For Christmas break we decided to fly to London for a wonderful week of fun and a nice change of venue. Our 6:15 AM flight the day after Christmas necessitated leaving the center at 2:45. We flew BMI, took the train to Paddington station and then a cab to the BYU London Center where a good friend and colleague (from the BYU Kennedy Center) is serving as director. He allowed us to stay in one of the student dorm rooms for the week. The room may have been the very one that Shackleton (of Antarctica fame) stayed in for over a year. The location of the center is very convenient to the Underground (aka tube) and we all became quite proficient at navigating our way around London. Our first stop was Subway where the kids got their favorite--ham and cheese sandwiches--something they haven't had since arriving in a kosher land. We then walked to nearby Kensington Park where we enjoyed the Princess Diana play ground with its Peter Pan themed pirate ship. Thai food for dinner.
Sunday morning we walked across Hyde Park to 9:00 services at the Hyde Park Ward. After the full three hour block we then spent the afternoon exploring the nearby Natural History and Science Museums.
The Natural History Museum is housed in a beautiful building. We were tempted to ice skate but didn't.
Great stone work and interesting gargoyles.
The dinosaurs were a big hit as were the scientific hands-on exhibits in the science museum. McDonalds for dinner.
Monday was a clear day so we joined with people of all lands to watch the changing of the guards. Nice Russian speaking women let our kids slip in front of them to see, while a pushy French speaking family tried to crowd us out. Pizza Hut for lunch.
Trafalgar Square. The Christmas tree is an annual gift from Norway as thanks for UK support during WWII. I think it was a Norwegian spruce just like the two at G & G Emmett's "Twin Pine Ranch". The church on the right is St. Martin's in the Field.
In the middle of the public square was an interesting nativity. I liked the reclining Joseph.
The grand lions at the base of Nelson's Monument.
The London Eye and the Thames River. We thought to give it a ride, but it was very expensive and very slow moving (thirty minutes to make the loop).
Big Ben and Parliament at about 4:00 in the afternoon.
Tuesday was a very rainy day. We spent the morning at Hamleys--Britain's oldest and largest toy store. We had fun exploring the six floors of toys. The kids each got to pick out one to keep. That afternoon we went to a fun musical adaptation of "A Christmas Carol". Our front row seats made it all the more exciting as characters came on and off the stage. Dinner at the Princess Diana Cafe (photos on the wall proved that she had even visited there) near the BYU Center where the kids enjoyed fish and chips. It was run by Arabs so Marie had fettoush salad and I had lentil soup.
Wednesday we enjoyed exploring the amazing British Museum. Sarah enjoys reading Greek mythology so she was familiar with who's who of all the gods and goddesses.
It was packed. Marie and Will were not as entertained as Sarah, Joel and Chad.
Many great exhibits. I especially enjoyed the Lachish reliefs from the Assyrian palace walls of Sennacherib. If shows the siege ramps and the Assyrian Army destroying the Judean town. I have visited Lachish many times and teach my students about this attack. It was amazing to see the originals.
That afternoon the boys went to Lion King and the girls to Wicked. We met back up for microwave frozen dinners at the center and regaled each other with our favorite scenes and songs. I will always remember the excitement on Joel and Will's faces as the large puppet animals paraded down the aisles to "Circle of Life". Priceless.
Thursday we started out at the Tower of London. We followed advice from one of the many guide books we borrowed from the center and headed straight to the crown jewels. No line for us, but by noon it was out the doors. No photos were allowed inside, but a nice guard (over all we were very impressed with the kindness of the British) upon finding out we wanted to take a photo of William in front of the seat representing William the Conqueror gave his friendly OK.
The Beefeater tour was quite entertaining and educational. Sarah was taken with all of the royal history and for her souvenir bought a pocket book of all the British monarchs--Joel and Will opted for Manchester United football shirts.
The White Tower (the largest and central tower of the twenty towers making up the Tower of London) was built as the royal palace for William I back in the 11th century. Joel was unimpressed with the antiquity of these old British buildings for he has seen much older in the Holy Land.
The Tower Bridge.
We spent over four hours exploring and eating (more fish and chips) at the Tower. We then rode a double decker bus to St. Paul's. It was getting late and so we hustled up to the top of the rotunda for an excellent view. All the stairs at the Jerusalem Center put us in good shape for the 800 stairs. The survival of St. Paul's during the German blitz bombing of London is quite a story.
No one was on the front steps feeding the birds. Waffles and fruit, plus berry smoothies for dinner then the kids watched a video and ate microwave popcorn to ring in the New Year.
New Year's Day we ventured out to King's Cross train station to see if we could catch the train to Hogwarts at platform 9 3/4. No such luck, but it made the Harry Potter fans (shown in the photo) happy. (Some day when I have more time I may finish reading beyond book two).
Next stop Speakers Corner in Hyde Park. Oh to be able to watch early leaders of the church preaching here.
We then enjoyed another brisk walk across Hyde Park. It snowed/hailed a little over night so this remnant white stuff was the closest we ever got to a white Christmas. This photo was taken at about noon--notice the long shadows.
Marie (who along with her sisters is a great fan of British royalty and Victorian era novels--all with scenes set in Hyde Park) led us to the Princess Diana memorial fountain.
That afternoon we visited the City of London Docklands museum. It is in East London where the wharves and warehouses helped build the British Empire. The museum in housed in early 19th century tea warehouses. Great displays (no photos allowed) on the history of shipping, colonialism, slavery, trade and the changing urban geography of London.
The docklands are now the home of the new London with its banks, trading companies and high tech industries. The London Olympics will be centered in this eastern revitalized part of town.
We rode a Thames ferry back to old London just at sunset. Wonderful views.
This last day in London was the coldest. Marie and the kids enjoyed a final ham and cheese sandwich at Subway but I held out for a later dinner at a Malaysian restaurant. Next time maybe there will be more enthusiasm from the younger members of the family for the great ethnic foods of London.