Today was our last day in Europe. Having traveled some 1800 miles by car and about 700 miles by train, and spent 28 days here we have seen many different historic places and much of our family’s heritage. Perhaps the most memorable part of the trip however was spending time with our family and learning about the English culture and the many differences in everyday activities and expressions.
We spent the morning at Pam and Howard’s church in Birdham, about fifteen minutes from the barn. After church we ate at a hotel on the top of the South Downs. It was a nice place situated on the side of a golf course and had lovely views. When we were through with lunch, we went to our last historical site. It was an old farm with lots of houses moved there from all over the country from different time periods in England. Each one showed how people from that time had lived and how the house was built.
The rest of the day was spent packing and relaxing for our trip the next morning. The morning was a rush starting at 6:30am. Howard drove us to the airport in London and Gideon and I made it through security and boarded our plane. Since neither of us was very tired and we had watched most of the movies on the way over, the trip seemed very long. We arrived in Charlotte on time and filed through customs into the US. Mom picked us up outside and we drove back to Raleigh. Dinner was at Chili’s with all of our family and one of Charles’ friends who was up from Nicaragua for the month before school.
Today was spent relaxing with Kate and Simon’s family. In the morning we packed all of our things and drove back to Cowdry Barn in Chichester. Pam stopped at the store on the way down for some lunch foods while Howard, Gideon and I pressed on to our destination. Soon after we arrived Kate’s family did and we ate lunch.
Once we were finished with lunch, we played some soccer in the back garden and threw the rugby ball a little. We decided that it would be much more fun at the beach so we gathered some things together and drove down to the beach, about a ten minute drive. The rest of the afternoon was spent building sand castles, flying kites and playing French cricket. The weather was lovely and plenty warm enough to have fun.
When the tide had come all the way in and we were getting hungry again we traveled back to the barn where Pam had been slaving away while we were gone. She had prepared a wonderful meal of fresh snow peas, rice and curry. After dinner we showed some of the rest of our pictures from the earlier parts of the trip to everyone. When all the pictures had been looked at, Kate’s family left to go home as it was getting late and they a thirty minute drive home.
I started today at Costa Coffee again with the paper since nearly no one else seems to like to get up before 8:30 and I can hardly sleep past 7:00. I finished the sudoku in the paper and came back about the time everyone else was ready for breakfast. When we finished breakfast we drove the Esher station in two cars because Howard had to come back early for an appointment with the doctor about his eye. Several trains went past while we were waiting and Gideon and I were supprised at how fast they go. most of the trains going past were traveling over 70mph which means they are nearly gone before you even realize they are there.
We arrived in London at Waterloo Station which is one of the larger stations in London and right by the river. Since we had not driven to London we hailed a black cab to take us to St. Paul’s which was a fair distance from Waterloo. St. Paul’s was exactly as we expected it to be. At this point we have seen plenty of cathedrals and castles so we knew better what we were getting into. We looked around the cathedral at the many famous paintings and people who were buried and such then walked up the stairs to the whispering gallery. The whispering gallery is at the bottom of the dome part of the building and if you whisper into the wall on one side, you can hear it plainly on the other side of the dome. After observing the way the sound was reflected across the dome, we marched up the many more steps to the very top of the cathedral where there was a lovely view of the city in all directions. Most of the city we had already seen from the London Eye when we rode on it, however some attractions were blocked and others where to far away to see.
After we came back down from the dome, we walked through the crypt slowly to observe all the history there. This completed our tour of St. Paul’s and we went back across the Thames on the Millenium bridge which is just a large footbridge. The bridge design is quite clever and from the side is very slim therefore not blocking your view of what is behind it. Howard left us here and went back on the train for his doctor’s appointment while Gideon, Pam and I walked a block to the Globe Theatre. The Globe was the theatre Shakespeare wrote most of his plays for although the theatre we saw was not the original Globe. It was burned down once and banned once and then rebuild according to the original specifications finishing in 1997. The day we went was a technical rehearsal for a Shakespearean play so we watched people bunje jumping for twenty minutes inside the theatre.
After the Globe, we walked up the river further to the Tate Modern, a modern art museum. The first thing we did when we got there was to get a bit of lunch in the restaurant looking out over the Thames. After lunch we spent a good deal of time looking at the exhibits. Most of the exhibits were more of a laugh than art as they were all very abstract and awkward. After almost two hours we headed back to Waterloo Station and caught the 15:18 train back to Esher.
Dinner was at the lovely Black Swan in a town that was hardly a dot on the map called Ockham near Esher. The food was very nice and we finished it off with traditional sticky toffee pudding. This was the last night in Esher so we packed our bags for the morning drive back to the barn in Chichester and tidied up a bit before bed.
Today was a somewhat short day. once breakfast was out of the way Gideon, Howard and I drove to Hampton Court. Hampton Court was the old royal palace before Buckingham was built. It was most notably used by King Henry VIII. We saw the state apartments of the king and queen and the vast gardens behind the palace. We also walked through the hedge maze for a while until we found our way out.
We drove back to the flat where we met Pam and Matt who she had picked up after some shopping and other errands. Lunch was brief consisting of sandwiches and watermelon and other picknicy type items. Following lunch Gideon, Matt, Howard and I set off for the motor museum at the Mercedes place. We met Louise and Jamie there and had a quick coffee because Louise had to go pick up Alivia. All of us liked the Mercedes place because they had lots of new cars in the showroom that we couldist in and play with the buttons and the sat-nav and all the features of the car. The also had a 3-d film that we watched and another film about all Mercedes’ firsts.
The most interesting thing that was at the Mercedes place was the course they had out front. You can hire a car and trainer for an hour or the afternoon and go around this track they have set up out front which is supposed to simulate real driving experiences. The track had a large circular section which they kept wet by using sprinklers continously to spray water on it. This part was to demonstrate what to do when your car spins on wet pavement. We watched these for a while and then left to go to see Dark Knight which was opening today in England. We went to the cinema with Matt and Jamie; Howard went back to the flat. The film was excellent, probably the best one of the summer. After the film, We went out to eat at Nando’s which was a spicy chicken place. I had a chicken pitta with chips.
Simon picked us up at Nando’s and brought us back to the flat. We showed them some pictures of the trip and then they headed back since it was getting late.
Coffee today was again at Costa Coffee at 7:00 when it opened with the Times in hand. The coffee is good and I find it difficult to sleep in until later. Today we saw several interesting and important things in London. First stop was the car park which was not very significant however finding a place to park can be a hassle. Pam went off shopping and Howard, Gideon and I made our way on the tube to Madam Tussaud’s. It took about an hour and a half to see everything in the museum and fight our way through the crowds. The inside was packed like the metro at rush hour so it was hard to get photographs but I think we all enjoyed it. The end of the exhibition was particularly interesting as you rode a small black cab ride through a sort of timeline from the medievial times until now hitting most of the historic events in English history by having a scene portrayed in wax figures of the time.
We met Pam for lunch after Madam Tussuad’s in John Lewis’ on the top floor at the caffateria. I had grilled salmon again with new potatoes and green beans properly sautaed. After lunch we drove past Buckingham Palace and went down to a car park just across from the Houses of Parliament. Westminster Abbey was the next pace we went. It as not as big or impressive as Notre Dame but had many more important people buried beneath it. Many kings and queens are buried there as well as famous poets and important folk from the government. Grave markers ranged from elaborate for kings and queens down to just a stone with a name and date. Some of the stones were from the 1100′s or 1200′s.
Finishing up at Westminster we walked back past Big Ben and grabbed a photo before heading back out of London as it was getting late in the afternoon. Dinner was take away from the local chinese place which was a little different than the ones I’ve been too but was definately very tasty and we finished as much as we could fit in. Tonight we watched Master and Commander which Pam had here at the flat.
I started this morning off proper by reading the Times over a cup of coffee at Costa Coffee. I went to Costa Coffee because it was 7:00 and nobody else gets up that early. I finished my coffee and the sudoku puzzle and went back to the flat for breakfast. After breakfast we drove into London.
As we drove into London, it was very obvious that Pam and Howard were very excited about the city and showing us around. They kept pointing out all the places of significance and the unusual sights that we saw. Howard knew his way around very well because his office was right downtown London.
Our first experience in London was the London Eye, a distinct part of the skyline and a wonderfull way to start our tour of the city by getting an idea of where most of the important buildings were. The eye is right across the river from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliment. After our flight on the Eye, we took a boat downriver to the Tower of London.
The tower has several interesting things inside it other than the buildings themselves which date back to the tenth century or earlier. First, they have the crown jewels which is a collection of many of the different crowns, sceptres, orbs, maces, and other gold items. They are all stored in a large vault but you are allowed to look at all them.
The other spot of particular interest in the tower was the armory. Weapons from centuries ago to fairly modern ones all over the walls and stacked on the floor. Every kind of weapon that the royal guard may have used was there and many captured weapons especially from the Spanish.
When we finished at the tower we ate lunch at a hotel brasserie right on the river facing the Tower Bridge. For lunch we just had sandwiches to make it quick and then Gideon and I went up and across the Tower Bridge. Unfortunately, as we walked up the steps to the bridge, two ships passed through it that it had to open for and we missed the bridge opening. The bridge is still used and opens about 1000 times a year. Gideon and I watched several videos about the selection of a bridge plan and the building of the bridge then went down the other side and looked in the engine room. I found this room particularly interesting because of the mechanical parts that make the bridge work. The system was very advanced for its day with hydrolic accumulators and a return system for the fluid pumped by the steam engine. The system could open the bridge in under a minute with the to twin cylinder engines.
This concluded our first day in London and we headed for Kate and Simon’s house for dinner. On the way we stopped at the Watrose for some food items and some desert for dinner. Kate made a lovely dinner and we all enjoyed comparing american and english customs and foods.
Shopping was the main attraction today. Breakfast came very late right before we checked out of our hotel. We left our bags at the bagagerie to pick them up before leaving for the station. Pam had a long list of things to get from Paris so we started off towards LaFayette square. We shopped in a huge store that was about the size of a small mall called Galeries Lafayette. It was 7 stories high, mostly clothing but there was also some electronics and watches and things. Gideon and I finished looking at everything we wanted to in about thirty minutes. The prices were nearly double the prices in the states.
Gideon and I went down the street to a church and sat in the park in front for a while watching some of the people and the birds. Soon it was time to meet up with Pam and Howard for lunch and we walked back the Galaries Lafayette and rode the escalator to the 6th floor which was mostly restaurants. Lunch for me was grilled salmon, chips, and green beans at the caffateria. After lunch we all went back to the hotel because we had done all the shopping and tourism we wanted to in France. The next two hours were spent playing card games waiting for our train at 18:45. At 17:25 we took a cab to the station, Gare du Nord.
Once at the station, We went through customs and boarded the Eurostar again back to England. The trip was quick and smooth right to Ashford two hours later. On the drive home from Ashford International, we stopped at Costa Coffee for a break and a bite to eat since lunch was relatively early and it was almost 22:00.