Saturday, June 28, 2014

We gave Mom'n'Tom the postcard tour.

Song of the Day: Last Summer, David Gray (remix)

London Stuff: Some of the buses are getting new, smarter, screens. Ever wonder why there are four (not three) rails on the underground?


This is one of those 'way too many pictures' posts. Thus, I'll let the pictures do most of the talking. If, for some strange reason, you don't think you're getting enough info about their trip from this blog, check out Mom'n'Tom's over here. That being said, let's get down to business:

Mom'n'Tom don't fly, so they took a boat from NYC to Southampton; they arrived at Waterloo Station on Friday morning ready to go. The good thing about taking a boat is that you don't have to contend with jet lag. We hit the ground running. 

I fed 'em some breakfast before we headed out to Kenz's school.
Their main reason for visiting was to see Kenz's degree show and where we've been living these past three years. First on our itinerary was Camberwell; Kenz met us on our walk there. 
Big hugs on Havil Street (where our old flat is).

All together
This was Kenz's last day at school, so Mom'n'Tom wanted a picture of the graduate in front of her (now) Alma Mater. 

"David, you get in there, too."

MOMA used her iPad for pictures the entire first day in true tourist fashion.

Tom took a seat on the rope chair.

Kenz explains the intricacies of how she designed and built the piece.

After reviewing the piece, it was time for Kenz to take us around the rest of the school, showing Mom'n'Tom what her classmates had been doing. 

Afterward, we had some lunch and reviewed the show's catalogue. 

And MOMA was taken with the 'hand' gift Kenz had found for her - it's a long story.

Later that afternoon, I decided to take them on an introductory walk along the south side of the river. It was a picturesque Friday evening full of British summer sun and London tourists. We fit right in. 

Houses of Parliament

They were big fans of the London Plane trees lining the way toward Lambeth.

These two were on overload, full of questions about this building and that area, promptly forgetting my answers each time.

MOMA was quick on the draw with the iPad.

She probably came close to maxing out her iPad's memory, in fact.

We stopped to see if I could find an old map for Kenz's aunt Kathy, but no luck.

Ducks were loving it.

High tide, washing away the sand sculptors' creations.

Viewing St. Paul's foregrounding the City.

A lil capoeira in front of the Tate Modern
Apparently I hadn't been very clear on just how far we'd be walking. After about two and a half hours, the two of them were ready to meet Kenz for dinner. Naturally, we took them to La Luna. 

It was a busy night - luckily Kenz called ahead to make reservations. 

Funeral horses in Burgess Park.

We got up and out of the house by late morning on Saturday, excited to take part in a Christmas gift Mom'n'Tom had gotten for us: four tickets to a closed-room clue game. Once we knew they were coming to visit, we saved the four tickets to use with them. I don't want to say too much and spoil the potential for surprise in case any of you ever participate in one, but, essentially, you're locked in a room for an hour. Your challenge is to find clues, solve puzzles, and unlock the door. It's sixty minutes of adrenaline, teamwork, frustration, and bewilderment. 

First front row bus ride. 

The name of the game is Hint Hunt.

Being briefed by our game master.

It was just the four of us in the room - groups can only be 3-5 people at a time. 
No, we didn't make it out of the room, but that didn't stop us from immediately booking a second round that same night! Hint Hunt has two different rooms, so we planned to return on Wednesday to try the second room. 

We then took the Tube to Borough Market for some lunch. 

They were enamored with the Underground (and all the other riders).


Kenz did some grocery shopping

She introduced Mom'n'Tom to some of her favorite vendors as well.

Before heading home for the evening, we trotted them out onto London Bridge so they could get their first sight of Tower Bridge. 

At home, helping MOMA with her blog. 

Two very tech savvy parents.

Kenz made her popular mushroom risotto. 

Dinner by candlelight, just like the old days. 
And an evening wind-down in front of screens. 


Sunday was the Regent Street Bus Cavalcade. Last year was the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, but this year is the Year of the Bus. Don't ask me why - it's not any special year or anything - maybe the bus folk got jealous of the Underground? Either way, we got to enjoy a pedestrianized Regent Street complete with almost every iteration of bus that has navigated a London street. 

We started down by Trafalgar Square, where the West End was hosting it's annual outdoor concert series. 

For those of you who wonder about the 'floating' street performers.

MOMA opted to photograph with the more convenient iPhone for the rest of the week.

That first bus, on the right, is pulled by horses (1826).

If you look at the route listed on the side, you'll see that it went to our neighborhood! (Camberwell Green)

Another Camberwell bus.

Knowing we'd be meeting Owen and Celia in a bit, we decided to veer off the Cavalcade toward Carnaby Street. Knowing that Mom'n'Tom were interested in a blend of attractions, I figured this little neighborhood of indigenous retail shops would be just as interesting as a museum for them. 

One of two misplaced bus photos.

The old number 12 - a bus we take regularly.

Carnaby Street
I took them to the Johnny Cupcakes store, which you may remember from our first October here. 

Reading the history of Johnny Cupcakes.

Owen and Celia met up with us; it was Celia's first time meeting Mom'n'Tom.

And back to the Cavalcade we went! 

Buses weren't always red - they used to be owned by different companies...

...but by the time they became one company, red was the most prevalent color.

A bus stop made entirely of Legos...

...made me think of my nephew Sam. 

Get started now, Sam! I'm sure you could build your own with all the Legos you have!

The newlywed walk. 

After a meal with O&C, we took Mom'n'Tom back down south via Leicester Square and the Hungerford Bridge. 

Another full-on day.

Kenz had to begin her deinstallation on Monday, so Mom'n'Tom were stuck with me all afternoon. I began their tour at Aldwych, taking them by the RAF Chapel, The Royal Courts of Justice, and all the way down Fleet Street to St. Paul's Cathedral. 

In front of the RAF Chapel


They were intrigued by the campaign outside the courts.

Temple Bar: the entrance to the City of London.

MOMA makes almost as many good faces as Kenz. We peeked in, but didn't stay long at St. Paul's.

After strolling through Paternoster Square to view the London Stock Exchange, we went to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Dr. Samuel Johnson's house, and found an impromptu big screen television showing Wimbledon for all the city workers on their lunch break. 

My favorite statue in all of London. A very fine cat, indeed. 

Samuel Johnson's house. (Known for the first widely accepted English dictionary and - my favorite - the quote: When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.)

MOMA loved the Amazon lockers, where one can have their package delivered. 

A nice pit stop for tired feet.

We watched a few minutes of Murray's first match.

Afterward, it was time to head back toward Central London via Lincoln's Inn and Holborn. 

Lincoln's Inn Cathedral

Lunch at The Shakespeare's Head pub.

Neil's Yard.
We finished the day at Covent Garden. MOMA, so taken with all the sights and sounds around her, forgot to look down and wound up tripping on a raised curb. Initially, we thought it was just her pride that had been hurt (along with her glasses), but later found out that she had slightly fractured her hand. We'll get to that later...

"Oh, Tom, I could spend hours in here - we should probably just walk straight through."

Selfie with an injured MOMA!

It's time to go home; I'd run them ragged for four days by this point.

Tuesday was just about the most absurd day of the trip. And by absurd, I mean completely out of the ordinary and absolutely unexpected

Mom'n'Tom love some tennis. Tom plays when they're at home. They volunteer at the big Charleston tournament. They watch each Grand Slam tournament on their television. When they were in Australia, they took the time to go visit where that tournament happens. They know all the players by name and rank and root for their favorites in each of the tournaments. 

I, on the other hand, couldn't give two flips about tennis. I never understood the scoring. I've never even watched a match from beginning to end. I have no point of reference when it comes to the sport. Well, all that changed for me on Tuesday...

Tom woke at 3:36am, MOMA about ten minutes after him, and I woke at 4. We were out the door, in a cab, by 4:30am. We arrived, ready to join 'The Queue' by 5am. 

I'll let the more investigative readers follow the above link to get all the ins and outs of joining 'The Queue', but, essentially, Wimbledon reserves 500 extra tickets for each of the show courts (Centre, 1, 2, and part of 3) for 'day of' sales as well as about 2,000 open grounds tickets. We had our fingers crossed in hopes that a 5am arrival would secure open grounds tickets for us - we figured there'd be no hope for a show court ticket; folks camp out the night before each day's play. Since there are 19 courts in all, the open grounds ticket would allow us to walk around, watch the big screen television on (what is now being called) 'Murray Mound', and jockey for a good seat at one of the other courts. 

Really, though, we had no idea what to expect. Especially me - I was just hoping I wouldn't get sunburnt, watching a bunch of boring tennis all day. I braced myself. 

We arrived just as the sun was rising (yea, it rises quite early here).

These were the folks already in front of us - some campers, some early arrivals.

Your queue card allows you to get a wristband. Don't lose it because they won't reissue them.

We were numbers 1,713-1,715 in line.

This entire field would later fill up with queuers.

It reminded me of a music festival.

The cool air and picturesque view helped keep our spirits up for the first two hours.

Latecomers started arriving at about 7am.

Evangelicals found a captive audience.

MOMA got one of the pamphlets.

By 7:30, they officials started handing out wristbands - phase two of this intricate process.

By a stroke of luck, we got wristbands that would allow us to purchase tickets for Court 2! MOMA about lost it - she was like a kid at Disney.

Then it was time to enter the next queue - the one that led toward the security gate and ticket booths.

This line was about half a mile long, it seemed, and didn't move very quickly...

...mainly because they don't even start selling tickets until 10:30!

But event sponsors were there, ready to take advantage of the opportunity.

Wimbledon will go through 54,250 balls in two weeks - the same weight as a hippo.

The local high school made this paper mache hippo.

Through security! (It's now 10:30)

My first sight of the grounds.

The first two days have the best ticket prices. We paid 40 pounds for court 2 tix - centre court finals tickets will cost several thousand each.

She's trying her best to contain herself.
We finally made it into the grounds at about 10:45 - after nearly six hours of waiting in line - yet the matches don't begin till 11:30. We took a stroll around the grounds, got strawberries'n'cream (apparently a Wimbledon tradition), took buttloads of pictures, and eventually wound up in our seats. 

I bought a hat to save my head, knowing the sun would be out all damn day (best 20 pounds I've spent in a long time).

Pretty awesome seats for a first timer (or any timer!).

First match was some Swede vs. some other guy (the Swede won). Ha! I'm such a fan.

But, naturally, being at such an event will cause one to become an instant fan.

I was taken with the precision of everything, becoming engrossed within ten minutes.


It didn't take long to learn the rules, MOMA by my side, explaining and giving commentary.

The serves were outrageous from this Canadian guy in the second match - 130mph, about 17 aces in the match.

We tried to see Isner, but couldn't get into the unreserved seats at court 3.

But, MOMA and I did get over to court 18 to see one of her favorites play.

We only stayed for the first set - MOMA was disappointed in the guy's play.

We finished the day with two women's' matches on court 2.

Maybe I won't be watching each of the Grand Slams in the coming years, but spending the day here may have given me the bug. Now that I know the game, the scoring, some of the players, and have been to one of the greatest of the sport's venues, I think I'll keep tuning in to Wimbledon. I spent the day vacillating between feeling like I didn't deserve my seat and being ever so grateful that Mom'n'Tom were here to get me out of the house at 4:30am! It was a truly special day. 

Kenz, on the other hand, had almost the opposite experience on Tuesday. She had to finalize her deinstallation, cutting the extensions off her rope chair and bringing the whole piece home. She had been sending me pictures throughout the day. 


Even the chair looks sad.

Her friend, James, made her an etching as a going away present. 
I did my best to remind her that, whereas she had to break the entire piece down, she did leave the school with a degree and what looks like 100% of her bronze knots sold. It's important to look for the silver lining, you know...

She's waiting for a few responses from some galleries about her chair while it sits behind our building's stairs. 

Kenz, being the living saint that she is, despite the day's hard work and sacrifice, had dinner prepared for us as we walked in the door! I've said it before and I'll say it again - I married 'up'. She's freaking awesome. 


We went back to Hint Hunt on Wednesday. Again. And didn't get out of the room. Again. But, this time, it was all my fault. I fumbled the final clue - and Kenz very nearly divorced me she was so pissed. I can laugh about it now, but man, she was pissed. Ha! She couldn't talk to me for about an hour after we left - she still has nightmares about it these four days later. Ah well, Kenz, you married a puzzle dunce. 

We went to Sticks'n'Sushi afterward (possibly to cheer Kenz up).

The folks loved it - something for everyone to eat. (It's funny to see 'old folks' taking pictures of their's not just 'kids these days')
Afterward, we went down to the National Portrait Gallery. I mean, they'd been here for six days after all - it was time to step foot in a museum! 

The monarchy level.

The contemporary level

We stayed until the museum closed.
The National Portrait Gallery is just around the corner from Trafalgar Square and, since we didn't get to go in the previous day, we decided to take them there and tell 'em all about it. 

I taught Mom'n'Tom how to do a panorama on their phones. Tom got really good at it. 

MOMA challenged us to get up on one of the lions. Kenz did fine with a little leg-step assistance from me. I, on the other hand, had to try the 'run and jump' approach. Everyone within 50 feet broke out in laughter at the sight of it. 

The 'simple climb' didn't work.

Run and 'belly bomb' did!

And, yes, my fear of heights kicked in - nervous laughter ensued.

Walking back down south.
We'd booked tickets to The Crucible at The Old Vic in preparation for Mom'n'Tom's visit. Kenz and I were both quite familiar with the play, but The Old Vic has a rotating production schedule, so we hadn't seen it here yet. In fact, we went on the second night, so there weren't any reliable reviews out yet, either. The only thing we knew was that the running time was 3.5 hours - MOMA was nervous. I was nervous. Actually, I think we were all nervous.

Hanging in the park before the show.

Just before walking in.

The pit bar - stocking up on water for the marathon of theatre.

Theatre in the round meant we had exceptional seats.
In sum, this production - the stage design, direction, performances, and, of course, Arthur Miller's writing - wound up being in my top three London theatre experiences in all our time here. It was magnificent. The house cheered at the intermission break! There was hardly a dry eye in the audience after the show was over. Tom - the man who reliably falls asleep at plays - left asking, "is every show in this town that good?" 

MOMA and I both couldn't control our sobs as we clapped for an encore, but it wasn't just because of the epically poignant ending. The sheer power of performance (headed by Richard Armitage) of the ensemble was breathtaking. And I mean breathtaking - I was heaving, shaking with tears. Kenz laughed at me. 


After two days with a swollen hand, MOMA finally succumbed to wisdom and went to the hospital to get an x-ray. Kenz was her NHS tour guide; I was nervous that this would confirm my mother's ideological bias against socialized healthcare. They wound up getting in and out in about the same amount of time it would've taken in the States, confirmed that she had a fracture, and had an appointment with an ortho specialist for the next day. I had my fingers crossed that the next day would go about as smoothly as this one had. 

She promptly removed the sling.
We met at Borough Market again - Kenz wanted to pick up some groceries for another round of mushroom risotto. Afterward, we headed for the Thames to take them over to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. 

Who says London is too big? We ran into Jane (Owen's sister) and Bridgett on London Bridge. It's a village over here!

HMS Belfast

The City, Tower of London, Mom'n'Tom, Tower Bridge, and (Westminster) City Hall.

Mom'n'Tom got some ice cream before heading into the Tower. 

Waiting patiently for our Yeoman tour.

Listening to gruesome stories of beheadings.

More stories.

Some more ice cream after two hours in the Tower because why not!

Knowing we were nearing the end of their stay - and not wanting to leave everything to the last day - we decided to press on and do a bit of sightseeing down near Parliament Square. 

Westminster Abbey

We saw some choir boys exiting evensong while hanging out in the cloister.

Luckily, they prefer the bus as much as we do.

Friday, our final day, was focused on the last few postcard stops we'd yet to hit. But, first, we needed to go follow up on that hand of MOMA's.


Round two of the NHS and I'm hoping MOMA has a good experience!

She wound up with a great doctor who took wonderful care of her - better yet, her hand didn't need a cast! 
She was elated to be able to get out of there without any further treatment - and on to more touring!

Our first stop was 10 Downing Street...

...followed by Horseguards Parade.

I made them stand there.

Some of the Barclay's Bikes are yellow to hype up the fact that the Tour de France is coming through London in July.

St. James's Park

Ferret on a leash!

Next stop, Buckingham Palace.

"The palace is good enough - they don't need that statue out front." - MOMA, ever the appraiser 

The color outside was beautiful - I have not altered this picture in any way.

Black swan
We met up with Kenz, visited St. James's Palace, the oldest wine shop in the world, and Churchill's cigar shop, which wound up being a great segue for our final stop of the day: the Churchill War Rooms. 

I'd never seen a line before; this took us about half an hour to get through.

Kenz's first time here as well.

I didn't take too many pictures inside because we all went at our own pace after the first half hour. We eventually made it back home where Tom helped Kenz cook and I helped MOMA blog. 

The last supper!

They finished the evening packing their massive suitcases.
No, Mom'n'Tom didn't overpack; they're staying in the UK until late August. They left this morning (Saturday) toward Oxford. They'll spend about three days there before heading to York. Afterward, they'll hit Hadrian's Wall. 

Kenz and I will be flying to Knoxville at the buttcrack of dawn on Monday morning for Whitney and Michael's wedding. We'll return on July 7th, sleep in our bed for one night, and then head up to Edinburgh. There, we'll reunite with Mom'n'Tom for three days in that city and two more in the Lake District. Afterward, Mom'n'Tom will explore the rest of Scotland and then ferry on over to Ireland as Kenz and I host Brian & Jessica and get ready for our move. 

Honestly, I can't believe I have the energy to write this post. I'm exhausted...and not sure if it was them keeping up with us or the other way around! They're fantastic houseguests, but, needless to say, Kenz and I are going to stay in tonight, butts on the couch. 


That's it for this week. Thanks for reading. Wish me luck in getting the next post done sometime on the 7th of July. And have a great weekend.