Saturday, June 25, 2011

It's Laundry Day in London! (Days 5 & 6)

FRIDAY: Yesterday was a day of things that we were all really looking forward to!! Too bad the entire first half of the day was a dud. We woke up and headed over to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. From what we had read, it was a huge ceremony that was so interesting and enthralling to watch. We got there, and there were already people crowding all around the gates and standing all over the steps to get a closer watch. We finally escaped most of the crowd and found a great view on the stairs of a monument right across from the palace. We were next to a really nice couple from the nearby land of Chino, so mom buddied up with them pretty quick and got nice and chatty. Finally the guards from the other locations arrived, and the ceremony started. The seats that we were so proud of finding were suddenly less appealing once people of all ages got onto the shoulders of whoever they were with to see better. This is NOT an exaggeration!! There were full blown adults on their spouse's shoulders... including two kids that were riiight in our view of the Palace, thus ruining any possible chances at taking a quality picture. Mom was irked.
      After an hour and a half of useless music, lots of standing and staring and saluting and marching and yelling, the freaking ceremony ended. We walked down the mall (no, it's not somewhere you shop, It's much like the D.C. mall where it's a bunch of important buildings along a pretty street), and found the theater where Les Miserables was playing. The show started at 2:30, so we had about an hour to grab a quick bite to eat and get into the theater. There was a little pizza shop down the street from the theater that we had seen the day before at Leadenhall Market, so that's what we chose!
      The waitress served us our drinks and came back a little while later to take our order, then promptly decided to head into the kitchen and disappear for upwards of a half hour!! Soon it was 2:05, and we needed to leave to get into our seats in a few minutes, but alas, no pizza in sight! The pizza showed up on the counter, and still no one delivered it. The waitress was still cooking away in the little kitchen. My dad (who is generally more of a soft spoken man) went to another waiter who was standing right next to the steaming hot pizzas, and complained that we needed to leave and our pizzas still hadn't shown up. The man said he would help us, but walked the other direction and disappeared for another five or ten minutes. At that point it was 2:15, and we really needed to leave. We had middle row seats for the show, and something about climbing over 10 people to get to our seats didn't sound polite or appealing. Dad threw some money on the table for our drinks, and we left. A couple minutes later, Callie realized she forgot her jacket inside and had to run back to get it. AWKWARD!
      LES MIS WAS AWESOME!!! The costumes, the music, the actors, the rotating stage, I DIE! It was so much better than I even thought! There were lots of elements I didn't expect, but they weren't a disappointment at all! (Sorry for all the exclamation points, I just get so excited sometimes.) I'm not going to lie, I shed a few tears. But I wasn't sobbing or anything, so don't feel uncomfortable. To sum it up, I highly recommend it to anyone debating going to the show coming to L.A. We even had the understudy for Jean Valjean, but he was still absolutely fab. We booked it over to T.G.I.Fridays, seeing as we had only had peanut butter crackers and licorice since breakfast after the whole pizza ordeal, and downed a yummy meal. After that, we were supposed to head to Harrod's, but we found too many cute trinket shops and had a ball in M&M's World London! It was just a wonderful night.

SATURDAY: Today was my day for the hotel breakfast! Mm mm good. For the early part of the day, we went to the Portobello Market place, which is an eclectic swapmeet, London style. LOTS of antiques, but also a ton of super fun little jewelry stores. It was really crowded, seeing as it's only open on Saturdays, but it didn't seem very overbearing. It turned out to be a great thing that we got there as they were all setting up, because by the time we left it was swarming with people. All I can really say is that it is a good thing my dad hit the ATM this morning before we went! SO. MANY. CUTE. THINGS. Our prized find were these super awesome pendants and earrings called "mini-mosaics" which, as you might guess, are mosaic patterned pictures of flowers made out of the tiniest little pieces of tile. They are gorgeous! We saw them originally on a small picture frame, for the super low price of 235 pounds (about $375), but for some unknown reason, possibly concerning the price, we decided against it. A little later down the road we found them in a smaller (and cheaper) form, and just could not pass them up! They're from the early 1900's and are handmade in Italy. We were impressed with our find.
     After that, we headed on to the Winston Churchill War Rooms. We mainly chose this destination because the choices were that, or a huge museum full of things that none of us were too thrilled about. We're not cultural idiots, but after seven days of walking our feet to nubs, it's kind of easy to pass up anything that requires lots of walking. It turned out to be a GREAT decision. Basically what we saw were all of these underground rooms that were used during WW2 for the British leaders to hide and plan their defense/attacks. It was really informational, but not in the "boring stuff information in your face in a thick accent you can't understand" type of way. We had a great time seeing all of it! Besides the fact that Europeans seem to lack the concept of personal space or courtesy within a crowd. We've noticed that if you're in their way, they drop the shoulder and slam into you as hard as they can. I like to think of it as walking bumper-cars style. On the plus side, I don't need to go to the chiropractor because I'm pretty sure a thoughtful lady today readjusted my back for me.
     We went on to Westminster Abbey after that, the place that William and Katherine got married! It was such a lovely church, and we got to see an Evensong performance after that. A Spanish group of people behind us in line decided they wanted to just walk fast around everyone and skip the whole line, (my dad understood what they were saying), and it actually backfired because one of the couples got in a big fight over it and they ended up sitting right next to us where they would have been anyways. The choir was beautiful, and it was pleasant.
     Next was one of my personal favorite events, simply for the ghetto-ranking I'm sure it would get if you could measure that sort of thing. We did our laundry......... in the bathtub. Yes, you did read that correctly. My mom filled the tub with water, added laundry detergent, added the few articles of clothing (underwear, namely) that each person needed freshened up, and did her magic. We called the front desk and asked for extra towels, and stole some from the pool, and tried to towel dry it as much as we could. Now we look like some crack head floozy house, because there is underwear hanging from the light fixtures, tv, alarm clock, chairs, etc., so that it can dry. So ghetto fab.
     Soon it was 9 pm, and we hadn't had dinner. We ordered some pizza and had it delivered, and about 15 minutes after it was delivered, it had vanished. We wolfed it down like we hadn't seen food in two weeks! It was super fun to just relax, eat pizza, and watch The Parent Trap. It was a lovely night in.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Travesties of London!! (Days 3 & 4)

2 CRAZY DAYS!! So much to say.

WEDNESDAY: Yesterday we woke up early and loaded up on a bus that was going to Oxford University, Stratford Upon Avon, and Warwick Castle. We were one of the last little families on the bus, so we were all divided up, but Callie ended up with a nice lady and I ended up with a pleasant computer engineer that lives with her parents, it was great!
      Oxford was BEAUTIFUL. Such gorgeous architecture. We got to see the dining hall that inspired the dining hall in Harry Potter, as well as the grand staircase that they used when the students arrive at the school. It started to pour after we were there for a little bit, but it was still great. When we went to get on the bus, everyone had shuffled seats.. primarily because of the little Asian group that was with us. They didn't speak a lick of English, which had to have made the tour a little difficult for them, and they decided they wanted to shuffle seats instead of just sticking with the same ones. No big deal for now, but that comes into play later.
      Next we headed to Stratford upon Avon, which was such a cute little town, I almost couldn't take it. There were adorable little stores and cafe's all down the street, and we went to Shakespeare's birth house. We were forced to watch some movies about him.. they were kind of awful. Also, one of the Asian ladies, which soon became fondly known as little green lady in our group, was HILARIOUS. She had no concept of anyone being around her, or personal space bubbles, for that matter. She used mom's shoulder to steady her hand to take a picture, dad's shoulder to give her a boost so she could see better, and a few times Callie and I looked over to see her standing so close it was shocking. Good laughs over that gem. After it was time to get back on the bus, the drama unfolded. Callie reclaimed her previously stolen seat, another group reclaimed their seats, and the Egyptian ladies freaked out that their seats were taken. They headed to the back where we had been sitting, and we were forced to take the last row where a Greek family was sitting (a rather rude Greek family, if I do say so myself.), and they pitched a fit when they got back on!! They demanded their seat back, thus leaving us seatless and even more dispersed throughout the bus than before! We finally got it all worked out, but not before Dad got cussed at in Egyptian by the crazy ladies.
     After a beautiful drive through the Cotswolds, we got to Warwick Castle. Fun!!! The grounds were beautiful, and there were peacocks everywhere that dad had a glorious little time feeding. Callie almost cried when dad made her feed one. We climbed all through the towers and dungeons, and it was very sweaty/fun. Beautiful weather that whole time, which was awesome. When it was time to get off the train, we went to grab our bag of sweatshirts and other paraphernalia, but alas!! It was gone!!!! The Greeks stole it!!!! We tracked them down using the information that they gave to the tour company, but they made us go to their hotel to pick it up, instead of being courteous and delivering it after they swooped it! We ended up going to a super cute italian restaurant, and had our first yummy meal in our stay at London!

 THURSDAY: What. A. Day. We got to sleep in (8 am by mom's standards), and took our time getting out the door to St. Paul's Cathedral. It was so beautiful and, somehow, Mom convinced us to climb to the very top of the dome. 528 steps, if I'm not mistaken. It was SO exhausting! Our legs were shaking by the time we all lugged up to the top, but it was definitely worth the climb.

After that, Callie found the police hat she's been questing after. It looks a little something like this. No but really, that's what she looks like in it.
We took the tube (lingo for the subway, yo) to Leadenhall market, which is known for being used in the Harry Potter movies! It was used as Diagon Alley, and looks a little something like this. It was so fun because everyone was just hanging out for their lunch during work and there were lots of great food places! I'm dying to go back there again.
       After that, it was time to get to Wimbledon! We were trying to figure out exactly what track to take while we were in the tube station, and thought we had finally found the correct one, and had decided to get on. The train had been there for about a minute, so we knew we were cutting it close. (A little sidebar: once in New York we lost my mama on the subway when we all got on and she didn't. We had laughed about this the whole trip before this very event occurred.) We started to hustle onto the train, and Callie made it on, and then the gas releases made their noise and the door slid shut. Mom, in her moment of matronly protection, stuck her arm out into the doorway and stopped the door with her arm!!!! Okay actually another British guy inside stopped it with his foot, but Mom's arm was definitely in there getting some pressure. That's when this music started to play: ..skip to 1:50 to catch the full vision on this one. She was screaming at Callie to get off at the next stop and meet us, Callie was crying hysterically and pounding on the door, Dad was yelling at mom and trying to get her arm out of the door, and Grant and I were just standing there trying not to get in the way of anyone or anything. A guy inside the train was super super sweet, and apparently he pulled the emergency stop trigger and talked to the driver so that it wouldn't leave. It was crazy town! All of a sudden, out of the corner of my left eye, I see a black guy with 3 foot long dreads running down the track towards us (queue Chariot's of Fire music here). Turns out he was the driver. He unlocked the door, and lead us all onto the train, only to find out that we were on the wrong track and the whole ordeal could have been skipped in the first place if we had noticed what line was running. Rough times. End result: two crazy ladies (mom and Callie), and one mildly angry dad. From this, my dad coined the phrase, "Mind the gap, but more importantly, mind your mom's arm."

     Finally, we made it to Wimbledon. We stood in the queue for a solid hour, but got in not too long after five, which was super nice. We made it to a girl's doubles game featuring the girl who is currently ranked number eight for singles! It was super fun. Then we snuck to the above railing to watch Isner play (he's ranked ten for men's singles), but soon it started to rain. They had to hurry and tarp the grass because it gets too slippery too quick, but the second they had it tarped, the rain stopped! They untarped it just in time for the rain to pick up again, so they had to recover it, then uncover it again! The play didn't start again for another thirty minutes once the rain started the first time. We ate delicious strawberries and cream, sat on Henmen Hill to catch the ended of Federer's game, and had a blast and a half! It was too much fun. We made it home without incident, and survived the day in one piece. Phew!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Tower of London! (and Wicked, woo!)

Today was fantastic!! We woke up far too early for my likes.. seeing as I don't believe in single digit hours.. but I'm vacationing with my mom so I guess things like that are expected. My mom and I got yummy breakfast in the hotel, and forced my dad and the kids to mcdonalds (hehehehehehe) since we only had two complimentary breakfasts.

We rode on the red bus for the last time for the week and got off by the Tower of London! For those of you who are history impaired (exhibit a: ME), the Tower of London is more or less a fortress/prison that was used during the 15th and 16th centuries. We took some really great tours about all of the different torture methods, the various people beheaded (including all of Henry VIII's wives), etc. It was so interesting! Until the vary end when we went on the tour of the main building.. which we probably should have done first.. because that baby was SO long! Every time we walked into a new room Callie would make a comment of sorts about how the building just kept popping out new rooms. The men that give the tours are called Beef Eaters, and they're technically guards and what not. We found out that they have to be in the Marine Corps or something else like that for 22 years before they can work there! Crazy. So lo and behold, while the guards are changing positions, an Indian kid decided that it would be hilarious to sneak behind the barrier and take a picture.. a Beef Eater was watching.. and in a voice that made the people who weren't even involved in the trespassing scared, he screamed at him to get away! Intense!!

After that was all said and done, we tried to get back in time to go to Hard Rock London before we needed to leave for Wicked, but something about a 40 minute wait didn't fit into our time slot. We walked back to the hotel, and grabbed food on the way. Then it was time for WICKED!!! It was SO great! Due to the fact that I am the proud owner of the best dad EVER, we sat in the 9th row!! Such great seats for such a great show. It's been quite the day! And despite the fact that this morning I was about ready to shoot myself instead of waking up, I'm wide awake! Hopefully it doesn't make for a miserable morning tomorrow! Goodnight! :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

London! (days one and two.)

Well hello! I know it's been forever since I've posted anything, but I figured now is a good time to start since we'll be in Europe the next two weeks!!

We left Sunday morning (4 a.m., ouch.) out of LAX, and we saw Justin Bieber in the line for security!! Good thing Callie has seen the JBiebz movie enough times to recognize his body guard. That's how she knew it was him. Then some 20 year old guy behind us in line who was clearly just as excited verified it for us before JB took off his hat and glasses. He has bad hat hair, by the way. The first flight was great.. but once we landed in Toronto and had to get on an eight hour flight to London.. NOT good! It was a red eye, and something about being in a little tiny square of space isn't really that conducive to good sleep.

We got to our hotel at 8am, and by some small miracle they had our room ready! We got to crash and sleep for a few hours before we headed out to explore, which was quite a relief. We spent the rest of the day riding on a double decker bus getting an overview of the city.. and I am SO excited to get to see the rest of it!! There were adorable little kids dressed in blue school uniforms (they looked JUST like the kids in the Madeline books if you remember those!), and tons of gorgeous buildings. At about 4 in the afternoon it started to poor (hurray for the weather here!), so the city got pretty jammed up which made the rest of the tour not quite as pleasant. I'm not entirely sure what the plans are for the next few days, but I'll keep posting on here!!