Friday, January 9, 2009

Last day in London

Today was our last day in London. It was sunny but very cold. We spent most of the morning riding tour buses to see some of the sights without having to walk everywhere with a three year old in our arms. We stopped at a cafe for lunch to warm up with soup and lattes. We finished the bus tour - it is the kind that let's you get off and on wherever and whenever you want.

In the afternoon, we headed back on the Tube to the British Museum. We warmed up again with tea and scones in the museum cafe. Then we walked through the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Greek exhibits. There was a lot more to see but we ran out of time. We braved the cold to find our last English meal of fish and chips. We found a little fish and chips spot with decor from the 1950s. It was packed and we stuffed ourselves.

We are all packed and heading to bed early since we need to get up very early to catch the Tube to Heathrow. Hopefully, we'll have an uneventful trip home. Thanks for keeping up with us on our blog.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tower of London, Thames River and Westminster Abbey

We had our first full day in London to tour a few of the famous sites. We began with our first experience on the "Tube" which is the name of the subway system in London. We bought our tickets for the next 2 days which allows us to travel by bus or the Tube as many times and as many places as we want to. It is very handy. Sierra enjoyed riding the Tube instead of having to walk to places.

Our first stop was the Tower of London. We visited the Crown Jewels first. Sierra enjoyed all the sparkly jewels and purple material that is used in the royal crowns. Sierra noted that a very large golden punch bowl that was used at a coronation was large enough for her to swim in. It was very LARGE! Next, we joined a tour group headed up by a Yeoman warden also known as a Beefeater. He told lots of bad jokes and lots of interesting stories of the kings and queens who lived there or who were beheaded there. The last thing we visited was the White Tower which is in the center of all the towers. They had many displays of all the types of weapons that were used throughout the years in battle.

It was past lunchtime, so we stopped at a open air French cafe right beside the Thames with a beautiful view of London Bridge. We did have to defend our food from attackers - namely the masses of pigeons and birds which are ready to gobble up any morsel of food that is dropped on the ground. We had yummy warm sandwiches and lattes.

Next, we walked down the ramp to one of the boat cruises for the Thames. We rode it down to the Westminster Pier. We heard various facts about the bridges and buildings along the Thames. Right at the very end, we went up top to the open air part of the boat. As we docked we ended up being right at the base of Big Ben. It was a impressive sight. We took lots of pictures around Big Ben and the House of Parliament.

Our final stop was a few blocks away at Westminster Abbey. We were impressed with the architecture and art work used to build the abbey starting in 1056. We walked around the abbey to see many of the tomb sights of famous English kings, queens, poets, politicians and writers. At the end, we visited the abbey museum and cloisters. Both Tim and I commented on how we enjoyed Westminster better than Notre Dame from our trip to Paris five years ago.

We jumped back on the tube to return to the Penn club. We decided to find an Indian restaurant since many people have raved about the curries made in London. We found a quiet restaurant with great food. It wasn't busy so the waiters talked with us about America and our trip to England. They said business had been slow since Christmas was done.

It was a busy day! We will fit one more day of sightseeing in before packing our suitcases one last time and heading to Heathrow on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

We made it to London

Our taxi arrived right on time at Woodbrooke to take us to the train station. We picked up some sandwiches, fruit and lattes to eat while we waited for our train. We watched two other trains heading to London get cancelled, so we were relieved that our train was not cancelled. It was late, but come to find out the tickets we had purchased online the night before were actually first class tickets. So we were at the front of the train in nice comfortable seats. They had little tables all set up with cups and plates for eating and drinking. We were sitting there kind of shocked because we were expecting a crowded ride with so many trains getting cancelled. There were only about three other people in the coach with us, so it was quiet and peaceful. Soon, some staff came through with hot tea or coffee for us. Then they brought a food cart through and gave us choices of what we wanted - no cost. I guess we paid for it in the price of the tickets. We were still full from our sandwiches, so we just had some muffins with our hot tea. It was a very enjoyable ride. It started snowing again as we got closer to London.

Once we arrived in London, we walked about 10 blocks to the Penn Club. It wasn't too bad and much cheaper than a taxi. Our room here has 3 twin beds in it and a shower across the hall. All the rooms face the garden in the back. We are served breakfast each morning, so we walked to a local restaurant for dinner tonight. It is a bit of a shock how expensive London is for everything. We are glad we only have to cover 3 nights here. We all have to go to bed at the same time otherwise Sierra won't fall asleep. We'll try and get to the Tower of London tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Last day at Woodbrooke

Today is our last full day at Woodbrooke. Tim surpassed his goal he had set for progress on his dissertation and is currently at 80 pages (only 220 more to go). He will likely not touch it again for this trip. He met with his advisor one last time today, and will resume progress on his dissertation after we are home and settled in.

We will leave in the morning and head to the train station in downtown Birmingham. From there, it is an hour and a half ride to London. We will be staying at The Penn Club in London. It is a motel started by Quakers and still has ties with them. Since we know we are coming back to London in the future, we are just going to see a few sights and not wear ourselves out before getting on a plane for 11 hours.

Monday, January 5, 2009


I know the rest of you aren't excited about the word snow, but today we woke up to our first snowfall here in Birmingham. It has covered everything with a small blanket of white and it is pretty.

Yesterday, I walked to Cotteridge Meeting house for Sunday meeting. This meeting had about 45 people attending and I was greeted warmly by the people there. I walked back to Woodbooke and freezing rain started to fall. We spent the rest of the day inside enjoying the warmth. Tim keeps plugging away on his dissertation. He will work on it more today and tomorrow and then meet with his advisor for the last time before we leave.

Our plan is to leave for London on Wednesday morning.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Black Country Living Museum

Today we got up early to catch a bus then a train and another bus to the town of Dudley. That is where the 26 acre Black Country Living Museum is located. It was a sunny day but bitter cold.

The museum has many different types of buildings which have been carefully reconstructed on this site from around the neighboring countryside. There is a underground mine exhibit which we skipped due to the cold, dark areas that would have frightened Sierra. We visited the general store, pawnshop, the toll booth, a chemist, the chapel, various homes and cottages and a silent movie cinema each having a person in a period costume telling us about their shops and wares. There was an 1830s school we walked through complete with a real Headmistress with slates and coal pencils. In the summers, they operate a small fairground with rides for kids. There is a small canal that goes around the edge of the property, but all the boat rides were frozen in the water. For lunch, we had fish and chips wrapped in a paper cone. They were delicious! You can see from the pictures that Sierra enjoyed it too. We stopped at the bakery to enjoy some cakes after the fish.

They are adding on more shops to expand the place. It will be worth another trip back to see what else is added and ride the canal boats and the fairground rides, hopefully in warmer weather.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day

Happy 2009 everyone! Tim and I stayed up to watch London's countdown to the new year on the television. Big Ben rang out the first bells of the new year and then they shot off 10 minutes of fireworks off the London Eye. (That's the huge ferris wheel that sits right next to the Thames River.) It was quite a spectacle. We could hear people around Woodbrooke shooting off fireworks. Thankfully, Sierra slept through it all and got a good night's sleep.

Sierra was ready to wake up at 8 AM this morning, while Tim and I were hoping to sleep in much later than that. We missed breakfast and munched on crumpets in our room. Tim spent the rest of the day working in the library on his dissertation. Sierra and I played in the room and did some more laundry since it was still bitter cold outside today.

I'm feeling much better with my cold, but now Sierra and Tim are starting to get drippy noses. Hopefully, they will get a milder case than I did and be ready for our trip to the Black Country Museum tomorrow.