1- Get out of the city,
2- Enjoy a more laid back pace, and
3-Try to accomplish a few of the 7-8 things on our wish list that we hadn't managed to do yet in London.
We didn't have a single reservation, so we had a great deal of flexibility. As an added bonus, the weather was fantastic...crisp & clear in the mid 60s.
The love for the Royal Family & the Monarchy in general is so clear here. It was easy to get swept up in the sentimentality of it all. The history is so long and deep. We particularly loved the stories of the knights!
We all wore our audio guides and found much of what they covered very interesting. The sheer grandeur of the castle, chapel and grounds is impressive. I just cannot get over the artistry and craftmanship of the architecture. This trip has reminded me what a young country the U.S. still is!
We had heard that it was more enjoyable to view the Changing of the Guard at Windsor than at Buckingham Palace...and after visiting the grounds I can see why. Unfortunately, we arrived in time for the 11am ceremony only to discover they had switched to an every other day schedule in the off season. Bummer.
The grounds here are extensive, so you could spend MUCH more time exploring than we actually did. We gave it two hours before heading back to town, because although this was our 'laid back day,' we are Scotts--and we like to do a lot. :-)
From Windsor, we traveled via train & tube to Kensington Gardens where we had a real British tea at the Orangery on the grounds of Kensington Palace.
I have read assorted reviews of this place, so I will add mine. Although we did not have a reservation and were able to walk right in at 2pm. The price was less than many other places in town and the atmosphere was nice. I appreciated the location, because as you will see in subsequent pictures, my children really needed to just RUN for a bit and just outside the doors they could do just that.
The tea was delicious, but I have mixed feelings about the food. We had hoped this would count as lunch...but my 10 year olds couldn't quite find enough in the selection (cucumber sandwich, curried chicken sandwich. egg sandwich, scone & cake) that they loved enough to fill up.
In addition to chasing the ducks and taunting the two dozen swans, my children loved the Diana Memorial Playground. I think they were likely just on the verge of being too old for it, but you would not have known it from watching them play. They thoroughly enjoyed it!
We exited Kensignton Gardens via Notting Hill and took the tube to Picadilly Circus--which is truly a British version of Times Square. We spent 15-20 minutes taking in the atmosphere here before our final adventure to find a pub with fish and chips.
I wish this picture quality was better so you could see how clearly comfortable (perhaps too much so) my children became with the underground!
Tonight has been spent packing up--which made the reality of the extensive travel involved in getting here come crashing in. My final thoughts on this as a family trip are yes, yes, yes. I told Ryland tonight that I wouldn't change anything and he agreed. I wish we had made it to Churchill War Rooms and Cotswold, but as young R said "we will just have to return one day for that!"
Relaxing vacations are fine--but, honestly, this type of travel is far more our family's speed. We are busy bodies who like challenges, learning and exploring. The opportunity to sequester our kids outside of their normal routine, screen free and engaged in adventure is how we bond and grow.
We have been so proud of the way our kids have learned to flex this week--and, honestly, it has been good for our marriage too! The nature of our life at home often requires both Ryland & me to operate very individually. We spend much of our time dividing and conquering. He works long, hard hours and I hold down the fort with kids, bills, house, etc... As a result, working TOGETHER, in concert with one another can often be an adjustment for us. This trip required us to be a team and work things out together and, by golly, we've done it.
Returning home tomorrow with a full heart... but first we must 'pay the piper' with 18 hours of travel!