sleep in a bit, have pastries for breakfast......Catch the Waterloo train to Hampton Court Palace (10ish) (-ish figured in my itineries a lot..so let's call it a suggestion list)......Arrive and tour every nook and cranny of the palace and delightful grounds, and even splurge on a Hampton Court Cafe lunch......3:30PM leave by boat on the Thames back to London to the Westminster pier. This boat ride would possibly take 3 hours and I imagined us sitting back watching the country-city scenery, coloring with Sophia, journaling, generally taking a pause WHILE traveling. AHHH......Be in London by 7pm for a dinner and possible quick stop at the British Museum that is open late on Thurs. evenings. Good plan.....Right?
Uh, change in plans...my poor Sophia. She is a joy and great even in the midst of travel. David and I seem to have an upspoken rule in regards to outings with her. Since she HAS TO sit with just me at all meals (I typically am the last to finish and rarely eat a hot meal) and attached to me at all times, David takes over when there are potty breaks and he also handles her luggage (ie. assortment of toddler items we MUST carry) and her stroller. And NO, I am not complaining, just interjecting that with the blessing we have of traveling together as a family, taking into consideration the wants and needs of 5, now six people ages 2-62, there is a lot to be prepared for. On this morning Sophia woke up with her usual groggy smile and then quickly threw up on herself in bed. She was crying and very congested.
Oh, my. To have a sick child while traveling is doubly difficult, because at home when there is sickness it is bad enough, but now the items we needed and the comforts of home are gone. We assessed that the congestion she had built up over our many plane rides compounded by little eating had probably gotten her a sick tummy. I popped down to our small grocers on the ground floor, but home pharmecuticals weren't to be found. Lou and I left the crew at the flat and headed to the neighborhood Tesco Superstore.
Once at the superstore (this took longer than expected, as we had walked) I found myself enjoying the opportunity to compare US to UK grocery staples. Items like soda, chips, cookies, and dairy are always fun. We got some medicinal items for Sophia, and easy snacks for her sensitive tummy. As we figured out the bus route back to the flat (definitely a necessity with all our good in tow), Lou fidgeted with the how-tos for the rest of our day. I assured her that we would make the most of it and take care of Sophia too. I have to say that sitting on the local bus, loaded down with groceries somehow made me feel a bit of a "local" myself.
Thankfully when we arrived at the flat Sophia had nearly finished off a small bag of her favorite item...corn chips and sipped on something akin to Ginger Ale. David offered to stay at the flat with our recuperating Sophia and yes they (he) would nap....he was pooped out. See, the weeks before our trip David had worked long hours finishing work projects so he was happy to chill for the day. Sophia was set watching the DVDs of her favorite home shows. What to do?
Since it was nearing 1pm, we decided to go to the Tower of London for the day and then return near dinner time to check on David and Sophia. David readily agreed. It was a "big girls' day" to my favoritest sight in London. The girls figured out our Tube route to the Tower.Arriving in the middle of the day we entered quickly with our Heritage Pass (family pass for English historic sights) and jumped right into the crowd beginning a Beefeater tour. I confess I love this place. The age and times that the Tower has stood through is amazing...the royals that have resided here...the famous prisoners that stayed here...the treasures of English history on display and for most people, the crown jewels that are stored here.The Beefeater tour is quick and entertaining. Part of the intrigue of the Tower are the guides themselves. These are men (and one woman now) that have served their country honorably and now not only guard the Tower but live in this castle. It is their home and community. They even have a number of pubs in the vast castle for only their socializing but they do have a strict curfew.
As Lou and I found a handsome obliging Yeoman Warder taking photos with other tourists, I asked the girls to join him in a shot. And being the pre-teenager and teenagers that they are they scowled an "oh, no." But Anna offered to take a photo of Lou and I.
Then as the tall gentleman put his arm about us for the photo, he asked a polite, "So, where would you be from?" and his tone rang a bell in my head. "Are you John?" I asked. Yes, I know, a common enough name, but he stood back a little and said, "Yes, miss. Do I know you?"
No, I was not flirting with him one bit. Lou even asked, "Do you know him?" I went on to explain that though he now had a beard and glasses and we were both 8 years older, that on my very first solo trip abroad in 2001, I had toured the Tower and taken a picture with him in that very same spot. And I remembered in '01 he had shared with me that during the Gulf War he had trained with US forces at our nearby Fort Hood and had come to appreciate Texans. He chuckled and agreed that that was surely him and kindly gave us tips on what to see at the Tower. Lou was even tickled by this coincidence. I am not so keen on the jewels myself, but we did the tour for Lou's sake. She walked away with her social consciousness being bothered with the riches and luxury of the Royals through history, while at times the countrymen languished. Hmm. I hoped it wouldn't put her off for the rest of the tour. We looked through the rooms, shopped some souvenirs and still ran out of time. I would happily go back again. When we got back to the flat David and Sophia were ready to get out (I thanked the Lord that Sophia had eaten with no problems and the meds had cleared her congestion). But Lou wouldn't hear of us walking another place the rest of the night. Now our Tube stop was only 10 minutes away, but her ankle was cranky and she didn't want to be. There was a fancy schmancy 5 star hotel next door to us that proved helpful in the Black Cab arena. Taxis were parked outside its doors at all times. Lou had us jump in the first one we saw and happily we all five fit in one even with our stroller---good times. 6 GBP (Great British Pounds), and 10 minutes later we were dropped near Trafalgar Square at St. Martins in the Fields' (church) Cafe in the Crypt. Yes, CRYPT. As you dine in the refurbished spacious underground Cafe you can read the tomb markers of people buried below centuries ago. I so, so, so wanted us to make it in time for their dinner specials and most especially their Brass Rubbing Centre. But, OH NO! it was closed. For about 5 GBP (or more) you can do one of their exquisite rubbings of historical figures and English emblems. In one stop, you have a great kids activity (grown ups too!) and a special souvenir. But no go (yeah it proved to be a bit of a damper to the girls spirits). Thankfully, the cafeteria style moderately priced menu served us well and I had one of the best salads of my whole trip (w/ the most wonderful garlic chive dressing.) Again....I highly recommend it for the ambiance (ooo, I got to say ambiance) and nearness to the National Gallery, and National Portrait Gallery.
Once we were done the girls looked longingly at the souvenir shops near our bus stop. Lou wanted to find some items too and so we spent at least an hour finding the gifts that most our extended family seems to appreciate: London logo T-shirts, Big Ben key chains, magnets, etc. We stuffed ourselves onto a packed bus and thankfully made it back to the flat all together. Lou said out loud to us all that she was a bit put off with local transportation (all the go, go, going, and hubbub) and wanted to treat us to cab rides for the rest of our stay. We were grateful for the offer (it is a time saver) but later that night Sara told me that one of her favorite things was riding the tube.
She felt better when I told her that the next day we were headed out of the city by train to Hampton Court Palace. Sophia was thankfully all better by the end of the day, and even with the outside noises wafting in, quickly was off to sleep.