Thursday, August 20, 2015

Epic Road Trip Days 12-19ish: London! London! London!

After a short layover in Rekjavik, it was time head off to London! Between the two flights the kids had been good, but had gotten very little sleep. We arrived noon-ish London time and that’s where our “easy” travel ended. The line at the border was incredibly long, we were already a little late and then problems compounded over the next few hours. With 8 bodies plus baggage we needed 2 cars from the airport and to pick up our keys. Our lead car (complete with exhausted baby) arrived at a shuttered rental office, then tracked down the new office with our cranky car service driver, only to find they had switched our apartment rental to a new location which was not in fact closer to where we wanted to be. To add to the chaos, no one in our group had working cell service but through some crazy manuevering and communication through the car companies we finally made it to our rental, and got to meet cousin Brody! The big kids were ecstatic!

Brody was less enthused by the chaos we brought into his life!
We all crashed fairly early after very little sleep in 48 hours and the next morning we were up bright and early to check out Tower of London, the day of the tube strike. For us country folk everything in London seemed crowded, but I’d guess the buses were even more crowded than normal. Luckily we were able to take the bus and train fairly easily. The kids got to stand up too which they thought was pretty awesome. In fact, you’ll see a theme in our review in that we could probably take our kids to a big city and just spend the entire time on public transportation and the’d be completely content!
Catherine in a guard tower!
Listening to the costumed interpreter:
We arrived early enough to see the crown jewels (no photos allowed) with minimal crowds. They have implemented a moving sidewalk past the jewels which is not only ingenious but was quite entertaining for the kids.
We then headed to the White Tower to view the impressive arms collection. It was a great place to share with the kids, even if I did a piss poor job of explaining the monarchy and all of British History in general. We picked up a Paddington goes to Tower of London to fill in the gaps later :-) Also, a huge thank you to Pas for almost all of these pictures. I stuck with my camera phone for most of the trip as my hands were full of kids most of the time.

John got out of the backpack to explore the White Tower. When I set him down to touch the wall a docent rushed over to me. I was afraid I was in trouble, but she just came over to warn me about the splinters on the floor!
The Tower has a kids program that focuses on the (very grim) history of animals at the Tower. We checked out the animal room:
And the kids made their own beasts. Their Zebrocacoon
John wasn’t sure what to make of the monkeys!
Catherine’s Racadilepine
John giving the tower a side eye:
Castles are boring.
The kids handled their previous all-nighter and jetlag by falling asleep on all forms of public transportation. They were ready to play later that night as we headed out to a fantastic family dinner at a great little Mexican restaurant.

John found our conversation a little too boring. We brought 3 different carriers/backpacks for him and ended up rotating through them all. This backpack is the most practical for nagivating crowds and carring baby stuff but provides the least head support unfortunately. Luckily John didn’t seem to mind!
A much needed sink bath when we got back to the apartment:
And John testing out his new UVA gear with one of his favorite UVA grads!

Day 2 took us to the London Transport Museum for the day. James was off for a bachelor event so Mas, Pas and the kids and I headed over to Covent Gardens area. John was not quite certain what to make of it:
The museum knows its market is kiddos and had a stamp trail to follow with 13 stations. Unfortunately, this set the kids on a determined mission from stamp to stamp, not always stopping to check out the stuff inbetween!

Driving a tube car:
Checking out the back of a double decker bus:
John took a moment to stretch his legs with a quick crawl across London:
Silly kids:
John found an adorable baby to kiss!
And took a turn driving the buses:
Poor Catherine just wasn’t tall enough for all the controls!

We took a picnic break on the steps of Covent Gardens:

And took some time to check out the buskers, which the kids found equally fascinating and frightening.
Both kids got to put money in, but only got close enough to toss the money and then ran!
The next day it was time to celebrate Brody at his naming ceremony. The kids were pretty jazzed about their first black cab ride
Impossible attempts at a sibling picture!

John tried to be helpful in opening other peoples’ gifts. He gets that from his big brother!
Walking the babies to sleep. John didn’t take the hint as readily as Brody!
The naming ceremony was lovely and at a great little neighborhood park where the big (and little!) kids could play afterward.

On the way home we passed the Lewis Carroll Children’s library. We stopped in for a quick break and a ride on whatever this thing is!
I enjoyed the wall art immensely!
Once home it was nap time while we planned an evening excursion along the Thames and to the London Eye. That meant another tube trip for these country kids!

We were able to have James’ cousin and aunt join us as well as a few other wedding guests. It was a gorgeous evening for a trip up the Thames to check out the sites.
While I started out on the upper deck, the kids and I eventually moved downstairs where John was able to move and groove! Photo opportunities weren’t as great from below but it was still gorgeous:
John spent most of the trip crawling under the seats and smiling for foreign, non-English speaking tourists who were taking pictures of him. Like an oddly weird number of pictures. And selfies. I hope they won’t be too disappointed when they realize he was a tourist baby and not a native :-)
We were fortunate our tour guide found out they would be opening tower bridge so we hung out for a while to watch!

Next up we took a spin on the London Eye for another birdseye view of London:

From the Eye Matthew spotted this cool park nearby so we split from the rest of the adults and checked out the park:
And the free Coca-Cola 4D movie that was essentially a combo ad for Coke and the Eye (which we had all just been on). It was weird but these kids love 4D movies so it worked out!

The next day it was time for the big event! The kids were eager to get dressed up:
Including the little guy who managed to not realize he could chew on his bowtie most of the night!
Hanging out with Uncle Ed before the ceremony:

Possibly the best photo of all three kids I took the entire trip!

Ring bearer and flower girl in action:

Lovely couple, lovely ceremony.
The whole family:

More lovely family:

What kid doesn’t love an open bar at a wedding. Unlimited juice and soda!!!
A very dapper dining buddy:

And entertaining!
Gorgeous and happy family:
We should have know, but it was confirmed through the evening, Catherine is a dance machine!
At some point we had to drag her on the dance floor for fear she might dance herself to sleep (or really, fear she would dance herself into an exhausted tantrum!)
Meanwhile, James and I worked on purposely dancing this guy to sleep!
At the end of the night all 3 kids shockingly made it well past midnight without any major fits or tantrums and John thankfully didn’t manage to trip any waiters as he spent much of his time crawling underfoot!
The next day we celebrated with a morning brunch and sent the couple on their way to their mini-moon. Our hosts:
Tickle time!

We wrapped up the visit with packing and then one final outing. Mas and Pas had given the kids new rain jackets for their birthdays and we luckily only had to test them out once:
One final bus ride:
For a generation of suburban kids who will possibly be kept in carseats until their 12, standing on the bus is one of the coolest things ever!
One John in a pub:
2 Johns in a pub:
Three Johns at the aptly named Three Johns pub!
Sorry John, no beer for you, just a coaster!
Dueling photographers! Angela got some great shots from the trip she shared on Facebook for us!
I’m shocked Pas only caught this moment once as this is our discipline posture.
When we got back John was so exhausted he didn’t even wake when we took the backpack off!
The next day we took uneventful car trips to London, followed by some annoyingly odd travel back to Virginia.  It was a wonderful, whirlwind of a week!  In all aspects the kids traveled much better than expected which was a huge blessing to all of us, and it was fantastic to have so many extra hands to help!

Next up: Days 20-27ish: More Virginia! More Family Milestones! More Museums!

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