Friday, April 12, 2013

The Plague!

You ever have one of those vacations where everyone gets sick? It took all week, but, by the end of it, everyone was ailing.

Friday afternoon saw the arrival (and immediate nap) of Whitney, the sick, bedridden McKenzie coughing all day, and an eventual dinner with the family sans Kenz. 

Refusing to accept the fact that she was legitimately sick, Kenz got up with us on Saturday morning, and we took Whitney and Patti to Southbank for a stroll in the late morning. However, by mid-afternoon, looking like death warmed over, Kenz returned to the bed. I took the family to Borough Market. It was sunny and warm, which meant everyone in London had the same plan. The market reached critical mass at about the same time we arrived. 

I've gotten good at breakfast. 
Patti getting a 'pitta' behind the Royal Festival Hall


Southbank street performers galore on a warm Saturday

Wood carvings for sale
 Off to Borough Market!

Patti & Michael had gotten used to riding the bus... evidenced by their interest in screens rather than windows.

One day, I'll take this tour. 

A crowded Borough Market

I finally pulled the trigger on a duck sandwich

The duck people always have the longest line. 

The middle of this shot is the line for the duck sandwiches.
Michael had decided he was going to retire to the room on Saturday night and Kenz was already in bed, so I hopped over to a box office and got some tickets to see Les Mis for Whitney, Patti, and I. It worked out perfectly, because Michael had no desire to see the show, I'm sure Kenz is nearly 'done' with it for a few years, but Whit & Patti had never been before and wanted to go. 

For the none of you who are interested, the new staging in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the show is in effect. The entire show hasn't changed, but it is a different show. I was rewarded and engaged throughout. 

Maxin' & Relaxin' in the lounge

Sneak attack!

We saw these Waldos out on a scavenger hunt on our way to Les Mis
Sunday morning, Kenz was determined to hang out with the fam. She'd been as disappointed as I'd ever seen her for missing out on precious family time. It was a heartbreaker.

We had tickets to see a Sunday matinee of The Lion King.

On our way to meet the folks at their hotel

Everyone enjoyed the show
By Monday, we had our second casualty. Patti had 'caught' whatever it was that Kenz had. Kenz was in bed, Patti was in bed, Whitney and Michael entertained themselves, and I worked all day. That night, however, Kenz and I cooked dinner at our place so that everyone could hang out for a bit.

I stained my hands...

...prepping for the beetroot fritters Kenz has come to love...

...only this time they didn't really work out. And, by 'really', I mean 'not at all'.

It's fun to have my in-laws at our house! Lord knows we spend enough time at theirs!

Beans, beets, and steaks

Whitney made a salad.

Just one person in the kitchen is crowded, let alone three.

These two were smart to stay out of it.

We also had sautéed mushrooms and onions. Pretty good spread for a Monday night. 

The sickling filling her plate.

Michael had retired to the couch afterward; Whitney gave him the 'unicorn' treatment.
Tuesday was a trip to St. Paul's Cathedral. Kenz was still in bed, sick. Patti was persevering, but only just. Michael had never fully recovered from whatever it was he caught the day before he flew over here. Whitney and I were in perfect health. 

Except for the fact that she was still jet-lagged.
Bus candid
St. Paul's has lots of levels. There's the crypt, the main cathedral floor, the whispering gallery (30 meters & 257 steps up from the cathedral floor), the stone gallery (53 meters & 376 steps), and the golden gallery (85 meters & 528 steps). The last time that Kenz and I visited St. Paul's, the stone and golden galleries were closed for refurbishment. I had no concept for how high these galleries were, nor did I have any clue as to what kind of stairs led to the upper galleries. My curiosity was nagging at me; I told the fam we'd meet back at a central location in an hour or so, and that my first priority was to climb these stairs. They hung back to listen to the personalized audio tour about the crypt and cathedral floor (something I'd already done).

I didn't realize what I was getting myself into. As a person with a significant fear of heights, it was both good and bad that I'd gone alone. On the one hand, no one had to see me panicking - but, on the other hand, I was all alone in my panic!

The stairs to the whispering gallery were broad, short, uniform spiral stairs with many people going up and down at the same time. I was distracted by my excitement. Once I spilled out onto the gallery's walkway, I immediately sat down and took a deep breath. At 53 meters, I'd reached my limit, even with a guard rail that was as high as my shoulders. The whispering gallery gets its name from the fact that you can hear someone whispering from all the way on the other side of the circle - about 30 meters away. I wasn't allowed to take pictures in the cathedral; I know that hasn't stopped me before, but these volunteers had eagle eyes!

I don't know what drove me to do it. Maybe it was pictures for the blog. Maybe it was seeing if I had the stones. Maybe it was imagined competition with Kenz, who I knew would be egging me on. Whatever it was, I began my approach to the stone gallery.

What I hadn't realized before embarking on the next set of stairs was the fact that there is only one set of 'up' stairs. And these stairs weren't like the last ones; these were narrow, steep spiral sets. By the end of the first set, I'd realized what a huge mistake I'd made, but there was no going back. It was a one way trip to the stone gallery. I climbed with both my hands on the rail.

Out of breath, sweating, and verging on a panic attack, I exited the cathedral onto the stone gallery. Luckily, the guard rails went above my head. I felt safe enough to walk around the perimeter, and we were allowed to take photographs once 'outside'.

I'm always scared to take pictures on 'edges' of anything, though, because I'm sure I'll drop my phone. I clutched my phone with the intensity of an Olympic weightlifter.

Looking east, toward The City.

From east to south

Directly south. That's the Millenium Bridge leading to the Tate Modern
Again, I don't know what drove me to do it, but I took a deep breath and headed toward the golden gallery. Probably just because it was there and I didn't want to 'lose' to a set of stairs. Each level became less and less crowded, so I wasn't holding anyone up as I climbed with the speed of a sloth. I would laugh at myself for being so scared, then panic to myself for laughing, then laugh again. The process repeated about every third stair. Folks, I'd not been this scared in years. Years.

The golden gallery had a guardrail that came up to just below my shoulders. I hugged the back wall. I was paranoid that everyone else could see the thunderstorm in my head and hear the intensity with which I was breathing (not from the stairs - from adrenaline). I was in my own little cocoon of fear, barely able to appreciate the views.

Looking west 

Looking east

The Millenium & Tate again

You know that whole 'don't look down' bs people feed you when you're up high? How on earth are you supposed to descend stairs without looking down? The return was just as frightful as the ascent!

This is what I was dealing with

And s@!# like this!

At least I took some pictures to prove I'd done it, right?
 We met in the crypt and reviewed gift shop purchases.

As you know by now, former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher died on Tuesday past. As we exited St. Paul's, we saw several news crews setting up in front of the cathedral. Her funeral will be at the cathedral; I guess folks were getting a jump on coverage.

We met Kenz for an early dinner at the Cheshire Cheese - one of the more famous pubs in London, known for being the place Dickens wrote much of his work.

The girls had fun with my glasses
And it happened. By Tuesday night, I started getting sick, despite regularly claiming that I don't get sick. Whitney was the only one still standing.

Wednesday was the Tower of London. I have to say, after having done most of the tourist stuff several times with various guests, the Tower is one of my favorites. I especially like the beefeaters, though. Each time I take a tour, it makes me want to be a park ranger. 

Kenz started feeling better!
Pre-tour snacks

The Crown Jewels

Examining the codpiece in the suit of armor

Quite a morbid little model set: "The Executioner"
By Thursday, we'd done most of the hits, but still had the British Museum. Whit stayed back because she was finally sick. Everyone. Sick. To some degree or another. 

Kenz and I took Patti & Michael all over the world in a matter of hours. 

We spent the most time in the Egypt area
 The place was ram-packed with people.

Michael and I never missed an opportunity to sit down. I thought Kenz was a museum slowpoke; she's a roadrunner compared to Patti. Michael and I were, at minimum, three times as fast as those two.

Japan was much less crowded. I think the fact that it was three flights up was the reason.

Michael was impressed with the swords

He was also impressed with the scale of the museum itself.

Rome. Beards.

Memes are older than the Internet

On our way to meet an ailing Whitney, we stopped for a quick shop-up. Michael wanted some new handkerchiefs.
This is an accurate representation of what's inside the store.

Note the bow-tied duck

It's his last day in the city and he's still stopping at menus. Cracks me up. I love it.
Everyone was mildly depressed that it was the final day of the trip. No one wanted to go back to the hotel, but didn't really want to go to another museum or sight, so we decided to go see a movie. No one was even that thrilled to go see Oblivion (that new Tom Cruise vehicle), but it was the 'best' thing out. We headed to Leicester Square.

Fatigue + illness = these faces

Popcorn thief!

And, finally, Michael got some Italian. 
You'd be lying if you said you'd seen a bigger pepper grinder.

Quintessential Whitney
Saying goodbye sucks. As a result, I'm not posting any pictures from this morning's departure. The in-laws are flying over the Atlantic as I type, all sick, all exhausted, and surely all irritable. Kenz is back in bed, sleeping - a result of doing too much as soon as she started to feel better. I'm looking forward to the weekend for some recovery myself. My cough won't go away. I'd rather have the in-laws back and the cough on the return flight!

All in all, it was fantastic to have the family over for such an extended stay. It meant the world to have some family around.

Thanks for reading. We'll be nursing illness and hoping for some spring weather this weekend - here's to y'all having a good one!