We are back on the road!
After a pause of about 3 years and a new addition to the family we are traveling again. Ylla is such a good traveler! The folks behind us were having a blast with her as she'd peak back between the seats. As the plane landed, Ylla happily stared through the window and banged on the glass out of excitement. She did very well during the whole flight. "She seems very together" commented the surprised flight attendant after learning Ylla had just turned one.
We arrived in London early morning. Heavy traffic and two-way narrow streets allowed for people watching. It took us 10 mins to cover about 300 feet of road. "It is always like that during school time.", said our taxi driver. Nevertheless it was lovely to see the students all dressed up in their school uniforms as if they were straight out of a Harry Potter movie. The view is so much different than in the U.S. with little streets, houses close together (like town homes and duplexes) with such a picturesque architecture... so much character!
We were staying in Surbiton, a beautiful suburb 20 mins by train south west of central London. Gini, a lovely girl we met in 2010 while traveling in Malaysia, is hosting us for a few days. She, despite her injury while playing tennis, made us feel more than welcomed in her cute cozy two story home in a corner lot. I can't get over how pretty everything it is.
"I thought Jet Lag was not going to hit me, but after 5 mins I crashed in bed," said Jay surprised. Despise the fact that the neighbors are doing some repair next door, and Ylla's wining every now and then, we slept some good 5 hours. We decided to chill although we wanted to go grocery shopping but was so cold and rainy, oh well... "this is London, you are going to get wet anyways", said Gini.
Hampton Court was our favorite attraction in London. It is a massive castle blending Baroque and Tudor styles. The most famous resident was Henry VIII. He not only was father to Elisabeth I but also founded his own Church. He wasn't pleased with the excess of Rome neither was he fond of the limitations it imposed on him. Therefore he proclaimed himself head of the Church of England and not only divorced many times but cut the head off some of his 6 wives.
The coolest thing about this old monument is that actual the actors walk around the premises as the real historical characters would. We witnessed some quarrels between the queen and king, "royal gossiping," and controversial plans for the abolition of the church. The actors and exhibitions really bring it to life.
"Hello, little one" said "the King" to Ylla in a very deep voice. We believe that Ylla's favorite part, by far, was the Children's court where she played at will and was crowned with a Jester costumer
Hampton Court is currently used as a guest house for the royal family. "Does the Queen live in the Palace"? I asked a guide. "No, not really. She may visit every once in a while but one of the Queen's friends is a permanent resident."
We also learned that in it was in Hampton Court King James I requested a new translation of the Bible in 1611. This is what we know as the Authorized Version of the King James Bible which is actually my personal preference when it comes to bibles in the English language.
The Thames River surrounds the immense extension of the Court. We walked 5 miles along the river to get to Kingston. It was just so quiet and beautiful. Very few hikers, bikers and pedestrians were seen. The houses across the River looked beautiful and cozy. The sun timidly shone a few times and some ducklings came to welcomed us expecting some food in return. It was a long day in which we walked almost 5 hours. But, hey! there is no better way to get the feeling of a city!
London Eye is Britain's main modern attraction. A tranquil ferris wheel spin to view the sites of London in all their glory. From the Eye one has an enchanting, bird’s eye view of the city. The Parliament, Big Bend, Thames River and many old bridges were seen from above. The wait was not too bad; however, it was a bit pricey. Ylla ate the whole time we were there and made us realize that we cannot do the same things we used to before she appeared in the scene.
Americans always mistake the Tower Bridge, said Gini. It is so true! We were supposed to visit the Tower Bridge which is iconic for the city, but we ended up in the London Bridge instead! This bridge has literally nothing to offer. I kept wondering, Did Gini really meant this bridge? At least we saw the Tower Bridge from a distance as we crossed the London one.
This unexpected detour took us to Leaden hall Market. Of course we were meant to go to another market for lunch but I lost the paper where Gini had written down the name. Anyways, it was probably nicer and less touristy. The place was lovely and predominantly visited by what would be the wall street finance dudes of London. Why do Englishmen always drink standing up? at 2 pm in the afternoon the suited business men hanged out in the market's pubs.
Wthout a doubt, London is the New York City of England. The metro was our main means of transportation. The busy and not so friendly London residents run across the endless maze of passages. We are certain that, if Ylla wasn't around, the locals would never have noticed us. Ylla would catch smiles and kind gestures easily. On the contrary, we were ignored most of the time. London is so diverse that you can hear almost every language in the world.
Have you ever heard of the Buckingham Palace? if you follow English Royal gossip you probably have. This is the place where they are supposed to live and where the smile-less guards watch. It was my desire to go there and I am still not sure if it was worth the visit. It is surrounded by beautiful and massive parks, but nothing was seen of the famous British blue bloods.
One thing we’ve learned quite quickly is that, when traveling with a child, parks and playgrounds are a must. So, we cart off to the greenery where she can crawl, play, and stretch out. London’s parks such as Green and Regent's park are quite lovely for this. It is in these parks that Ylla will most likely take her first steps. We are letting her train by pushing her very own stroller through the parks as a walker.
Poor Ylla, at the tender age of 1 and some change, her parents are strapping her into a stroller for up to hours at a time while mommy and daddy see the sights. Needless to say, she can get to be quite the subhuman monster clawing and yowling from the body of a baby, when there isn't enough play time allowed. As we advance in our journey through Europe, we shall continue to scope the nice parks for potential picnicking rather than attempt to devour the tourist attractions. It is hoped that the park visits will kick the Dies Irae-a-la-Ylla can down the road.