Sunday, August 17, 2014

Don't Save the Sugar Rations for Another Day.

We walked almost six miles today. My feet are a bit sore. I miss my bed. And we all really really miss our Pluto! But I have this story running through my head:

Winston Churchill refused to leave the city when World War II was looming large on the horizon. Rather, he insisted on building secret war rooms under an unknown building where he could work, live if necessary and could manage his staff as they planned, plotted and worked to stop Adolf Hitler.

The rooms are a fascinating tour -- offices, bunk rooms, a regal dining room for Churchill and his wife to host dinners if they were trapped underground, map rooms, and a secret room that even his staff thought was his private water closet but which in fact was a telephone room where Churchill could conduct very private phone calls!

When the war ended, the rooms were closed and left undisturbed for years. When they were re-opened in the late 1970s a packet of sugar cubes was found on one of the officer's desks. The packet contained this officer's sugar rations. No doubt he was saving them for something special. He had, after all, placed them safely in the envelope and even put his name on them. And yet what stood out to me is the fact that he saved them so long he never used them at all. At all.

I don't want to waste a moment imagining something different around the corner. I don't want to save my energy for another day -- I want to walk, and see and do and experience everything we can before we leave London in a couple of days.

As as we do just that: we are cramming as much in as absolutely possible! We have toured the Tower of London -- the history fascinates me and we savored every story the Beefeater (Yeoman Warder) told but I have to tell you that wheelchairs and cobblestone are a rough combination. Poor Benjamin's teeth were rattling!

Volunteers are placing ceramic poppies in the moat surrounding the Tower. One red poppy to represent each man who lost his life in World War I.

The Tower Bridge.

Bulldogs!! (Ok...totally the wrong colors but they make us smile!)

Cate as a guard? Hmm...

After the tower we grabbed a couple of taxis and handed them the address for The Who Shop (You know...Dr. Who!). We probably should have worried when both drivers were concerned for how we would return to London. We were way way way out there and unfortunately being Dr. Who fans did not mean the Tardis could help with transport.

Mason going into the Tardis....the Dr. Who museum...because you is bigger on the inside!

We walked through some interesting parts of town to get to the closest train station with wheelchair access. We walked a long long way through those interesting areas. :)

Our trip is winding down but we still have a bit more to see. My hope is that when we return we will have a whole new motto -- not just "mind the gap" or "Keep Calm and Carry On" but I hope we learn to eat the sugar rations each day -- not save them for a special occasion!!!

Sunset through the London Eye.

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Friday, August 15, 2014

Time Travelers...

Honestly, we have been back to Shakespeare's age forward to the much-modernized BBC Broadcasting House and around and around places in between. We have laughed and stood in awe; we (well three of us) have stood for three hours straight to see Julius Caesar in the yard so we could have the experience (read: very very sore feet); and we have worn holes in a brand new pair of shoes. We visited history of two world wars and watched in awe as the Phantom terrorized the opera. We have had a very busy two days.

Inside Shakespeare's Globe theater.

At the BBC.

On the set of the BBC's One Show.

Benjamin and Cate read for a radio drama.

Claire did the sound effects.

We walked over to Baker visit the home of our favorite detective.

Sadly, this attraction had no lift (elevator) to the apartment of Sherlock Holmes. We usually don't do anything if we can not all do it together but this was 221B Baker Street....and Benjamin insisted everyone else go on without him. So he and I spent time in the gift shop -- even then, the gentlemen working at the museum had to help me lift his chair up on the step into the shop.

We reached Hyde Park right before our feet fell off -- ok, not really but just as Claire found she had worn a hole in the bottom of her new shoes! We had a lovely respite here complete with Ice Lollies...which we let Cate buy even though not one of us knew what they would be. We were delighted to have chocolate Popsicles when she returned! (Doesn't having ice lollies while on holiday just have a lovely sound to it?)

We found the Peter Pan statue in the middle of Hyde Park. Someone had left a bouquet of flowers in memory of Robin Williams.

My girls in the Princess Diana memorial also in Hyde Park.

Another step back in time -- the Imperial War Museum.

And while I have loved all these moments -- and ya'll, there are hundreds of photographs that I haven't shared yet -- taking my children to see Phantom of the Opera last night may be my favorite thing yet! Mason has been talking about this musical for years. He could not wait to see it and it met every single expectation....every single one!

And we may or may not have waited outside the stage door to meet the stars...I love this photo of Harriet Jones (Christine) with Benjamin!

 But one of us was waiting for the Phantom...because ya'll, the Phantom (Geronimo Rauch) was from Buenos Aires, Argentina!!!

And though Mason is opposed to standing outside stage doors...for many very good reasons (including not wanting to hurt other actor's feelings if we don't recognize them but mainly to preserve the magic of the show) the rest of my kids loved interacting with this charming Argentine who was delighted to hear of our love for his country!

We literally came scurrying across the Westminster Bridge as Big Ben struck midnight. I hurriedly tucked all my crew in for the night but my mind danced over these two days of precious memories for a couple more hours! We have already lived one more day since...but I will save that fun for later!

I'm sending hugs and love from London and hoping your day is full of ice lollies!!

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Monday, August 11, 2014

Full day one and two in London...and Big Ben, always, Big Ben!

I should type a disclaimer right up front...our hotel is just across the Thames from Parliament, the Queen Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben. I am quite enamored. Every day, afternoon, evening, the building is draped in a different light and I can not seem to click fast enough to capture the lighting forever. I fear I will have thousands of the same shot...but really I can not help myself. It is lovely. So very lovely.

Our first full day in London was soggy. But for desert dwellers, even rain is exotic so we did not alter our plans in the least. We began with a ride on the London Eye -- a giant Ferris wheel that lifts you in an enclosed capsule high into the air for a bird's eye view of the city. 

A soggy view from the London Eye.

Inside our capsule.

The Eye offers the caregivers of persons needing handicap access free admission! We keep finding these outstanding ways that Britain cares for the people near and dear to us!

We continued with a tour of Churchill's secret underground war rooms. The history was fascinating and we stayed touring, reading, absorbing for hours! (I will share more of this after we get home.)

We opt to walk most places. The underground has limited accessible stations and frankly you just see so much more of the city when you walk from place to place. We have stumbled upon some wonderful treats already -- and had to bypass some of them because they had no access for the boys. London is an old old city and yet we have been pleasantly surprised by the level of access.

I found some graffiti for my sweet sister-in-law!

I am hoping our wanderings will bring us back here when the store is open!

Today was beautiful with only scattered showers. We set out early to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace!

I warned you...

My family walking through the gates to find spots for the guard ceremony.

We arrived an hour early to secure a spot where all four kiddos could see relatively well. It was such a cross-cultural hour. We visited with an older couple from Germany and a young couple from Sicily. When the Royal Band had been playing for a while, the young lady from Sicily turned to me and said, "Am I crazy or does that sound like "Thriller."  I assured her she was NOT crazy! Who knew the Royal Band would only play Pop music?!


We meandered around Piccadilly Circus all afternoon finding the loveliest shops and bookstores.

And then we raced a rainstorm back to the hotel to get ready for the theater. The bottom fell out just as we needed to leave. The dear bellman at our hotel got us a couple of taxis...we kept trying to impress on him that we had to have accessible taxis and he didn't seem to understand our questioning him over and over again (I am nothing if not diligent about explaining our needs.). When we ducked out in the rain to get in the taxis, the drivers promptly lowered ramps. Apparently all the taxis in London are required to offer access! How amazing is that?!!!

St. Martin's Theater in London's West End is almost 100 years old. Built in 1914, the theater does not have an accessible entrance. But when the doors opened, a wonderful gentleman brought out a ramp to help Benjamin and Mason inside. He then used the ramp again to get Benjamin up the steps to the box seat that was designated for his wheelchair and two companions. He had a wonderful view of Agatha Christie's Mousetrap!

Outside before the show!

Benjamin, Claire and Dad in their viewing box!

Our feet are a bit sore, but our hearts are full as we are making some of the most incredible memories together! I got tickled when Cate looked at me tonight and said, "I have seen more redheads here than I have ever seen in my life! I am from here, aren't I?" And then there is the accent she is acquiring...oh my!

Mason thinks he just might stay behind.

Benjamin is writing a play in his head to be put on paper when he returns.

Claire needs more luggage for the books she keeps finding and needing to bring home.

Dad stays busy mapping our way from place to place -- avoiding streets that end in stairs (we have happened upon two of those so far that were not on the map) and finding the curbs with ramp access.

And as for me: I am just loving watching the faces of my children as they experience this wonderful place!

And this, taking pictures of this. I may have an addiction. No one help me, please!

Carol - The Blessings Counter