Friday, August 23, 2013

Garrett in the House

Song of the Day: Chris Thile, Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001: I. Adagio

My feet are tired. It feels like Garrett and I walked on just about every street in this city. We did more in four days than most people do in seven. I'm not even sure he was interested in being a tourist; I didn't ask. I should do that next time...


Celia is still in Brazil, so we had dinner with Owen on Saturday evening. We were to meet up and hang out on Southbank, but it was raining. Having a moment of brilliance, I brought our leftover tokens to the arcade from the groupon deal we did so many months ago. The three of us bounced around from game to game for about two hours. Owen was beside himself with excitement.

Of course, the bumper cars were the highlight. You can see an 11 second video of the shenanigans here. Owen acted as if he'd died and gone to heaven, "we have to come back!" We'll likely wind up sharing a bowling alley and a ride in some bumper cars in the near future.

Owen regularly walks around town with a banjo on his back because why not. 

Dinner was yum. 

There's always neat but strange stuff happening around the Southbank area. 

It's a shame Kenz and I don't have a yard, otherwise I'd want one of these chairs.

After saying goodbye to Owen, Kenz and I headed into central London for a lil something sweet before the show. We wound up at Amorino near Covent Garden. It was our first time there. It will not be our last time there.

We wound up seeing the stage production of The Woman in Black. We'd been putting it off for...well...since we moved here, thinking it's probably too hokey. We both assumed that it just wouldn't be that good of a show. But, there we were, sitting in a cramped theatre seat, debating whether or not I was going to scream. I happened to have done so while watching the movie, so Kenz thought it wise to inform those sitting next to us of the situation they'd found themselves in:

Just so you know, my husband screamed during the movie. He'll probably scream during the play, too. Just so you know...

We heard the fifteen year old daughter whisper to her parents, "the movie wasn't that scary."

The show easily rounds out the top five list of what we've seen since we've been here. Everything about it is exceptional - especially the performers. I didn't scream, but we did have to watch a comedy when we got home. I hate horror stuff.


On Monday, at about 9:30am, I picked up Garrett. For those of you who don't know, Garrett is a rising sophomore at Middlebury in VT, playing on the college's baseball team (check out the 30 second mark of this video). G and I are only separated by ten years, and always pick up right from where we left off whenever we get to see each other (which is a good thing since that's only about once per year).

When I was ten years old, my birthday gift was getting to fly (by myself!) down to my sister (G's mom) Kelly's house in San Antonio. I stayed down there for a week and have many fond memories of the trip, among them the fact that Kelly was preggers with Garrett at that time and we went to Fiesta Texas (where I rode The Rattler). This seemed like a spiritual cousin of that trip, and I'd been looking forward to it since we'd made the plans. It was my turn to host.

We immediately dropped his bags off at the house and I proceeded to draw a map of London for Garrett, explaining the general domains of the city to him. We decided to head out for a light 'intro' walk...that lasted about six hours. We walked around the LSE campus (G's interested), strolled up through Seven Dials, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, and around Leicester Square before we relaxed with coffees in Soho Square. In all my excitement to hear about his life, I forgot to be vigilant with the camera.

We wound up purchasing return tickets for The Book of Mormon before heading back to south London for dinner with Kenz. The three of us enjoyed fish'n'chips and copious amounts of laughter before the play.

Debating the difference between cod and haddock.

Our tickets weren't together, but I was in the row directly in front of them. No big deal - it's not like we'd be chatting during the show anyway.

Laughter ensued
Stranger danger!

Kenz and I were both worried about whether or not Garrett would enjoy a West End musical. Will he be 'too cool', we wondered. Our worries melted during the first number as we heard G laugh just as hard as everyone else. It helps to go to a play that has been written by the creators of South Park.

Tuesday morning started with a big breakfast before Garrett and I headed out for another full day of walking through various London hotspots. A pattern quickly emerged: the two of us would amble from one awesome place to the next, spend a few moments talking about the history or cultural significance of the location, and then immediately resume an ongoing conversation. Essentially, we toured the city hardcore for four days, but instead of reading every placard in the museums or moving slowly from one merchant's booth to another, we simply chit-chatted the entire time. It was pretty awesome. The two of us cared more about catching up than we did learning every in and out of the city. Alas, though, we walked a lot.

I handed Garrett my copy of "The London Coffee Guide" in reference to a previous conversation. Jokingly, he asked Kenz what the right amount of time was to "act interested" in order to be polite. He's funnier than most 19 year-olds.

The tourists.

At Camden Lock

It had been a while since I'd been through Camden. We both noted that everything begins to repeat after about 100 feet of merchant stalls. Sure, the images on the t-shirts may be different, but they all follow a similar theme. Same with all the trinkets.

Garrett was stunned to find this.

He had to take a picture of it himself.

"I love that Texas is its own brand name. We have Texas BBQ sauce in our dining halls. I'm sure it's bottled somewhere in New York, but, because it says Texas, it just tastes better."- Garrett Werner

We walked south along the canal toward Regent's Park

We went through a section of Queen Mary Gardens

"I'm proud of you for leaving there empty-handed," Garrett said, as we headed to Hyde Park. 

We decided to rent some Boris Bikes at Hyde Park and spent about an hour circling the perimeter of the park, commenting on how much cooler this was in practice than in theory. It was like being a kid again, riding around the neighborhood. We explored, finding the various paths that allowed bicycles. We eventually hit that stride, where neither of us was too interested in keeping up a conversation because we entered own little world of riding a bike, looking at the sights, and listening to the birds and kids at play. 

On our way to the British Museum, we realized we were quite hungry. Wanting to ensure that we did things only available in London (well, at least not available in Texas or Vermont), I recommended we stop into My Old Dutch. Kenz and I had been to this pancake house a few times when we first arrived, and I figured it'd give G a change of pace. 

I should've realized something was wrong when he consulted the menu for about twenty minutes, having a hard time finding something that piqued his interest. He decided to go with the 'hot pancake', which featured tomato sauce, chorizo, pepperoni, and mozzarella.

My worry set in when he examined the "pancake" for a few minutes before digging in. It didn't look good (to either of us).

When I asked him how it was, he said, "Imagine the worst pizza you've ever had...but, at least, it's still pizza...?" We left our pancakes half-eaten, thinking we'd improve when it got to dinnertime. We departed for a quick jaunt through the museum, knowing we'd get there about half an hour before closing time.

Garrett was a good sport, powering through the three or four exhibits I thought he should see. 
He did take an interest in one exhibit...

...and sent this pic to his friends with the caption: chillin.

On our way out, we passed one of those sugar-coated peanut vendors. The smell hit him once we'd crossed the street. We crossed back over the street in order to get him a snack that would tide him over until dinner. We both had another laugh at how bad the pancake was, necessitating a stop for these peanuts.

Best two pounds we spent all day.
We returned home at the same time Kenz got finished in the library. I cooked rabbit burgers as the "kids" caught up on WiFi.

Family Time
Kenz had picked up some corn, so we broke out the Pirate vs. Ninja corn skewers Tina Rucker got for us on Ocracoke Island.

It's amazing how much better corn is with these skewers. +10!

Garrett finally got some food he could eat. 

And I got to play with my food.

Kenz decided to make some Cornish pasties (cheese, potato, and onion).

She wound up with enough ingredients for six. She's been on an all-pastie diet this entire week. 

The few bites she allowed me to have were delicious.
We started Wednesday by heading out to Tower Bridge on our way to tour the Tower of London.

Upon arriving at the Tower, I noted that it didn't seem like there were too many people waiting for the Beefeater tour. My hopes were high, thinking this would be a tour that Garrett would really enjoy, and I knew that having a small group would mean an even better tour. We rounded the corner to buy tickets and realized that the reason there were hardly any people waiting for the tour was because they were all in line to get into the tower itself. We walked...and walked...and walked and still hadn't reached the end of the line.

The entrance is at the bottom of the hill, nearly out of sight.

Deciding that the line was too long, we took an old routemaster to St. Paul's Cathedral.

It wasn't as crowded as the Tower, but there were still an absurd amount of people at St. Paul's. That's what we get for going to a popular spot on a beautiful summer day. We listened to a few of the audio guide segments as we walked around the crypt and main floor. After an hour, though, we were ready to climb the 536 stairs to the top of the dome.

Garrett is a tad claustrophobic and I'm scared of heights. We had fun trying (and, in his case, succeeding) at freaking each other out during the climb.

Looking out the stone gallery.

To my dismay, there was a line to get to the last portion of the stairs. We waited for about a half-hour before we could finish our ascent. The mom and young girl in front of us counted every. single. stair. out loud.

Waiting in line.

We're like lemurs plodding to the cliff edge.

Tight spaces like these were when the line would stop, leaving Garrett to my best attempts at freaking him out.

The one window that shows the cathedral floor, about 300 feet below us (the top of the dome is 365 feet).

Waiting, unromantically, to get the view.

G, trying to orient himself within the city.

We tried to get a picture of him in two places at once. 

I know I've featured photos like these before, but I've got to include them again. Some of my favorite views of the city are from this vantage point.

The descent wasn't much easier.

Our sneak attack picture inside the cathedral itself. 
Since we were in the neighborhood, I took Garrett to the Cheshire Cheese for lunch. I went on and on about all of all the literary greats that had once sat in these seats, trying to paint a picture of a smoky, 19th Century London pub scene, right on Fleet Street, journalists trying to get gossip, the move after the great fire of London, yadda, yadda, yadda. 

He was just happy to have some food to eat. 

We finished lunch discussing the transition from high school to college baseball, batting averages, the majors, the difference between college and HS pitchers, etc. I wound up learning more about baseball than I bargained for, and was happy for it. It's pretty neat to get to learn about something you have zero experience with from someone who has put in their 10,000 hours

After lunch, we, again, walked all the way over to Whitehall to visit the Churchill War Rooms. Dipping in and out of various alleys and courtyards (I took him by Samuel Johnson's house and the original Cheshire Cheese location), we found a tree that had blackberry-like fruit on it. A debate ensued.

Garrett examines, convinced they are blackberries.

"Dude, blackberries grow on thickets, not trees."
We passed the Twinings Tea store, the Royal Courts of Justice (stepped in for five minutes), and Horseguards Parade.

"We've got bigger horses in Texas."
Finally arriving at the war rooms, we had no idea what to expect. We both agreed, however, that this would be a museum where we slowed down and listened to our audio guides. We wound up spending nearly two hours underground.

The war cabinet room

"Prime Minister's Dining Room" (all original)

Appearing as the bathroom only for the Prime Minister, this was actually a closet fitted with the first scrambled phone, used to call FDR and, later, Truman. The lock always said 'engaged'.
Energy conservation reminder

Half of what we saw was left exactly the same since the 40's. The other half was replicated from photographs.

The pin holes represent sunken ships from German submarines. The map room was wild. 

Cigarette lighter
The pictures don't do it justice. If you're interested in WWII history, this museum should be at the top of your list if you ever visit London.

We took the scenic route home, passing Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye.

After returning, it took Garrett about 10 minutes to fall asleep, exhausted.

On Thursday, Kenz decided to bail on the library to hang for Garrett's last day. We rose early enough to go see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

Kenz started the day with a rat tail.

It wound up being a rainy day. 

Garrett maintained that these horses were "ok, but not that big."

I think he was, at least, happy that we stopped by to check it out.

We decided not to fight the crowd for the up close stuff...

...and bounced over to Charles' house for these guards.

We stopped by St. James's Palace as well.

Kenz was really happy to be out with 'the boys'.
It had been a long few days with a tremendous amount of activity. Instead of braving the rain and forcing ourselves to do more sightseeing, the three of us ducked into a movie theatre for a cheeky matinée. We all agreed that the movie kinda sucked. Then Garrett uttered one of my favorite lines of the week:

Maybe it wasn't that great, but it's pretty hard not to enjoy yourself in a movie theater. 

We returned home for Garrett to pack before dinner. As we were about to leave for La Luna in the evening, we saw a game show on BBC that each of us was poking fun at. We thought it was really bad, but somehow couldn't seem to pull ourselves away from the questions until it was very nearly too late. None of us would have won the game, but that didn't stop us from mocking it (and the contestants).

Riveted, despite audible contempt.

A quiet last supper at La Luna!
The last meal was like every other one we'd had - full of laughter, smiles, and good food. It had a bittersweet tone, though, as no one wanted the evening to come to a close. I eventually travelled with Garrett up to Holborn to meet his dad. The two of them had a golf outing today and are flying back to Texas tomorrow. Garrett will have one more week of summer vacation before he begins a weeklong drive back up to Vermont for the school year. He says he's ready to get back to school; I'll be sure to ask him how that's going after the first week. Ha!

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading. Hope you have a great weekend!