Sunday, February 20, 2011

TGI Fridays - A Taste of Home

We decided to not go on any big adventure this weekend because we are trying to save up money to go to France for a week in April. However, with the kids being off from school for the week we decided we should try and go somewhere. We decided to take in a movie, and we decided on Gnomeo and Juliet. Well honestly we were going to make a day trip to Cadbury World and see a chocolate factory, but we learned the hard way you have to book that in advance if you want to get in. So to make sure we got into the movies we decided to order our tickets online. Interesting thing about going to the movies here, when you buy your tickets you actually have to pick which seat to sit in. If you want to sit in the middle then you have to buy VIP tickets, which cost a few dollars more. 
The directions said that the cinema was 8 miles away and should take 20 minutes to get to, but we left a half hour ahead of time to make sure we got there in time for the movie. We did not expect to sit in traffic for an hour, so we missed the beginning of the movie. Thankfully the manager was very nice and switched our tickets to the later showing, but we had to kill an hour and a half. We thought no problem, there was a bowling alley next door. We go up and they asked if we had a reservation, and were then informed that we could not bowl because they were booked up for the evening. We had an errand to run, so we went to the hardware store and managed to kill the right amount of time. 
As we go into the theater, there is a whole wall of mix and match candy and on the opposite side a Ben & Jerry's shop. We had a hard time deciding, but once we realized that our "scoop" of ice cream was more like a spoonful for £3 it seemed like a no brainer to get the candy. Of course if it were up to me we wouldn't get anything because I feel like movie theater concession stands are a big rip off, but I cannot deny Ray oh lover of movie theaters. 
The concession stand had pretty much the same types of foods that an American theater would have. The difference is there was more drink options, they really get into bottled drinks here, and there was no boxes of candy because they had the mix and match candy wall. Of course for those who do not wish to wait in the que (line) at the concession stand, they have a wheeled cart they bring to the screening room with snacks. 
On the way home we found a TGI Fridays, which is one of my more favs from back home aside from Joe's Crab Shack of course. Anyways, we go in and they have their menus posted so we see what they have. It seems that the UK version has a lot of American foods, which was a relief because British food is terrible. It was a 45 minute wait because they had two birthday parties going on. As we waited we realized these parties were for kids about 8 years old with probably 12 kids at each party. There was a limo outside for one of the girls party. Wow! Thats really all I have to say about that. 
Once we sit down they gave Lexi this awesome kids packet with a board game, a color changing crayon, and a big booklet with stickers to occupy her until the food came. Then they gave all the kids balloons. In the two hours we were there she still didn't finish all the puzzles in the activity book. Understand the two hours was not because the waiter was slow, but they just eat at a much more relaxed pace and do not rush people out at restaurants here. 
It was nice to experience so much that reminded us of home, but there is always little differences that remind us that we are in London.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hampton Court Palace

Day Trip to Hampton Court Palace

£43 Family Admission to Palace, Gardens, and Maze
£25 Lunch at Cafe in Palace
£23 Tea Time Snack
£91 GBP which is about $145

Here is a video overview of our trip. I will warn you towards the end the kids did a Blare Witch knock off through the hedge maze, so do not watch it if you are prone to motion sickness.

Here is what the family has to say about the experience.

The GE3K:
This place was a 15/30 of goodness. The food was already, but it wasn't the and it wasn't the worst. I got the bacon butty for lunch and a toffee pudding cake for a tea time snack.

As for my tour of the palace, it was awesome =)

The day started with us entering the gates guarded by the Lion and the Unicorn -

the banner symbols of the king. Symbols which would not be lost on followers of C.S. Lewis Narina book series.

Though the gilded doors (that means golden) into an inspiring walkway towards a palace whose bricks are painted nearly pink by the still rising sun we stroll. We view what appears to be a fairly normal but well maintained grassy garden, but as we approach we notice street lamps which could be out of a fairy tale story in their unlit grandeur. As we approach the main gate we cross a brick bridge, guarded by white granite mythical creatures. Dragons, manticores, lions, unicorns, and more stand over a now drained moat area. The gates are open, the portcullis raised, we enter through the grand entrance and into the main courtyard.

This courtyard was designed by King Henry VIII's engineers to host a large contingent of Europe's kings and queens and all their entourage. It has a wishing well near the center. We all make wishes and toss two pence pieces (to ensure our dreams come true).

There were three courtyards total. The one after

the main courtyard was called the clock court. It had a large, incredibly ornate time/day/month/zodiac clock insert in one wall. Another wall was very Romanesque in its white marble columns.

The other courtyard was more of a normal medieval court palace yard. It was a simple fountain with four lamps and grass. Nothing exceptional, but both functional and elegant. It would have been peaceful but accommodating to those who would use it to move from place to place within the palace.

The palace is setup around these courtyards. Each apartment is for one person -- the King did not sleep in the same bed or even the same room as the Queen. And each apartment views a courtyard and a portion of the gardens, which surround the palace.

The king's apartment started with the guards armory. A large room, the armory is empty except for its decorations - daggers, drums, swords, pistols, rifles, and armor adorned in decorative patterns around the room.

From the armory we moved through to the poker room/personal eating area/office. It has a small four man table ready for a night of poker, another table for snacks, and another for the composing of letters.

The kings bath chamber was more of a passing affair, half hidden. A tub, a fireplace, and a vain glorious personal vanity were tucked in away from the other rooms. The king's bedroom and Anteroom were nothing compared to the Queen's drawing room, but such is to be expected from an egotist king and an adoring wife.

An incredibly well manicured garden surrounds three sides of the palace. One side is a hedge maze, another a couple of secluded ponds with sitting and thinking space, and the third is the backyard garden replete with marble statuaries, rose garden patens, and gilded fences overlooking the river Thames.

This palace was not at all as austere as I imagined a palace would be. Don't let me mislead you, thought, it was beautifully and very tastefully built, designed, and maintained. I would definitely have gotten an ego and acted like the kings of old did if I lived there.


This was a fun adventure out and about. The best part of the palace was the fact there was something for everyone. Lexi enjoyed the kitchen areas, Neil and Ray loved the armory, everyone enjoyed different parts of the gardens. They even had a toddler play area. The palace was really set up as a family oriented attraction, with thought going into how to make the place attractive to all ages. At some point during the day, we all felt like royalty.

On the downside, with the palace and grounds being so enormous, it made it hard to make everyone happy at the same time. Of course we all loved the hedge maze, but to be honest I expected it to be more. The reviews I read said it was a world famous hedge maze, this maybe but only because it is so old. It didn't take more than five minutes to find our way out. Of course it was fun to play in it for awhile, but really I had expected it to take much more of our day.


Today we went to the Hampton Court palace. It was boring. The food was bad. For example, the yogurt with the kids meal tasted like citric when it was strawberry flavored. When I walked in I thought it would be cool but it wasn't, so here is a joke for you:

One night a prince and a princess went out on a boat ride.
The boat tipped and the prince and princess fell in.
Who was left on the boat?
The Knight