Another thing I forgot to mention about the big vacation is that I kept track of expenses for about 10 days, and we averaged 84GBP per day for all our eating, driving, shopping, and sightseeing. That doesn’t include the cottages, which were about that much again, and I think it’s a good figure for 8 people living it up. There were things we didn’t do because of the cost (such as a ride on a narrow gauge railway, that would have been over 50GBP for 1 hour), but we never lacked for a good time.
Back to the present.
Friday, Bob had an appointment at the sleep center in London, to check on his sleeping habits since he got the CPAP machine. We all went along for a nice day out. The weather Thursday was iffy, and Friday started off pretty chill, so we took our jackets. We left about 7am, stopped at Burger King for breakfast on the road, and headed to Epping. We arrived at the Tube station there at 8, but the parking lot was already full, so we found the long term parking in town. It was nearly empty, and cost 2.80 for all day. Some people needed a toilet, and there was one there, but it was locked. SO we headed over to the grocery store in hopes that they had facilities, but half-way around Bob realized there was a new pay toilet in the parking lot. Turns out the “smart” toilets aren’t that bright either, and we all got in for 10p. As it didn’t have toilet tissue and the sink didn’t work, I don’t feel like we were stealing from them. (Thankfully, I carry toilet paper with me in lieu of tissues, so we were able to remain sanitary.)
We walked down the hill to the station, and hopped aboard a train. This time we did things differently. We didn’t take a stroller. Or lunch, or even the camera bag. I had Elijah in my “pouch,” Taryn had the diaper bag, Cedwryck carried one bottle of water, and Bob just had his camera and extra battery. It’s been so long since we’ve been down that William thought the Tube was very exciting, and watched the rails and the passing trains with great interest.
Since we didn’t have the stroller, we managed to pick stations where we didn’t have to go up and down stairs much. Epping, of course, has no stairs; we changed at Mile End where the next train departed from the same level platform; we got off at Westminster, which has an elevator. Typical.
At Westminster we walked past Big Ben and turned up Whitehall, past 10 Downing Street, and to the horse guards. I’ve seen the changing of the guard at Buckingham, but hadn’t seen the horse guards, and as they do it every day I thought it’d be nice to see. Well. We were there early (about 10:30), and crowds started to build up as we played in the gravel. The show started at 11, and consisted of 7 horses with black-coated riders walking in, lining up, and waving their swords around (uh, the riders waved swords, not the horses). Then 7 horses and red-coated riders came in, lined up facing the others, waved their swords, and half of each company walked away. Then they stood there for 30 minutes. And then the old guard came out, joined with the ones standing there, and they all left together. That was it.
With that excitement over, and all the children well-coated in gravel and dirt, we walked up to Trafalgar Square. The lions are fenced off (apparently they do concerts there in the summer), but there are fountains there now (I don’t remember fountains in ’94), and feeding the pigeons is illegal. So we looked around, used the toilets, Azariah got lost… hehehe. Riah had gone into the toilet with Cedwryck, and I told them to stay together. Bob came out and walked 5 steps away from where we had been while I went in. When I came out I saw Bob with the children, and then, 10 feet away, Azariah was crying. My first thought was that Bob had got onto him for climbing on the fountain, but no; Riah came out of the toilets and didn’t see anybody. Ced had come out just a minute before, and HE saw Bob just fine, but the boys didn’t stay together like I said and Riah thought he was left behind. His grief was short-lived.
We went into the National Gallery for lunch at the National Café. It was expensive and messy (they use crumbled cheese on their sandwiches instead of sliced cheese). But we felt better for having food. From there it was a short walk up to Charing Cross station, where we took the tube up to Regent’s Park station. We still had lots of time so we went on to the park and let the children play at the playground for awhile. Bob left to go to his appointment, and was back before we got bored.
We walked on through the park, to Queen Mary’s garden, which was really lovely, and I wish we had made it up there with Mom and Dad as we’d talked about doing before we went to the Eye last year, and Dad got ill and had to go back to his hotel. Bob took some nice pictures there, we used toilets again, and started back towards home. Tube, change, Tube, and we were back in Epping. We talked about going to Old Orleans restaurant, which I’ve been talking about visiting to celebrate our 14th anniversary, but considering our excited, tired, and dirty state, we decided to just go to McDonald’s. This is the one McDonald’s in the UK with a playplace, and Bob says their quarter pounders are the best. We didn’t play too long; just enough to have a break.
Saw a lovely sunset on the way home, and in all we were satisfied with our day. We did what we’d set out to do, had a nice balance of walking and riding, and oh yeah, the weather… Naysha and Cedwryck took their jackets with them, but those of us who bet on the sun were right. I’ve never seen such lovely weather in London. Fluffy white clouds here and there, but never a hint of rain. Warm, but not hot at all (except in the subway tunnels). Just perfect, really.