Saturday, April 14, 2012

End of March/Beginning of April: Eddie leaves, Kenz gets a break, Whit arrives, and the sisters elope!

March brought in some better weather than we've been used to: 

Kenz basically finished her first year of school. I say basically because they do things so strange over here. From what I understand, she's got a month off, then she'll be back for a month, then she'll get two months off for summer. But, I don't really know. I could be misunderstanding it. Either way, she finished her installment the week after Edward left and went out to the pub with her school friends...

She was happy to have some respite after spending several weeks in the studio, logging countless hours on her installment. One of the days in our between-visitors-week, we got out to the Natural History Museum:

The Dodo!

The Natural History Museum looks like a cathedral on the outside. Apparently the guy in charge of creating the museum didn't believe Darwin's theory of evolution via natural selection, so he hired a cathedral architect to build a church-like museum to glorify all the natural world that god had made:

I did not take this picture. 
Kenz didn't waste much time; after one day, she was nested on the couch, catching up on some much needed video games and television. I keep a tupperware of various nuts for snacks around the house. She hates them because they're unsalted. I wound up getting a bag of salted pistachios, but they got mixed in with the unsalted pistachios. 

I turned around from my desk one night to find her pulling each one out, licking it, and throwing the unsalted ones back into the container:

The taste tester
The Ikea bed we had purchased for Edward's visit finally arrived...three days after he left. But, we knew Whitney was coming at the end of the month, so we set to work putting it together. Well, I say we put it together - that's misleading; Kenz put 90% of that bed together. I kept her company. And took pictures...


Putting it all together wore her out, though. She spent the rest of the night on the couch. 

I happened upon a cheap clarinet on Amazon. I played one in middle and the first part of high school, and wanted to re-learn how to play it. Needless to say, Kenz makes sure she's out of the house when I'm practicing. It's amazing how much I remember, yet how bad I sound...

Fitting the reed

The bed was together and Kenz got her respite, which meant it was high time for us to have another visitor. 

Whitney, Kenz's sister, arrived for a three week visit on March 24th:

I got really good at taking some candid photos when they weren't expecting it.

Her first night here; we go to see the Hunger Games (like everyone else in the world) but Whit fell asleep. 

So...there's that. And it's in a massively public part of town. I think they just trot it out on the weekends.
Whitney never really got accustomed to the time change. The nine days that she spent in London were more like half days. She and Kenz would wake at 11am and get out of the house at about noon. The Gibsons love their sleep. Whitney claimed that she would wake up at about 4am and not be able to go back to sleep until about 8am, and that everything was thrown off and that she was just waiting on everyone else to get up. I half believed it. Either way, they got around town a lot in the week. I had to stay at home most of the days and get work done, but got to go out with them to the Zoo on one of the days:

We had to introduce her to the b'fast cuisine, natch. They have veggie sausages at one of the two local cafes. 

Walking through Regent's Park to the London Zoo

She was more excited than most of the kids

Whit and I got some hawt dawgs

These chickens were roaming around freely in the zoo

lean back

This is/was the penguin pool. I don't know why the penguins weren't playing in it.

Over it
After the Zoo, we walked along Regent's Canal into Camden. Camden has one of the larger markets that's in business every day of the week. Despite it being Tuesday, it was crowded. Whitney lucked out; we had unseasonably great weather the entire week she was here. It was sunny and 65 all week long.

I'll have to learn more, but I'm pretty sure the Camden market used to be a horse market. Statues like this one were everywhere. 

False advertising

This is how the day ended
Part of our Christmas gift to Whitney was a ticket to a West End theatre show of her choice upon arrival. She chose Matilda. We took her to one of our fav restaurants near the theatre (which I've noted before), named Abeno Too. The Japanese "pancake" house:

Matilda turned out to be a fantastically entertaining show. We had waited too long to get tickets, so I didn't get to sit next to them. It didn't really matter, though, because everyone was wrapped up with what was happening on stage:

McKenzie had found a sweet deal on Groupon for a tour bus up to Stonehenge and Bath for a Saturday day trip. We were super cliche - had the cameras, on the tour bus, following the tour guide, everything. It was cool, though, because everyone else was a tourist as well, so we didn't feel out of place. 

Riding a bus to get to the bus
Stonehenge was the first stop. We had been mislead by the London weather into thinking our little trip up north would be just as warm as it had been in the city. We got off the bus to see this wonder of the world and realized we had made a bad mistake. It was about 40 degrees and windy. Kenz had booked four tickets and one of her friends from school came along for the day. She hadn't made the same mistake that we had - and tried to be polite while laughing at us for wearing shorts.

Whitney trying to stay warm
We left Stonehenge just after McKenzie and Whitney purchased a Stonehenge hoodie each. They couldn't handle it; the gift shop must make a killing on stupid Americans.

The next stop was Bath. I didn't know what to expect - I had never really learned much about the town.  Apparently the town is super old because of the hot springs that are the town's namesake. Even before the Romans, people have lived here because, well, who doesn't like a natural jacuzzi? The city that is in existence now was built up under the monarchy, but they've taken special care to restore the baths that had been built during the Roman occupation.

All of the buildings are built with a locally sourced stone that yellows more and more the older it gets. The town is in a valley around several really big hills (I refuse to call them mountains). As a result, our tour guide called Bath "a spoonful of honey in a big green bowl."

We had three hours in Bath to explore on our own. Instead of trying to cover the whole town in three hours, we ate lunch and explored the Roman baths.
Top of the Roman Bath terrace with the cathedral in the background

The statues are all of Roman emperors and famous governors of the Bath region. 

The hot springs underneath all of the buildings.
There is an entire museum connected to the baths that illuminates the history of the town, how the Romans used it, and how it has been used since. We lost track of time while we were in there and had only managed to get through 2/3 of it before we realized it was time to hurry back to the bus. 

All in all, Bath is a really neat place to visit. I had been lukewarm about the trip, but left happy to have gone. 

The two days before the girls left for their next adventure, we took Whitney to Portobello Road market and Brick Lane. By this time, though, I had forgotten to take pictures on a regular basis. Forgive my lack of photo evidence for these outings. 

My view for most of the week. 

Just a big hand...we thought about buying it for my mom. 
The day before they were scheduled to leave, Kenz thought she might be getting sick. She spent a lot of time in bed, trying to preemptively get better before they left:

Whit said the pillowcase to the right looks like a face. I agree.
Monday, April 2nd, was spent packing. With equal parts perseverance and consternation, they got all their belongings into bags in just enough time to head out to catch a train. Their trip has been 2 nights in Paris, 3 in Madrid, 3 in Barcelona, and 4 in Palma. They are taking trains to each destination - spending 14 hours on one train (sleeper car), and taking an overnight cruise to Palma. I've spoken with them each day while they've been on the trip and it seems like they're having a great time.

However, there was one big curveball. While they were on the 14 hour overnight train from Paris to Madrid, they had to leave (most of) their belongings in the train car. The next day, Whitney couldn't find her wallet. When Kenz told me this (about 20 minutes after the realization), I asked if she had left it in the train car while they went to dinner.

"Yup. Luckily, though, she had her passport on her. It's with me now."

Whitney promptly cancelled all her credit cards and bemoaned the lost cash that was in her wallet.

Two days later, Whitney is rummaging through her backpack and out falls her wallet. It had been in some hidden pocket that she didn't even know existed. Apparently it had fallen in the pocket without her knowing.

Kenz swears she's taking pictures and will be doing a blog post upon her return. We'll see about that...

Travel partners!

What have I been doing while they've been gone?

Getting lots of work done

Playing some iPhone games

Going to see live jazz with my friend Derek (we saw Ambrose Akinsumire if you're interested). 

More work

Walking around aimlessly 

Hanging with my friends Jim, Rachel, and Hunter

Riding busses

Hanging out with Owen and Celia

And going crazy...

London hosted The Big Egg Hunt this year. Over 200 eggs were decorated by artists and "hidden" around the city; each had a name to text to a number. When you texted it, you were entered into a contest to win some 100,000 GBP Faberge egg and automatically donated 3GBP to a charity for children. I don't know much about the charity, but I had a blast finding the eggs all over this city this past month. I took a picture each time I saw one:

The eggs reminded me a lot of the bears that have been decorated in a similar fashion around Knoxville, TN, representing conservation efforts for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (I think). Yet, this was on a much larger scale. 


The girls should be returning on Monday afternoon. Whitney will have one full day left in London before she returns to Tennessee on Wednesday. She'll be starting a new job the week after that. It's been great to have her around, and I'm looking forward to their return. Whereas I've been productive these past two weeks, it's been strange being here all by myself. 

As you've noted, I've been fairly irregular at getting new posts up as of late. I apologize for that. I'm back on my game now - look for a regular post every Friday. 

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend! 

David (and McKenzie...and Whitney)