London Last week day seven


As I write this entry we are packing our bags for the flight to Hong Kong. It was again very hard to say goodbye to Bex this morning when she headed off to work. The goodby’s are always the hardest and so we think not of the sorrow we feel on having to leave but on all the wonderful memories of the amazing things we have done together that will stay with us forever. In doing this it helps make the departing just that little easier. Andrew is finishing work early to accompany us to the airport. We never expected this so it’s wonderful news. We decided to meet for lunch close to Chris and Gemma’s work and this was just awesome, although Chris and Gemma had already had their lunch. The goodbye to Chris and Gemma was very very hard and I think you have to be a parent to truly understand the gut wrenching ache this brings on. So it’s now 4:30pm and we have got our bags packed and heading to the airport via the tube which is packed with people going home from work and this makes for a cramped, long 1hour ride with no seat and all our luggage. Thank god Andrew came with us..

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London last week day six

The Queens new Cavalry GuardNatural History Museum LondonNatural History Museum LondonNatural History Museum LondonNatural History Museum LondonNatural History Museum London
Natural History Museum LondonNatural History Museum LondonNatural History Museum LondonNatural History Museum LondonNatural History Museum LondonHousehold Cavalry Museum
The fair well tea at Wright Brothers

London last week day six, a set on Flickr.


We did not get on the road until lunch time and headed for the The Natural History Museum. This is one of three large museums on Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London (the others are the Science Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum). Its main frontage is on Cromwell Road and gets over four million visitors a year. The quality of the exhibitions and the building truly set this apart from any other museum we have visited.
The museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 70 million items within five main collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Zoology. There was just so much here that it was impossible for us to see it all. One amazing feature exhibit was a large slice of a Sequola tree trunk. This tree was a seedling in the year 527 and when Shakespeare was born it was 1,000 years old so it was exceptional to see this.(see pic)
The museum is a world-renowned centre of research, specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation. Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Darwin.
The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons, and ornate architecture — sometimes dubbed a cathedral of nature — both exemplified by the large Diplodocus cast which dominates the vaulted central hall. (see pic). Unfortunately for us the main Dinosaur exhibition was closed.
Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Natural History Museum does not have an admission charge.
We spent most of the afternoon here and then moved on to the Queens Household Cavalry Museum.
This is a living museum in the heart of Horse Guards, Whitehall, London.
Unlike any other military museum it offers a unique “behind- the-scenes” look at the work that goes into the ceremonial and operational role of the Household Cavalry Regiment. I was lucky enough to try on some of the gear that they wear and it was really heavy. This style of dress has not changed for hundreds of years.
The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons) is a cavalry regiment of the British Army, part of the Household Cavalry. The Colonel-in-Chief is The Queen.
From here we walked to Golden Square close to Soho. This is where Chris and Gemma work. We all met here for a few drinks with their boss and work colleges. It was great to meet them all and to get a feel for everything.
Paul, Chris’s boss suggested that we go to a restaurant called Wright Brothers for tea. This was going to be our last tea together before we headed home and the meal was lovely. (see pic). We had to say our final goodbye to Gemma as there may not be an opportunity to catch up with her again before we left. This was very hard and very emotional.

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London last week day five

The Ale & Pie Pub basementKensington PalaceKensington Palace gardensKensington Palace gardensKensington Palace
Kensington Palace SquirelThe Ale & Pie PubThe Ale & Pie Pub basementThe Ale & Pie PubThe Ale & Pie PubThe Ale & Pie Pub basement
The Ale & Pie Pub basementThe Ale & Pie Pub basementInside The CaveEmbankment at nightEmbankment at nightEmbankment at night
Embankment at nightEmbankment at night

London last week day five, a set on Flickr.


Today we visited Kensington Palace. This is where many princesses including Princes Diana lived and as it had been her 50th birthday lately there were memorials to her and birthday cards on the gates.
Kensington Palace is being transformed by a £12 million renovation project so they have set up displays in the original rooms of the palace where the Queens and Kensington’s princesses lived.
At the heart of the Enchanted Palace journey is a quest for the seven princesses who once lived here. Their lives have been re-imagined as installations offering a fascinating interpretation of the palace’s hidden stories. The rebellious princess who ran from an arranged marriage into the arms of love. Sad queens who bore the pain and sadness of lost babies. The young heir to the throne who escaped the controlling grasp of her overprotective mother
You have to find clues that reveal the identity of the elusive royal residents. Guided by an enchanted map, with the advice of obliging palace guardians and a few helping hands. These people are actually very very knowledgeable and there are also professional actors, who provide a personal insight into the strange world of the palace and it’s history. From what we heard most of the Stuarts were a very nasty lot. The search takes you to all corners of the State Apartments and leads to a glittering finale where all the princesses are revealed. This was one of the best, most well done and different exhibitions we had seen. It was certainly a different way to view rooms of the palace.
The next plan was to meet up with the boys and Bex at the pub called ‘The Ale and Pie’ where Andrews old school mate and best friend Mathew Cullen works. On the walk to the subway through Kensington Park a little Squirrel ran across the path. Some kids kneeled down to see it & it came over as it thought they had something for it to eat. One lady did have a cherry so it quickly scurried off as soon as it got that.
It was great to catch up with Matt again and he is now managing a very flash pub for the Fullers group in Fleet St. The pub is in a building that was once the Law Courts branch of the Bank Of England. Matt took us down to the basements that still contains the original vaults used to store bullion and some of the Crown Jewels during the First World War. (see pics)
Matt had reserved a table for us and made us feel very special. He also provided a selection of the pies that the pup is famous for and they were very tasty. We found out that the pub lies on a site owned by one ‘Sweeny Todd’ The Demon Barber Of Fleet St and the pie shop owned by a Mrs. Lovett his mistress. It was in the tunnels and vaults below the present building that his victims were butchered before being cooked and sold in pies to Mrs Lovetts unsuspecting customers….. Yum yum.
As the pub got busier Matt was unable to socialize with us to much so we left for home. The boys took us to look at a wine bar called Gordons Wine Bar but what they call `The Cave`. It is underground & looks like it may have been a bomb shelter in the war. After a late tea at Nandos we walked along the embankment bridge which is lovely at night with the lights from Parliment & the London Eye (see pics). Then we jumped into one of the famous black London cabs and headed home.

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London last week day four

Parliament buildingsWestminster AbbeyWestminster AbbeyWestminster Abbey front doorParliament buildings and Big Ben

London last week day four, a set on Flickr.


The first thing we did today was to visit Canary Wharf to catch up with a friend John Pring who Steven had done work with in London in past years.
John owns several real estate companies and we visited his property management office here. Canary Wharf is the financial and banking area of london with up market high rise apartments and several large tower blocks that house many banks offices and financial centers. It was great to catch up with John and to compare the businesses. We got some great information and an in-depth insight that will be invaluable.
After a lovely lunch, compliments of John, at a very nice Turkish restaurant we headed towards Westminster Abbey at about 4:30pm. Unfortunately when we arrived at the Abbey it had closed to visitors at 3:30pm so we thought we would need to come back if we wanted to see inside. After walking around the entrance that Kate had entered for the wedding, Sheree saw people going in. She listened to what they were saying at the gate and as it turned out there was a service on that lasted an hour. As long as you stayed for the whole hour you could go in at no cost, so off we went.
The service was lovely with the organ playing and a choir singing. The hour went very quickly and we got to have a quick look around before making a donation and leaving. We think that we actually had a better time as we got so much more than just a look around.
When we got home around 7pm Bex and Andrew had made a lovely lasagna for tea.

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London last week day three

The Royal Albert HallKennington Village FairKennington Village FairKennington Village FairKennington Village FairKennington Village Fair
Kennington Village FairKennington Village FairA few ciders at the localThe Royal Albert HallThe Royal Albert HallOur box at The Royal Albert Hall
Our box at The Royal Albert HallRoyal Albert Hall

London last week day three, a set on Flickr.


Today will all ways be remembered by us as a WOW day. It started of very normal. Had a bit of a Sunday sleep in and once up and about Andrew Bex and ourselves decided to go to the local Kennington fair being held in a small park with many trees. This was lovely with live music, stalls of lots of home made goodies, local restaurants who sponsored the fair had stalls that were cooking food. The whole thing had a lovely feel about it. Then we walked along to one of the many local pubs for a couple of ciders and to do a bit of people watching. Before we knew it the time was 3pm so wondered home and Steven fell asleep on the couch. Hard work but some one has to do it.
Gemma and Chris had organized a surprise night out for the four of us and we had no idea what it was going to be. We had organized to meet up with them at South Kensington at 6:30pm, to dress up a bit and that was all we had been told.
After a shake from Sheree to wake Steven up from the couch to get ready to go, we were on the tube and on our way. Chris and Gemma meet up with us and bought a few snacks and then started walking down the street. We still had no idea what was about to happen. We arrived out side the Royal College of Music and Gemma said that this is where we are going……well sort of she said as she pointed across the road to ‘The Royal Albert Hall’ and said that is really where we are going. The show we were about to see was called the Carmina Burana this was over 1400 people all singing together as a choir. They were all from separate choirs from all over the world and had come together for this night with the accompaniment of a full orchestra. But if that was not enough we also had seats in OUR OWN PRIVATE BOX just above where the Queen normally sits when she comes to any of the events. WOW WOW WOW here we are sitting in a box at the Royal Albert Hall. This is a real, pinch your self to check it’s real moment, and I have to say we felt very emotional. Gemma had been given the tickets for her birthday by a lady who runs the trust that owns the box and had decided to share it with us. Unfortunately there where only four seats in the box so Andrew and Bex could not come but were happy to forgo that so we could.
The music the choirs and everything about the evening was absolutely stunning. It was one of the best times we have ever experienced and will remember it very fondly for the rest of our lives. Play the video on the web site, it is skin tingling stuff and we were right there. We are so blessed.
On the way home we had something to eat at a nice place that did pita breads with all you can eat salads.

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London last week day two

Tower BridgeTower BridgeBorough Market at London BridgeBorough Market at London BridgeBorough Market at London Bridge
Borough Market at London BridgeBorough Market at London BridgeBorough Market at London BridgeTower BridgeHigh and dry pub at London BridgeBorough Market at London Bridge
Tore BridgeBorough Market at London BridgeBorough Market London BridgeCinnamon restaurant Brick LaneCinnamon restaurant Brick LaneCinnamon restaurant Brick Lane

London last week day two, a set on Flickr.


Today we went to the Borough Market near London Bridge with Bex and Andrew. This is a very popular local market that was very busy while we were there especially as it was a Saturday. The market sells loads of yummy food to try and heaps of variety. We got some cheese, olives and dip to have later in the day. Then we walked over London Bridge to make our way back home.
After our yummy nibbles and a drink later in the afternoon we set off for a street called Brick Lane in East London to get an Indian meal in a street fill of Indian restaurants. Chris and Gemma were to meet us there. As soon as you start to walk down the street they are at you competing for your custom by offering deals to use their particular restaurant. We ended up in a place called Cinnamon that had been recommended to Chris but also because they ended up offering us £10 for a three course meal with two free beers and wine for the lady’s. I have to say that the whole experience was awesome and we got some of the best and friendliest service we had experienced since leaving NZ. The meal was delicious and was more than most of us could eat. Would highly recommend this place to any one visiting London.
With fill bellies we wondered back home walking past some interesting bars etc. In one area there was an outside urinal on the street so of course the boys had to use it. Bad luck for the ladies. Chris said there are a lot of them around to stop guys peeing in the street. Home via the underground where the air is very hot & stuffy.

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London last week day one

Trying ShishaTrying ShishaTrying ShishaTrying Shisha

London last week day one, a set on Flickr.

We finally arrived back at Andrew and Bex’s flat about 11:45pm last night. We got caught up in a huge que at Heathrow customs and it took us well over an hour just to get through. Then we had to find our luggage etc. We decided to get a quick bit to eat at a cafe at the airport before carrying on. I got a sandwich in a cardboard packet that no matter how I tried, I just could not open. Finally in a fit of frustration I just tore at it, then it pinged open and my sandwich and it’s contents sprayed everywhere.errrr…
It was a 45min tube ride to Andrews with our packs and we were very happy to be greeted by a welcoming smile at his front door.

Today started off raining and a bit windy so London had not put on a great day. We had been so spoiled by all the endless sunny days we had been experiencing in Europe. The day was a bit of a lazy catch up day. We slept in until 10:30am. Sheree did a big wash of all our clothes and we had the inside of the flat looking like a Chinese laundry with all our clothes hanging up to dry.
We sorted through all the stuff we had in our packs including what we had brought and also what we had left at Andrews before going to Europe. We are now wondering how we are going to get it all home.
Gemma had emailed asking if we all wanted to catch up for tea in Soho and so that was the plan for later.
The day just disappeared and before we knew it the time was 3pm. Andrew rung to say he would come home from work early, get changed and then go in with us on the tube. We thought this was a great idea as then he could lead us to the meeting point in Soho at 6pm.
Sheree did not think she could hold out until 6pm as we had not had any lunch. I decided to walk to the shop by the Kennington underground station and get a few tomatoes and bits for a nibble. I put on some new shoes I had bought and headed off to the shop. Along the way I started to notice the shoes were rubbing on the top of my toes and was paying more attention to this than were I was going. YES you guest it I got lost. I tried back tracking but it just got worse. I finally asked a lady were the underground was and she pointed me down a long street and told me to just turn right from there. Unbeknown to me this was correct but was the ‘Elephant and Castle’ staion and not Kennington. By this time my feet were quite sore, I was very hot after all the walking so I just got on the tube from here to the Kennington Station. Finally, more than an hour later I arrived at Kenningto Station for what should have been a 5min walk.
By this time Andrew had arrived home and was greeted by Sheree’s worried look and asking if he had seen his father on the way home. He then rung my mobile and everyone was relieved to hear that I had the goceries and was on my way back. By this time my toes had rubed raw and needed bandaids before I could put another pair of shoes on. All this then prooved to be a great conversation piece to everyones amusment for the rest of the evening.
Gemma suggested a little family run Thai restaurant for tea that she said was the best in London. As soon as we got in the restaurant a customer asked us if we had been here before as he said it was really great and he did not tell to many people about it in case it got to busy. The meal that we all had was very tasty.
Later lead by Gemma and with an Idea from the boys to try having some hot mint tea and ‘Shisha’ we arrived at the ‘Maison Touareg’ cafe bar. The mint tea arrived and then the large bong with the strawberry flavored Shisha. This is just a flavored smoke and that is all. It was such a funny experience sitting outside the cafe with the kids and us oldies sucking on a big bong. So that’s another big tick in the box for something we had never done before. (see videos and pic)

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Fourth day in London

Fourth day in London, a set on Flickr.


We have been told that it is hardly ever windy in London. Our experience so far is that in the 4 days we have been here all it’s done is blow and fill our eyes with fine pollen from trees, especially when we went through Hyde Park. It is supposed to be much better from now on though. Everyone gives us the classic Dunedin weather excuses “it was so nice before you got here and it’s hardly ever like this”.
We went to the London Dungeons by London Bridge today (London bridge is not the big tower bridge that you normally associate London with. That one is called Tower Bridge).
The Dungeons are like a ride you go on at a theme park with actors guiding you through and telling the tales. They take every opportunity to scare you and make you jump, which they do with great success.
They have mannequins with various torture poses and Jack the Rippers handy work. You also go on a boat ride to traitors gate. This simulates how prisoners were treated for petty crimes like talking to Gypsies and burning your mothers house down. With a bit of gypsy in my blood it’s a wonder I’m here.
At the end you are lifted up in a large chair similar to the ones you sit in on a roller coaster with the pull down safety bar. You are then lifted up 20 feet to the hang mans noose and given your last rights and a drum roll before an immediate free fall drop to the ground. Sheree’s bum left her seat and when we saw the photo at the end her hair was straight up in the air and both our eyes are squeezed tightly closed.
We got back on the Tube and visited the O2 (Millennium Dome) to see the Dinosaur Exhibition. When we got there we noticed an exhibit of artifacts from the Titanic so thought we would see this first. It was so interesting that at the end we had no time left to see the dinosaurs before leaving to meet up with the boys and girls for tea in Leicester Square at a Persian restaurant. As we left O2 people were arriving for the UK TV awards, so it got very busy trying to make our way back to the underground against the flow of people. At dinner everyone except me had a coconut cream chicken & banana dish that Chris had told us about when he was in NZ. All very tasty & different. Rather than going straight home we went for a walk to Piccadilly Circus and gorged ourselves with very decadent Haagen Dazs ice cream before once again going home on the subway train.

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Third day in London

Immediately after the showThe building where Andrew worksBicycle hireHyde Park CornerHyde Park Corner2Buckingham palace guards
Visiting aunty LizAunty Liz's town houseAunty's gatesFamily shieldBuckingham Palace 2Aunty Liz said she would meet us here but she was running late
Just hanging around at Aunty'sWicked ShowOutside the Theatre

Third day in London, a set on Flickr.


Not quite as warm today and also a bit windy again. Went to see Andrew at his work and meet all the people he works with. Decided to walk to Hyde Park and got lost on the way. Should have taken the tube, but wanted to do something different. Spent a couple of hours trying to figure out how to get from Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace. Finally got there with all the other tourists. You can not help but be in awe of this place it is very impressive. The royal helicopter landed while we where there. Went to see the show called Wicked at the Apollo theater in Victoria, it was awesome.
Returned home around 11pm on the tube. Getting around using the tube just fine

Bit worried about this ash cloud starting to form again. We are supposed to be flying back from Scotland in 5 days time and flights are already canceled there. We also leave for Europe on the 31st of May so it better be sorted by then.

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Second day in London

Second day in London, a set on Flickr.


Another great day. Went on the London Eye, Trafagar Square and Hay Market. Bit windy today which made the London Eye more exciting

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