Monday, 19 March 2012

London & Happy Mum's Day

Hello Readers,
Kind of a slow news week.  We had our parent teacher conferences for Karl which was fine.  We met with his Maths (not a typo in England), English and Science teachers.  He is doing well in class, teachers like him and he has a lot of friends so the feedback was good.  The grading system here is different so its hard to compare the US to UK progress.  The biggest difference I see so far is that in the US classes are split into one year or half year lengths so the goal is to earn an "A" at the end of each class.  Over here the schools set a goal at the beginning of year seven for the students to hit at the end of year nine so their learning is on par with the GCSC exams they will take after secondary school.  Their GCSCs are like our ACT or SAT which makes sense but each student's target is individually assigned which seems odd to me.  With him missing last year the teachers don't know where to set his goal for the end of year nine - still shaking my head that the teachers struggle with his grade target but just one of the differences I guess.  The strange part for Lori and I is that Karl is at a C level now in some classes but on target for the A at end of year nine so teachers are happy with his progress.  He is also at an A level in another class so does that mean he can skip the class for the next year and a half?  Just "different" like so many other things over here.  I guess if the teachers are happy and he's doing well then we should be happy. 

After the conferences we opted for take out at the local John Port fish and chip shop, or "chipee" as they are called over here.  The place is very popular at the school per Karl so we grabbed some grub and headed home.

Fish and chips from the "chipee".  Note the huge portion and grease soaked box.  Tasted okay but a little to much fish grease taste for me.

Karl had the fried burger.  Not the healthiest meal that night.

And the best part about the night ? Two more glasses! I'm rollin' baby!
This week's Mark Elliott pic - my new glasses.  We had some time to kill before his conferences so I grabbed a pint and charmed the bartender out of two glasses.  The Pedigree on the left has cricket players on the bottom.  The Bass Ale on the right with the red triangle is the world's oldest trademark per the bartender.  

On Saturday we went on our first family trip to London.  We decided to do a day trip instead of spending the weekend so our sightseeing was mostly outdoor attractions.  I have to admit I was not blown away by London like I was Stockholm.  It has a lot of interesting sights but just walking around was not as impressive as I thought it would be.  I guess I will have to withhold my final opinion until we have seen a show or visited the museums.  The one thing that stood out to me was the number of foreign languages/accents I heard walking around.  I wonder what percentage of people in London are tourists and what percent are Londoners.  It rained off and on all day but we came prepared with rain coats and umbrellas so it didn't deter us.  The typical dreary soft rainy day London is famous for I guess.  Onto the pictures.

Starting our tour at St. Pancras train station.  Olympics are only a few months away. 

Our first stop was Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station.  The platform is off to the side and not in the same location as it was during the filming of the movies so I was a little disappointed.  It had the feel of a touristy gimmicky attraction which kind of turned me off.  I have to admit that was the disappointment of the day for me.  Karl wouldn't pose for a picture so you'll have to go back a few weeks to the Girls go to London post to see Kal posing with the luggage cart.

Monument to the fire of 1666.

Interesting plaque on the monument.  Christopher Wren's work was as ubiquitous in London as C.L. Engel's was in Helsinki.

KJ spotted this gem by St. Mangus the Martyr (a church).  The plaque reads "FROM ROMAN WHARF A.D. 75: FOUND FISH STREET HILL 1931."  Of course we all touched it.

Lon-don bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down...

Tower Bridge (see link) in the middle, HMS Belfast (see link) on the right, the River Thames in front..  We'll tour those next time.

Tower of London (see link) in the background.  We'll tour this next time also.

Another view.

This was very cool.  It had people peddling on each side plus one person in front steering. 

This week's Dana Johnson pic.  We ate lunch at a chain called Pret A Manger.  It was a deli food type place and was pretty good.  A sampling of the food from l-r; chicken & chorizo hot wrap, smoked bacon & corn soup, sweet chili prawn salad wrap (in front), classic egg & ham bloomer, and classic super club.  The egg and ham sandwich was surprisingly my favourite of the selection.

After lunch was St. Paul's Cathedral (see link).  No pictures inside so you'll have to check out the pics here.  Very impressive cathedral although the Golden Gallery at the top of the dome was not open.  The Whispering Gallery was open but we couldn't whisper back and forth as advertised.  I did hear Lori say "Kalle" once but that was it and Lori couldn't hear me at all.  In the crypt was the naval hero Lord_Nelson and the Duke_of_Wellington.  Per a cathedral info board there was one million people who attended the Duke's funeral in 1852.  The cathedral was also where Prince Charles and Lady Di were married.  The only attraction that we went inside during our day and it was definitely worth it.

Kalle and the London Eye.

The troop in front of Big Ben (see link) and Parliament.  I am sure my sharp audience knows that Big Ben is actually the nickname of the 13 ton bell in the clock tower but has since been made synonymous with the clock tower.  Benjamin Hall was the commissioner of works in 1858 and the bell was named after him per my guide book.

Oliver Cromwell standing guard behind Parliament.

A horseman by Parliament.  I looked for the roundabout from the famous European Vacation roundabout scene but could not find it and didn't feel like walking around looking for it.

I guess I have to tell this story at this point.  I put together a flexible itinerary for the day so we have an idea of what we could do depending on the weather and still make it back in time for the train home.  The forecast was rain all day long but the weather forecasts here seem to be more unreliable than usual so there was a good chance it wouldn't rain all day.  (For the record we ended up doing one inside tour and the rest were outside attractions.)  So it is early afternoon by this point and we stopped between Big Ben and Westminster Abbey to look at my itinerary and plan the rest of the afternoon.  I take out my paper and the tourist map and asked if anyone knew the time since I didn't have my watch or phone on me.  Boy did that unleash the beast.  Lori pipes in with can't you hear the bell chiming?  Karl offers his two pence of you're standing in front of the biggest clock in the world.  And on it went.  Okay, maybe I had a brain freeze episode but dang... they were ruthless. That's got to go on the blog from my loving wife.  And on... and on... and on...  After I stopped the bleeding we decided to check out Buckingham Palace then Hamley's.  We figured it would be a fifteen minute walk so off we went with me leading the way.  We had walked for about fifteen minutes and not seeing anything that looked like a palace so we decided to stop and check our bearings.  We stopped by the museum next to us to use as a reference point but the tourist map I was using didn't show the museum so we dug for a different map and found the museum... far from Buckingham Palace.  Oops.  Poor map reading combined with a poor cartoony map does not end well for us.  We decided at this point to ditch the palace and make our way to the closest tube (underground) station and go to Hamley's.  I also ditched the bus routes map I was using for a different map that also showed the streets.

Interesting buildings design on our walking tour of futility.

And forty minutes after we left Big Ben we are within five minutes of it.  Karl just laughed and laughed.  Lori was not as amused.  See below.

Westminster Abbey (see link) with Big Ben and the London Eye in the background.  We'll visit the Abbey on our next stop.

Eros statue near Hamley's.  My guide book says the statues overlooks areas of prostitution so I figured it wasn't the best place to be in the night time.  It looked okay in the day time tho. 

Hamley's.  Seven stories of toys.  Lots of toys but nothing extraordinary so we left empty handed.

After Hamley's we are all beat so we decided to eat at the Soho Pizzeria.  The food was pretty good but everyone was so tired I didn't even bother taking a Dana pic.  Kal had a cannelloni, Karl had a calzone, and Lori and I had pizzas.  Mine had ham, olive and artichoke.  A decent amount of ham, three olives, and three artichoke quarters.  The pizzas here are more Italian style than US style.  The toppings are sparse and the crust is generally thin and soft so everyone eats pizza with knife and fork.  The pizza was actually pretty good, my olives were good even though I am not a huge fan of them.  After fuelling our bodies with food and liquid we pepped up a bit and meandered to the train station for our uneventful trip home.  It is a one and a half hour train ride which goes by quickly.  A long day but well worth it.

Sunday was Mothering Sunday here so Happy Mum's Day to all of the Mum's out there.  Father's Day is the same date here and the US so Lori gets two days while I only get one.  I would make that my "Dan Stine extreme self restraint in the face of surmounting adversity moment of the week" but I really shouldn't complain cause the mum's deserve it.  Yeah mums!  For breakfast Kalle wanted to make Lori breakfast but wanted to cook with her also so Lori and Kalle ended up making french toast with a peach glaze topping accompanied by bacon rashers.  Very tasty - well done girls.  It was a low key day after London so we celebrated by buying Lori roses and eating at a local Thai place she likes.  The food was average which was disappointing so we will try it again some other time. 

Thanks for listening,

1 comment:

  1. I've realized that I don't like fish-n-chips, even good ones, for the same greasy reason.

    London is the largest European city and it doesn't have a compact city center like some others. As a result, you don't get the same vibe as others. However, the sites and shows are amazing. Hunker down a stay a little while next time to fully experience it.