Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Day 3 - London in 12 hours!

Morgan helped Royce and I book a bus trip to London so we could tour on Monday while she and Matt went to work.  Matt gave Royce a quick European driving lesson on the way to the bus stop as Royce was set to drive us the next day on our own.

We arrived in London at 11am and were scheduled to get back on the bus to leave at 11pm. 
12 hours!  We hit the ground running!
First stop -- Buckingham Palace.
Of course, the guards are WAY far away because nobody can even come close to this entrance.  There is actually a tour for Buckingham Palace but it took almost 3 hours and it was one stop we were just okay seeing from the outside and not worrying about going in. 
The size and scale of everything is crazy.  SO big. 

This was from inside the round-about outside the palace gates.   
We did look at a few historical buildings, walked through a beautiful park, and sited a few other minor things along our walk.  If you're like me and relate everything in London to "how have I seen this with William and Kate or Princess Diana?" then the park we walked through was the park with a long driveway through it that essentially goes from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.  You see it in the motorcade after William and Kate's wedding along with some of the Queen's motorcade's from the Parliament to the Palace. 
And so, after walking through the park we end at the Parliament which is the home of Big Ben.
It was about this time in the picture below that was the first of three times Royce asked me what time it was.  "Look at the big clock!" 

Next on our list was the London Eye.  This was a stop we allowed plenty of time for because we wanted to ride the Eye. 

A few pictures from the ride! The whole ride took about 25 minutes and was so neat.  There were probably 15-20 of us in our bubble.  There were informative videos while we rode and great photo opportunities of course. 

The pictures above show how small the buildings were below while we were at the top of the Eye.
The one on the right is Buckingham Palace from the Eye.  The trees are the park we walked through. 



Our walk back across the bridge after riding the Eye was the ONLY rain we experienced in England.  It rained on us pretty good for about 15 minutes and then it was done and we enjoyed the day. 

Now, back to the other side of Big Ben to see the Parliament.
This building was unbelievable.  The detail, quantity of sculptures, windows, carvings, and arches was unreal.  We did actually want to go on a Parliament tour but they were sold out for the day.


When we realized the Parliament tours were sold out for the day I started getting nervous that Westminster Abbey's tours may have the same status.  So we kept this stop brief and headed to where we thought Westminster Abbey was located.  OUR MAP showed it a few blocks to the south.  And I know it's crazy, in the end, to not realize we were already on the back side of the Abbey, but when we were only focused what we were looking at and our map didn't lead us to believe we were close then yes, we took off walking in the wrong direction. 
We DID walk through a neat park along the water, and we DID end up in a very non-touristy business district, and we DID spend 30 minutes walking at least a mile in the wrong direction.  I had switched my phone off to save data and battery for the day so when I switched it back on and mapped Westminster Abbey you can imagine my disappointment when I saw it was right where we had already been and it was now 3:45pm.  We headed back to where we had come from via a more direct route and I was beyond frustrated. 
We made it to Westminster Abbey around 4:00pm and they informed us that while it was open until 4:30pm they stop allowing people inside at 3:30pm.  I was so upset.  I held my own pity party, grumbled around for a while, and we circled the building a time or two so I could at least see the pretty exterior.  I usually try to see the silver lining when plans don't go my way but I couldn't see any possible reason as to why we weren't meant to get to the church on time therefore missing a tour. 

It was now 4:10pm and we circled the building and were looking at the church sign on the sidewalk.  Then I saw our silver lining...  The Daily Evensong was at 5:00pm.  This was a service open to the public, and the golden lining was that it was free and we hadn't had to buy a tour ticket!  So no, we didn't get a full tour, but we were going to be able to step foot inside.  Royce jumped in line an I headed for the gift shop to kill a little time.  Thankfully while I was in the gift shop I overheard people talking how they start seating everyone at 4:30.  I got back just in time! 
I truly hadn't seen a sign on whether or not cameras were allowed so I snapped a few pocket pictures from my phone as we were being shuffled in.  Cameras were indeed not allowed so I didn't take any more.   

We were in the first 20 or so people in line so we got the best seating.  We sat in the actual wooden pews that face the center checkerboard-floored isle.  I was ecstatic!  There are three rows of pews on each side.  The first two rows are for the choir and we sat in the third row.  I've looked up seating charts from the Royal wedding but it's not specific as to who was in our actual seats.  But for the Daily Evensong the choir was in front of us and it was a beautiful service.  They probably allowed 200-250 additional people in folding chairs off to the sides.  Westminster is a Catholic church, but not Roman Catholic so they don't answer to the Pope.  They are Anglican and part of Church of England. 

Taa-Daa!  A much happier Megan after the service.
(Special thanks to Royce for putting up with me before the service.)
We got out of the service at 6:00pm and needed to be to a show at 7:30.  We were tired, hungry, and still had to walk more before we could relax about the time. 
We made it to our final stop -- Seeing WICKED at the Apollo Victoria Theater!
How ironic is it that we saw Wicked, a story based off of The Wizard of Oz set in Kansas, and we went to London to see it?!?  Seeing the show was actually Royce's idea, so he and I were both on Cloud 9 at the end of the day with our last two stops.  *crummy picture but we were being shuffled through the door quickly and only had one chance!*
And of course, the show was AMAZING.  Neither of us are actually Wizard of Oz fans. 
But this show is fantastic.
We got out of the theater a little after 10:00pm and had until 11:00pm for our bus to leave.  We were right across the street from the bus stations so we grabbed a drink, caught some WI-Fi, and just tried to soak in all we had just experienced.  It was a fantastic day!
I mapped our day with the Map My Walk app.  We started and stopped at the blue dot.  The 'wrong turn' we took was the sharp V on the lower right side of the red line.  We walked straight south, I had turned my phone off, then when I found we were win the wrong spot I only left it on momentarily to get us in the right direction.  The sharp diagonal up was it 'catching' up when we were back on track after the church service.  So overall it was extremely accurate in logging our approx. 10 miles for the day.  The duration is not correct as I had my phone off during tours and such. 

Good-bye, London!

Monday, September 21, 2015

England and Scotland - Two years in the making

August 7-16, 2015
In 2013 my cousin Morgan and her husband Matt announced they would be moving to England to be stationed with the USAF there for three years.  Something inside of me said that within those three years we NEEDED to go visit.  Not just a sarcastic NEED, but truly the need that I thought would actually happen.  And two years later, it did.  It took me a while to get Royce on board, but I/we knew this was an opportunity that we wouldn't get again and that we needed to take advantage of them being there.  Truly a trip we wouldn't regret. 
We started rough-planning at the end of 2014, marking a two-to-three month window that we thought would be best.  Not knowing if Matt or Morgan would be deployed during this time we said we'd check in again in the spring.  So we tossed the idea again during Spring 2015 and thought we'd aim for August.  Finally at the beginning of July we agreed to go for it!  We found 9 days and booked our tickets!  Then the real work began of sorting out where the kids would go, making sure all activities were scheduled accordingly, and packing for all of us.  Isaac really didn't understand why everyone couldn't go to England together. Sorry Buddy, someday you will understand. 
Wichita, 6pm Friday August 7th. 
Quick flight to Chicago, made our connection, and landed in London's Heathrow Airport at 11am Saturday, August 8th.  We both watched a movie then slept fairly well on the flight over. 
Matt and Morgan live in Bury St. Edmunds (BSE) which is about a 2-hour drive from London.  *Side note, all of the proper nouns in the UK are very literal.  Bury St. Edmunds is named this because it's where St. Edmunds was buried.  I will share more as I go.* On our drive to BSE we stopped and toured their Air Force Base, Mildenhall.  Seeing their offices, flight schedules, planning rooms, and of course all of the other sites on the base was so neat.  One of the memorable parts for me was seeing "Jet Fuel" on one of the gas tank pumps.  Not everyday you see that!  After arriving at their house we freshened up and walked to their local pub right around the corner.  It was a wonderful welcome to England and we all relaxed before walking through BSE. 
My first Pimm's Cup drink!  It was yummy! 
We walked through the St. Edmunds Abbey which is right around the corner from their home. The ruins were really neat, along with the plaques signifying the signing of the
Magna Charta (year 1214 on the plaques). 

Sunday we rode with them to Cambridge *a bridge over the Cam river, thus Cambridge* where they attend church.  Royce and I walked through a park and walked the streets while they were at church.  Cambridge is known for their colleges (34 colleges) which the locals call "Uni's" for University.  To say how every single building was neat and unique is an understatement.  They were all so cool!   

We also had crepe's while we roamed....
My Belgian chocolate crepe didn't wait for the picture. 

When Matt and Morgan joined us after church we headed for lunch and punting on the Cam river.  This was so much fun, and we had (as you see) a 100% picture perfect day for punting. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

July Happenings!

Annual 3rd of July party at Wentling's!
Trey's finale was fantastic, but it just couldn't keep Amelia's attention.   
And these two pictures prove what we've always known.  Trey does indeed fart flames and have fireworks coming out of his ass. 
4th of July parade! 
Late July we took a trip to Colorado to the Royal Gorge.  It was a great weekend.  We had beautiful weather and really enjoyed our time around Canon City. 
 All Aboard!  2 hour train ride through the Royal Gorge.

Dad even walked across the bridge!  I can't believe I witnessed that! 
Our last day in Colorado we found a putt-putt golf, bumper cars, and go-kart adventure park.  It was a fun day playing outdoors in all activities.   

To say that Amelia and Caroline enjoyed the bumper cars is an understatement.  Oh my goodness, they laughed and had the best time.  Chloe and Isaac really enjoyed the go-karts.  They got to drive their own cars and really had a great time.  It was a fun way to end our Colorado vacation.