Saturday, August 27, 2011

More in Big Sur

We can't keep away - even considering the bizarre combination of awe and nausea I feel every time we've driven down CA-1 to Big Sur. Recently we visited the second Big Sur park on our list to see - Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. After stopping for admittedly excellent Americanos but frighteningly overpriced muffins at Big Sur Bakery ($3.75 for a muffin people? Really? But you parents know, once you've told a child you're going to get something, no amount of frugality can overcome their pitiful faces), we walked through what looked like a can in the ground:

to see this:

The path here wasn't quite as scary as it was at Point Lobos - there is railing at least - but we still spent the whole walk overlooking the famous waterfall into the Pacific barking at the children to hold our hands. It seems that I have inherited my mother's fear of heights  - or really  not so much of heights as of my children hurling themselves off of cliffs (remember taking us to lighthouses mom?)

I do think the view was worth it though. 

"Smile normal, mg! Oh, well okay..." 

The waterfall here used to fall directly into the Pacific, but after a landslide a few years ago, the water now hits a sandbar.

Looking the other direction up the coastline.

Worn out children!

End of Summer Happenings

What's going on now with us now...

Last summer reading event at the library (puppet show!)

Jack's first haircut

Seal spotting!

Sandcastle making

The girl's new bunkbeds!

Meeting Daddy for lunch at the NPS campus and strolling through the random cactus garden.

The kids' favorite park - Denise the Menace Playground

Evidence that I am a terrible mother and can't resist big eyes begging for the last of my frappucino.

I didn't bake my birthday cake this year - I opted instead for some nummy pastries from a little French bakery Joe found. the chocolate croissant was amazing!

More beach-going

And so closes one of the more eventful summers I've had of late!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


We interrupt the regularly scheduled London recap (which is like 3 weeks ago now, but whatever) to bring you news of our EARTHQUAKE! I know compared to the West Coast, our 5.8 or 5.9 - I've seen both - it wasn't a big deal, especially compared to Haiti or Japan, but it was a big deal for us. Especially since for many of us, living in DC, our first reaction is BOMB! rather than earthquake. Many people also lived through 9/11 and the attack on the Pentagon, so that's in the back of their minds. Not me, of course, since I was safe in Atlanta back then. It was really scary for that 30-45 seconds, and then the crazy began. People evacuated, some places closed but others didn't, Metro stayed open but slowed trains to 15 mph which resulted in delays, some traffic lights were out, which combined with everyone fleeing (I'm not sure if the Federal government actually closed, or just told people they could leave) there was massive gridlock. Fortunately there wasn't extensive damage. DC and some other area schools closed today so the buildings could be scrutinized for damage, but it sounds like most infrastructure is ok. I had play tickets, so I stayed at my office, which was a ghost town by 5:30. I actually was really hyped up and shaky - I guess all that adrenaline - so I just kept knitting to try to calm down. We went out for dinner and then on to the Shakespeare Theatre and Julius Caesar. This is part of the Free For All, a series of free performances. We have a subscription, so we have reserved seats, but non-subscribers enter a lottery for tickets. We were nearly to intermission, just after Caesar was killed, when alarms broke out. We weren't sure what was going on. Was it part of the show (Rome freaks out?) Was it earthquake related? The alarm said it was a "fire emergency," but I didn't see fire trucks outside, at least not on the front side of the building. We did see actors in bloody togas, including Caesar, who had gotten up off the ground! They let us back in, restarted the play for about 30 seconds, and then broke for intermission. The rest of the play went just fine, and we took a bus home since the Metro was still running slow trains. Home by 11pm to assess the earthquake damage. Not too bad in my apartment. Picture frames, books, and other small stuff knocked to the ground, and everything hanging on the wall a little askew. One frame broke and an angel lost her head, and I discovered this morning that a very full pitcher of sweet tea had splashed the inside of my refrigerator, which will be fun to clean up. But not too bad overall.
Here are two before and after pictures I happened to have.

I took this of the doll I had just finished for Mary Grace's birthday. Obviously I had to include MG with the doll. This is what I found when I got home.

AFTERThe glass is broken, if you couldn't tell. Also, I don't know why it is insisting on being sideways, but hopefully you get the gist. And now, coming up, a hurricane mixed with a planned vacation to Chincoteague Island. Will the trip go on? Will we be hurricaned out? Who knows.

London: Friday

Friday we decided to give our feet a little break and take a cruise up the Thames to Greenwich. There's lots to see there, including the Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum, Queen's House, Old Naval War College, and the Cutty Sark (thought we didn't really see the last one).Big Ben

London Eye

Cleopatra's Needle

St. Paul's and the Millennium Bridge.

Memorial to the great fire. Our guide called it the giant candle.

Tower of London from the river.

Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London.

Going under the Tower Bridge.

A traditional Thames barge.

Hello Daniel!
The Royal Observatory. Sadly, I did not take a picture of the meridian line.
Telescope in the observatory.

The view down from the observatory. The Queen's House in the middle and the National Maritime Museum off to the left. Canary Wharf in the distance, across the river. You can see that they're doing some work, like everything else due to be finished by 2012, so we had to walk the long way around.

A barge in the National Maritime Museum

The Queen's House
The Tulip stairs in the Queen's House

Old Naval War College looking out toward the river and Canary Wharf.

Family in front of the Old War College. Queen's House in the background.

Carving on the Old War College - it was built in the time of Charles II.
And what do we do when we get back to the hotel room? First we eat our dinner - fourth night in a row we got sandwiches from Pret a Manger. Then, we read.
Next: Our last full day! National Gallery and Horseguards.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

London: Thursday

Thursday we said goodbye to Patrick. We had our breakfast together and then saw him off to the tube to begin his trip back to Charleston. This was also our most ambitious walking day (Mom charted it out after we got home and said it was at least 10 miles). Originally, the plan was for Daddy and Daniel to be off on their Boy Scout Jamboree adventure on Thursday as well, but that didn't work out. I had suggested afternoon tea at The Orangery by Kensington Palace as something Mom and I could do while the boys were off in Sweden, but I hadn't imagined Mom could walk all the way there - I pictured the tube or a taxi. But she still wanted to go, and wanted to walk, so we set off. It was going to be a pretty walk, through a lot of parks, so I figured there would be plenty of opportunities to sit and rest if we needed to. We walked up to St. James Park, through it to the west to Buckingham Palace, then along Green Park to Hyde Park. We walked up through it along the Serpentine and then across to Kensington Palace, had lunch, and then south, followed the path Patrick and I took past the V&A. Then Mom navigated a course through residential neighborhoods, past Belgrave Square (lots of fancy houses, shops, and embassies - Daniel and I guessed on flags), past the other side of Buckingham Palace, Victoria Station and then back along Vauxhall Bridge Road to the hotel.The view of Buckingham Palace through the pond in St. James Park.Duck Island cottage in St. James Park.Horse Guards Parade, or what you can see of it around the beach volleyball construction. I assume for the Olympics?The pond in St. James Park. Lots of birds, including the largest ducks I've ever seen. Patrick and I saw them in Kensington Gardens on Tuesday and weren't sure if they were ducks, since they were so big. They were the size of geese or swans (which were there too) but looked like ducks.More pretty pond.

Flowers in St. James Park
This is from my favorite flower garden in St. James Park. Poppies!

The flowers across from Buckingham Palace. Very patriotic!
Victoria Memorial

Buckingham Palace with a bajillion people outside waiting for the changing of the guard. We were about 30-45 minutes early and decided not to wait. We weren't sure if we would have been able to see anything, since it was so crowded. We did hear it later, and we pulled up some videos on Youtube later, and maybe we would have been able to see it.

We took a little detour into Green Park. It is very serene - I read that it was built on the grounds of an old leper's hospital, and out of respect for those buried there, there are no flowers planted in Green Park.

The Wellington Arch

Hyde Park Corner

Horse guard on their way back from the changing of the guard.

Me and Daniel in Hyde Park. You can see Mom and Dad over my shoulder.

The Serpentine. We walked along its west side. It looked like a great place to stop and read a book. There were paddleboat and canoe rentals on the other side, along with some no doubt Olympics-related construction.Carriage bridge that separates the Long Water (north) from the Serpentine (south).
Queen's Temple - this was on one of our maps, but not the others. The guide book didn't say anything about it. But it was pretty.
The Italian garden. We were trying to walk to the Peter Pan statue, but of course the path was closed all around it for tree trimming. Kensington Palace

The Orangery, where we had our yummy lunch. Daddy was the only one who had tea, though. I was pretty warm from our walk (this was the warmest day at 78 degrees) so I had lemonade.

Pretty sunken garden.
Mom in the garden with the wish balls.

Mom and Daniel in the sunken garden with the orangery in the distance.

Daddy, Daniel, and Mom in the sunken garden.

Daniel in Hyde Park. Next we walked past the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall, but I'll spare you the pictures since I already posted about them on Tuesday's post.

Daniel and me outside the V&A, waiting for Mom and Daddy to catch up.

The V&A. I still haven't visited it. I would have loved to go in, but we didn't have the energy for it. If we'd gone in, Daddy would still be there. There were taxis out front, and I suggested to Mom that we could take one home, since she had walked so far and looked uncomfortable, but she didn't want to take one.Brompton Oratory, the Catholic church just past the V&A. We went inside, which Patrick and I hadn't done. It was beautiful inside - ornate, but not too crowded with statues, monuments, and memorials. I liked that it was nearly all religious, rather than having as many secular memorials as Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's had.Statue of Cardinal Newman outside the church. I wrote a paper on him in grad school. The Newman Clubs on college campuses are named after him.

Sign I saw on Vauxhall Bridge Road on our walk back to the hotel. When you see your uncle's name, you have to take a picture.

This was our third night in a row buying sandwiches from Pret a Manger for dinner. We left Mom recovering and set out, but because someone was so slow we arrived just after they closed at 8pm. While standing there looking lost (Daddy wanted to knock because there were still people in there, and I wanted to go find something else), the manager opened the door. She said they had zeroed out the food already so they coudn't charge us, but let us take sandwiches without paying. We did pay for drinks. She actually turned away another customer who tried to come in while we were choosing. Of course, Daddy thought this free food was the best thing ever, but I told him we would not showing up at closing time again (we ate at Pret a Manger again the next night, but it was a different store).

Next: we give our feet a rest and take a boat trip to Greenwich.