Friday, August 28, 2015

changing the queen's life guard

So a little known fact: horse guards (life guards) guard the official entrance to Buckingham Palace. Every hour from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., the horse guards are switched out from a team of horses and guards standing by. And every day at 11 a.m., that group of horse guards is traded out for a new group. A new fleet marches in, the old fleet is inspected and released, and it's all very much amazing. 

We visited the changing of the horse guard four times. You see, we have this little Lou. And she's legitimately obsessed with horses. Annabelle also loves them, but I think she doesn't want to admit that she likes something her sister does, so she just loves them silently. And really, this is just an amazing little event, so we made sure to get our fill. 

The change of the horse guard is much less well known than the change of the guards at the palace. Fewer tourists and almost open access to the horses. However, they proceed about their business with structure and regimented exactness - if you happen to be in the way, watch out. These horses DO NOT care. And they bite. And you will get yelled at.

This horse was an exception to the rule of militant exactness.
He was basically begging people to pet him.
You could tell the guard was going nuts trying to keep his horse from acting up.
And all while keeping a stern face. The girls sure loved this guy.
I love loved watching the change of the horse guard. Such beautiful animals and such tradition. We went to the Horse Cavalry Museum as well, which was absolutely worth the price of admission. It's housed in the original eighteenth century stables of the royal horses - originally 70 (now 220). The very coolest part is that you can see into the active (and original) stables (through a huge window) in a portion of the museum. The horses that just got traded out are lined up in their stalls, getting groomed and fed. It's fun to see the guards as well - hats gone, faces drawn in smiles instead of stone cold glares, suspenders hanging at their waists. The museum also houses an impressive arsenal of artifacts and fascinating tidbits of information. 

A few fun facts I retained:

- The Queen has a force of 220 horses. They are used for various guards and events. All of them are immaculately groomed and kept. 
- The horses are militant. They aren't your normal pet riding horses. They bite and kick when they aren't pleased with the rider. The guards aren't exactly friendly either.
- One rider (on a video) said that during in his first week of training, he was thrown off six times, five times breaking a rib.
- When guards begin their training, they spend three weeks riding without stirrups.
- Life guards have stood guard at Horse Guards (the official entrance to Buckingham Palace) since 1660. 1660 people!
- The guard horses are black or very dark brown. Some spots on the face and feet are acceptable. The grey horses are for the trumpeteers.
- The horses retire after an average of 18 years of service.
- There is also a dismounting ceremony in the evening. The guards and horses are inspected and then the horses are taken in for the evening. This ceremony began in 1894 when Queen Victoria found the troops drunk as skunks and gambling away. She instituted a check to take place at 4 o'clock every day for 100 years. When those hundred years were up, the Queen decided to keep doing it. Because tradition people! And a mighty fine one at that!

Our little Lou loved this so much, and I'm so glad we got to do it so many times. Whenever anyone asks what her favorite thing in London is, she says, "the horses." A funny answer when you think about it, but it truly was a highlight for all of us.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

bubbles at trafalgar

We began our trip in a hotel just off of Trafalgar Square (the first week). In Jess' previous visits, he'd really grown to love the area and its proximity to lots of attractions. The National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are situated snugly on the square, but it isn't the world renowned art that the girls cared about. No, no. It was the bubbbbles. 

Trafalgar Square always has little street acts trying to earn a little money. Most of them are garbage, but the bubble guys are amazing. I'm fairly certain that if they remember only one thing from this experience in London, the girls will remember THE BUBBLES. 

While we were there it drove us a little crazy. Like WE HAVE BUBBLES IN THE STATES. But as I started pulling photos (and couldn't stop), I realized that we DO NOT have bubbles like this. And really, how magical. I hope they always remember the gigantic bubbles in blowing in Trafalgar Square. I hope this little bit of magic stays with them always.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

here we go...

Waiting in Detroit to board our flight to London.

When I decided to do this London thing, I decided to go all in. Pregnant and all. I told myself that I would rest when I needed to, but that if I could muster the footsteps, I would get out. Keep in mind, most of my touristing was done alone with the girls so at least I had short legs to keep me from running too fast. Jess accompanied us on a few of our adventures, but he had to work a ton there (boo!) so it was usually just the girls against the world! We became tube experts (Annabelle could actually semi-navigate if it didn't involve more than one tube switch) and I learned to read British maps lickety split. We also had family here and there the first two weeks, which was unbelievably helpful in terms of keeping track of the girls (Lou).  

The girls thought the journey to London was no sweat.
Of course, they got to sleep soundly while Grandma and I sat and didn't sleep.
Especially me with the getting up and walking and peeing.
But we made it! And we weren't at all excited!

The following is a fairly complete list of all the London spots I hit up. (The numbers in parenthesis indicate multiple visits.) As I post, I will come back to this list and link back.

Natural History Museum (2)
London Science Museum (3)
Museum of London (2)
London Transport Museum (4)
Double Decker Bus Tour 
Trafalgar Square (lots)
Big Ben
The National Gallery (2)
Tower of London - Crown Jewels
The London Eye
Imperial War Museum
Picadilly Circus
Oxford Street
Buckingham Palace - Change of Guards (2)
British Museum
Royal Airforce Museum
The Horse Hospital (walk by)
Victor & Albert Museum of Childhood
Wicked (the play)
Royal Observatory
National Maritime Museum
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (walk by)
St. Paul's Cathedral (walk by)
Golden Hinde II (16th century ship)
Southwark Cathedral (walk by)
Bank of England Museum
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Lord of the Dance (2)
London Planetarium
National Portrait Gallery
Mudchute Park & Farm
Museum of London Docklands
Churchill War Rooms
Hyde Garden (playground)
Boroughstreet Market
Paddington Gardens (playground)

On the car ride in to London. That daddy was a welcome sight.
Lou fell asleep straight away.
I swallowed vomit and watched my feet swell.

The posts that follow will be somewhat random - I'm just going to post as I can gather photos. They're coming from multiple devices, so it's sort of a treasure hunt. And because this isn't a live record, I might as well just post as I can, ay?

Alright then, let's give this a go. As they say. :)

After getting settled at the hotel (aka Jess took the girls out while Grandma and I slept),
we went for a walk over Millenium Bridge. Not a bad view, ay?

Taken on our first day of touristing. They adjusted incredibly well to the time change.
And they were fueled by bribery all the way - this ice cream was a frequent (and tasty) bribe.
Fun fact: Just above Lou's ice cream is the LDS church, which is situated in a prime location -
right across from the Science Museum and in the middle of the hubub. 
Fact: The red telephone booths smell like urine. And sometimes other things.

Standing at a door just their size on the Tower Bridge.
We actually had the best weather there.
It only really rained (like raaaaiiin) twice!
Waiting at the King's Cross Station for grandma, the aunties,
and one uncle to arrive back from Paris.
Our apartment was just around the corner from the beautiful Tower Bridge.
This was the sight of our fairly regular night time walk. Ain't she perty?


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