4.15.09 More London Fun

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4.15.09    More London Fun


Quote of the Day:  “I haven’t done any homework in a fortnight!”  (Lia)


While not true (it had been three days), the irony is in her use of the term “fortnight.”  Such cultural differences (in language and measurement) are exactly the type of learning that I want for my kids!  This true benefit of travel justifies traveling this year. 


Besides, unbeknownst to Lia, she’d already completed her 3rd grade work before we left for this segment of the trip.  Ha!



Whew, we were tired today after our midnight return yesterday! 


We finally made it into London on the bus, arriving just in time to find lunch at a small newspaper stand, along with a phone card.  (We need to take sandwiches next time).


We walked miles today and saw:


St. Paul’s Cathedral

Tower of London (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Tower Bridge

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

The Queens Walk along the river

The Millennium Bridge – pedestrian Thames bridge

Hamley’s Toy Store

Ferrari store – and got directions for the Italian factory tour

The Youth Hostel where I stayed my first night in London in 1987 across from St. Paul’s Cathedral (and where I was locked out of my 2nd night when I was too late!)



Nearly all the cathedrals charge now- it would’ve cost 21L to walk around St. Paul’s, but worshippers attending services are free.  The next service was at 12:30 pm. So we had a 20 minute lunch on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral first.  (I reminisced about doing the same 22 years ago and meeting our Canadian friends- I’m sure sister, Pamela, remembers this great time too.)  Then we entered for the service, which was held for half an hour, right under the glorious dome! 


It was a very special half hour service.  We are not Catholic, but have missed church during our year of travel and found it refreshing, complete with Holy Communion.  There were probably 75 people there, although everyone in the church was invited to participate. 


Attending church service, looking up at the light shining through the glorious windows, seeing the dome so far above and the amazing ceiling frescos- what an incredible experience!  It was far better than our usual tromping through a cathedral. Tickets are expected if you want to walk around after the service, but we left afterward and donated some instead.  We had experienced the heart of this lovely church.


Hamley’s, Britain’s largest toy store, was great fun for the kids today.  Harry Potter replica wands were sold out, but a new shipment arrives at 1 pm tomorrow, so we might be returning.


We were so tired from walking that we rode the bus out of the city about 5:30 pm - it took nearly 1.5 hours to get back to the campground!  I think it must be faster to connect on the bus to either the Oval Station (black line) or the Brixton Station (blue line) of the undergrounds.


We’ve enjoyed the nice people at this campground, both those who run it and those staying here.  We’ve learned about the British school system today and talked at length with two families from Wales and three families from England. 


My kids have asked several of the campground kids to play.  They’ve all been very nice kids from both England and Germany who have been delighted to join in a game of football or tag, teaching each other about their countries’ games and language.  Jazy was very outgoing walking over to invite them to play.  I’m very proud of her extroverted behavior and they all had a fabulous time.


Everyone here shares info on adventures in London, what to do and see, costs for the activities.  The London Eye, the zoo, and Madame Trousseau’s Wax Museum all seem extremely expensive to me given that some of the other items, like museums are free.  Each is over 50L for a family and I’m just not sure we’d get much from them. 


We walked across Tower Bridge and all around the Tower of London walled castle site today.  We admired the UNESCO information area with a replica of the jeweled crown, a catapult demonstration with water balloons by characters in period dress, etc.  But due the mobs of tourists, we’ve seen many castles, and the high cost of this experience. we decided that it was not worth paying to go inside.  Was that the right decision?  Who knows?  One has to choose with the info we have.


I got a bus/tube pass for the week for me.


<<<  Note:  This is boring London transportation info- skip unless headed there:  The Oyster pass, 7-day unlimited rides, is 25L for adults.  Here are 2 reasons you want the Oyster:  The cost of each ride is significantly less if you’re using an Oyster pass AND the Oyster pass caps out at the price of a 1-day travel pass, so that you’ll never pay more on the Oyster pass than you would on a 1-day pass.  Lia, under age 11, doesn’t even need a pass.  I take her by the attendant at each entry gate and she walks through.  I tap my Oyster pass on the yellow circle and it reads it.  Jazy and Charles are each 1 L for a 1-day Youth travelpass.  So why did I spent 22L on a 1-day travelpass at the Crystal Palace rail station our first day here?  It clearly said for children ages 5-15 you needed a travelpass.  Guess that was more than we needed.  Ah, the “Stupid Tax” hit again.  Sometimes, you get lucky, and sometimes you get unlucky.  We were low on information on Easter Monday, we were late getting to the places, and that’s what you get.  We try to let it roll off like water and save where we can.




Expenditures today:  5L for lunch, 5 L phone card, a donation to St. Paul’s, two soft drinks, some baguettes and milk, and the loo (bathroom)- very little!  We’re trying to recover from yesterday’s spending spree.


The loo, you ask?  Yes, there are outdoor public bathrooms.  You put in 20p in the slot, the door unlocks, and you go in.  But wait, there’s a little thing you should know about these loos…


Funny story that was almost disastrous:  We were standing with another family outside the public loo, trying to figure out how it worked.  One of the two loo doors showed a red light that said, “Washing” and then after a few minutes the light moved down to the green “Vacant.”  We let the family’s young lad go first into that bathroom.


 Then the other bathroom was vacated by a woman who held the door open for us, telling us earnestly in Spanish something like we should go on in because change was not given for her 1L. 


Jazy flatly refused to go in. 


“Why?” I asked Jazy.  “She’s saying that it won’t work if we let the door close, right?” 


“No,” Jazy said, “She’s not able to get her cambio (change) and I’m not going in.”


I tried to convince Jazy again, since the lady was standing there being rather insistent about her kind offer.


But Jazy was very firm.


“No.  NO!  I’m NOT going in.” 


Wow, she sure was stubborn.  I didn’t understand her resistance, but figured she’d tell me later.  


We thanked the lady, who sort of shook her head like we were fools, as she realized that we were letting the door close. I had our 20p coin all ready, so we closed the door and looked at the strange little building. 


The light on the door immediately glowed red and “Washing.”


That’s right!  If Jazy had gone in, then she, along with the loo, would have gotten a shower!  Jazy would have been washed!  Oh my GOSH!  She would have killed me! 


Can you imagine the screams that would have emanated from the loo?!  Can you see her stumbling out, completely drenched and hysterical, onto the Queens Walk along the Thames River, which teemed with tourists? 


Would I be parentally required to pay for her therapy following that cleansing?


This possible wash scenario was confirmed by a jolly English lady, who’d just joined us and saw our wide-eyed horror and heard our gasps.


“Yes,” she said, “you never want to go in right after another person at a pay loo or you’ll get a shower along with the room.  The shower guarantees you’ll get a clean loo, but it washes the whole place down when the door closes.” 


We’re sure the Spanish-speaking woman was just trying to be helpful.  But I was SO PROUD of Jazy being street smart and strong enough to stand up for herself, even if it was standing up to *me*.  Hooray!  That too is why I brought our kids on this trip.  Just think what we learned with that experience- for once, not “the hard way”!

Transitory says:
grea tips bout the oyster card :)
Posted on: Jul 14, 2009
azsalsa says:
Loved the story about the shower/loo!
Posted on: Apr 23, 2009
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photo by: ulysses