20190819

Four Days in London

Spoiler - It's going to be a long one.

This summer we set off on another adventure.. first stop was the great city of London. Since our 2018 spring trip to Morocco we have started to take red eye flights.. this way we can start our explorations bright and early and call it an early night. M and I don't really get much quality sleep but we power through.. the important thing is that the kids get their zz's.

We stayed at The Blandford Hotel in the Marylebone area and were just a few minutes away from the Baker Street Metro Station. The hotel was perfectly located.. the room was a little on the small side but everything was clean, the staff so nice and included a free breakfast.

DAY 1: We were ready to start the day around noon. We began with a quick lunch at Chik'n and then headed to Buckingham Palace.

     
We didn't go inside.. and it was nothing really special from the outside. We missed the changing of the guard but the two guards did march around. There were so many tourist everywhere and we not could wait to get away. None of the royals actually live in Buckingham Palace though most of them do have private apartments that they use when in town for their royal duties.


Outside the palace was the Queen Victoria Memorial Fountain. 

Next we headed towards Westminster Abbey, we did not go inside. 

A decade ago when we had just started to travel we used to go inside everything.. spend hours visiting the insides of churches, cathedrals, historic residences and palaces.. but we have now changed how we travel.. we'd rather explore neighborhoods and get the vibe of the city rather then go through a touristy checklist of the things everyone is doing. Many years ago when I watched Midnight in Paris I thought to myself 'man did I do Paris wrong'

Across the street was Elizabeth Tower.. better known as Big Ben. Fun fact - Big Ben is actually the name of the large bell inside the tower which is part of the Westminster Palace. Elizabeth Tower was under construction so not really a sight to see.



We headed towards Trafalgar Square.. we took a little break at a Costa Coffee inside a Waterstones Bookshop.


and then continued our walk towards Covent Garden, a lovely covered market in the West End. We first stopped at Milk Train to get these pretty ice creams! In the end it was just vanilla ice cream surrounded by cotton candy but they looked so pretty!



We continued on wards to Neal's Yard.. a colorful courtyard lined with shops and eateries..


We wanted to wrap up the first day early so we walked along a bit of Oxford Street.. the equivalent of New York's Fifth Avenue and then took an Uber back to Marylebone and ate at Zizi's Italian. Thankfully, we had only one little drizzle on our first day and otherwise the weather was lovely.

DAY 2: On the second day we got another great weather day. Coming to London, weather was one of my biggest concerns.. as adults we could power through rain but I wan't sure how the boys would react to it.

We had breakfast at the hotel and then headed to the Baker Street Station. Pro Tip - when headed to a large metropolitan city like London using the metro system is ideal. And being a few minutes away from a metro station makes it all so much more easier.


We exited at the Liverpool Station and made our way towards Old Spitalfields Market. This market has been in existence for over 350 years. But before we reached the market we stopped at It's a Butter Life for a slice of cake. The owners were so sweet.. when H couldn't settle on a flavor they gave us a bite of each! H finally picked a raspberry cake.


Old Spitalfields Market was full of artisans and artists.. there were a quite a few people selling beautiful OOAK clothing.. it felt like something out of Project Runway. One of my favorite artists there was David Wright who made insects of of recycled computer parts. He has an Etsy store where you can see his work.

We ate at the market.. unfortunately we both made some bad choices and neither of us loved our meals. Afterwards we headed to Brick Lane.. It was a Sunday so it was very busy..



Being of South Asian decent we weren't really looking for curry which Brick Lane is especially famous for or trying any of the cultural sweets.. But we did find really delish non South Asian gelato at a place called Dark Sugars.

We took another metro to the King's Cross Station. I gotta say.. London is doing a good job with their metro system.. they are so much larger, cleaner and there seemed a much smaller chance of being attacked by rats or an infectious disease on them then in the New York subway system.. eek.


While the boys have not starting reading Harry Potter yet and they have absolutely not watched any of the movies we did want to go see Platform 9 3/4. So we explained to them what it was all about and then went off to locate it.. to our disappointment there was a huge line... like a 100 plus people.. it was like a Disney attraction.. no way were we going to get in that line..


From there we got on yet another metro.. it was H's favorite thing to do.. and went to Camden Market.


While the Camden Market itself was extremely touristy and crowded it was the Camden Locks that we really liked. There were so many great food stalls and since we didn't have a great lunch M and I shared a roll from Roti House and just enjoyed the canal. We could have spent more time here eating our way through the market but we had dinner plans with an old friend and needed to keep our stomachs relatively empty.

We walked along the canal for a bit.. walking through a portion of Regents Park and then made our way to Primrose Hill for the view of the city. The view was alright.. not really picture worthy. Once we were done.. we grabbed and Uber and headed to Edgware Road for dinner.


Day 3: The sun was shinning and it was a beautiful day! We started the morning with the uber touristy London Eye. It's not something we would be drawn to.. we had people telling us it was a must as well as those saying it was a rip off and so slow and boring..


We actually enjoyed it and are very glad we went on it. If you decide to go buy tickets in advance.. even if it is just the night before.. and print the tickets out. It will save you a lot of time in the long long lines. I did notice they had some self service kiosks with smaller lines but we skipped all of that with our printed tickets in hand.. the line to get on the Eye was quick moving. Each capsule is quite large and they don't over crowd it with too many people..


Yes, it was a slow moving ferris wheel but it gave us ample time to whip out our phones and figure out everything we were seeing.. nerds.

Big Ben and Westminster

Out of the Eye and on to the Tate Museum of Modern Art. It was a free museum with a few restricted areas for paid visitors only. It was still large enough that we had to breeze though some of the areas.. we couldn't afford more than two hours at the museum.. I always have mixed feelings at a modern art museum.. I can't wrap my head around most of the pieces people have decided to call art.. 


A wall of carpet? I did very much like the Everything is Illuminated series of photographs by Naoya Natakeyama


The Tower of Babel by Cildo Meireles.. each radio was playing.. initially white noise till you listen a little closer. 

From the Tate Museum we headed to the Borough Market.. hungry.. M and I split up to get some food. I got the channa chaat from Horn OK Please and M got a salted beef sandwich and the boys got some pasta. There was no where to sit.. :(


Really good food.. I wish we had larger stomachs and we able to eat more but we needed to save a little space for Bread Ahead's magnificent doughnuts. They sell more than just donuts and everything looked absolutely delectable. 



Next stop Tower Bridge! We walked along the Thames to get to the Tower Bridge. 



We bought tickets to go up the bridge.. it was a short elevator ride up.. followed by a short but very informative video about the history of the bridge. Did you know the lower part of the bridge actually raises up to let boats pass? There are two horizontal walkways connecting the towers.. they are enclosed and have a section of glass bottoms allowing you to see the cars go by.


We finished crossing the bridge and walked around the Tower of London.. they had a lot of information about the tower at various points. We read a bit about it not feeling the need to go inside. It was once a fortress, an armory, a royal residence and a prison. It is also home to the crown jewels.


We went to St. Dustan's in the East, once a church its ruins are now a public garden. It was destroyed during WWII. It was a hidden gem.. emphasis on the hidden.. we almost walked right past it. M and I took a break.. the kids played in the ruins. It seemed to be a popular spot for taking insta outfit shots..




From there we took another metro from there to Chelsea. We spied the Monument to the Great Fire of London. The plan was to have dinner and dessert in Chelsea after we wandered the streets for a bit. But we were running a little late now.. so we wandered a little less.. and we couldn't really find a restaurant so we had dessert instead..


We shared a raspberry eclair.


Then we went to Peggy Porschen and had more dessert! I really loved all the flowers outside of the stores.. so pretty.

 H's choice

 D's choice

M and I shared

After we'd had our share of sweets we got an Uber and headed back towards our hotel to grab dinner at Nando's.

DAY 4: Our last day in London and we finally saw her true nature.. it rained all day long. We started our day in Nottingham.. the rain had put a damper on things.. the Portobello Market still hadn't fully opened..



We stopped to have lunch at GBK Burgers which was very good.. and then made our way over to Paddington Station the home of Paddington Bear.



From Paddington we took an Uber to The British Museum. The rainy day made it a bit crowded but it was large enough to contain everyone.. it was also free as I think all museums should be..


Okakagbe masquerade costumes made by the late Lawrence Ajanaku. It was a great, incredibly informative museum and a wonderful way to end our 4 days in London. The kids greatest disappointment was not being able to meet the Queen. 


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20190722

Reading Lately

I haven't been great with my reading these days.. the days are going by so quickly.. these were the last few books I did get the chance to read.


Another Woman's Husband by Gill Paul

Synopsis - Two women who challenged the Crown. Divided by time. Bound by a secret...

1911 - At the age of fifteen, carefree Mary Kirk and indomitable Wallis Warfield meet at summer camp. Their friendship will survive heartbreaks, separation and the demands of the British Crown until it is shattered by one unforgivable betrayal.

1997 - Rachel's romantic break in Paris with her fiance ends in tragedy when the car ahead crashes. Inside was Princess Diana. Back in Brighton, Rachel is haunted by the accident, and intrigued to learn the princess had visited the last home of Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, only hours before the crash. Soon, the discovery of a long-forgotten link to Wallis Simpson leads Rachel to the truth behind a scandal that shook the world...

Thoughts - Historically speaking, this was an extremely fascinating read. Until I watched The Crown I hadn't even heard of Wallis Simpson. I definitely preferred reading about the past than the present. For anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction and the current monarchy than this is the perfect read for you!  



Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

SynopsisHen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace. 

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.
Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. 

Thoughts - This is my third read by Peter Swanson and while I immensely disliked the first, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart. I thoroughly enjoyed the second one A Kind Worth Killing. I was a little on the fence about this one when I picked it up.. but I'm glad I did.. I enjoy it. It had plenty of twists and turns and brought light upon many mental health issues and the effects of a troubled childhood. 


Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Synopsis - Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. 

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiance, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Thoughts - I have seen this book pop up a lot on my social media.. it sounded intriguing.. Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country. I was prepared for this to be a tearjerker. Yet I felt nothing. Not sure what went wrong but I felt bored.. Yes, it is heartbreaking what happens to children in orphanages and foster homes, the fact that most of these children were not even orphans was even more heartbreaking.. but I didn't feel any of that heartbreak.. Maybe we are becoming desensitized to these horrors because we read about them every day?

The boy's pediatrician noticed the book in my hand and said she too has been trying and struggling to read the book.. 

It has great reviews so we may be in the minority. If you've already read it I'd love to hear your thoughts.


The Silent Patient by Alex Michealides

Synopsis - Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. 

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him

Thoughts - This was another though one. It sounded promising.. the reviews were terrific and everyone claimed it was unputdownable.. So I am once again in the minority. I didn't care about any of the characters.. the twist came in the last 10 or so pages but it was not worth the first 300 something pages I had to read to get to it.  Have you read it? What did you think?


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20190715

20 Questions with D


1. What is your favorite color? Red
2. What is your favorite toy/game? Carrom Board
3. What is your favorite fruit? Raspberries
4. What is your favorite food? Tortellini 
5. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Cotton Candy
7a. What is your favorite tv show? Good Mythical Mornings - on youtube
7b.Favorite Movie? Bedtime Stories
8. What is your favorite animal? Gorilla 
9. What is your favorite song? It's Raining Taco's by Parry Gripp
10. What is your favorite book? Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford
11. Who is your best friend? Z.FAN
12. What is your favorite city/country? Budapest
13. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Play Tennis
14. What do you want to be when you grow up? Dentist
15. What is your favorite thing to do with mummy? Playing Clue
16. What is your favorite thing to do with baba? Playing Foosball and Carrom Board
17. What is your favorite thing to do with Hasan? Playing with each other
18. What makes you feel sad? When I don't have lots of friends
19. What makes you feel happy? Summer

20. What was your favorite thing about your birthday? Pantyhose Bowling

To take a look back here are
20 Questions with D at 4
20 Questions with D at 5
20 Questions with D at 6
20 Questions with D at 7
20 Questions with D at 8 

       
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20190708

D's Amazing Race Party

Last weekend our eldest turned 9.. and we threw him an amazing race birthday party!

As with all the boys other parties.. I bought a plain white cake from Wegmans and let D decorate it himself.



We had a total of nine kids.. they picked bandanna's out of a bag to create 3 teams.


First Task


Not all the kids knew each other.. they were too amped up with the idea of winning that they couldn't manage to calm down and read the clue.. so we had to really guide them through it.. they made mistakes and we let it go.. it seemed a tad chaotic.. 



Second Task


I had 33 little medicine cups filled with M&M's and Goldfish crackers.. 6 of them had stickers on the bottom. The first two teams found the sticker in the first try... what are the odds!? And the third team had to eat a lot of snacks before they finally found their sticker.


Third Task


I bought 48 piece puzzles from the Dollar Tree. The boys took their time making them.. it was then that we finally got a chance to take a breath and just be able to watch them all at work.. 



Fourth Task


The kids had a blast with this one.. M and I disagreed on a few of the details regarding this task. First he thought filling the glass to the brim with only a bandanna was too much so we settled on 75% full. Then I thought the bucket was too high up on the hill so we moved it slightly lower.. We were both so wrong. These are 9 year olds.. they should have been filling the cup to the brim and the bucket should have been farther up because even though they were huffing and puffing the task took them barely 5 minutes.. they were breezing through these!!


Fifth Task


Sixth Task




We assigned a different color of Fruit Loops to each team.


Seventh Task


This was another fun one.. the kids had to make multiple trips to get the sequence correct.



 Eighth Task


This game was such a hoot.. the boys even took turns playing it once the actual race was finished. 


Ninth Task


M and I tried this activity to see how long it would take.. we had to really shake it! The kids twerked 'em all out so quickly I didn't even get a picture!

Last Task!





The secret message read - Congratulation You Have Completed The Amazing Race

All the Winners!




The kids went through the games quicker than we had expected so they filled the rest of their time playing more Pantyhose Bowling.. soccer.. just running around and a water balloon fight. Then it was time for cake and pizza


It was a great party.. it had been a little tricky keeping all the games a secret from D.. I gave all the kids jump ropes as party favors.


Here's a look back at some of his previous birthdays
1st Birthday
4th Birthday
5th Birthday
7th Birthday
8th Birthday

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