Prime time in London

October 6 – 8, 2013

We only had a few days left in England so we spent one day with my niece and nephew and the other day going to the Prime Meridian.

Again, we arrived just on time to help out Alyssa and Martin with a nanny emergency. As usual, we had a great time with the kids. Sorry, the photos were taken on the tablet, so not the best quality.

Luc the mouse

Luc the mouse

Lea looking too cute

Lea looking too cute

Lea likes her Uncle

Lea likes her Uncle

On our pirate ship

On our pirate ship

That night, Alyssa and I went out to dinner and a movie for some sister bonding. Chandler and Martin spent the evening with the kids and Martin gave Chandler a cooking lesson. The menu was grouse!

Meal fit for a king

Meal fit for a king

While in London, it was my goal to see the Prime Meridian and we were able to finally make that dream come true the day before we headed back to France. However, first we spent some time at the National Maritime Museum.

National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum

The museum had a lot of interesting displays of model ships, ancient navigation instruments and a history of the British navy and East India Company. The museum did kind of gloss over the American Revolutionary War, which we found interesting.

Model ships

Model ships

Astrolabe

Astrolabe

Lions and Unicorns

Lions and Unicorns

After a few hours of wandering around the museum, it was time for what we came to see. We headed around the back of the building, climbed a big hill and stood on the Eastern hemisphere and the Western hemisphere AT THE SAME TIME!! As usual, we were too cheap to pay to stand on the fancy line and made do the less exciting line in the side of a wall.

Prime Meridian

Prime Meridian

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Stone circles

October 4 – 5, 2013

After our day of distilleries, we didn’t know what else to do. Chandler had read about a stone circle that was more accessible than Stonehenge, so we figured we would head in that direction.

We ended up driving all day through Scotland and back into England to get to Castlerigg. This stone circle was probably constructed around 3200BC which makes it one of the earliest stone circles in Britain. Castlerigg consists of one large circle made with large stones and a smaller inner circle made up of smaller stones. None of the 40 odd stones were taller than Chandler.

Castlerigg

Castlerigg

The inner circle

The inner circle

The entrance

The entrance

The location of the circle was incredibly beautiful and we took a lot of photos. We had a fun time running around the stones, in and out of the circle. We couldn’t believe our luck, because we were the only people around.

Fun with filters

Fun with filters

The next day we started headed back towards London. We originally weren’t going to go out of our way to Stonehenge, but after the one stone circle, we had to see the famous one. Again, we drove most of the day after a leisurely breakfast.

View from the road

View from the road

Stonehenge is visible from the highway and we knew we had made the right choice. The entrance fee was £8 per person just to walk around other monument at a distance of about 30 feet. We opted to not pay the fee and just admire the view from behind a fence. We managed to get a few good pictures.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Chandler, the fence and the view

Chandler, the fence and the view

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Up close

Up close

Sunset

Sunset

We had trouble finding a campground, so we headed back to London. It was a good idea too, because Martin treated us to a memorable night of head banging, snakeskin boots and hair!

Head banging

Head banging

Martin

Martin

Martin and his hair

Martin and his hair

UK roadtrip begins

September 25 – 28, 2013

After our week with the family, Chandler and I borrowed Alyssa’s car, and headed out on a road trip. Our plan was to head straight up to the Isle of Skye in Scotland and do some hiking. Things didn’t go quite as planned. Long story short, we ended up spending a while trying to find butane for Alyssa’s stove, before realizing that we had another stove that ran on gasoline like ours that we left in France.

We had some fun though along the way. We went on a nice walk along the Hadrian’s Wall path. We were hoping to see actual ruins of the wall, but had no such luck. The path took us through some fields, but we turned around after realizing we were just on a cross-country walking path that only approximately followed the wall’s alignment.

But where is the wall?

But where is the wall?

Learning to drive on the wrong side of the car and on the wrong side of the road was a fun experience for Chandler. He did all the driving, but insisted I give it a go also. Thank goodness the pedals were in the correct position, because it took a lot of concentration to shift with my left hand while staying on the left side of the road. Chandler did a great job on the narrow roads and we are still alive to tell the tale.

Something seems strange about this car

Something seems strange about this car

The transition from England to Scotland was anti-climatic. There was a sign, but the land didn’t change and there was no other indication. It wasn’t until we hit the Highlands that the Scotland I imagined finally emerged.

Beautiful Scotland

Beautiful Scotland

We also made a quick stop at the Eilean Donan Castle. The castle was built in 1214 by the MacKenzies but destroyed by the Jacobite Rebellions. In the early 20th century the MacRae family rebuilt the castle by the original plan. The castle was closed when we arrived, so we weren’t able to go inside.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

We found a great campsite with views of the peaks to the west, which were surprisingly a lot larger than we expected. We got to bed early that night because we had a big hike the next day, but not before creatively drying out the rainfly.

A bit windy out

A bit windy out

A week of museums

September 20 – 25, 2013

Our one night of babysitting turned into almost a week when my sister’s nanny had a death in the family and had to return to France. So, Chandler and I got to play nanny to the kids. It was really wonderful to spend so much time with my niece and nephew because they are incredibly funny, intelligent and sweet children. Our evenings were spent enjoying relaxing meals and conversation with Alyssa and Martin after the kids went to sleep.

Our days all had a similar pattern. Someone would drop Luc off at school then Chandler, Lea and I would take the tube to one of London’s free museums. We would spend a few hours wandering around the museum looking at stuff or chasing Lea before leaving to get back to school to pick up Luc. Generally, Chandler would hang out with Lea while I took Luc to his various after school activities. After tennis lessons or trampoline, we had some time at home to hang out until Alyssa and Martin returned.

Trebuchet outside the Tower of London

Trebuchet outside the Tower of London

Palace guard

Palace guard

Painting at the Tate Museum

Painting at the Tate Museum

IMG_6910

Assyrian from about 865 – 860BC

 

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone

Part of the Parthenon

Part of the Parthenon

Dinosaur skeleton

Dinosaur skeleton

Luc, squirrel hunter

Luc, squirrel hunter

Lea having a good time

Lea having a good time

A change of pace

September 18 – 19, 2013

All of the sudden, we found ourselves on a train to La Rochelle and then on a plane over the English Channel. This rather abrupt departure from our original travel plans arose because my sister Alyssa needed an overnight babysitter in London. This was an attractive opportunity because we were on the brink of unintentionally being illegal immigrants in Europe!

Here’s how that happened: beware it’s a bunch of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo so feel free to skim. It turns out there is this thing called the Schengen Zone which is a collection of European countries (which predates the European Union) who dissolved border controls between themselves while unifying the border controls between Schengen and non-Schengen countries. So no border guards between Germany and the Netherlands for example. As US citizens we don’t need a visa in advance of traveling in the Schengen Zone, but the catch is: in any 6 month window we can only be in the Schengen Zone for 3 cumulative months. We looked at the calendar and the map and realized that if we stuck around in France we’d over stay our time by two weeks and technically be illegal immigrants subject to fines, deportation and a ban from future travel in the Schengen Zone. The actual degree of enforcement of the rules is pretty unclear though and really up to the immigration officer who checks our passport when departing. We read about a few people flying out of Switzerland who were hit with over $1,000 in fines and deported for being over by just a couple days. Luckily, the UK is not part of the Schengen Zone, so we could just hide out there for a couple of weeks then come back and not have to worry about anything.

We spent the entire day getting to London, but it was worth it. Especially since Alyssa ordered delicious Indian food when we arrived at her flat.

The next day we laid around the flat doing nothing. I had picked up a little cold en-route, so we didn’t feel like venturing too far. It felt good to be lazy after a month of good, solid work.