwood. Until next time...
This was my favorite part of Goodwood. The amazing view driving up to the event. England, you are gorgeous!


Sunday morning, we drove to the airport, returned the car and boarded the plane back to Orlando. 

Overall, it was a fantastic trip with something special for each of us, and I am so grateful to travel so often and to have such great company on my adventures. Our family time is just the best!