Monday, January 24, 2011

London Museums - Jan 22, 2011

Day Trip to London: Science Museum, Natural History Museum, and Harrods



£20 tube ride to London
£30 lunch at the Science Museum
£50 dinner at Harrods pizzeria
£10 candy at Harrods
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£110 or with the exchange rate that would be $165 USD

The nice thing about London is the majority of the really cool museums offer free admission. There are some museums that charge admission, and most of the major tourist attractions like Tower of London charge admissions. However there are a great deal of interesting places that are sponsored by the government. This make for an affordable day out in London, which allowed us to splurge and have two meals while we were out.



We had gotten our hopes up to go to Stratford-upon-Avon this weekend, but after realizing the 2 hour train ride would cost £125, or almost $200, we opted for something a little more local until we get our car registered. The kids really wanted to see the Science Museum of London, which happened to be by the Victoria & Albert museum and the Natural History Museum. Since we just made a simple trip on the tube down to London, the fam didn't want to do the whole production of making a journal entry. I will indulge you and explain how the day went. Perhaps it will encourage the others to contribute some too.

Angie: I must admit I was REALLY tired the day we went to London. It was the I don't want to leave bed type of tired, so the mile hike to the tube station was not exactly pleasant.

However, being cooped up in the house all week allowed me to find the motivation to go on the journey. The feeling never really wore off, but I really did have a good time.

The tube ride down was pleasant, I think Misty even made a friend or two along the way. When we got to the Science Museum we immediately ate lunch at the cafe. I was all excited to see they had a family meal deal with two adult hot meals and two kids hot meals for £20, that was until I realized what they tried to pass off as a kids meal. It was a pile of random veggies with beans. There was no way my kids were going to eat that, so we ended up spending a little more so the kids could have something they would actually like. Then we started walking around the museum and I started to get this sinking feeling that it wasn't going to be a cool hands on science museum like we are used to. There was displays of models, old cars, but nothing you could actual touch. That didn't last too long, we ended up in the fun section where we had to tear the kids away from the fun stations so we could see more of the museum. In the end I was quite impressed with the science museum.

We then strolled over to the Natural History Museum. I was on a quest to see the big dinosaur skeleton they showed on the front page of their website lol. Well we ended up going through all sorts of galleries of gemstones, rocks, and other random odities. We saw a few dino skeletons, but not the really big one I was searching for. So we continue down this hallway of stuffed birds, let me tell you that was creepy.

At the end of the hallway was not only the dinosaur skeleton that I had been hoping to see, but the main lobby for the Natural History Museum. Apparently we had found our way down a random path and we hadn't even seen a small fraction of the museum. I was impressed. The building was really cool with lots of great architecture. The problem was we were all hungry by then. We had hoped to go to Harrods before we had to go home since it was in the neighborhood. So the kids did their video clip and we went off to find Harrods which was a lot closer than I had expected.

Once we were in Harrods we saw lots of yummy food. We somehow managed to find our way to all the baked goods, candy, and cakes. We had originally planned to do a tea time snack at Harrods and then go home for dinner, but then there was the pizzeria. There was a guy tossing pizzas in the air singing Italian songs. There was no wait, and it smelled so good. Everyone told us eating at Harrods was expensive, but honestly the pizzeria wasn't too bad. It was about £20 a pizza, but we just got two and split it. Everyone was full and I don' t think we spent anymore than we would have anywhere else. After our bellies were full we explored all the cool places of Harrods, mostly the toy stores. The kids had a lot of fun, and Lexi saw some cool nail polish kit that she now HAS TO HAVE!!! On our way out we went back to the goodies section and let everyone pick out some candy for the ride home. Conveniently, the tube station was right outside of Harrods. I must say that the ride home wasn't as pleasant because the tube was packed, but as we got further away from London it was less crowded and we eventually all got to sit down.













Monday, January 3, 2011

Oxford - Jan 3, 2011

Oxford Day Trip from London

Budget:
Keep in mind that the British never adopted the Euro, so all prices are in British Pounds

£22 Tube ride to the coach bus station
£32 Coach bus to and from Oxford
£32 Sight seeing bus in Oxford (its a hop on hop off bus)
£12 Lunch from grocery store to eat on bus ride to Oxford
£12 Admission to Christ Church
£7 Admission to Botanical Garden
£7.50 for 5 cookies at Ben's Cookies
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£124.50 or at today's exchange rate of that is about $192.50 USD



The Geek:
Ben's Cookies rates 100 Chocolate Chips

Geek analysis on this situation: Darn I should've brought my ipod touch for my bus had wi-fi. Oh the cookies were delish.
Timing on food: at tea time cafes are packed.
What "The Geek" has to say: Great architecture for the cathedral. Still all I'm suppose to do is food....well at 3 o'clock the cafes get rich.

Ray:
Took "The Tube" to where we could pick up a "coach" to the area surrounding Oxford University. There's a lot more history there than can be seen in a weekend. We researched and planned this trip figuring to see 3-4 sites this time and 3-4 next trip. We got to see 2 this time and they took all day.
We started at the Christ Church. An evangelical cathedral and theological university. For those, who like me, are interested in the history behind things, I learned something about the history behind a favorite childhood book. Lewis Carrol, author of Alice in Wonderland, was a Dean of the Christ Church we visited.

Hedged Rose GardenThe second place we visited was the botanical garden, a place Charles Dodgson (pen name Lewis Carrol) would frequent. The botanical garden's rose garden and hedge maze were the impetus for his ideas about Alice's wild story. His dining hall back at the church, was quite obviously where he came up with the mad tea party. One look at the long tables and many seats quickly drew the historical references directly into the imaginative ones.

The Christ Church was also the backdrop for some of the exterior Hogwarts hallways and stairway landings, especially where all the "first years" would wait outside the great hall prior to house sorting. It was really neat seeing these scenes "pop-out" into real life.

Both the historian and child in me truly enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland insider background and the glimpses of Harry Potter scenery.

Lexi's Fun with Fiction:
Hi Lexi here, I am going to tell you about our trip in a fun, fiction, fantastic way! So get ready to hear an awesome view!!!
We are strolling our way to the flying double decker bus.
From the second deck of the fictitious flying bus.
we rode on the 2 story. then before we got off we stumbled into the flying magic carpet. it took us to the christ church. the carpet was like a tour guide. it was so cool!!!! we flew thourgh the dinning hall of hogwarts. then we flew around the magic town. we saw a some places to eat for tea time. we wonered around the rose garden ( from alice and wonder land) painting the roses. we also saw the botanical garden. after we were done with all that it took us to a side ways tour bus that we climed into. we took a flying bus home.
i had sssssooooo much fun!!!!!!!

Angie:
So we decided to take a coach bus to Oxford for the day. I was a little nervous about the creepy factor of the people who ride coach buses, but it ended up just being college kids (and not the 3 nose rings type either). I couldn't resist picking the coach bus because it was a quarter of the cost of the train to Oxford and it took the same amount of time. It ended up being a good choice. The bus had comfy reclining seats and lots of amenities like electrical outlets and wi-fi. I can't help but think the set up is designed for business commuters during the week and college kids for the weekends. Anyways, once we got to Oxford, we took a sight seeing tour bus. They provide headphones that gave details of everything as we drove by. I'm not sure this bus was a great value, but it certainly saved us the stress of finding our way around the city ourselves. Driving in Oxford probably wouldn't be ideal because there is no parking, unless you do a park and ride but there was little parking left in those car parks.

Anyways, we had a lot of ambition for the day, but only got to see two sites: Christ Church and the Oxford Botanical Gardens. We will have to go back to see everything else on another trip, so I would recommend making Oxford a weekend holiday. The Christ Church was pretty awesome as it had ties to Alice in Wonderland and was some of the film sites for the Harry Potter movies (esp. the first one) most notable though is the dining hall. There was a Christmas tree in the dining hall when we visited that had an Alice in Wonderland theme to it. Dining HallThe guide at the doorway really engaged the kids in finding specific ornaments on the tree and pointing out interesting points in the dining hall. Later in the Christ Church there was a children's brochure that had the kids match images in the church to the sheet. Through all its historic charm and significance, my kids paid little interest to the scavenger hunt.

The next site was the botanical gardens. We were on a hunt for things we thought might have inspired Alice in Wonderland. While the gardens were pretty and the greenhouses had many interesting plants, we just didn't see it. However,
Photobucket
as we left we saw a hedged rose garden. We definitely could see ourselves "painting the roses red." Of course it might have helped if it weren't winter and the garden was in bloom. So if you decide to go to the Oxford Botanical Gardens just know the hedged rose garden is free to go through (on the right just as you walk past the gate), but the kids will enjoy the whole garden for all its interesting plants. There were quite a few edible plants and spices. Some of the more unique gardens were in the green houses with the lily room, Arctic garden, and the insectivores room.
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The family seemed to be tired right as it became time to go home. We wanted to hit one of the bakeries we saw earlier in the day, but they were so crowded it would have been miserable. Luckily we stumbled across a cookie vendor. Now I always thought I made some good cookies, but after eating that cookie I couldn't help but wonder how they made them so good. I peeked my head in their booth to see if I could catch their secret, but I was unsuccessful. I suppose I will have to start experimenting in making a cake like triple chocolate chip cookie.

In the end, I had a great time with the family in Oxford. We intend to come back again, but I worry that we won't get to it with all the other adventures we want to take.

Final tip: The sightseeing bus runs for 24 hours, so if you buy it in the afternoon, you can use it the next morning if you stay overnight. This would probably had made the tour bus more of a value for us, but it saved a lot of stress from trying to figure out the Oxford bus system.

Misty:
We found that taking a large backpack for carrying little ones was not a good idea. It Misty enjoying herselfwas a struggle to get them on and off the buses, Ray couldn't go through some of the greenhouses in the botanical gardens, and in general it was cumbersome. I would recommend taking a small sling, front pack, or umbrella stroller. Overall Misty had a good time though, but she really enjoys getting out of the house.

Introductions

Having recently moved to London, we are excited about all the potential travel opportunities that are available. We thought it would be fun to create a family travel blog that tells of our journeys. Before we get into telling you about our travels, we thought we'd write up a brief bio of everyone so you can get to know us a little.

Angie:
I'm the logical one. I'm the one that worries about the budget and keeps the blog updated. Don't get me wrong, I have fun on the trips, but I am the one who frets over the details. If my reviews sound dry it is only so I can help others learn from my experiences to make their trips as awesome as mine!

On a personal note, I have stayed home with my kids for the past 12 years. I am the crafty Martha Stewart type, but I also enjoy being outdoors especially near the water. I enjoy baking, sewing, and knitting. While we are in Europe I hope to see France and perhaps pick up some French along the way.

Ray:
I am a submarine sailor for the US Navy. Until now my job has taken me to 5 of the 7 seas and every ocean in the world. I have made port calls to every corner of both North and South America, sailed all over the Spanish Main, ben from one end of what used to be the Roman Empire to the other, and pulled into islands so small or remote that they are not on most maps.

The Navy finally saw fit to let me go to shore duty. The only catch -- it is in England so the following are "port calls" I am privileged enough to make with my family. This is how they see new and interesting places, the strange people they meet, and the stranger customs and traditions we run across.

Neil (aka the Geek):
"The Geek" is a untrademarked 12 year old (almost 13) Geek. (:) sorry I clammed up...lol ha ha ha. So ya Review: blah blah blah baaa. Well thats me for ya.

Neil will be writing the food reviews. We try to make a point to go somewhere that sells goodies, and if we eat at a restaurant Neil is the perfect children's food critic because he hates anything that is remotely healthy.

Lexi:
I am a person who loves shiny things. I am very whimsical. My fave word is cheese. I want to see the Louve and the Mona Lisa. My lucky number is 2.

Lexi will be doing a creative story interruption of our day. She is very imaginative and has just as much fun writing her review as she does exploring new adventures.

Misty:
Well Misty can't talk yet, as of now she can barely walk. Her reviews will more or less be how baby friendly are the places we visit.

Well that is us, hopefully I can get some pictures of us up here soon.

Cheers!
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