London, March 2005 (96 images)

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Here are our photos from London. Enjoy! It starts with Sammy getting ready for the flight on the "big, white airplane", and the nice passenger who offered to take our picture.

We got in early Sunday morning. Jenn wanted to nap, so Sammy and I went for a walk. We had rented a flat right around the corner from Leicester Square, on Upper St. Martin's Lane. It was a five-minute walk down to Trafalgar Square. We got there just in time to hear the change ringing at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, always a thrilling sound. Then, as we were looking down towards Whitehall, we heard some horns and noticed a procession coming our way. It turned out to be the Palm Sunday procession from St. Martin's, and they stopped right in Trafalgar Square, sang a bit, prayed a bit, and let the donkey have a bit of a rest before they kept going.

A little later, we met up with Claire, an old friend of mine who I haven't seen in years. Claire was another Watson Fellow, in London around the same time that I was, in 1992-1993. She ended up back in London for the last six years, working as an architect. We had a fantastic lunch at a place on Shaftesbury called the Farmhouse Table, and then wandered off to Kensington Gardens to see the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. The weather was supposed to be beautiful -- Saturday had apparently been sunny and seventy degrees -- but the sun never really came out, and it was windy and cold all day. Still, it was warmer than Boston.

The next morning, we tried to get an early start but failed miserably. When we finally ended up wandering over to the Changing of the Guard, we found ourselves racing the horses down the Mall. And of course, we couldn't get anywhere near the gates. Hey, at least the flowers were beautiful, and Sammy got to see the horses up close, which is really all he needed anyway.

That afternoon, we took the 24 bus (a double-decker) up to Hampstead, where I lived when I was "studying" the tube stations. We came across a great little playground, which was the perfect spot for Sammy run around and play. We took a walk through the Heath, wandered by my old flat, and stopped at La Creperie de Hampstead for a quick butter and sugar crepe. A few things have changed -- mostly the restaurants -- but Hampstead is just as lovely as I remember. A ride back on the "red, white, and blue train" (aka the Northern Line) was enough to keep Sammy going until dinner and bedtime.

Tuesday morning was the London Zoo, which coincided with the only rain we saw in London. Happily, there wasn't a lot of it, and in typical London fashion, it was mostly just wet instead of actively raining. Sammy was overjoyed. Aside from modes of transport (airplane, taxi, bus, train), animals are just about his favorite things on earth. And the London Zoo is a pretty good one. I was only a little sad to see that the penguins have been moved from their architecturally significant home to a new, probably more appropriate one.

After lunch and a nap, it was off for more sightseeing. We headed down to the water because Jenn hadn't actually seen the Thames yet. The London Eye looks pretty impressive, although we opted not to go on it. It's apparently a 30-minute ride around, and the last thing we wanted was to be at the top when Sammy decided he wanted to get out.

Wednesday morning was the London Transport Museum, one of my favorite haunts in my previous life, and a big hit with Sammy. Before we made it in, we were accosted by the Lindt chocolate folks, who were handing out free chocolate Easter eggs. They take Easter, and chocolate Easter eggs, very seriously in London.

In the afternoon, we did the cheesy bus tour, a remarkably effective way to see lots of the city, and actually learn something, as long as you don't mind being surrounded by other tourists. It took us through the City, past lots of Roman ruins, and over to the Tower of London.

Thursday was our last day there, but we were able to get in a bit more sightseeing. We wandered down Whitehall in time for the Changing of the Horse Guards, a slightly less elaborate procedure than that at Buckingham Palace. A little more wandering brought us down to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, then it was back on the 24 bus to the British Museum. We saw the highlights (Reading Room, Elgin Marbles, Rosetta Stone, Bog Man), and then ate lunch in Bloomsbury Square before heading back to pack and head home.

Finally, the flat. We can't say enough good things about it. The location was fantastic, and travelling with a kid is so much easier when you have a kitchen and a separate room for him to sleep in. It's about as expensive as a decent hotel, and you make up any extra in what you save on meals. We found the place through the London Connection. Check them out if you're going to London -- most flats have a minimum stay of a week, but we lucked out. They even offer a taxi pick-up and drop-off service to Heathrow or Gatwick.

All in all, it was a pretty amazing trip for five days. Sammy, as always, was a trooper. He slept pretty much all weekend when we got home, but he really seemed to enjoy himself. We can't wait to take him back!

© 1999-2005 Matthew S. Burfeind
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Last revised Monday, March 28, 2005