Sunday, August 19, 2012

Out of Space, Out of Time

The girls at the 10k Olympics swim event

Franny checking out the book selection at Harrods

Franny making the tough cupcake decision

Girls at Hampton Court

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of fitting in the many things that we wanted to do, seeing the people that we wanted to say goodbye to, and getting ready for the journey back to Seattle. We managed to attend a few more Olympic events, including the cycling time trials at Hampton Court (photo directly above), the 10k Men's Outdoor Swim, and Steven went to see the shooting with Rob. We also went in to town and enjoyed the party atmosphere of thousands of spectators watching events on the big screens set up around the city, and watched the Closing Ceremony on our living room sofa.

Last Saturday night, we met Kevin and wandered along Southbank, sneaking in to the Globe Theater and hanging out at the new tanks exhibition halls at the Tate Modern. We watched some of the Olympics on the big screen, until the diving competition started and Steven got bored, then went for coffees and dessert and crossed the Tower Bridge to see the Olympic Rings up close one more time.

In the last week, I had beers with my Abel & Cole buddies and said goodbye to those sweethearts; and the girls spent lots of time with their London friends, promising to keep in touch. We also had one more Indian lunch with Alan and Isabel, thanking them for all of their support over the year, and had big hugs for our wonderful Tooting neighbours, whom we shall miss when back in Ballard.

Greta and I fit in one more trip to Somerset House, which was hosting an awesome Rolling Stones exhibit and an Impressionist drawing show in the Courtauld Gallery. And I took the girls to Harrods for cupcakes and a special souvenir gift, after spending the day at Hyde Park watching the swimming competition in the Serpentine (Lake). It was sad feeling like we were doing these things for the last time, but we all feel like we'll be back in London one day- and there is so much to look forward to in Seattle.

We flew back through Iceland again and arrived home safely, happy to be back in our comfy house. So, our amazing year in London has come to an end, and blogspot has informed us that we are out of memory space for adding more photos (we could have added loads more of the Cotswolds, as it was so picturesque there), so it looks like we finished up just in time. We'll be back at work and school soon, and will fall back in to many of our old routines, but this year has changed all four of us and we shall never forget the adventure. Thanks for following us on our journey.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fantastical Cotswolds

Dream House

Broadway Tower

As one last 'hurrah' (although I am sure we said the same about Paris) we drove to the Cotswolds and spent two nights in Chipping Campden. We stayed in a great B&B on the high street which really made the trip. Most of the buildings in Chipping Campden- as well as other nearby villages- are made from old Cotswold stone, giving them a weathered and golden look. I loved the architecture of the town, in particular the tall, simple, abundantly windowed buildings made even better with ivy growing across them.

On our first day we visited our great-grandmother in Devizes for lunch at The Bear. It was great to see her but sad to say goodbye after being in such close proximity this year. On the way to Chipping Campden we stopped in the village of Calne, where Dad grew up, to see his old house and where he went to primary school etc. which was really fun. Once in Chipping Campden we explored the town and church a bit before going out to dinner (Greek food). We kept remarking that it was like fairytale land- most of the doors are very short and you have to duck to enter them and all of the buildings and streets are so neatly manicured and well kept and yet still have the original stone and thatched roofs. Mixed with the melancholy feeling of leaving England in just a few days and the incomparable scenery, the whole trip was somewhat bittersweet.

After a huge English breakfast on Day #2, we set off on a loop walk from the high street. It was a beautiful countryside walk, through fields of lambs and horses and roads of thatched roof houses, but was made more amusing by taking the B&B's two dogs Inky and Pip on the walk with us. Franny has decided that she is going to get a dog of her own one day; I am fine with cats.

On our way home to London we stopped to see the village of Broadway and its tower. It was a great getaway and the perfect distraction from the inevitable packing up and goodbyes currently happening over here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

London Has a Bit of a Buzz

"The Dark Knight Rises" premier

The Olympic Torch comes to Tooting
There is a definite buzz in the air these days, with people from all over the world crowding the streets and the tube to take part in the action. It has been a busy couple of weeks for us, too, with a great visit from Alison and her family and then the start of the Olympics. Greta and I had prepped ourselves for the crowds and the celebs by attending the red carpet premier of "The Dark Knight Rises." We didn't get to see the film, mind you, just to crowd in with thousands of other people to watch the stars arrive on the red carpet. It was fun to be there, but we got bored after a while and decided to head out to dinner. We also braved the crowds (actually just happened to be walking there at exactly the right time) for a glimpse of the Olympic torch arriving in Tooting last week. It's all-go around here!

When we went to the Tower of London on Thursday, we had no idea that the "Today" show would be filming there, but it was a great surprise. We watched them do some interviews and I had a brief chat with Danny DeVito, which was pretty funny. There were lots of Americans there, all super excited to see Matt Lauer and the rest of the cast. It's always cool to walk around the Tower, and this visit did not disappoint. We followed it with a walk to Butler's Wharf and a great pub lunch before heading back to London Bridge.

Our version of The Beatles

It's finally hot and sunny in London, so we've been going to Tooting Bec Lido, the huge outdoor pool just up the hill from us, and swimming to cool off. We took our visitors there for a picnic dinner and evening swim and they enjoyed the lively atmosphere, too. The day before, we walked to Abbey Road (had to cross that famous street) and sat outside with a picnic in Hyde Park. They left Friday and then we had our cousins move in for an overnight, after going out to dinner with Alan and Isabel and all the family. We're having fun spending time with everyone, but not focusing too much on the goodbyes, as we don't want to get too sad. We rushed home to watch the Opening Ceremony, which we all agreed was very well done (what a relief).

On Friday we met yet another relation, Tim, who is a local chef. He's a really nice guy, and we found ourselves wishing that we had looked him up sooner. He even came to meet us at Richmond Park Saturday, where we had gone to watch the Men's Olympic Road Race and have (another) picnic. We screwed up the start times, thereby getting to the park hours early, so we had an excellent view of the event. The cyclists went flying by, and it was over in just a few minutes, but it was worth it to see their speed. Then last night, we had amazing tickets to see GB play the United Arab Emirates at Wembley Stadium, where Great Britain won 3-1; it was such a fun night. Oh, and we are 99% certain that we were sitting directly behind Robert Pattinson (no, seriously), which made it an even more exciting evening.

The girls are now done with school, which was pretty emotional for all involved. They had such a wonderful year here and met such nice friends, that it was hard for that to come to an end. Franny's class had a "Leavers' Ceremony," in which they did a performance and some students received awards. We were so pleased and proud to see Francesca win the Literacy Award for best student in her grade, and her name is now engraved on a cup in the Links Primary School trophy case. We hugged the Head Teacher goodbye and said that we'll stay in touch, which I really hope to do.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Paddington station


Playing in the garden 

View of Oxford from the oldest building in the city

Christ Church College

Christ Church's dining hall- where Harry Potter's Great Hall was filmed

Harry Potter staircase

Christ Church cathedral

Alice Liddell's garden

Hertford Bridge a.k.a. Bridge of Sighs

Miles of bookshelves in Blackwell's Bookshop

These gorgeous photos were taken in Oxford, where we stayed for one night at our extended family's house. We took the train in from London, which was only an hour's ride, and were taken by our extended family member (we tried to acquire the meaning of 'family member' in this situation and were met by something along the lines of my second cousin once removed) David back to their lovely house just outside the city. We dropped our bags off and then immediately got back in the car to drive to the river to go punting. It is a very 'Oxford' thing to do, especially on a sunny day, and the river was packed with boats. It is difficult to explain but the pictures give some idea- the wooden boat is narrow and fairly long with three different sections and cushions to sit on. The punter stands at the back of the boat and uses a steel pole to push the boat off of the bottom of the river. Apparently turning the boat is a bit tricky- one swings the pole behind them and pushes th boat off from another angle. The boats also have an oar for those times when you get stuck in the trees (which happened often and was very amusing) or if the pole gets stuck; you are supposed to leave it if this happens or else you would be clinging to the pole whilst the boat floats further away! It was all in all a great experience especially as it was sunny and warm. 

After a previous evening spent playing soccer, freeze tag, and three-legged races in the sprawling back garden with our extended younger cousins, we headed to Oxford city center. Almost immediately we found the city's oldest surviving building- a church- and climbed to the top for a view of shingled roofs and old stone buildings. It was a scene that probably hasn't changed much since the church was first established, which I think is part of the uniqueness of the city and campus. We then wandered through the streets until we hit Christ Church College in Oxford University. The building is very impressive and Mom and I were constantly disbelieving that it is some [lucky] 18-year-olds' campus. A highlight of the college was the Great Hall as it was used to film the Great Hall in all of the Harry Potter films. It was smaller than it is made to look on screen and of course doesn't include floating candles but was impressive in its own right with long wooden tables, huge fireplaces, and paintings of famous alumni. We all loved the outside staircase as well. The college also has a significant connection to Alice in Wonderland because Lewis Carroll attended the school and was friends with the dean and his daughter, Alice Liddell, whom Alice is based on. From the cathedral we saw "Alice's garden" and the door that Alice and her father used to go in and out of their property. Lewis Carroll gave her a cat from his hometown of Cheshire, and Alice was constantly trying to get the cat down from the tree in the garden where it perched grinning, hence 'grinning Cheshire cat'! Mom and I both love the story so it was great to learn about the origin of it. 

The rest of the day consisted of meandering in and out of the lush quads. Another highlight was Blackwell's, an old bookstore with literally miles of books. And of course having a picnic in the sun was perfect- the weather has finally changed for the better and was 90 degrees in London today! 

I loved the city of Oxford, the different college campuses, and naturally it seemed an amazing place to study. In comparison to Cambridge University, where I visited with my school earlier this year, it would have to be Oxford. It's not too shabby for the top school in the world...