Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This Is Why All My Friends Should Come Visit...

...Because we have soooo much fun!

Missy, one of my good friends from high school (and in fact, from much earlier, since we went to the same church growing up), gets the award for the only non-family visitor who's made the trip over to see us (so far...).

She got in on Tuesday the 31st of March, and we just took it easy that day so she could recuperate from jet lag.

But on Wednesday (April Fools?) the fun began!

Missy is a stage manager for theater back in the US, so anything theater related is right up her alley. Naturally, a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon was in order. The weather cooperated beautifully, and Madeline cooperated pretty well too, for a two-and-a-half year old. We saw Shakespeare's birthplace, the church where he's buried, his wife's cottage, and a few other homes that are connected to his family as well. It was well worth the two hour drive to get there!

Thursday we stayed closer to home, and checked out Peterborough Cathedral and the downtown area in the morning. Katherine of Aragon is buried here, and Mary Queen of Scots was, until they moved her body.

The theory was that this was Madeline's day to actually get a proper nap. Murphy's Law should have warned me it would be the day she decided NOT to go to sleep. Sigh. We headed up to Burghley House in the afternoon regardless. For those who don't know, they filmed part of Pride and Prejudice (as well as a few other movies) here. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but the artwork and furniture and such are amazing. Madeline may not have fully appreciated the culture in the house, but she did really like the little "guard house" by the front gates!

Friday we went to Cambridge, and took the traditional punting tour along the Cam river. The weather was a bit colder, but we practically had the river to ourselves, which was cool. We also had a very good tour guide--thanks, James! Afterwards, we stopped and had some traditional fish and chips at a nice British pub for lunch. Unfortunately Kings College Chapel was closed, so we had to content ourselves with just wandering through the market area in the afternoon instead.

Saturday morning Missy and I left Peterborough (and Bill and Madeline) behind and headed off for a girls weekend in London!

We took the train down to London, so of course I had to get my Harry Potter photo op at Kings Cross.

After dropping our bags off at our (unexpectedly) posh hotel, complete with amazing views of Hyde Park from our room,

we headed down to get quick photos of Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, etc. on our way to Buckingham for the changing of the guard. I was amazed how many people were there. Granted, it was a Saturday, and the weather was even pretty great, but it wasn't exactly tourist season yet...

Anyhow, after that we went up to Picadilly Circus area for a little kitsch souvenir shopping and some lunch--at TGI Fridays! Thanks, Missy, for putting up with all the American restaurants for me!

We hit Trafalgar Square on our way down to the Globe Theater--another nod to Missy's theater roots. The tour there is actually pretty cool, and had their theater season started yet, I'm sure we would have stayed there for a show.

Unfortunately, that's when the real "fun" began. Due to a mis-read of the map on my part (yes, I'm a cartographer, and yes, I should know better), I thought it was a lot closer to Tower Bridge than it actually is, so we decided to walk to it, then across it, to pick up the tube again. It wasn't a bad walk, just longer than anticipated.

What compounded the issue was that once we got there (and I realized where we actually were on the map, as opposed to my earlier mis-reading) we discovered that the tube line we needed was CLOSED. We asked the tube worker there what the best option was to get to the lines that were open, and he told us to walk up a ways to the bus station. When we got there, it was also CLOSED. Now I ask you: what brilliant person thought it would be a good idea to first close major downtown tube lines on a Saturday, and then also simultaneously close the only other option for affordable transportation in the same area?????!!!!!

Of course, we were by now cutting things close to get back to our hotel and get ready in time for our show that we had tickets to for that night. After a VERY LONG walk (and quickly grabbing some Subway sandwiches along the way for supper) we finally made it back to a tube stop for a line that was open, made it back to our hotel, and made it (just barely) to our show--Hairspray.

It was worth the walk, and then some!

Sunday we slept in, and with our feet and legs recovered from the previous day, we walked through Hyde Park to Kensington Palace.

We then walked past the Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall, and the Royal Geographical Society (for me!) on our way to Harrods.

In case you can't read the sign, that cake costs 5000 pounds, or about $7500.

After that we had a quick lunch at Hard Rock cafe--one of Missy's favorites.

And that was, unfortunately the end! By then, Missy had to get to the airport to catch her plane to Switzerland (she was on to visit another friend) and I had to get back to Peterborough to "rescue" Bill from Madeline.

All in all, it was a fantastic week--Madeline wants to know when Missy is coming back, and so do I! :-)