The weekend after our Paris trip, we decided to stick around town and "take it easy". So, we've heard great things about the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Richmond. We arrived just a couple of hours before closing, not nearly enough time to take in all 75 acres + Kew Palace. But, we sure tried! We explored the palace where George III and his Queen Charlotte spent much of their time, and also where Charlotte passed away (you can see the very chair she was sitting in at the time of her death). Their palace garden was amazing...there really is nothing like a true English garden. We walked the Kew Garden grounds-through the Palm House, King William's Temple, the amazing Waterlily house, and topped it off with nutella crepes (Paris has us hooked!) and a walk on top of the trees at the Xstrata Treetop Walkway.
London is full of amazing museums and the best part is that the majority of them are free! As a mom of four, it takes the pressure off of making sure you see everything the first time and dragging kids through hours of exhibits after they lose interest because you want to get your money's worth. But the very best part is, that you have access to amazing things and incredible learning opportunities for your kids at your fingertips.
Take the British Museum, for example. On a Monday afternoon, its a short tube ride and all of the sudden you're standing in front of the Rosetta Stone at one of the most amazing museums in the world. Slight right turn and you're looking at Egyptian statues that are over 3,000 years old! History is so amazing...its mind-boggling to imagine that people have been living and working on this earth for that long and to imagine what their lives must have been like. Down the hall and you can see actual pieces from the Roman Pantheon. We weren't able to stay long because you know, kids. But, Kate and I have big plans to return and spend hours scouring the different exhibits.
On Tuesday, I wanted to get to the TKTS kiosk at Leicester Square to get a deal for a Wednesday West End matinee for the 5 of us. I still haven't figured out the best way to do this when you have more than two people you're looking for, so I walked away empty-handed. I totally get why this area is such a tourist hot-spot though. So much energy in Piccadilly Circus and I'm in love with the gorgeous white stone buildings that wave through Regent Street, wrap around Piccadilly and through toTrafalgar.
After a quick stop at Pret for the kids' favorite snack of mini-baguettes with butter and an almond croissant for mom, we bussed it to the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park for the Serpentine Pavilion exhibit. The kids played hide-n-seek through the colorful, twisting tunnels for a while and then we walked through Kensington Gardens to the Peter Pan statue. Across from the statue, is The Long Water (looks like a small river) where there were swans and other ducks swimming around. The girls found a cute duck that had just had little duckling babies and mom was feeding them in the cutest way possible. Taylor, my animal lover, said it was the best day of her life. They were so cute.
The next day our digital piano arrived...and for a full day the kids looooved that they could play the piano. ;) It was fantastic. I also found a local gym that I could join so I could hopefully get back to teaching at some point. But in the meantime, I'll settle for earning some endorphins without the pressure of learning choreography. I took the kids down the road to Kilburn Grange Park so they could run around and be kids. Finally, that night, I met a couple of women from our Relief Society for dinner at a delicious Persian restaurant called Alounak. I love talking to people who have lived here for a while and can give me great tips and advice because I could really use all of it. The women in my ward, and the people in London as well, have been so kind and welcoming and extremely helpful- its been so nice.
On Thursday, it was going to be a hot (as in 85 degrees!) London day, so a group of moms from church decided to meet at the Serpentine Lido so the kids could play in the water. Because the lido was closed, we settled for the nearby Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, which is like a lazy river about 6 inches deep. The kids splashed and played while the moms sat and talked, which is what we each do best! ;)
When the weekends roll around and Brian is around, we try to plan something special to do altogether. So, this weekend, we decided to head to Dover Castle and their famous white cliffs, about a 2 1/2 hour train ride to the south-eastern English coastline. Dover Castle (the "Key to England") is a 12th century medieval fortress that not only played a huge part as a defensive stronghold in many wars, but it is also the largest castle in England. We walked through the secret wartime tunnels and explored the old church, Roman lighthouse, and the Great Tower filled with very colorful furniture and ornaments (colorful paint was more expensive than gold during the reign of Henry II so colorful furniture was a sign of extreme wealth and they had ALOT of very colorful pieces). We then tried to hike to the white cliffs and realized, with a stroller in tow, this would be impossible because there is no path off of the main road leading to the cliffs, making the walk very dangerous...so bummed. We tried to hire a taxi to take us, with no luck so, disappointed, we had to head home for the night. We did catch some glimpses on the train ride back, but we hope to return and get some good photos and memories of the gorgeous sheer white cliffs.
On Sunday, we had our first visitors from Texas! The McKnights lived by us and were in our ward in McKinney, so it was so fun to see them. They were in town for work and were so nice to come over that night and go on a gorgeous walk through Regents Park with us. We love visitors!
I've realized that getting out of the house every day is often hard with four kids, but when I am out with my kids, I feel so full of gratitude for this amazing city that we get to live in- every corner and street has something different and interesting to see. Sometimes, I think I may burst with gratitude for this opportunity. This summer has been so special already for our family, we've learned, been pushed to grow, and seen some incredible things that we will never forget.