The World is a Book

Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Month: June 2012 (page 2 of 2)

London Day 1

Set off early to the British Museum – raining of course but that meant it was a good day to be inside. The museum was full but not crowded so enjoyable. Mostly a few British school trips and Americans (same as at the Louvre). Max was excited and really enjoyed the Egyptian wings – he was the main reason we went there. They got their full share of mummies and we all enjoyed the Rosetta Stone.

rosetta stone

We searched for the sword from Scarborough but no luck although we did get to handle some sharpening stones and axe pieces from thousands of years ago in a great hands-on presentation. An enjoyable few hours and it amazes me that entry is still free. Cannot go into cathedrals without paying exorbitant fees now but museums are free (church versus state).

mummies

happy max

Still raining so we headed out to look for lunch and found a pub that allowed children in near Leicester Square area. Couldn’t get show tickets for that day in anything we really wanted to see or hadn’t seen before. The new one, Roald Dahl’s book Matilda is supposed to be really good but it’s sold out for months; something to watch for in the US later. Yes Prime Minister, an older British television show is now on stage and looked good but the children would have been bored sadly.

Since it was raining so heavily we ended up buying the tourist bus passes ($100 for 5 of us) and going around on that for a while. We were able to use it the following day too so at least justified some expense. The tube is cheaper here and children are free which was better than Paris. We paid 7 pounds for a day pass in the main two zones per adult. Oyster passes are good but cost 5 pounds just to buy so not worth if for a couple of days.

open top bus in london

Oh the bus pass also included a boat trip so we headed down the Thames for an hour. Not as scenic a river as the Seine but still another view of London. Dinner was back at the apartment after a stop around the corner at Tesco Express (I will miss these). And then we spent the evening trying to get shoes and coats to dry out. Jacob was using the blow dryer on Charlotte’s – and mom; the microwave did not work!

Off to London

Woke to overcast but dry weather and it stayed dry all day until we had to walk in London! But it did make the 5 hour drive down nicer. I like the large places to stop on the M-11 now as it’s not only gas stations and McDonalds but they also have French patisseries and M & S stores with all that good food. We were able to load up again on sandwiches like duck breast and hoisin sauce – certainly more creative than ham and cheese. Then we dropped the car off after searching for the offsite place near Stanstead for about 45 minutes. Do we warned that Budget and Thrifty are miles away while Europcar is on site. Then our car and driver was waiting to take us into London. That cost 76 pounds but was worth it because the bus to London from that airport is about 15 pounds per person and the train even more. I’m finding so often that for our group of 5, a private car is often cheaper.

tube

We were slightly anxious at the apartment as no one was there to let us in and the telephone number was not being picked up. But about 10 minutes on, we finally got through by phone and man came over immediately and let us in. The apartment had 2 bedrooms, full kitchen and living room etc. Nice with new and modern things but the floors (tiles) made our feet black. We found it on hotels.com and paid 125 pounds a night so not bad for all of us. We were 5 minutes walk to Shoreditch Tube stop which is near a lot of the Olympic areas. Got to see Olympic Village and some arenas coming in and there were still a lot of cranes and equipment madly working. It’s about a month to go now. Our driver said he was leaving the city for two weeks because he did not want to work during it as everyone is highly fearful that the London transport system simply will not work for that many additional people. It is hard to imagine because we were on many jam-packed tubes and buses were full just on normal days.

ben at big ben

I was glad we sandwiched our trip right between the Jubilee and Trooping of the Colours because it meant we didn’t fight those crowds.

Scarborough Images

My childhood home on Valley Road in Scarborough.

Valley road

Grand Hotel down along the beach

grand hotel

lighthouse

Lighthouse from the beach.

And yes it was cold and wet and is summer — June vacations in England!

York

We found cheap tickets on Ryan Air so decided to take those over to England. I had wanted to go by train/chunnel but it was almost the same price for one person to do that as it was for 5 of us to fly. Ryan Air does not give seat assignments unless you pay extra and you have to walk out to the plane after being herded into a waiting area. It’s a bit pushy but overall a good flight. We landed in Stanstead to rain and were a bit frustrated at having to be taken by minibus to our rental car about 3 miles away.

Again I had wanted to use trains but the car was really much cheaper for us all. They gave us a big upgrade from the medium (hmm compact really) I had ordered and we ended up with a snazzy Volvo SUV. Since it had been 20 years since I have driving on the left side and this is a right hand drive car, the added bulk and safety was appreciated. It was a little stressful but we took motorway most of the way up to York and the tip actually did take 4 hours just as google maps and the GPS stated. I say this because trips in the UK used to often be very variable and a 4 hour drive to Scarborough could take 8 if there were road works or unknown variables!

Dinner uneventful at a Little Chef which abound on the side of the road. I remember seeing one or two on the entire trip and now they are everywhere. Cheap and cheerful and easy to get into and out of. We got to York and the hotel is lovely – Carlton House which is an old, large house about five minutes walk to the walls and 15 or so to the Minster. The people who run it were really nice and the room very comfortable and lovely tall ceilings and period fittings. We had a room with a double, single and bunk beds.

The next morning we had a really nice and hearty breakfast (included) and all filled up. I do so love getting big pots of REAL tea. When ordering tea in the US you often get an old and insipid tea bag (I take my own) so this is nice and Yorkshire likes a good and strong brew!

It was pouring when we started breakfast but gradually stopped to a light mist when we stepped out. That continued all day and we only occasionally needed the umbrellas so not bad really. We made straight for the Minster with walks on the walls and a few shops along the way. Old fashioned sweet shops were fun and Jake remembered some things he has always liked. The Minster is always impressive and lovely but when we went inside they had the entire place set up with tables and dishes/glasses etc. for some event. The charge to go in (it was always free before) was 9 pounds per person so we skipped it as the ambiance was lessened given the restaurant-like feel. A shame as given it is the largest medieval structure in the UK and built between 1200-1400 it is worth visiting.

york minster

We wandered down The Shambles, a rambly street, that Max said looks like Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. Then it was on to the Jorvik Viking Center. I had taken Sam and Jake to this when it was newly opened 20 or so years ago and we loved it then and now. A line outside but it moved pretty quickly. You start out on a glass-floor where you can see parts of the Viking dig that took place below. There is a “ride” through the Viking village they have reconstructed and you sit in cars and listen to the information. The figures are bizarrely realistic looking but then were constructed from skeletons found right there using computer imaging. There are various smells and sounds to help with the immersion feeling and it was nicely informative. The Littles really enjoyed it and the exhibits afterward sparked lots of discussions.

It is a very small area with lots of people packed in to look at skeletons and items that were dug up and that was a bit stressful for those of us who really dislike crowds but well worth it. The display of skulls with massive head wounds from Viking weapons thought to have been used in one of the invasions was memorable. The Littles also had Viking coins hammered out for them as keepsakes.

We did some shopping after that – Marks and Spencers yeah – and then had a pub lunch. Although I am enjoying the Netherlands, the restaurant varieties and even stands in the market were wonderfully diverse and had more offerings than we are seeing in NL.

york city walls

So then we got back into the car and headed out to Scarborough. I was quite excited as this Thanksgiving it will have been 20 years exactly since I have been home. The drive was easy, 45 minutes or so and we had no slow-downs but coming the other way looked bad as traffic wasn’t moving in quite a few spots. We made straight for Valley Road and looked at my grandmother’s house where I spent the bulk of my childhood, stopped at the duck pond and gardens, and drove around the sea front. Nothing seems to have changed at all really. Some of the big houses are not hotels or have restaurants in them but that was the case growing up. Valley Road has huge places as it leads right down to the beach and was a bit classier than some of the other areas. Scarborough is a Victorian spa town and has lovely architecture and sweeping vistas but the main seafront is well, tacky. It’s filled with amusements, bingo, ice cream, rock shops and fish and chips. No other word to describe it but tacky. Growing up it was the same but fun. Still donkey rides on the beach, ice creams, rock pools to explore, chips in newspaper, penny slot machines, life boat and lighthouse, stalls of seafood (winkles with a pin to pull the meat out), are all part of a traditional British holiday town and it’s HOME.

Museum Gemeentemuseum/Mauritshuis

Visited the municipal museum today and luckily this one and a couple of others are right on our bus line so we pass them every time going into the center of town. The bus line we are on (24) is a great one as it hits all these sites including the Peace Palace. The Mauritshuis museum is currently closed and so many of the pieces have been put onto one floor of the G Museum. It’s a rather industrial and clinical building and except for a few period rooms, lacks charm. We liked the pieces on loan and quite a good array with Rembrandts and Vermeers. Charlotte had wanted to go because this she wanted to see Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earing and so she was happy as it was on display. She said it was better than Mona Lisa as it was bigger, no crowd and she liked this painting more as the girl was prettier. Budding art critic here!

There were some lovely old rooms with high ceilings and period doors etc. but in the middle were strange Asian-inspired sculptures. I thought they had a rather Pokemon look to them or some kind of modern Manga figures – since there was no information about these we were at a loss to know what it was about.

There was large display of the Dutch movement by Mondrian. It did not hold our attention really (we like classics more) and downstairs had a very strange and large exhibit that we could not really figure out. Items seemed to be grouped by color (at least I think they were) with new, strange things like a shoe or photograph bunched in with older pieces. Perhaps there was a deeper meaning but it was lost on us.

Another high though was a huge dollhouse that had been built in the XXX. It was very detailed and intricate paintings on walls and tapestries plus supposedly showed snapshots of houses and life at that time. We all enjoyed peering into the rooms.

dollhouse

Anyway an interesting museum. I wouldn’t go back but glad we went and once they build the new art museum I think that would be a better place to head to.

Escher Museum

We visited the Escher exhibit which is in the het Paleis in the Hague. It’s a lovely old building – part of a row of houses and would not jump out as being a palace and purchased by Queen Emma the late 1800s. It’s a lovely building and the area is filled with grassy areas, sculptures, and has a peaceful feel. Worth a stroll around the neighborhood and supposedly on Thursdays and Sundays there is a book market in the area. We will have to go back and see.

IMG_1632

Escher has always fascinated me so it was good to learn about him and what drove his paintings. Plus he grew up and exhibited in the surrounding areas so it was neat to put visuals to the towns. He did a series of pictures using a birds-eye perspective from the top of New Church in Delft and looking down at the market place so since we had just climbed that tower and seen the same views, we were all interested in seeing his take on the same thing. I could see some similarities. The top floor has some hands-on exhibits to let you experience some of his perspective “tricks” and we got to stand in one room area as shown in the picture, where everyone looks different sizes. It’s a nice museum and about an hour or two to take it all in.

Big news

OK this is way more exciting than pictures of buildings and before anyone faints I will share this is my first grandchild!!

Sam and Erika are pregnant with first baby. How exciting.

Sam and Erika

I am seeing more and more reason to head back to Paris for a few days as I have shopping to do!

We are exploring a name for me to be called. I am not a granny thank you very much:)

Ideas welcomed.

Rotterdam

We took off on Saturday for Rotterdam as it was lovely weather all day but rain heading our way (sadly also heavy rain in England for the Queen’s Jubilee). The trip there was easy and fast by train and once in there is a fast and clean Metro system. We noticed there was one Metro line ending the The Hague but the people at the train station had not mentioned this and said best way to get there was train so I am not sure how/if that works well or cheaply.

Rotterdam boat

We raced to catch the boat trip on the river and got there just as the gang plank was going to be pulled up. This was a three-hour boat trip through Rotterdam’s harbor and river over to Kinderdijke which is a beautiful historical windmill area with 19 or so built in the late 1700s.

http://www.kinderdijk.com/

The weather was lovely and the clouds scurrying across the sky made for an oil painting back drop.

windmills view

We climbed inside one windmill and looked at the little beds tucked away into corners and marveled at how people got up and down the steep ladders. Some of the windmills seem to be inhabited and there are videos on YouTube of some families who live there still.

picturesque

Back on the boat we ate a leisurely lunch on deck from the onboard restaurant and proceeded (as we found out later) to get a little sunburned! The boat docks at a neat riverside area with amazing new buildings and fascinating architecture which Rotterdam is known for. It was highly bombed during WWII and so has been rebuilt in very modern style.

We went to the large downtown area and it was packed with people doing their Saturday shopping. All the major stores from UK and some US were there as well as the leading Dutch ones. We were on a quest to get Max new shoes and were successful finally after finding a discount Dutch place and not the UK chains which were horribly expensive. We bought name brand tennis shoes for 20 euros so not bad.

The snack stands and small groups of musicians throughout the downtown give it a festival feel which is fun. However the crows were a bit off putting for us plus McDonalds on every corner (really) and commercial feel to it was not that exciting. Jake said it felt like a huge outlet mall and we agreed.

The architecture of Rotterdam was neat to see and the bridges and rivers fascinating but I don’t know that we will be heading back again to the city but I highly recommend Kinderdijk.

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