I brought my Usborne Book of London. We’re quickly working through the pages of these sights in real time. No intention of doing it all, as this can’t be accomplished with a happy spirit and four children in four days. The double decker bus is a favourite for the youngest. Rachel gave Zach a tour: “That, Zach, is Big Ben”. Zach: “There are two Big Bens”. Rachel: “No just ONE Big Ben, and that’s it”, pointing emphatically. These are charming exchanges, but rather loud on the earphone guided tour bus. The Spanish lady next to them is displeased with their volume and shushes them firmly, but later realizes their cuteness factor and strokes Zach’s cheek, much to his chagrin.
We’ve passed over the London Bridge (an inconsequential site compared to its neighbour, the Tower Bridge). The Tower Bridge is situated next to the Tower of London, a site with stories of torture and imprisonment, the likes of Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth I. We wandered past the glass enclosed Crown Jewels…the closest I’ve come to adornments like that are dollar store gems hot glued to a tin foiled crown. We didn’t get to touch the jewels, but we did get to see the Queen today. Queen Elizabeth II was reconvening parliament, so the kids were thrilled to watch her entourage and watch her wave in her golden carriage.
Along with the Double Decker bus tour was a river cruise along the Thames. The muddy brown river reminded me of the cafe-latte coloured Beaufort Sea. I imagine it just as cold too. We attempted the underground subway, zipping from one level to the next, from North Line to Picadilly, much like Pierce Brosnan in Thomas Crown Affair…but with four kids…and possibly not in London, or maybe it was Matt Damon in Bourne Identity. We even used the bus line, thankfully with Jim’s mapping skills…I had us moving in the wrong direction. Eventually we did indeed find Hamley’s–a six level toy store, with omnipresent assistants ready to ‘play’ with your children, or directly advertise to you and your child. The candy store level was a real hit with the kids too!
Running from the unyielding rain and compressing crowds, we attempted a refuge in Hyde Park, spending half an hour sitting with the ducks and swan. I imagine Queen Elizabeth I or King Henry VIII riding horseback with hounds following their prey. I would have liked to find the Holocaust Memorial or the Princess Diana playground, but we were soaked with Vancouver-like rains.
The hearty English fare reminds me of solid farm food from which my family originates. Meat and potatoes: beef and beer with potatoes, shepherd’s pie, cottage pie, roast beef and yorkshire pudding (but the puddings are airier than mine). Jim discovered Scottish eggs: boiled eggs cooked in bread crumbs. International offerings are everywhere, though I think we’ll leave that for the end of the week. The American Fried Chicken shop was shut down–an anti-American sentiment? We walked past an Ethiopian restaurant, which I would have gladly tried, but knowing that there was no convincing my family, we just kept walking (growing up being told I better eat my food cause the kids in Ethiopia are starving, I was very curious what exactly they ate). At the end of this week, though, we’ll all go African…
Our hotel is adjacent to Scotland Yard Street and the Sherlock Holmes Restaurant, so I feel part of a mystery. Perhaps that’s just the presence of my present background: the twenty french revolutionaries plotting in the lounge behind me. (It’s possible it’s a passionate french book club, but my six years of high school french language hasn’t equipped me to know the difference)! Whether it’s English or French, I’m quite enjoying our time in London. It’s only my feet that are tired.