Jack the Bear

Trip Start Dec 04, 2006
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Trip End Aug 05, 2007


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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nathan here: As some of you may know, Tara and I have both been to London on previous trips so, from the beginning, we were going to leave it off our list of destinations for this trip. A visit to the UK is also incredibly easy from Canada and we figured we would return when we have kids - inshallah.



However, we also wanted to visit our good friends Kathryn and Patrick. Our collective plan had been to meet outside of the UK but the timing did not work out. So we flew from Copenhagen to London on British Airways and stayed with them for several days. No surprise, we had a super time. We spent our first full day visiting the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory (www.nmm.ac.uk).

Founded by Charles II in 1675, the Royal Observatory is, by international decree, the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian line. It is also the official starting point for each new day, year, etc. The Observatory was initially built to improve navigation at sea. A key issue at that time was the inability to determine a ship's position east and west (longtitude) while at sea and out of sight of land. There were two approaches to solving this problem. First, astronomers were convinced that accurate star maps could solve the problem of determining longtitude. Second, the ability to accurately measure time at sea. Those interested should take a further look at the information provided on the link.



Our second day was spent walking through the English countryside. We took a train from London to Otford and took a leisurely 15km walk through fields, villages, up hills, and by streams, etc. While muggy, the weather was otherwise perfect. It was a real highlight for me and we would have done another if we had had more time. Too many things to see in London though. We ended the day with a great pub lunch - Sunday roast. Sadly, Patrick left us that night for a trip to Ireland so it we were down to three. As Kathryn worked during the day (a concept that is now so unfamiliar and alien to us) we hit the main sites..

Tara here. The first of the many sites we took in in London proper was St. Paul's Cathedral. This cathedral was made most famous when Charles and Diana were wed there in 1981. The cathedral has been destroyed or burnt down four times since 604AD when the first people worshipped on the site. The current cathedral, built by Sir Christopher Wren after the great fire of London in 1666, stands over 110 metres high and therefore affords some great views of London if you're willing to walk up the 434 stairs to the Golden Gallery. We made the trek up and were not disappointed. The cathedral is well worth the 8 pounds to get in as the architecture is spectacular. There are no pictures on our blog as you can't take photos in the cathedral proper - you will just have to visit London (or google it, whichever).



On our first day we also visited the Tower of London. William the Conqueror began construction of a massive stone tower at the centre of his London fortress in the early 1080s. In the centuries that followed, successive monarchs have added to its fortifications. The Tower of London - as a fortress, palace and prison - has simply too much history for this blog so I encourage those intersted to check out the following link (www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon). We really enjoyed our visit here - totally worth the money.



Another highlight of London is visiting Westminster Abbey. According to a variety of sources, Westminster Abbey has been the place of the coronation, marriage and burial of British monarchs (with exception of Edward V and Edward VIII) since 1066. The current building dates largely from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries. Among other things, visitors can see Royal Tombs, the Coronation Chair, and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Of potential interest to Canadians, there is a large memorial to General Wolfe (who lead the British forces to a victory over General Montcalm and the French on the Plains of Abraham at Quebec City). There is also a memorial to John Franklin (who died tragically trying to find the North-West Passage). More info on the Abbey can be found here (www.westminster-abbey.org). Small note, the last time Tara visited London she actually sang with her choir in Westminster Abbey.



Tara here. Some of you may know that Nathan and I LOVE going to the theatre - especially to see musicals. So for us London was an opportunity to take in some great shows and we took full advantage. On the first night I saw Fame with Kathryn while Nathan went and saw Lord of the Rings with Patrick. Thumbs up overall.



Second in the lineup, and our favourite of all the shows we saw in London, was "Avenue Q" - starring a cast made up mainly of puppets. Nathan had some reservations about this one as he just, generally, does not do cartoons or puppets or similar. Well, Avenue Q is, ahem, a bit different. It is decribed as Sesame Street for adults, and boy, let me tell you, this was not a G-rated show. Kathryn, Nathan and myself left with sore stomachs from laughing so hard - it was as if each song was more inappropriate than the last. Some of the song titles included "Everyone's a little bit Racist", "Internet is for Porn" and "I'm not Wearing Underwear Today." We definitely recommend this show.



The third show we saw was to the other extreme and therefore the audience was filled with 10-year-old girls - yes, I actually convinced Nathan to take me to see Mary Poppins! It is a fairly new broadway show based on the Julie Andrews movie - but with a few new/modern twists. We enjoyed this show and would recommend it if you enjoy the music from the movie. At the end she flies up into the audience - very cool. So, overall, we loved London theatre. The advantage over New York is that in London it is much easier to get half-price tickets. We got seats in rows E and G on the main floor the day or even the night of the performance because there are just not the number of people vying for the seats.



Before we sign off, some of you might be curious about the title of this entry? My brother Jon and his wife Patti are now proud parents of one Jack Lockhart which means Tara and I are officially an aunt and an uncle for the first time. We always knew the two of them would come through.

Now it was critical that we find the perfect gift for my nephew. We searched high and low and when it seemed all was for nothing and we were about to buy a "someone I know went to London and bought me this stupid t-shirt" t-shirt, we stumbled upon a very large toy store on Regent St. We were saved. On the top floor they have a Build-a-Bear section so we were hard at work finding Jack the Bear. It was quite the process so please see the pics. Among other steps, we had to pick a bear, place the heart inside (Jack the Bear has two - one from each of us), we had to bathe him (to remove excess fluff) and clothe him (Jack has a scottish background). Man, this was hard work so the real thing must be even harder.. lol.



Now, we could have easily shipped Jack the Bear to Jon and Patti and little Jack, but the bear protested. Jack the Bear figures that, seeing on how Tara and I are coming home in a few weeks anyway, he might as well tag along for the remainder of our journey. Of course, we're going to be crossing borders and such so we picked up a passport for him. Of course, we're still in the EU so he doesn't have any stamps yet. He should get his first when we fly to Morocco on June 29th.

Currently in Budapest, Hungary. Stay tuned for more. N and T.
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