Sunday, May 25, 2008

England and Belgium Trip Report, part II.

From 2000-2002 my husband's twin brother, Charles, and his family lived as expats in Windsor, England. We visited them each year during Spring Break. The first two years we left the girls at home and took Will with us. The third year Dorothy Anna (Dots) joined us as well. At the time she was 4 and Will was 10. What follows is taken from the texts of emails I sent home while we were there.

Monday, 11 March

I accompanied Patti as she drove the boys to school first thing this morning. Their campus (American Community School - Egham) is so beautiful, and I enjoyed seeing it again. The male teacher getting the children out of the car for carpool opened my door and queried with a smile, "Grade 12?" I love this British humor.

We returned home and retrieved Will, Dots and Robert and drove to the train station at Slough. We caught a train to Bath (changing trains in Reading), arriving there around 11:30.

Bath is a beautiful town, set in the hills, with all the buildings constructed of a creamy yellow stone, quarried nearby.

We first toured the ancient Roman baths, which date back to the 1st century A.D. -- quite fascinating.

We ate lunch at Sally Lunn's, where the famous sweet buns originated. The buns were a huge hit with the children; I had to reorder them twice.

Following lunch we took a Guide Friday bus tour of the city.

The Georgian architecture really appealed to me, and I especially liked the Circus and Royal Crescent (Georgian houses built in a circle and half-moon).

Robert and Dots decided to tour the Museum of Costume, while Will and I went to the Jane Austen Centre (guess whose choice that was). I loved learning more about Jane Austen and seeing where two of her novels (
Persuasion and Northanger Abbey) were set.

Leaving there Will saw a rugby shop. I stopped and bought him a rugby ball as a reward for being such a good sport in indulging my Jane Austen passion so agreeably.

We met back up with Robert and Dorothy, who had enjoyed themselves on their outing, and took a direct train back to Slough at 4:30. Patti and the boys were waiting for us at the station.

Tuesday, 12 March

Tonight we will stay in London before taking a train to Brussels tomorrow.

This morning we took the train from Slough to Paddington Station (caught a nonstop train and were in London in less than 25 minutes).

We bought Travel Cards which entitled us to unlimited tube and bus travel that day so we decided to take the tube to the Knightsbridge station near our hotel. I had downloaded a London Metro program to my Palm Pilot, and a quick type-in of where we were and where we wanted to go showed that we needed merely to tube over 4 stations, change to the Piccadilly line and tube over 1 more station. Sounds a lot easier than it is when you're schlepping around luggage, backpacks and two children. We definitely should have splurged for a taxi in this instance, if only so that when we arrived at the Knightsbridge tube stop we would have avoided walking several blocks in the wrong direction, in the rain, before finding our hotel (we needed a compass as London has very few buildings marked with street addresses).

After we found the Knightsbridge Green Hotel (which was remarkably close to the tube station had one taken a direct path), we checked in and settled into our room. We had a lovely suite with a large marble bathroom and a separate living area with a sofa bed where the children slept.

We left the hotel and caught the #9 double decker bus to Kensington Palace where we had a wonderful lunch at the Orangery.

We walked around Hyde Park (the rain had ceased), stopping at the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground for the children to play. This is a wonderful, brand new playground, developed using a Peter Pan theme (the original playground there was built with money donated by J.M. Barrie who wrote
Peter Pan), with a large pirate ship, teepees, a climbing tree and an stone alligator lurking in a sand pit.

The children left the park reluctantly and only on the promise of a visit to Hamley's Toy Store on Regent Street. We journeyed to Hamley's, stopping briefly in Leicester Square to pick up our theatre tickets. Will and Dorothy Anna were in heaven in Hamley's, which is six stories of toys and noise.

After each had chosen one toy (which took quite a while), we walked to the National Gallery, where we took a quick look-see at the Vermeers (for me) and Van Goghs (for Will) in its permanent collection.

We caught a bus back to our hotel where Robert and the children relaxed for a bit while I ran to Harrod's (in the rain). A friend had asked me to pick up some pajamas at Harrod's for her son, so I went directly to the 4th floor to the Children's Departments. The upper floors at Harrod's are quite nice, not as crowded and noisy as the ground floor. On the way to the pajama department, I passed the girls' area and found beautiful Easter dresses for Vivian and Dorothy. I then located the sought-after pajamas (also bought a pair of them for Will) and then headed out to meet Robert, Will and Dorothy Anna for an early dinner at Wagamama's.

Last year Wagamama's Noodle Shop was Will's favorite restaurant in London, and he had requested a return visit. We had another great meal; Dots, the Queen of Picky Eaters, wouldn't eat any noodles, but amazingly consumed an entire order of edamame (Japanese soybeans). Wonders never cease.

We took a taxi to the Lyceum Theatre in the West End to see
The Lion King. We had great seats on the fourth row. This was a wonderful show, and the children absolutely loved it. The costumes were especially inspired and held their attention well. The kids were impressed that the ushers served ice cream to you in your seat during intermission! After the show we bought the requisite Lion King souvenirs and returned to our hotel around 11:00. I didn't have to tell anyone it was time to go to bed.

1 comment:

Mary Alice said...

Great photos. That looks like so much fun. I would love to manage a trip over there one day myself.