Our Bishop in London has been taking BYU students, and other groups, on a countryside walk for years, perhaps decades. He loves it, and he gave us multiple opportunities to come along with him, but the timing just never worked out. Finally as our days were fast disappearing, we made it work so we could go along. Iris kept Simon and Mim at home with her all day, we tucked Amirah into her wrap and Cam and Eli came along too. In one day, one long walk, we saw just about everything I love about England. I'll come back later and fill in some details, but here are the photos.
The kids wanted to go to the London Eye from the first moment they saw it, but it was one of those things that kept getting put off for the "perfect" day of clear, blue skies. Those days are rare when you narrow it down to just Saturdays, not to mention how busy it is during the summer. So we procrastinated it until we had no Saturdays left in London that weren't already spoken for, and of course it was cloudy. Fortunately the clouds were high enough that they didn't impede our views.
We didn't have to wait in line for long, and then we boarded our capsule with about eight other people. It takes 30 minutes for the complete rotation, and the capsule is made up of glass windows, so you can see everywhere. We gave the kids a hard time because all they wanted to do was mess around on the iPads that gave reference points and information about what you were seeing in the panorama. "Come on guys! Get present!" As obsessed as millennials are with electronic devices, what are the children of millennials going to be like?
After we finished we had promised the kids doughnuts so we went on a doughnut hunt. We took a bus to Bermondsy to find a market I wanted to go to, with no luck. So we walked to a bakery I'd been to with Sean and Lori on the dessert crawl, and it was closed, gone, "finished" as they like to say. Our next choice was Borough Market, so we walked there, but decided it was too crowded and so we just settled on a dozen from the Krispy Kreme at London Bridge Station. Not fancy, but delicious nonetheless.
**I didn't take a picture of the London Eye on the day we went on it, go figure. So I dug out some other pictures I'd taken on different (sunnier) days.
After my mom was gone, it was just Amirah and me enjoying Spring walks in the city. I miss it so much. I can't believe these places are memories, and not my daily life.
(Taking a baby and a big camera just seemed like too much so I settled for camera photos everywhere we went.)
Brookmill Park. When Simon was in Nursery I would take his scooter with me on the bus, and then we would walk home through this park. Once all the kids were in school I would walk home via this park, it was quiet and lovely and I could hear my podcast/audiobook better than when I would walk along the busy streets.
I also have a dozen pictures of all the food I ate on my excursions, but I'll spare my blog audience from teasing you with delicious flavors from across the ocean.
Despite having so much to do during my last month in London I tried to get out as much as I could. Of course I wish I had been that active for the entire two years I lived there, but it's hard to be a tourist in real life, when there is laundry and sickness and motherhood to occupy your days, not to mention bills to pay and other demands on time and finances. So I shelf my regrets and practice gratitude for the amazing chances I did have to enjoy London's charm.
**As an interesting bit of trivia, there are a lot areas in NYC that share names with places in London, one of which being Kew Gardens, which happens to be the neighborhood next to ours in Queens.
Kew Gardens, at Kew Palace in southwest London, is the largest and most diverse collection of living plants in the world. It was pretty remarkable. We went there on a Saturday morning, with a picnic lunch. The weather wasn't terrible but the clouds and sky changed so much throughout the day that it was driving me crazy trying to get the lighting right in the photos.
The area is massive, and we didn't see it all, but we did see a lot of it, and it was all beautiful. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
We spent hours in the gardens and didn't have time/energy to go through the Palace, which was disappointing. But a day well spent nonetheless.
My mom came to visit when Amirah was a couple weeks old, just about the time when I was getting ready to be outside again. Our first April in London was gorgeous, and I really didn't want to miss our second (and last) April sitting at home in postpartum gloom. Thankfully my mom enjoys these things as much as I do, and we were able to go out a few times. We went to Camden Market on a Saturday morning, and took Miriam and Amirah with us, then we met up with the boys in Regent's Park.
On another day we walked through Mayfair, Hyde Park and then made a stop at Harrod's. It was my first time at Harrod's and I loved the food hall so much I went back three times before we moved. Ha! (Just yesterday a friend and I discovered that we had in common mothers who are ALWAYS game for finding new treats.)
The aforementioned outings didn't offer us the pleasant April weather I'd been hoping for, but we got lucky on our last, long city walk. I only knew some general ideas about this walk, so it was a bit confusing trying to find our way, and then we did it backwards and I was confused again. It was the Parkland walk in North London, and there were so many little surprises along the way.
Without meaning to, without even knowing such a place existed, we stumbled upon the Alexandra Palace, AKA, the "Ally Pally." It was built in 1873 "as a public centre of recreation, education and entertainment." It had really beautiful architecture, and a great view of the city.
We eventually found our way to the walk that I had originally planned, which is a lovely and quiet path along what used to be an old train line. Amirah slept nearly the entire time, and my mom and I had a lovely chat.
We came out at Finsbury Park, took a quick jaunt up to King's Cross, ate some lunch and cupcakes, popped on over to the British Library so my mom could take a quick look at an exhibit there, and then made our way home, just in time to pick up the kids from school.
My mom and I had some other fun outings too. We went to Cath Kidston (more than once), bought a couple tea cups and saucers at street markets, went through the National Portrait Gallery, and had lunch at a Cafe Rouge (which had been on my London bucket list), to name a few. I think both of us were trying to squeeze every last little bit out of our time in London.
Having my siblings come to visit was the best. I know I've already said this, every time someone came to visit I said it, but I just looked forward to it so much. My siblings have enough in common with me that I knew how much they would love all the things I loved in London. (Especially the food.) Our shared heritage and common interests make traveling and enjoying places highly pleasurable.
Amirah was just a few weeks old when they came, so I feel like I wasn't quite as organized and energetic as I like to be. But we had a really good time regardless. Here are just a few snapshots from their visit.
We took a day trip to Stratford Upon Avon, which was so lovely. (Thanks Mike & Cindy for watching our crew.) We strolled around the quaint English town, visited the theatre, saw Shakespeare's home and his grave and ate treats of course. (Ice cream, and a Cafe Nero Millionaire bar, my fave.)
On a Sunday afternoon we took a walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. There were also so many other things! Borough Market, Southbank, Soho, Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, National Portrait Gallery, Harrods, Abingdon sticky toffee pudding, Tower of London, Goddards, British Library, and many other things they did without me, including a trip across the channel over to Paris.
Having visitors at the end of our time in London was the perfect chance for us to make sure we did all our favorite things one last time.
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