Tomorrow morning, bright and early, Tammy and I head off to the train to spend three days in Scotland. We are going light with reading and photography being the only real loads. I won’t be blogging from there. Mazie and Grandma are going to be exploring London from the basecamp in Kensington while we are gone.
Today is pretty much summed up with one picture, and if you are familiar with this location you know exactly what we did today. :-)
Visiting the Royal Observatory was something that I always thought would be kind of cool, and a few weeks back I realized that it would be an easy day trip while in London. We took a boat up the Thames and got a fun introduction to several of the buildings that line it and after about an hour we got to Greenwich Pier. We grabbed some fish and chips in a pub and then walked up to the Royal Observatory.
It’s no secret that I’m a pretty big geek, and visiting 0° longitude pretty much made the geek-o-meter peg into the red. I was more impressed with this arbitrary line in the dirt than I ever expected I would be. A huge bonus was the Time Gallery which had John Harrison‘s original time keepers on display — H1, H2, H3 and H4. I had read about these amazing time pieces in Dava Sobel’s book Longitude a while back. It was amazing to see them first hand, still working.
Sorry - I have some great photos to go with this but due to the horrible connectivity I have I cannot get them online. When I get some decent connectivity I'll upload them and add them later. I had a good signal this morning and was able to upload the pictures!]
This morning Tammy and my Mom took off for Liverpool. When we were looking at our trip over here, and when my Mom would come over, we found out there is a Beatle’s Festival in Liverpool this week. They took an early bus ride, followed by a very late overnight ride back to go see it. Mazie and I had the whole day to ourselves!
I hadn’t done a great job of planning out our day, but it came together really well.
We started our day at the London Zoo. Zoo’s are always the old standby for Dad’s Day with the Kids and I’m not too proud to use it. A quick trip to the Transport for London Journey Planner and I was able to figure out the right bus connections to get us there, and that it would take about an hour. They were right, an hour later we arrived at the Zoo.
The London Zoo is a cool destination if only for being the oldest zoo in the world. According to Wikipedia it opened on April 27, 1828. Given this long heritage, I was a little curious how the zoo would shape up. On our trip out west we stopped at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. The Woodland Park Zoo opened in 1899, again from Wikipedia. London’s Zoo was already 71 years in the running at the time. More impressive to me is that the Woodland Park Zoo owns the domain zoo.org. I digress. The point is that the Woodland Park Zoo was completely amazing and reset my expectation for what a zoo could be. I was curious to see how London had adapted over the years.
To say I was disappointed is too far, but I think London could really use an infusion of investment into the London Zoo. It is massively improved from the days of gorillas in cement cubes, but it didn’t strike me as leading in its approach to animal habitats. The London Zoo did however send a strong conservation message and highlighted some key roles they have played in zoological research over the years.
All of this was neither here nor there for Mazie of course. She had a great time, and particularly adored the giraffes. They had three of them and we watched them for nearly thirty minutes. I asked her if she wanted to name them and she suggested they were all named “Giraffe-y”. The “-y” naming convention is a trend lately. We also made a special point to see the lions and she really loved the butterfly tent. She found the large birds pretty boring, although I didn’t. They have some pretty huge vultures at the zoo.
We spent all morning there and ended the day with a run on the Zoo Carousel. Mazie insisted on going, which was surprising and new. She previously hasn’t been a big fan of them, but not today. She really enjoyed it.
At the end of our zoo trip we debated taking the bus or train back to the apartment for quiet time. I wanted to take the bus, Mazie insisted on the train. Since it was her day I obliged and walked a mile to the nearest tube station only to find that for a 5 hours slice of time, only on Sundays, particularly right when we showed up, they don’t allow inbound traffic there. So, another 10 minute walk to the next station down the line and we headed back.
I tried to convince Mazie to take a good nap because we had a special afternoon planned. We were going to High Tea at the Orangery!
When thinking about our special Dad-Daughter day in London I wanted to do something that was local and a first. It hit me pretty quick that it would be fun to go and have High Tea together. I had no idea what the entailed as I had never done High Tea before . We had heard on a tour the other day that if you “tea at the Ritz” men must wear a jacket and tie. I have neither along, and that wouldn’t be fun for Mazie so I started doing some searches.
I quickly found that High Tea is actually a pretty kid friendly thing at the right places. I ran across a site that mentioned that the Orangery at Kensington Palace offered a special “Tea for Kids” and it was casual. Perfect!
After Mazie’s non-nap we took off for our first High Tea. I wasn’t real sure how to get where we were going. The tube wasn’t close, and I wasn’t wanting to negotiate the buses so Mazie and I flagged a black cab and made our way to Kensington Palace. We found the Orangery straight on and started our tea.
Mazie’s “Tea for Kids” was a good sized glass of apple juice (more on that later) along with the typical High Tea cucumber and cream cheese sandwich. She wouldn’t touch the sandwich, but loved the apple juice. We substituted her orange sponge cake for a slice of chocolate cake as well.
I had the traditional tea and really liked it. We had a great time sitting and chatting about our tea party and how much fun we had had at the zoo. The tea took just the right amount of time, and some coloring kept Mazie content.
After tea we went into the gardens at Kensington Palace and looked around, followed by some full on running in the park surrounding the palace.
Too Much Sugar
It was time to head back home and Mazie and I discussed our mode of transportation. She suggested that we get a cab again because “the guy that worked there was nice”. I was eager to agree but that the £10 could be easily saved if we just looked. We poked around and figured out it was a short bus ride to Knightsbridge where we would be able to get the Picadilly line back to Earl’s Court and be two blocks from the apartment.
While we were waiting for the bus Mazie informed me that her stomach hurt. This is not normal. She doesn’t get upset stomachs as a normal course of things. I asked her if it hurt a lot and she informed me it did.
At that point I ran through her food for the day and the lack of any proper nutritional oversight became apparent. Cereal and fruit for breakfast was the high point. A snack of mini-donuts followed by a waffle with Nutella on the go at the zoo for lunch was not a good choice. And then high tea with a huge glass of apple juice followed by chocolate cake. Uh oh!
It didn’t seem like I had any options. We got on the bus and went a few stops. She reported that her stomach still hurt a lot. I figured it was maybe too much running around with a full stomach and was hopeful that it would settle down. She was calmer than normal on the bus but seemed okay. We made it off the bus and then walked two blocks to the Knightsbridge tube station and headed down for the train.
She still wasn’t feeling good but I kept asking how she was doing and she said it hurt but was getting better. Then it happened. On the platform for the Picadilly train at Knightbridge, heading east, at about 6 p.m., she started puking up all that sugar.
One, two, three and finally four good size heaves of puke came up. Puke was all over the floor, on her shoes, on her pants, on her shirt — on my pants, on my shirt, a little on my camera. I had one single napkin in my pocket that I used when she gave the first explosion and was completely soaked and covered in puke by the fourth. The tube has no bathrooms, no trash cans, no nothing.
So, I asked if she was done and we walked to the other side, down the whole length of the platform, back over to the eastbound side on the other end and boarded the next train. Both of us had a fair amount of puke on us standing in this absolutely packed train full of nicely dressed people heading to a concert at Earl’s Court.
But, hey, what are you going to do.
We got the rest of the way on the train with no more puking and Mazie reported that she felt good now. I asked her several times if she still wanted her dinner of frozen Macaroni and Cheese at home and she confirmed that she did every time. She gobbled it down actually and I think it settled her stomach a bit. The poor kid suffered through absent minded meal planning but still had a grin.
We had a stellar day filled with fun at every corner. No temper tantrums and things went really smooth. Plus we got to have our first High Tea. What a great day!
 There is some debate on this. I’m told by Alice Kim that I did indeed have High Tea on a business trip to London around the year 2000. I have no recollection of this.
When we told people that we were coming to London one of the most popular questions was “Are you going to any shows?” We gave what seemed like a pretty disappointing answer to most people — “We don’t know.”
We didn’t know because a show would require someone to watch Mazie at night and it wasn’t obvious that would happen. But, when my Mom arrived she suggested that she watch Mazie and get to sleep a little early and we go out for the night. Sounded great to us!
Tammy did some research and narrowed it down to two shows, which quickly became one, and we headed off to see Zorro the Musical!
Let me just say, “wow!”
Neither Tammy or I are qualified theatre people, but we absolutely loved Zorro. It was filled with energy, great music and dancing. It kept me completely engaged all the way through and really looking forward to returning to my seat after intermission. I think it was better than Wicked, which I liked a lot. Tammy thought it was her favorite musical ever, even better than Mama Mia!
If you get a chance to see this musical, make every effort. It’s a great night!
Yesterday afternoon my Mom arrived in London to join us for part of our month abroad! She is hanging out with us a couple of days and then will be exploring London with Mazie while Tammy and I flit over to Scotland for a couple of days.
After a week here her new husband Kurt, will be joining us and they will be going off for a week of fun on their own in Scotland with a quick trip to Paris.
My mother is an energy generator. She arrived here just ready to get going and without even adjusting to the time change she headed off with Tammy to the Beatles Festival in Liverpool!
Food culture is always interesting, and now with Mazie I’ve started to appreciate the food culture of the kid’s menu. Here is a shocker: kids in England don’t eat Macaroni and Cheese. Right, amazing, huh? To a guy that grew up in the midwest this is like saying that people in England don’t breath air.
Mazie on the other hand requires a regular uptake of Mac-n-Cheese. She’s a bit particular about it too. Seh doesn’t like the box stuff. She insists on “super cheesey” Mac. She likes the Mac-n-Cheese at Yum! Kitchen & Bakery a lot but her favorite is probably Amy’s Organic Frozen Macaroni and Cheese. It is “super cheesey” and she just scarfs it all down.
When we got to London our plan all along was to have breakfast and dinner at the apartment and lunch out. We searched for Mac-n-Cheese and came up really empty handed. We found one option, frozen, at Tesco and Mazie hated it. She ate one bite and didn’t want to touch it again.
Tammy did some research on the Internet and found that Whole Foods may have had the holy grail — Amy’s Organic Frozen Macaroni and Cheese.
Brits queueing at the oddly designed checkout aisles.
We took the District Line a couple stops up and walked the two blocks to Whole Foods. It was a bit like going to a grocery in Minneapolis. So many options. We struck gold with a good supply of the infamous Macaroni and Cheese and also stocked up on other essentials. I was a bit surprised to find that I couldn’t get deli sliced turkey. No turkey sandwiches in the UK either?
Big, huge, parent-minded gratefulness goes out to Whole Foods in Kensington!
I really like my coffee. The apartment we are staying at here in London doesn’t have a coffee pot. There is a french press, and I’m not opposed to pressed coffee. It’s some good stuff. But, we are out and about everyday and I’ve just decided to get my daily espresso somewhere instead.
This is the double at Harrod’s — great stuff.
I had seen this application in the AppStore before we left for London but for whatever reason I didn’t think it would be needed or all that useful. I installed it a couple of days after getting here and have used it a lot.
If you find yourself needing to convert from one thing to another a lot Units is the application for you. Currencies, lengths, speeds, etc. — it does them all.
That isn’t enough magic to get me really excited about an application. What I like so much is how fast it is to use. It uses a calculator interface to make it super simple to get a conversion done. I had an initial complaint with how long it took to find the right mode, but they fixed this with a user-interface change in the newest release as well as some additional conversions.
Anyway, another great example of a very handy mobile application that adds significant value easily.
This morning we decided to head to Harrods (store) and visit the worlds largest department store. My first piece of advise is to treat Harrods like an amusement park. Don’t plan to actually shop there unless you want to burn through significant £’s. There is some nice stuff there, but the prices match it. I was thrown back by kids shirts marked at £79.95 ($149.97 as of today). But then again, I don’t think I’ve even seen Juicy Couture for 3 year olds.  Tammy compared Harrods to a casino without the gambling, which is a good approximation. Cruise ship would also be close, but not nice enough.
Even with the ridiculous price tags we had a really fun time just walking around. Mazie had a blast in the kids department with loads of toys and babies. She got to pick one thing to get and much to her parents chagrin desperately wanted a baby that we could get for $12 at home but got to pay £14.95 ($28.04) for.
It was fun to walk around in the household stuff and see all the cool Euro fixtures and such. There are so many more modern options here than at home. We stayed from open through lunch and had some very good pizza in the food hall followed by a nice gelato for desert. We wisely chose a weekday for our visit, and also chose the morning to avoid larger crowds in the afternoon. Happily we didn’t have to queue a lot and could tell that the afternoon was getting notably busier as we left.
 Short aside — I think this is so funny. The Juicy Couture website, which sells way overpriced clothes based entirely on brand appeal, has the Sun Microsystems logo for it’s favicon.ico. <snicker/> Somebody at Juicy needs to call their web shop.
One of the benefits of visiting London is that we got the chance to visit with our friends Alice & John who moved here a little over a year ago. It’s an easy visit too since our apartment is only about four blocks from them. A short walk after Mazie’s nap yesterday and we were at their place. It took a while for Mazie and the girls to get in the playing mood with plenty of shyness to go around, but after an hour they were having a lot of fun. Mazie really enjoyed playing with other kids and more than the handful of toys we packed over here. Tammy and I enjoyed catching up with Alice and John and hearing all about their adventures in London. Good times around, finished with good pizza and a couple of pints.
We’ll definitely get a couple more visits in before we leave town.