England – My Blog http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com Just another WordPress site Tue, 21 Feb 2012 03:42:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.11 Smart Save Days Out ~I’m Sold http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/13/smart-save-days-out-im-sold/ http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/13/smart-save-days-out-im-sold/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2012 04:31:49 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=2587

I think the inventor of email is one of my favorite people on earth.  I just can’t help but get that slight “you’ve got mail” tingle when I open my inbox and see a flag for new messages.  There is type of email that I dread though, and it usually bears some sort of title involving advertising opportunity.  Often they (whoever they is) try to put a creative spin on it, but it all boils down to the same bottom line; we want you to help us sell our product.

The problem with this is that most of these advertising opportunities don’t know anything about my blog and their product isn’t a good match for my goals or my readers.   Yes, I am talking to you makers of adult diapers.  My readers and I have no need for your product…yet!  Let’s circle back around* in about 30 years.

*circle back around: industry jargon for emailing you again to badger you about helping us sell our product

So, when I received an email from Smart Save Days Out, I was skeptical.  As I began to research the product, I was not only convinced that it was a product that I would use and would happily endorse; I was disappointed that I did not know about it sooner so that I could use it myself.

Smart Save Days Out is a savings program based in the UK that offers discount vouchers for admission to popular attractions around London.  A list of participating locations are available on the website and it is as choosing where you want to go and saving money.

  1. There is no risk or registration.  Unlike other savings programs that require an initial fee, Smart Save is completely free to use and requires no pre registration.  Simply print the voucher and save 20% at the participating attractions.
  2. It is easy to use.  You can print the voucher and use it at the ticket counter, or even show the voucher on your mobile phone and receive the same discount.   Hotels also offer smart save maps which include all the voucher codes for attractions and restaurants.
  3. Savings for up to six people.  With more than the typical 2.3 kids, we often miss out on deals and packages.  Smart Save Days Out offers savings for up to six people-a perfect savings for our family.
  4. Benefits are easy to calculate using the website.  No guessing at the ticket counter.  No need for advanced math while on vacation.  Just plug your ticket needs into the website and see your savings.
  5. It shows me places I’ve never heard of, but want to see.  The top attractions are easy to find in any guidebook, but the off the path attractions are often our favorite stops.   Smart Save gives me a list of not only well known attractions, but hidden gems to enjoy
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The Lovely Leeds Castle http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2011/08/25/the-lovely-leeds-castle/ http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2011/08/25/the-lovely-leeds-castle/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2011 03:02:16 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/?p=1219

Over 1500 English castles have stood the test of time and dot the rolling countryside as a testament to their skilled architecture.   Each castle has its own particular offerings, but Leeds Castle is billed as the “Loveliest Castle in the World.”  Leeds Castle offers plenty more than just the promise of loveliness to attract tourists, including a tree branch maze, an aviary, and a playground.  However, you are just as likely to see locals, especially moms with young children, enjoying the sprawling grounds of the Leeds.  Drawn in by the open fields and the ticket that allows unlimited visits throughout the year, Leeds Castle is a popular meeting spot for playdates.

It doesn’t hurt that the castle and its grounds are indeed, very lovely.  Even while visiting in the dead of winter, I was compelled to slow my pace and soak up the idyllic countryside.  If that wasn’t enough charm, swans glide serenely around the moat, showcased against the gleaming fortress.  I think that might actually be the official English definition of loveliness.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby

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Memory Mondays: The Secret in my Garden http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2011/04/17/memory-mondays-the-secret-in-my-garden/ http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2011/04/17/memory-mondays-the-secret-in-my-garden/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2011 02:58:00 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2011/04/memory-mondays-the-secret-in-my-garden.html

~There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some that face reality; and then there are those that turn one into the other.~

When I was in the fourth grade I entered a bookmark design contest and won first prize. I had my picture taken for the local newspaper and my winning bookmark was framed and hung in the library. Big stuff for a nine year old. Best of all there was a glorious prize; a special edition copy of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I could tell from the moment the book touched my hands that it would be special. The heavy bound leather and gold edged paper begged for me to peel open the crisp pages and savor every word.

I was immersed in the story of Mary, a forgotten orphan, who discovered a neglected and forbidden walled English garden at the center of the huge Misselthwaite Manor. Through love and determination Mary and her friend Dickon bring new life to the garden and healing to the inhabitants of Missethwaite Manor.

That was the beginning of my love affair with all things English. I daydreamed over the romance of the sprawling English manor and was fascinated by the proper English custom of afternoon tea. But my greatest new love was the walled English garden. Ivy covered stone walls, fancifully shaped hedges, tinkling fountains and roses. I began doodling plans for my very own walled English garden where I could live out my very own Secret Garden fantasy.



In addition to the reality of being a very busy momma to four very busy boys, there are other realities that make my English rose garden fantasy unrealistic. I am not, nor will I ever be an heiress. I do not own a lovely English manor and despite having a father who tends to gardens for a living, I am a plant killer.

When reality and fantasy don’t meld, it’s high time for a compromise.

Meet my compromise.

It is a tiny rose garden, but it is right outside my bedroom window and smells divine. Despite the fact that I do not water regularly and I am flummoxed by fertilizer, it still blooms with passion. It turns out that walled English garden is not really me. Too neat and tidy. Too predictable. I’m more of a wild and free, plant it and hope for the best kinda ‘girl.

A certain amount of compromise is necessary for a traveling family, as well. I have a friend who just returned from a trip from merry old England. She treated herself to fanciful four hour meals and leisurely strolls down historic streets, with a quick pop into any little store that suited her fancy. It sounds delightful, doesn’t it?

By contrast, our recent trip to England was three kids in tow, chasing them up and down castle stairs, popping into every other bathroom, and grabbing quick fast food meals between sightseeing. Seems like an unappetizing compromise by some travelers standards. But, it turns out that I am not a leisurely strolling, culinary delight kind of traveler. I’m more of a wiping sticky faces, chasing pigeons, holding little hands kind of traveler. As I am not keen to give up either the children or the traveling, this will be my reality for some time. The little nine year old who fantasized about great English gardens and proper English tea would be surprised at the reality, no doubt.

That’s why I am glad to have my roses. They remind me of a love of England that has blossomed since childhood, and they remind me that turning reality into something beautiful leads us to a life that suits us best after all.

Read about our trip to England from start to finish.

The Elusive Canterbury

~See what other travelers are dreaming about at The Mother of All Trips~

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But We’re So Close- Ferryiing from England to France http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/07/but-were-so-close-ferryiing-from-england-to-france/ Sat, 07 Mar 2009 21:50:00 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/but-were-so-close-ferryiing-from-england-to-france.html

Saying Goodbye England at the White Cliffs of Dover

Almost any trip we take as a family is subject to what I like to call the “but we’re so close” syndrome. Because we consider traveling to be an essential part of the kid’s education, most of our trips are inspired by our current studies. Once we pick a destination, we can’t resist looking around to see what else we might be able to see and do. Usually, I bust out google maps and spend an evening charting out the times and distance and dreaming.

Our trip to England was inspired by our studies of medieval England, but I quickly discovered that France was just a quick chunnel ride away. We explored both the options of riding a train into France, or boarding a car onto an auto transport through the Eurostar. But, the most economical passage for us was by ferry. I should mention here that Europeans do not call the channel connecting England and France the ‘chunnel,’ and will look at you oddly if you call it such.

The ferry allows passengers to board along with their vehicle for one flat rate and ferry across in about 1 ½ hours. Passengers without a vehicle are also allowed to board for an equally appealing cost. Due to rental restrictions, we decided to leave our British car in Britain, and pick up a new rental once we reached Calais.

We boarded the ship with our luggage, much like the boarding of the plane. There were only a handful of foot passengers and for the first 15 minutes, we were the only people on the boat. We took a few minutes to explore the boat and soon we could feel the ocean moving below us. A last look at the sun setting on the White Cliffs of Dover, as we pulled out into the ocean reminded us that we were leaving England and heading somewhere new.

The boys were completely enamored with ferry travel. Enamored, but still hungry. A full service restaurant was available on board, so we went there first. We were the only people in the restaurant for a few minutes, but once we were underway, the passengers from the cars below came up to the main deck and joined us.
After dinner, we roamed around the boat a bit. The boys spent most of the time playing in the children’s area. Outfitted with TVs running cartoons and toys of various kinds, it was a hit. The space and the ability to roam around was a great change to the car and airline trips. I found myself wishing that all travel could be as jaunty as the ferry, until I felt a familiar seasick feeling. Luckily, the trip was almost over and before we knew it we were disembarking on French soil in Calais.

The formalities of traveling from one country to another were to be attended next. We needed to pass through customs,have our passports stamped, and call a taxi. Also, there was the matter of the language changes and money changes. The ticket agents were kind enough to call a taxi for us and helpfully informed the taxi dispatch that we were ‘grande famille avec beaucoup de bagages’ (big family with lots of bags).

Travel weary, but happy our large family with our tons of baggage (really only one suitcase per person) dragged ourselves to the waiting taxi. Another week, another country, another adventure awaits.

The Elusive Canterbury http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/07/the-elusive-canterbury/ Sat, 07 Mar 2009 05:42:00 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/the-elusive-canterbury.html

Some things are just not meant to be. Canterbury and its famous Cathedral have been on my list of travel must sees since college. During my junior year, I found myself needing a literature class. The only choice that would fit into my packed schedule was medieval literature. I found a great attachment to Canterbury Tales in that class, and a pilgrimage of my own has been a desire since then.

In 2001, we traveled to England, and I had carved out a day for us to tour Canterbury. When we arrived, we discovered that a funeral mass was taking place inside the Cathedral, and the town was mostly quiet. We stood outside the door of the Cathedral, and listened for a while. Gary took a few pictures of the exterior of the Cathedral, but ultimately we had to leave without the complete tour. I vowed that I would return to Canterbury another time, as I left slightly brokenhearted.

Our ultimate destination on this day was the cliffs of Dover, and a ticket on a ferry across to France demanded that we arrive in a timely fashion. On our way though, we thought we could squeeze in a visit to Canterbury Cathedral. There were already two problems. We had spent longer than intended at Bodium castle, and it had taken longer than anticipated to arrive in Canterbury. Then the only parking we could find was at least a mile from the Cathedral. With only a minimal amount of time left, Gary was hurriedly unloading kids, cameras, and strollers.

“There’s not enough time,” I told him. “We can do it,” he insisted as he continued to unpack the car. Practically, I reminded him of our timeline. “You just go then,” he said not wanting me to miss Canterbury again. I thought about it briefly, but in the end decided it was not worth missing our prepaid tickets on the ferry to France.

As we drove away, I could see the spire of the Cathedral in the rearview mirror, and I watched it disappear with a heavy heart. “We’ll have to come back again,” Gary said cheerfully. Maybe the third time will be the charm for me and Canterbury.

Off the Beaten Path to Bodium Castle http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/06/off-the-beaten-path-to-bodium-castle/ Sat, 07 Mar 2009 04:06:00 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/off-the-beaten-path-to-bodium-castle.html

I’ve always wondered what it was that made travelers want to explore off the beaten path. Everyone seems to be trying to get there, even reading books that tell them where to go. But just what is off the beaten path, and why should I want to go there?

Today, we ventured off the beaten path in East Sussex, and discovered Bodium Castle. The castle itself is relatively small, and very little is known about the history. It is of interest to most people because it has a perfectly well preserved exterior with all the major components of castle architecture. Our interest in Bodium castle was merely photographic. I am currently working on curriculum project that includes Bodium castle in the lesson plans and some research and photographs were needed for that purpose.

If you conjure up an image of a quintessential medieval castle, it is likely to look something like Bodium Castle, complete with a spring fed moat. Although it is lovely from the outside, I had read reviews that the interior was somewhat destroyed, and expected that we would make a very short visit before continuing on to Canterbury.

Let me just say, the castle exceeded all our expectations. Upon arrival, each of the boys was given a backpack that was filled with goodies to help them explore the castle. They excitedly dug into their backpack, pulled out the bright red costumes, and marched into the castle. The backpack contained a laminated kid friendly map of the castle. At each stop, a flip chart in the backpack instructed which items were to be taken from the backpack, and gave suggestions for free play with each item.

Our first stop was the kitchen and dining hall. Although the walls were somewhat damaged, it was easy to see where the large stone ovens and fire pits had once stood. The boys needed no instructions. Backpacks went flying off their backs, and they pulled out the wooden bowls and spoons. Soon, Mom and Dad were the honored guests at a ten course medieval feast. All of the boys hustled back and forth between the kitchen and the dining hall, serving us bowl upon bowl of medieval delicacies. The broken walls were no hindrance for their imagination. In fact, the interior state of the castle seemed to make it easier for them to explore.

After stuffing our bellies in the dining hall, we climbed the spiraling staircases up to the bedrooms. A brief exploration led us to a garderobe (a toilet, for you modern folks) and a couple of the boys were brave enough to take a seat. Because it was a slightly windy and cold day, it was not hard for us to imagine the chill factor involved in actually using a stone toilet. Hand puppets were pulled out the backpacks for a bit of impromptu theatre in the castle bedrooms before we headed back downstairs.

Before we knew it, our brief stop for pictures had turned into hours of exploring the castle. Interestingly, the boys all agreed that it was the best castle we had seen so far. Both Warwick and the Tower of London had by far more hands on and polished exhibits. On paper, either one of those castles would by far be more impressive. But Bodium Castle offered a freedom of exploration that made it the winner in the eyes of a child.

So, if ever we have the opportunity to travel off the beaten path again, we certainly will. In fact, we might go out of our way to find where the path ends and some hidden gem begins.

A Perfect Day at the Tower of London and Shakespeare’s Globe http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/05/a-perfect-day-at-the-tower-of-london-and-shakespeares-globe/ http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/05/a-perfect-day-at-the-tower-of-london-and-shakespeares-globe/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2009 02:06:00 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/a-perfect-day-at-the-tower-of-london-and-shakespeares-globe.html

Occasionally, the stars align for a perfect day of family travel, and our last day in London was just such a day. After the flops of the two previous days, we needed a little something to end our travels of London on a high note. The Tower of London was the perfect start to this perfect day.

Before leaving home, we had studied the history of the Tower of London at length and discussed all the things we would encounter during our visit. Again, I happily took full advantage of the resources available for families on the web.

At the boys’ request our first stop was the Crown Jewels. We had printed a family trail to guide us through the exhibit, which began with a movie showing the coronation of Elizabeth II. Then we passed through a room housing all the heraldic banners of each of the monarchs of England from William the Conqueror to the present. I was impressed that the boys remembered some of the heraldry we had studied before leaving home, and excited that they seemed to at least pretend to be interested in learning.
The White Tower

Our next stop was a tour of the White Tower, the centerpiece of the Tower complex. Our first stop was the mechanism that allowed the portcullis to be raised and lowered. My little scientists were fascinated by that, and it was obvious that they would have loved to give it a spin.
The Portcullis

Inside, we saw Henry VIII armor, and were impressed to note that he was indeed a very large man. A variety of weaponry was on display, as well. I indulged the boys in a few moments of silly behavior as they pretended to get various parts of their body stuck in the cannons.
The armor of Henry VIII

In the subsequent rooms, hands on exhibits of all kinds were available to try out all manners of medieval weapons.
Ryan tries out his archery skills

Aidan takes a turn at the joust.

After this, it was lunch time. We settled in a courtyard under the White Tower to eat our picnic lunch. I was armed with various pieces of paper to use as an impromptu history discussion while we ate. There is a great education quote by Katrina Gutleben that says “Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” If I am brutally honest, a good portion of the information that I throw out is much like this. I just hope that one or two bits land in the proper place and stick. Something about being in the Tower, and experiencing the history with all our senses made the boys interested in learning. So, I offered them a feast.
Reading about the Tower history as we enjoy our lunch.

We discussed all the history of the tower, sometimes talking over one another to share information. Gary and I knowingly exchanged a glance that reminded us each why we travel and the benefits that we reap as a family.

After lunch, we explored the Prisoners exhibition, the tower containing the graffiti of the prisoners, and the Tower Green, where you can see a memorial to those who had lost their lives in the Tower. All of these were slightly grisly, and thrilling to a group of little boys.

The tower complex is quite large and requires much walking up and down hill, so a rest and a snack were in order. Our snacks brought about a huge collection of pigeons that swarmed around us, hoping we would share. Evan, AKA the Pigeon Slayer, began a hilarious attack on the pigeons. Holding out his arms he would run wildly from one side of the path to the other to detour the pigeons from landing in our area. This display was enjoyed by all, except perhaps the pigeons who eventually gave up and found an easier target.
The Pigeon Slayer

At the exit of the Tower complex, several men dressed in medieval garb were standing in the moat demonstrating a collection of medieval weapons. They were practically begging passersby to come down into the moat and try out the weapons. We definitely did not need to be asked twice. The weapons operators were hesitant to allow the boys to operate the weapons, so at first we just stood and watched. They were helping a group of giggly young women to fire a ballista loaded with a water balloon. When the ballista fired, the ladies missed the enemy targets set up in the field and the balloon fired backwards and back onto them.

“Now how are you going to fight,” Evan quipped, “you just killed all your own men.” The weapons operators found that to be so humorous, that they instantly relaxed their concerns and invited the boys to try out the weapons. The boys launched rubber balls from several different types of weapons, and I am happy to say all of their missiles fired in the right direction. Aidan was a bit too small for weapon launching, so he served as the videographer.

Continuing our day of good fortune, we took the tube to St Paul’s Cathedral and had quick tour of the outside, but chose not to pay the ticket price to enter.
St. Paul’s Cathedral across the Thames

Just a short walk across the Millennium Bridge, which sways substantially as you walk across, was Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Once again we had prepared for the visit by learning as much as we could about the Bard and his famous theatre, but we were not prepared for what awaited us. Normally, guests are invited on a guided tour of the facility. On this day, there was a practice in progress for an upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet. So, instead of the regular tour, we were allowed to sit in the upper boxes and watch the rehearsal.

Because of my background in theatre, just to tour the Globe is an excitement, but to see a show would be pure bliss. However, the two times that I have been in London, I have never been able to see a production at the Globe because young children generally don’t sit quietly for a Shakespearean play. The opportunity to watch the rehearsal was thrilling, but still the problem of whether the boys would sit quietly remained.
The stage of the Globe Theatre

 Not only did they sit quietly, they sat enraptured. The costumes, the language, the pageantry, it was all as thrilling to them as it was to me. Delightfully, we were not just tourists at the Globe; we were participants in an Elizabethan theatre experience.

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Famous Queens and Infamous Kings http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/04/famous-queens-and-infamous-kings/ Thu, 05 Mar 2009 01:39:00 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/famous-queens-and-infamous-kings.html

Famous Queens and Infamous Kings were the order of the day. First, we toured Windsor Castle, the residence of Queen Elizabeth II. The boys enjoyed the tour and especially enjoyed the opulence of the State rooms. Mostly,they wanted to catch a glimpse of the Queen. Even though I assured them that they would likely not see the Queen, they still spent the whole tour looking around every hidden corner. We did not linger at any one point in the tour too long, and we opted to skip the doll collection in hopes of keeping their attention. Honestly, I would have enjoyed seeing Queen Mary’s doll collection, but with a group of boys that cover their eyes for ‘girl’ commercials, I decided to take one for the team.
Windsor Castle

After we had toured the castle grounds, we turned a corner and saw a guard changing ceremony in progress. Jokingly, I suggested we find a place to watch the ceremony, but before the boys could run away screaming, I let them off the hook and suggested we go to a park down the street instead.

After lunch at the park, we drove to Hampton Court Palace to explore the home of Henry VIII. I had done much research about Hampton Court, thanks to the wonderful resources provided for children on the website  As an aside, I have been so impressed the focus provided for education at the sites in England. Also, I have a personal tie to the castle, as the Cardinal who originally owned the castle is a part of my family tree.
Hampton Court Palace

The visit, though, was somewhat disappointing. Most of the castle involving Henry VIII was unexpectedly closed. The ticket office offered us a pass to return another day and tour the castle for free, but would not be useful to us. We did our best to salvage the visit. We explored as much as was possible. The boys really enjoyed the garden maze and made quick work of finding their way to the end of the maze.
Posing proudly at the end of the Garden Maze.

At the suggestion of the ticket office, we checked out one of the two audio tours designed for kids. I had high hopes for that, as the boys had such fun with the audio tours at the baths. The tour was designed to take us through the Victorian era of the castle. In each room, a segment of the Victorian lifestyle was explored and then we were offered a multiple choice question that we had to key into our handset. Room after room, we found it impossible to choose the right answer. We even tried to cheat the system, and each of us picked a different answer. We were still all wrong. The boys were getting more and more frustrated with the system, and were even starting to take it personally. The final insult came in the last room when they answered the last question and the prerecorded voice demanded that we knew nothing and instructed us to get out and never come back. That sent Ryan running from the room with tears in his eyes, and Evan was not far behind with just as much frustration. Perhaps it was designed to be funny and the cultural differences were lost on us, but it was not received humorously by these boys.
The Gardens of Hampton Court Palace

On our way out of the exhibit, we saw another group entering with their headsets. “You don’t what you’re getting yourself into,” Ryan warned from across the courtyard. That was an excellent summation of our day, I think. Despite my penchant for planning (or overplanning), there were things that just didn’t go the way we had hoped. Ah, well. Conventional wisdom has it that a bad day on vacation is better than a good day at home. I tend to agree.

Major Sites, Minor Muntiny http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/03/major-sites-minor-muntiny/ Wed, 04 Mar 2009 01:20:00 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/major-sites-minor-muntiny.html

When I am planning my itineraries, I try to strike a balance between activities that are educational (but maybe stiff), and things that allow kids to be kids with a good fun factor. I knew as the day started that we would be pushing the limits of stiff and educational, but there was no way to tweak it. So we just had to go with it.

Our first stop was Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guards. We were early enough to get a viewpoint that was right on the gate so that the boys could have a front row seat. It was about 30 minutes of waiting before the guard changing began. If you have had the opportunity to see the Changing of the Guard ,you know that it is full of pomp and ceremony. It can also be a little monotonous.

So, a group of guards march through the gates and into the courtyard with a band playing a jaunty little tune. At this point, the boys were tolerating the experience fairly well. Then, the exchange of guards begins with a series of marching back and forth. This is where they began to contemplate mutiny. “Moooom, this is boring!” “Can we go?” We looked around to see if we could escape, but the crowd was pressed all around us, so we were stuck.

I tried to explain the purpose of the Guard Mounting, but it was too late. After 30 minutes of waiting and another 15 minutes of marching they were d.o.n.e. So, I stooped as low as I could go: little boy body humor. Desperate to salvage the situation I began a running commentary a la Mystery Science Theatre on the ceremony in front of us. As the guards marched back and forth, I made comments about bad breathe, body odor, and at one point made up a very rousing little ditty involving dog’s sniffing each other’s hind ends. With chagrin, I must admit that it worked because the boys giggled their way through the rest of the ceremony.

From there, we enjoyed our picnic lunch in the park next to Buckingham Palace and then we walked to Westminster Abbey. With great fortune, we arrived at Westminster Abbey just as Big Ben was chiming 12 noon. Although that was enjoyable, Westminster Abbey was the nail in the coffin for the day. I had printed out a trail to follow like the ones that had been so popular at the British Museum, but today it was a no go. The older boys completed the trail, but they did it with a sideways glare towards me the whole time. They were unimpressed with the coin that the gift shop presented them as a reward for completing the trail. Luckily, they both smiled nicely and said thank you.

Outside the Abbey, the boys let their true feelings out. “This is the worst day ever, Mom” “This is so boring.” I figured I could give them a lecture about how everything doesn’t have to be entertainment all the time and they needed to be grateful for the experience, blah, blah, blah. Instead, I just smiled and said, “Well, boys Dad and I decided that we were going to try to bore you to death, and since you haven’t died yet, we’re just going to have to keep trying. What shall we do next? Do you want to go back to the Changing of the Guards? Maybe we could do another trail at Westminster Abbey?” As we walked in the shadow of Parliament, we all broke into peals of laughter, and once again we heard the chiming of Big Ben. 

P.S. We ended the day with a swim in the hotel swimming pool and I am pleased to announce that no one in this story was harmed by boredom.

Warwick Castle http://sandbox.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/02/warwick-castle/ Mon, 02 Mar 2009 19:46:00 +0000 http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2009/03/warwick-castle.html

10:00 Enter the gates of the castle and pause for an irresistible photo op in the stocks

10:10 First, a quick tour of the lovely chapel and then a tour of the Great Hall and State Rooms, including the armory. Plenty of arms to test and try out to thrill a little boy’s heart

10:30 A tour of the Kingmaker, a wax presentation that shows a medieval village preparing for battle. Very realistic with sights, sounds, and smells that draw you into the experience. Here, a worker asked if the boys were missing school and Ryan said, “No, this is school.”

10:45 Climbed as fast as possible up the stairs of the motte and bailey castle. Mom, being 8 months pregnant was the last to reach the top. The view from here is spectacular and the boys have a bit of playtime with the sword in the stone.

11:00 Back to the entrance to enjoy our picnic lunch in the castle themed wooden playground.

11:30 The boys sit and play games along the moat as we wait for a tour of the castle to begin.

11:45 Short tour of the defenses of the castle

12:00 The dungeon, very dungeon-y

12:15 A mad dash up many flights of stairs to walk the parapet. Evan is named the “Stair Conqueror” for his ability to rush to the top before everyone else. Mom, still pregnant, brings up the rear.

12:45 A quick tour of the Victorian era house that shows wax figures preparing for a party. Very boring compared to the parapet and the dungeon, I am told.

1:00 A short walk into the Peacock garden. We pause momentarily to watch a falconry presentation.’

1:10 Face to face with a dozen spectacular peacocks. Off in the distance we catch a fox chasing some peahens into the bushes

1:20 Tour the Garden Conservatory

1:30 Arrive just in time to watch the firing of a giant trebuchet

1:45 Begin the long walk back to the entrance.

2:00 Pleading and begging work to encourage Mom and Dad to visit the gift shop.

2:30 Three boys emerge outfitted with swords, maces, and all other manners of medieval weaponry. Fake battles are staged with full sound effects as we head under the portcullis and back the modern world.