Friday, November 13, 2015

Day 92: Reunion and Chocolate

I forgot to mention that last night, Chris finally came home around 11pm from his evening out with coworkers... BUT, hadn't eaten dinner yet! They went to a bar for drinks and he had a few fries, but that was it. The locals were fine and just went home. But, the Canadians and Chris were hungry and wanted food. They went in search for a place to share a bite. All the restaurants were closed. They asked one closing establishment if they could recommend a place that might be open... pause... a shake of the head, no!

We had heard about how London shuts down around 10pm. We've seen how the parks are chained close by dark and now Chris has seen first hand that there is no food later in the evening. Such a change from Berlin where people START dinner at 10pm. To be fair, the area we are staying in, here in London, is heavily made of financial institutions and businesses. We're guessing, that other areas of London are open later into the evening, if not all night, but here, nothing. So, Chris came home hungry and ate out of our sparsely-filled refrigerator.

Friday. Good morning. Woke up to a street cleaner today. Not too bad of a noise and somewhat temporary. Chris and I have noticed that there is a "lawn mower" noise, some mornings, that goes on for an hour or so. Trouble is... there is no lawn. So what the heck is going on out there for an hour every morning? We're stuck in the half annoyed, half "too tired to investigate" modes, so we'll go without knowing.

Time to give Venice her next dose of antibiotics. She keeps it down and samples a little jello and water. She is still not feeling better. Her tonsils only seem to be getting bigger, causing her so much anguish trying to swallow. And, of course, when you're sick, you produce so much mucus. So, she's spitting a lot to avoid swallowing. Ugh. But, it seems that her body has stopped reacting so strongly to the medication. She periodically takes the second medicine we were prescribed (it's for pain and fever) as she gets feverish off and on.

The rest of us have a bit of breakfast. Chris goes to the café at the front of our aparthotel (we got lunch from here the other day), to grab a few caffeinated beverages for us. Jokes on us. Mine was so bad, I threw it away and went back to Nespresso (thank goodness we have that in our room!) Might not be the best espresso in the world, but it's consistent, which I appreciate.

Ok, time to head out for the day. Venice has decided to skip this morning's activities and to rest. Xander, Chris, and I head out towards the Science Museum. I have a friend from high school who is currently living in London with her family. We catch glimpses of each other on Facebook so we know a little about each other's current lives. She noticed we were traveling in Berlin and asked if were coming to London. When we said yes, we were both excited to plan to meet up. Due to the timing of our visit, her son (age 6) will be in school, but her daughter (almost 2) will be with her. And, due to illness, Venice will stay home, but we'll bring Xander. The Science Museum is where we agreed to meet. Just a few Tube rides away (and it's not rush hour, so it's not too bad).

Inside the Science Museum with my high school friend and her daughter.

Side note: I think I've conjectured that London didn't have family prices and that everything was super expensive. While some of this is true, I have found to be wrong on many occasions. There are a lot of places that do offer family pricing, which can save a bit of money. I have also found that many things are FREE! For example, today. The Science Museum is free, only donate if you want to (which we do). Many of the museums, here, are free. Incredible. This makes up for the fact that other places, like the Tower of London, will cost us 60£ and the Eye will cost us over 100£. Anyway, I had to point out that I was wrong and there is a lot of free activities to do out there. My high school friend mentioned she brings her kids to the museums a lot for something to do on a rainy day.

The Science Museum is cool. Lots of buttons to push and exhibits to see. It's a bit dark inside, as they covered most of the windows, I guess to not bother the displays or cause heating, but it makes for a bit of a dark museum.

My friend and I catch up as we keep up with her 2 year old. Chris and Xander head off to explore together. It's a great way to catch up after not seeing each other for over 20 years.

After a good time in the museum, it seems it's "school field trip" day as hoards and hoards of kids come in wearing their neon vests (just like the kids in Berlin!) The noise level increased and it was humming with kid energy. Good time to leave!

Science and Technology building (top-left), Street view (top-right)
Royal Albert Hall (bottom)

My friend led us towards Hyde Park (on our list to see) via the Royal Albert Hall (which was mostly because the other end of the park had a demonstration of some sort going on we were trying to avoid). Hyde Park is bigger than I thought. It's very expansive and serene. It's flat with a lot of open space. Not too many trees.

At one end, there is a great park for kids (the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground). It's gated, and my friend says that on nice days (or weekends) it can get busy. Not so busy inside, as they cap the numbers and, as a result, you may be waiting in line just to get into the park. But once in the park, due to limited numbers, it's not too bad. Crazy! There are many different sections to explore. The sandy area. The little kids area. The slide area. The pirate ship area. The musical area. All separated by trees and bushes creating a wonderful cozy feeling. Today, since it's threatening to rain, there aren't too many people here, just a handful, and Xander, for the most part, has all the equipment to himself (which is a bummer, because he misses Venice).

As we look at some of the equipment, my friend tells us that it's less litigious here. Sounds like the U.S.'s reputation for suing over everything isn't unfounded. Just like in Germany, know your boundaries, don't do anything stupid and we'll all be ok.

"Time Flies" (bottom-left), a friendly-fat squirrel (bottom-right)

Our tummies tell us it's time to head to our tea time. My friend had reserved a table for afternoon tea at The Orangery Restaurant (Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park). I don't know how it compares to other afternoon tea venues, but it's fancy feeling without feeling overly pretentious. The light coming in through the windows illuminate the white walls and tall ceilings beautifully. We sat at our table just as a windy storm blew threw. The rain was crazy heavy, which only increased our comfort at being inside in such a pretty (and dry) place. And the storm didn't last. By the time my friend's husband joined us, the sun was back and there were patches of blue skies.

Tea at the Orangery Restaurant

It was a great treat to be having afternoon tea with someone whom I hadn't seen in over 20 years. Somewhat weird, too. Right? It's fun, though, to see someone again, after all this time, after we have all "grown up. A really nice afternoon. Even Xander said he wasn't too bored as he listened to us talk all through tea.

Of course, I thought, a museum and tea, we'll be home by 1pm. Ha! We got home around 3:15. Venice was doing ok. We had Skyped her in the middle of our outing to ask her to dose her own medicine. She did this successfully and was still resting when we returned.

After a bit of rest, it was time for dinner. We decided to try another noodle place (a big chain restaurant, here) and head to M&M World. Venice wanted to come with us. She rallied and to help her out, we took a taxi to dinner, to minimise the amount of walking she would have to do.

A funny translation
Dinner was pretty good. My dinner took longer than the others. Something we've noticed, here in London, is that food often comes out when it's ready, not when it's ALL ready. So, for example, first Venice got her food. Then, a few minutes later, Chris and Xander got theirs. Then, much later, they came and said they were sorry, as mine was taking a bit longer (Why don't you enjoy this "on the house" appetiser while you wait?) We've seen this "staggered" delivery of food on several occasions. Just not what we're used to.

Venice attempted to eat, but could only do a few bites of gyoza and several edamame beans. The rest of us made up for it and got overly full bellies.

M&M World is only a block away from dinner. We head there slowly with Venice holding onto one of us as she walks. I'm not sure we were prepared for the bight lights, scented air (sugar? vanilla?), and the loud-cheery Christmas tunes on the four floors of M&M products. But, we looked all around and the kids ended up filling their custom bags with the fun colours available.

An M&M flag.

There was a line where you could get a personal message or emoji or shape on the M&Ms of your choice (from a limited selection of blank ones). We passed on that (expensive and time consuming). You could also ask for something specific to be put into a specific container (for example, I'm guessing, as we didn't look too much into it, only red and green M&Ms in a London-Red-Phone booth container). Your order would go to a few people working behind glass and you could watch them make it right then and there (I'm guessing you had to wait for this too). We passed on that too. Just a few bags of hand selected colours for us. Our carry-out bag was so tiny compared to the large ones everyone else seemed to be carrying out (they must have gotten the slippers, backpacks, hoodies, and more).

One of the walls of M&Ms (top-left),
which is a semi-circle but looks like a wave because of the panorama.

On a sugar-smelling high, we decide to try to head back to Trafalgar Square so the kids could see it too. It's only a few blocks away and you can catch a glimpse of Big Ben. Venice seemed ready to try, so we went for it.

The kids at Nelson's Column.

After enjoying a few lights and sights around Trafalgar Square, we were ready to head home. A wonderful day (albeit tiring for Venice). Home for the evening, ready for more rest (and medicine).

The kids playing with the pointing fingers.

P.S. If it's not rush hour, the Tube can be ok. We are almost alone in the tunnels... crazy!

The tunnel isn't too crowded (left) and the Way Out is empty! (right)

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