Saturday, September 25, 2010

England: Day 6-8

Mom and Dad got the next two days off from their mission office work. So we got to go sight seeing with them! Dad had emailed us some places we could chose from, and one that sounded cool was York. Here's the description I had:
Drive to York (about an hour away) and see the York Minster (cathedral that is the largest medieval church in northern Europe) and the walls that encircle the city of York (the finest of their kind anywhere in Britain), along with the other sights in that city. Then drive back by way of Harrogate, a great strolling town in central Yorkshire with an abundance of Victorian architecture, and see some of the Yorkshire Dales on the way home. We could leave late morning or early afternoon and spend as little or as much time as you want. We could eat at Betty’s Tea Room, a world renown restaurant

It sounds fun, right?

We were slow moving this morning, because well, we were all exhausted.... Mom and Dad had been working hard in the office, and Matt and I were recovering from Lo
ndon. (let alone the 8 hour time change) Well, we finally headed to York.

When we got there, Dad showed us the wall. It was interesting as we went to each place, that every time there was a wall around a city or a fortress, or a castle or something, it was because it was up on a hill and naturally had the advantage for war. Now, I know that this is common sense.... but living in America we don't have structures, built purposefully for battle. I mean, the foothills are where the rich people live because it is a good view, NOT because they want to have a good tactical advantage on attacking armies? Could you imagin
e how different America would have been built if that were the case?

Anyways, so the walled part of the city is 2 mile circumference but there is lots of city outside the wall, now. So we went in the city and parked, and headed to the center of the city. It was classic with cobble stone roads and un-matched buildings built right next to each other.

View of the street in York.

I found this adorable candy shop where I bought my sister 2 of the 8 flavors of toffee they had available. And then we kept walking, deciding we were hungry. We asked around and found an Indian Restaurant. I've heard good things about Indian food in England, so I was excited. Mom and Dad aren't spicy food people, and neither is Reid, so we all picked mild dishes. (I got my well missed Saag! Oh how I had missed that flavor!) The other 3 dishes were creamy based, and all tasted different but delicious! We were all thrilled how yummy the food was. Even Reid partook quite a bit and seemed to like it.

Now that we had strength, we headed to York Minster Cathedral (the largest medieval church in North Europe). And wow, it is HUGE!!!

4 pictures to cover the whole thing!
1 2

3 4

(still haven't figured out the art of blogger's picture set up)

The history of this place is unreal. Basically it has had a church built in that location since the 600's A.D. And in the 11oo's people tore it down buried the foundation and built a church a little higher up. Then again in the 1200's, and ever since then, people buit wings and courtyards, etc. on it to make it what it is today. The stained glass windows are AMAZING, and they even have their original glass in them still.

The cool part is that they had to redo the floor of the cathedral flooring in the 1960's. So as the restoration team worked on the floors during the day, the archaeologists would work to dig out the floors at night. Then the restoration team would put up support
s, so that today you can go down and see the previous church foundations. It might sound boring, but it really was very very very cool. I was enthralled the whole time. Not to mention the pure enormity of the cathedral itself... it was stunning.
We simply do not have anything with that kind of history or detail here in the states.

After York Minster, we walked around on the city wall. It was an enjoyable
walk, but I was grateful when the construction permitted us from walking the whole 2 miles, and we had to go through this cool entrance to get back in.

After that we wondered through some jewelry shops that were B-E-A-U-TIFUL! but way out of our price range. Then we got some yummy ice cream and headed out.

Then we made a quick stop in Harrogate at this GORGEOUS park! We walked through the park, and it was so amazing! There was some band playing, and Reid kept danci
ng everytime they started up. The sun started going down, and it was a might bit chilly, so we headed home for the night.

This day Mom and Dad had met a PhD student at Durham University
, so we met with her, and she showed us around. We started with a tour of Durham Castle. Again, they built the castle in his location because of elevated ground, which gave an advantage to them over attackers. (As you can see this is one of many streets leading UP to Durham Castle.
(come up on the left, and keep going up on the right)

They had a chapel, guest rooms, kitchen, etc. It was interesting because it is a dorm now for the "well to do" students. The scariest part was the leaning spiral staircase. It was made from oak or some other heavy wood and is no longer level.

After that we took a short walk through Durham Cathedral. (You know that scene in Harry Potter, in McGonagall's classroom is this huge long room. Yeah, that was taped in the nave of Durham Cathedral.) And here are some shots you might find familiar as well.

Then she tooks us along the river to enjoy the nature and tell us of her days of being the caller on the rowing team for her college. (College - meaning her department, they just call them colleges there) She told us lots of stories about what's its like being in England long term after growing up in good ol' Provo, UT. And some of the experiences how people view her or how history is perceived a little differently. It was a great time, and we are so grateful sh
e took time out of her busy day to show us around!

Just before we left, we stopped in a little convenience store (English style) and bought lunch. We decided to be adventurous and try the pasties. We got a cheese and onion one, and a chicken one. They were really good. Not as filling as we would have liked, especially since Reid ate almost half of one himself. So we also got 2 pastries, a chocolate eclair and an apple turnover. They were from the section "fresh cream," and I figured that couldn't be bad. The apple turnover was SOOOO good. I mean, truly heavenly. It was sad that the chocolate eclair was delicious but a let down after the amazing apple turnover. America doesn't do pastries justice. They are so much better in Europe! (yeah, my expertise in this area is from my knowledgeable 4 day whirlwind business trip to Germany, oh well, I'm convinced.) Anyways, it was so good.

We headed to Alnwick Castle (pronouced a-nick, short A), where the Duke and Dutchess of N
orthumberland actually live! (with their 4 children)

Through touring we learned that Alnwick is really a large area of land, they have the castle and gardens, and flocks of animals, and lots of other stuff; that the Duke and Dutchess and their family live there 4 months of the year (the winter months) and the rest of the time they live about a mile away (still on their land). We got to see their China collection, their chapel (in their house), there "family" room or lounge as they called it, their library, and
all sorts of other things. Matt really enjoyed seeing the ledger from hundreds of years ago for the family, about how they had to sell off this business or that land to keep the family from losing the land and castle.

It was just unreal to imagine living their in a house so huge, with silk wall paper and life-size portraits of your ancestors on the wall. Really crazy. But we also pictures of their family and they look totally normal.
So it was neat to see. In fact the Duke and Dutchess were at the castle while we were, simply because they care about their public and wanted to make sure everything was going well for the day.
Here is their backyard

This was also another Harry Potter film location. Especially the flying scene in the first movie, they even put a poster up for you to get your picture moment.

We enjoyed the view and let Reid run around a lot. After that, it was ice cream and head home. On the way home, we got our first REAL rain. I mean sure, we had gotten sprinkled on the whole week, but nothing that didn't dry within 5 minutes. This was a full blown rain. Poor Dad was driving in the rain, the only one awake. (that brought back lots of memories of growing up)

Once we got back to Leeds we realized we were hungry and went back to Murgatroyd's. It was a enjoyable relaxing meal after a long day.

When we got home, it was straight to bed for all of us.

We had to get up early to head to the airport to catch our flight. On the way, we got to ride on the highest freeway in England. It was funny to see that the highest elevated roadway, was still just on a hill (no mountains).

I tried to soak in all the beautiful green surroundings that I could, before coming back to the desert. We got the airport, checked in, and then it was time to say goodbye. It was harder than I thought. I don't think I realized how great it was to spend time with my mom and dad. I loved sharing Reid with them, and letting him get to know his grandparents... he especially loved Grandma on this trip, he took right to her. But finally, we went through security and did our last wave.

As Reid looked out the window, I silently said goodbye to England... thanks for a great time!

Well, of course our flight was booked, and so we squeezed into our seat with Reid. We got the NICEST man to sit next to us. He always offered to get up when Reid cried and picked up toys with no complaints. I am so so so grateful to him! Reid did really well, he slept for about 3 hours in the middle of the flight and played and bounced between Matt and I the rest of the time. Not bad at all.

When we flew into JFK (New York), we couldn't believe how brown it was. We did the whole customs thing (so much easier when you are on your way back into YOUR country). And got to the security line. Matt went and asked the lady if it mattered which line and she said no. So we picked the left one. Well, we got to the front of that line, and another lady told us that families and strollers couldn't go through this one, and we needed to be in the other line. Thank goodness the lady Matt talked to overheard this, she had us cut into the line on the right. And of course we cut in front of our fellow passenger on the previous flight. By this time we were joking and chatting with him. He was headed the same way we were, so we had an enjoyable walk to our gate.

Matt took Reid for a walk. Reid found the arcade games and it was all over. Matt said he'd take Reid down the terminal and he'd run to the arcade games, specifically the car ones. He just sit there and drive. He loved it. I loved it too, because Reid slept almost the ENTIRE next flight. We stopped in Dallas, and swapped planes again. We bought some good old McD's and took turns eating and chasing Reid. He then slept almost the whole flight again! Bless you child!

We arrived in Phoenix around 9:30pm. Matt's aunt graciously picked us up about 9:45pm, took us back to our car. Then we got in our car for the 2 hour drive home. We arrived home about 12:30am. I calculated it and we were travelling for 25 hours! Reid went to sleep in his crib great, and we crashed.

We woke up at 7am wide awake, so we decided to head to church.

And there we were, done with our vacation. It was so much fun, and we had a great time, even with the trials of a 1 year old. But really, he did wonderful. We are so blessed to have been able to go visit a wonderful place and spend time with my parents. We loved our first international family vacation!

(p.s. please forgive typos... I just needed to write this down before I forget it all)

England: Day 3-5

Ok, so we woke up Monday morning and had to get ready and re-pack. Luckily, we were able to check a smaller luggage bag for Reid. And so we wouldn't have to lug our huge suitcases all over London, we planned to use this bag as our luggage for all 3 of us to London for 2.5 days! Well, it worked. 2 backpacks, 1 large carry-on luggage and a stroller later, we were in the car on the way to the train station to head to LONDON!!!!!

The train left about 9:30am. There were stops all along the way, but they were anywhere from 15-30 minutes apart. So it was a nice casual ride. The part we loved is that at one stop, we had to wait for some higher priority train. So we ended up being about 5 minutes behind schedule. After they picked everyone up at each stop afterwards, they would come over the speaker and apologize for being behind schedule and explained that they had to wait for another try. But our favorite part is that they kept saying they were "endeavoring" to correct this, or to get back on schedule. I think the rest of the day Matt and I were "endeavoring" to do anything. It was so much for fun to say that word that "trying" or "working" ... it was fun!

Reid had fun playing (flirting) with the girls in front of us between the seats.

We got to London Kings Cross station around 12pm-ish. (we had brought lunch on the train, so we were good on food) Well, we did the obvious first... Went and looked for Platform 9 3/4!!!! Duh! We were so bummed, when platforms 9-11 were under construction, so only people with tickets were allowed in. ARGH! Oh well, 1 less site we got to see.

So then we headed to the subway. Hopped on what became our good old friend the whole stay, the Piccadilly Line. It took us to a stop 2 blocks form our hotel. Perfect! I do have to say, I was quite impressed with Matt's skills of carrying a backpack, a suitcase in 1 hand, and the front of Reid's stroller in the other hand going up and down LOTS of subway stairs. He was a champ! London is not so stroller friendly... but we were determined not to let that set us back! We also had to buy passes for the subway, which was exciting to sit there while Matt was in line and watch people from all over the world wonder around one of the busiest subway stations in the world. Fun stuff!

Anyways, we get to our hotel. It was a small little bed and breakfast. All the American hotels were booked, but we were kinda excited to experience a London B&B. Well, Europe is different, and we were cool with it, cuz we knew things are smaller there. But it is still fun to think about it. The breakfast part however was nasty. We hit the delicatessen on the wait out the 2nd day.

"Our street" for 2.5 days

So there were 2 ways to get to our hotel, the slightly longer one had a grocery store on the way, so that was perfect! They also had a community fridge for all the guests. Perfect! So, that took care of all of my worries for Reid's milk!

Once we got settled and everything... we headed out for the afternoon. We decided the British Museum was going to be our fun for the day! We wanted to go to at least 1 museum, and Matt really wanted to see the Rosetta Stone, so this was a perfect fit!

We also saw some very cool Egyptian artifacts.

And some cool Roman columns. Keep in mind, these aren't just some sculpture of what the Roman columns looked like... they are the ACTUAL Roman columns!

Reid was adorable this whole time. He either slept or made friends. Some Asian lady tried to talk to me in Chinese or Japanese or who knows what, and I'm like, yeah, I don't speak that language, so I just smiled.

Afterwards, we let Reid run around outside the in the museum's gardens. He had a lot of fun with that.

By then it was after 5pm, so we headed to Piccadilly Circus, so we just started looking for anything that looked yummy. There was a whole lot of American places, but we did not fly across an ocean to eat American food! So we found Nando's! It was scrumptious! Reid loved it too. It has some South African and Portuguese influence, but we didn't get the really spicy stuff. Then we continued to look around at the shops. It was sad though, because I realized, I'm a tight wad and didn't want to spend pounds on something I could get for cheaper in the U.S. I think it was catered to Americans, so nothing seemed really fun or exciting to buy for me. Oh well, I'm lame.

Reid had crashed, so we figured we'd head back to the hotel and put him down for the night. Well he showed us! He woke up when we got to the hotel and stayed awake for about the next 5+ hours. (I don't know, I lost count when it hit midnight) At that point, Matt and I each took an edge of the bed, and laid there while we let Reid run around on the bed. It was a long rough night. I finally got Reid to go to sleep at some point, so I kicked Matt off the double bed, and we went to sleep. Then at like 6am, since our room was on the floor below ground level, our window was at street level... yeah, all the cars started to leave. So of course Reid woke up... Awesome. :)
Well, time to do it all over again.

We headed to Big Ben! And wow, it is RIGHT there when you come out of the subway station. So we did the obligatory Big Ben pictures. Then headed to find the boats. (thanks to my bro-in-law's recommendation) We took a boat ride along the Thames River to the Tower of London. On the ride from Big Ben to Tower of London you get to see tons of sites: Eye of London (big ferris wheel), St. Paul's Cathedral, Globe Theater, Museums, IBM. Not to mention all the bridges... and yes, London Bridge did fall down. And yes we did see what is now London Bridge #4. But Tower Bridge is sooooo much cooler!

It was great weather, and Reid loved it! So I would recommend the boat ride to anyone!

Then we got to Tower of London. Tower of London was once London's main fortress. It has anything and everything that you have seen in your Robin Hood / Arthur and the round table movies.... it was so cool!

My personal favorite was these holes where you shoot your arrows at the oncoming enemies.
Of course there were lots of towers, so that meant spiral staircases. Did mention London is NOT stroller friendly? Yeah, stroller, spiral staircases, yeah, it was exciting. I guess the good news is that Reid slept through most of Tower of London, so we didn't have to chase him around, simply had to carry the stroller around.

We also got to wait in line for about an hour so we could be put on a people mover while we looked at THE Crowned Jewels through a heavily guarded case. Really... it was really cool. I would so do it again. Cuz well, they are jewels and they are HUGE!

I think one of the highlights for Reid was chasing the pigeons. It was funny though, cuz they also keep ravens there at the Tower of London. It's part of the superstition that if ravens ever leave, the Tower of London would finally fall. Anyways, a raven flies up near us, I pick up Reid (cuz I know that this is not the kind of bird you want to mess with). But this girl, about 8 years old, runs over to the raven thinking she will scare it away. NOPE, the bird doesn't even flinch when she runs right up to it. So then, she takes her pointer finger and tries to touch the raven. That bird snapped at her so fast... We're not sure if it got her or just scared her. But she went running back to her dad, who was laughing just as hard as everyone else around him.

We took the boat back to Big Ben's and headed to Hyde Park for some chill time. Reid loved it. He ran around chasing more pigeon's and strategizing how to catch them.

Then we headed to this steakhouse for dinner. Well, it was a huge disappointment and not worth blogging about. Plus, Reid was so tired and barely ate anything.. On our way back to the hotel, we were trying to keep Reid awake, so Matt put him on his shoulders... Yeah, it didn't help.

So we get back to our hotel, put Reid down on the bed to sleep, and he sleeps 1 hour, yes 1 hour. That's it! And then, the fire alarm goes off! Did I mention we were on the same floor as the kitchen, and they let their guests cook in the kitchen, and someone burned something. So we went upstairs to let the smoke clear out. It was fun chilling out there with all the different guests on the sidewalk in front of the hotel.

Then, we continued with another miserable night of Reid being awake. I finally got him to lay with me on the twin bed, because it was darker in that corner. And he finally fell asleep. I think I may have only battled with him for 3-4 hours, and actually got 5 hours of sleep.

But don't worry, 6am came, and so did the cars... and Reid was awake!

Our train was leaving at about 2:45pm that afternoon, so we tried to pick things that we could fit into a small window for that day.

We got ready and packed up our belongings. We checked out, and left our bags at the hotel. So we headed off to see the queen. Ok, not really. We went to Westminster Abbey first. This is the church where all royalty is buried, and where all coronations take place. The ornate nature of all the graves were beautiful. Due to aging the colors are very dark, so I wonder how vibrant they were when they were new. We saw cool memorials, like Shakespeare, and Handel (his had a piece of sheet music carved in his), Chaucer, lots of others. The bummer is no pictures inside.

Here is the obligatory outdoors shot:

And then the butresses... man, their architechture is so cool!

Reid learned that these big stone buildings had echos in them... especially when we were in the smaller enclosed areas. So he had to test his voice by doing louder and louder shouts. "ah" "Ah" "AHH" I tried to keep him quiet, but the sweet clergymen told me to just let him shout because there was no service, so no worries. (I just felt bad, cuz it is still a church!)

After that we really did head off to see the Queen! But we were late for the changing of the guards, but oh my, the other 10,000 people were not. And I am NOT exaggerating the 10,000 number either. The place was packed! We caught the end of the changing of the guards, took our pics and were so tired, and it was noon. We started heading back to our hotel to get some lunch at the grocery store, grab our bags, and head to the train station.

Buckingham Palace

All of the sudden, they we were, leaving London after an AMAZING whirlwind of a trip. It was a blast, and even though I did not describe it in all its grandeur, we loved every minute. Well, except lying in bed awake involuntarily at night... but we love Reid and are so thrilled we were able to bring him, and that he was such a trooper!

Dad picked us up in Leeds, and we headed back to their house for a nice home cooked dinner. Reid went to bed a little after 9pm like a champ! He really did. Then we stayed up chatting with my parents a little bit, and then called it a night ourselves. Reid would wake occasionally, but would go right back to sleep. My favorite was at like 5 or 6am, he woke up and climbed in bed with Matt. After a little while, he decided he wanted mom. I thought it was so sweet that he wanted Daddy first.

So now the adventures of Northern England await!