>The way to see England…

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My dream finally came true. I got to see England! I am so excited about the memories we made and the fun we had. We’ve been home less than a week and I’ve already made and ordered my Shutterfly Photo Book for the trip! (If you need the password, email me and I’ll give it to you.) This is how we traveled. The big three were on their own, Matt carried Parker, and I carried the essentials: a back pack full of diapers, wipes, Motrin to stave off kids’ leg cramps, a banana, video camera, sippy cup of milk, change of clothes for Parker… thinking back, I don’t even remember what else was in that heavy thing that I never even used. I should have carried less each day… And of course, in my hands at all times, my new Nikon that I reference here.

Here is a quick recap of our awesome vacation:
Here we are in front of Buckingham Palace. I wish the scaffolding wasn’t there.

After we left the palace we headed to Hard Rock Cafe. We all had a great experience there, the wait staff took amazing care of us. But Parker seemed to have the best time of all! 🙂 (Bailey lost a tooth while we were there, the day before his 7th birthday!)

Here is Matt in front of Westminster Abbey.

And here he is with a sleeping Parker in front of Big Ben. During February and March we spent a few weeks studying England and its major landmarks. We learned that what we can actually see is called “Clock Tower” or “St. Steven’s Tower” and the bell inside is called “Big Ben.” The minute hand is 14 feet long and made of copper. It’s hollow to keep it light.We love this bridge. It’s called “Tower Bridge” and it’s just beautiful.
The day we visited Cambridge proved to be the day I had more time to try out some creative things. The city is less busy and we spent most of the day in pedestrian zones, which means we were less concerned about the boys stepping into traffic. Bikes were everywhere, as were signs warning bikers not to chain their bikes to specific fences. At the end of Cambridge day, we went to Sherri’s house, a friend of Jessica’s and Zak’s. Sherri had planned a full-on birthday party for Bailey! She made a strawberry checkerboard cake with Buzz Lightyear on top. She served this cake on Star Wars plates and had the table decorated with a solar system table cloth. Everything was so well thought out and after we returned home to Germany, Bailey said that Sherri’s house was his favorite part of the entire trip. Makes a mommy happy!And the next day, the babies got a rest. Here’s Connor sacked out on the floor of our hotel room, chilling while Jessica taught me how to play Fluxx. Pretty fun, but it takes a while to get the hang of it. I won the first two rounds, then lost the next 10!
Part of the day we spent outside letting the babies swing, play in the grass, and letting Owen and Bailey run free, with no cars to watch out for. Just a free, relaxing day.

Zak and Matt took Hayden and Carson to Oxford to eat lunch at a very special restaurant. The Eagle and Child is where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien sat together every Tuesday and shared their timeless manuscripts with each other. When we returned to Germany, the boys both said that this was their favorite part of the trip.

On Sunday we headed back to London to Hillsong Church. Amazing worship experience, even if Jessica and I had to take in the service from the “baby” room. Afterwards we headed to see the top item on my list: Diana’s chapel! This was a highlight for me, for sure!

On our last day in England we had a few hours before our ferry back to France. We saw Dover Castle and were SO highly impressed. The castle was so well preserved and the historical importance was meaningful to us. Here you can see me reading to the boys about the underground tunnels that were used during WWII.

Here are some words I wrote for the end of our Shutterfly book. It’s not required reading, so no complaints that it’s long! 🙂
We were so blessed to have friends take us to England who had lived there before. That meant we didn’t have to drive on the other side of the road. That also meant they knew the area well enough to get us around and about in cars, trains, tubes, and double-decker busses.
We were able to hit all the major sights that one wants to see when heading to London, giving us just a taste of all there is to experience. We would love to go back and see more things in detail. I want to tour Buckingham Palace and the Royal Muse. I want to spend a lot more time in St. Paul’s Cathedral (where Diana was married). I want to enter Parliament. I want to spend a full four hours at the Tower of London. None of these were possible in the time we had, but we got to see each of them and snap the obligatory photos of us with each of them.
A neat story about our experience with St. Paul’s… On our first day in London we used the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour. We passed “Diana’s chapel” before the automated audio-tour guide told us what it was. I was disappointed to have missed it, but we had other things we really wanted to do, so my mind was set toward getting us to the Tower of London. The next day I started to really hope that we could go by and see the Cathedral on Sunday when we were back in London. Zak and Jessica were cool to let us go out of the way a bit to spend some quality time there. I LOVED every minute we spent there and am so glad it worked out that we were able to fit it in.
Things that surprised me:
* Londoners do NOT wait for the “little green man” before crossing the street. (Germans ALWAYS wait and I appreciate them for that.)
* There is way more to see and do in England than I thought.
* The London Eye is much bigger than I expected.
* The babies did a great job traveling in their backpack carriers.
* Double-decker busses are just as fun to ride on as I had imagined.
* There were NO pictures of Diana… Anywhere.
* A baby who touches your lens at Hard Rock will leave a smudge that will be evident in all the pictures you take for the rest of the day, causing some of the windows on Parliament to be blurry.
(Clean lens often.)
I also believe God had his hand on our trip. We asked Him to bless us with smooth travels and safety and He answered those prayers. Some of the many ways we saw this are below:
* Even though we had 10 people in our party, we were always able to be seated in restaurants immediately. Unheard of.
* At The Hard Rock Cafe they sat us immediately, gave the kids a table next to ours, and gave us a military discount without us having to ask. (I wouldn’t have THOUGHT to ask… the waiter asked us if we were “with the forces.”)
* We got on all trains/busses/tubes without having to wait a long time. AND we never got on a wrong train/bus/tube.
* Our hotel was amazing: 1 bedroom, 1 full kitchen, 1 living room, 2 full bathrooms. (Each family had their own hotel room.)
* We saw several accidents averted right before our eyes. A few SHOULD have been accidents and, had they occurred, we would have been involved.
* Nothing got stolen, lost, or left behind. (Not even Bailey’s “Lord of the Ring” ring that he did his best to lose!)
* We had absolutely gorgeous weather!
* Everyone stayed healthy while on the trip.
* On the way home we drove as far as we could, trying to get into Germany so we could fill up at an Esso station, using the US prices rather than European prices. The GPS sent us on a wild goose chase and we ended up in a small village with an Esso Station that had closed a few hours earlier. At that point we were 29 miles from empty. We were a bit nervous that we wouldn’t find ANY station open, Esso or otherwise. Matt prayed aloud and within 3 minutes we found a Shell. Paid full price, but got enough gas to get us home without danger of running out. The relief of finding that gas station more than compensated for the extra money we spent having not used an Esso station.
* And finally, as important as almost anything else, we left for England friends with the Hills and we returned as such. There’s always a chance that too much togetherness can tarnish a friendship and I believe God was good and provided protection against this. We are thankful for every aspect of this trip!

About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
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5 Responses to >The way to see England…

  1. Pingback: I remember. Really, I do. | thehamricks

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