London Part III (December 27, 2012 – January 2, 2013 )

Monday (New Year’s Eve)
We started our day (after breakfast at the hotel and a tube ride, of course) at the British Museum. It is huge! We were definitely glad to use Rick Steves’ self-guided tour because it made the museum seem more manageable. There is SO much to see that you could easily get overwhelmed. Rick Steves’ tour hit the highlights without taking up the entire day. Some highlights included the Rosetta Stone and sculptures from the Parthenon. After the museum, we walked to the British Library and perused the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library. We saw some amazing history at the library: original scores of Handel’s Messiah, Ravel’s Bolero, and Grainger’s Country Gardens, original hand-written drafts of Beatles lyrics, and the Magna Carta.

Parthenon exhibit at the British MuseumImage

For all the Harry Potter fans out there…On our way to the nearby tube station, we took a slight detour to the King’s Cross railway station to see Platform 9 3/4! There was a loooong line to wait for a photo, and most people jumped into the air as the camera snapped so that it looked like they were pushing the luggage cart through the brick wall. We didn’t wait in line for an official photo, but it was fun to see!

After another tube ride, we arrived at Covent Garden. It was crowded and rainy, and we made our way to the London Transport Museum. It was a fun museum, and there were lots of things for James and Andy to do. We took a crowded tube ride back to the hotel, then left for dinner.

We walked to a Pizza Express near our hotel (upscale pizza joint…reminded me of Dewey’s in Cincinnati). It was right next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, so you couldn’t ask for a better view! It was another rocky start to dinnertime. James was at the end of his rope, and Connor almost tipped the stroller over backwards while he pushed against the table with his feet. We finally got settled and ordered. Just as our pizzas arrived and I was about to take my first bite, Connor was losing his patience in the stroller. I got him out and, lo and behold, he finally had a dirty diaper! Yes, the first one in London. I’m sure you wanted to know that. There was no changing table, of course, but I managed to get him cleaned up and we headed back to the table. In case Charlie’s display of love during last night’s dessert wasn’t clear enough, he decided to show me again: while I was changing Connor, he had scarfed down his pizza so that he could hold Connor while I peacefully ate my dinner. Or maybe he was just that hungry :).

We rang in the new year in our dreams that night. We were sure that we would hear the fireworks, but they either weren’t that loud from our hotel, or we were just that tired!

Tuesday (New Year’s Day)
It was our last day of sightseeing in London. Breakfast, check. Tube ride, check. We began Rick Steves’ West End Walk in Leicester Square, which is home to many of London’s theaters. We walked through some quiet side streets full of boutique shops and eventually made our way to Covent Garden. We were there yesterday when we were on our way to the London Transport Museum, and it was a crowded and busy area. Today it was practically empty because the shops and restaurants weren’t open quite yet. We meandered through, then continued our walk. Good ol’ Rick Steves took us through a seedy part of town, followed by a street lined with music stores. Sir Elton John used to work at one of them before he got his start! As we continued our walk, we passed a house with a plaque stating that Mozart had lived, played, and composed there!

Rudolph at Covent GardenImage

After another Starbucks stop, our walk took us to Regent Street, which is home to lots of nice shopping. Of course, we had to go inside Hamleys Toy Shop! James and Andy were fast asleep in their stroller, but luckily they woke up while we were still there so that they could enjoy some of the toys! Charlie and I picked out a few things for Connor: a wooden red double decker bus that doubles as a toy box and a push-behind walker, a stuffed bear dressed as a guard at Buckingham Palace, and a stuffed Fozzie Bear.

Our West End Walk ended at Piccadilly Circus, a big intersection with several shops and huge neon signs as well as a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum. The New Year’s Day parade was in full swing, so the streets were crowded and we caught a glimpse of a band going by.

We took the tube to the London Eye. Charlie and I really wanted to take a ride (it’s like a slow-moving enclosed ferris wheel), but the line was way too long for our patience. The tube ride to get there wasn’t a waste, though, because we had a great view and took some pictures!

London EyeImage

We walked back to the main train station, found a snack, and took the tube to the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was a neat museum, but we were disappointed that we couldn’t see the exhibits that we were most interested in seeing. We followed the signs all the way to the Hollywood Costumes exhibit only to find out that you have to pay for a ticket to see that exhibit (the rest of the museum was free). We then followed the signs to the Ball Gown exhibit, and we were able to see some of that exhibit, although there was another section of it for ticket-holders.

Satisfied that we had seen enough of London to call it a day, we headed back to the hotel and had dinner there. Charlie and I packed up most of our things and went to bed for our last night of sleep in London.

Wednesday
After our final hotel breakfast, we piled everything into our cab and headed to the airport. (This time we had a van for all of us.) We checked in and went through security, wandered around until our gate was open, and by then it was time to board! Connor was making googly eyes at the girl sitting next to us for the first several minutes, then after a quick fuss he fell asleep for most of the flight. We went through customs, picked up our bags, and waited for the shuttle back to holiday parking. (Note to self: next time, book our parking when we book our plane tickets so that we can get the early-bird price for the terminal parking deck!) Connor really hung in there for the entire trip, but the last ten minutes of the car ride home were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Poor guy was ready to be OUT of that car seat! Thankfully, he saved his meltdown for only the last ten minutes. He was definitely excited to crawl around and play when we got home, and to sit in HIS high chair for a proper meal!

We had such a fantastic time in London! Charlie and I are so blessed to have wonderful friends like Jes and Derek who are brave enough to not only invite us on vacation with them, but to put up with us for the whole trip!

And here is your bonus photo for making it to the end of our London blog! Doesn’t he look like he loves to travel?Image

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