Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Our London Adventure

As most of you know, our life in London is coming to a close. We will all three be leaving here on Saturday. This has been an amazing experience and I know we will look back on it with fond memories that we will always treasure. Although it hasn't always been easy, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I probably have the only two year old in America who can look at pictures, even on a Kleenex package, and identify the Eiffel Tower. We've all been able to experience so much together as a family and have each gained personal strength as well. I know I'll have to work to help Christopher keep these memories, but that what's pictures are for right? Here is a slide show containing most of the pictures we have taken during our time here. Some of them are duplicates from previous posts but some will be new to you. Enjoy it if you have time to watch the whole thing!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

The Church is One Foundation

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am so inspired by worship in other parts of the world. I've now been able to worship the Lord in three different churches while I have been here and I think today's service was the most remarkable. We went to church at St. Paul's this morning. Just setting foot inside the beautiful cathedral is a very spiritual experience, but imagine being in there and hearing a choir sing hymns with a booming organ in the background. It was truly a moving experience. Most of the service consisted of hymns, but there was a short sermon, and then we got to partake in communion. I know that as Christians, our work is never done in spreading the word of Jesus Christ, but it sure is comforting to me to witness how deep the roots of God are, even in other countries.

Unfortunately, we are experiencing technical difficulties with our card reader again and are having trouble getting pictures downloaded. Therefore, I don't have any new pics to post. Actually, we really didn't take that many pictures today. I guess that means I've been here too long if the sights aren't seeming picture worthy anymore!! HA!

Lastly, I have a "what are the chances" story to share with you. Yesterday, we were eating lunch at the Texas Embassy in Trafalgar Square (a decent attempt at Tex-Mex but it really just made us want to come home and get the real thing). After we had been there for a little bit a cute family of four (mom, dad, and two boys that looked to be about 2 or 3 years apart) got seated at the table across from us. I am very intrigued by families with two little boys because I have this gut feeling that I am looking into my own personal crystal ball when I see them. So, I sort of seemed like a crazy person and kept staring a little bit every now and then. I even caught the mom noticing my stares, so I had to force myself to stop. Well, when we were leaving the restaurant, they actually stopped us, to ask us a question and we ended up talking for a bit. Not enough to exchange names and numbers or anything, but polite pleasantries about each other's kids and pregnancies (she was pregnant too). Well, would you believe me if I told you that in a city of seven and a half million people, we saw the same family again today in the service at St. Paul's...sitting about eight seats away from us?!? I mean really, what are the chances??

Friday, 23 November 2007

A British Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home! While the turkey and dressing were missed by everyone, we still managed to have a nice day and we were even able to watch the Cowboy game on TV!!
It has been a great week for us over here. I've had so much fun sightseeing with my parents and exploring London with them. Here is a re-cap of everything we've done the past three days.
We spent all day Wednesday at Harrod's. If you haven't ever been over here and gone to Harrod's it is difficult to describe, but basically it is a shopper's dream world...especially if you have enough money to ignore the price tags on everything. There are six floors filled with all types of merchandise. Everything from clothing and accessories to refrigerators and televisions can be purchased here. It actually started as a food market so most of the ground floor is still a place where you can purchase fine foods from all over the world. We were privileged enough to get to sample some "fine Angus beef straight from just outside Kansas in the states where they feed the cows special corn." I am using the sales lady's exact words here...we all got a kick out of that one!! After we shopped and made a few purchases we enjoyed a delicious gelato sundae. It is a little embarrassing to admit this but just to give you all an idea of the price of things here, our sundae cost $26!! But, boy it was tasty!!

Thursday was another fantastic day! For those of you who read my earlier post about our bus tour disaster, you will be happy to know that we were able to complete the tour and really enjoyed it. The sun was shining and we found seats on the top deck of the bus so we could see everything. We also had a live guide (our other bus had been an audio tour) and we all learned lots of interesting facts about central London. When our tour was over we finished our day at The National Gallery. We all enjoyed looking at paintings from centuries ago.

Edie, Doc, and Christopher on The Original Bus Tour through central London.

Christopher and Big Ben on the bus tour.

Christopher, Doc, and Edie outside The National Gallery.

Unfortunately today, I seem to be coming down with a sinus infection and I haven't felt all that great. Since it was my mom and Dr. Fan's last day though, I didn't want that to spoil it. So we had a leisurely morning and decided to head out for lunch. We took the tube back into London so we could get a real pub experience. We ate at The Sherlock Holmes Pub. The food was delicious, even for British food, and the atmosphere was just what we were looking for...a true pub, just how you would picture it. We did some shopping on our way back to the tube station and even a little more once we got back to Richmond. It was another great day.

We will be taking my parents to the airport bright and early in the morning. I know I will be very sad to see them leave as it has been so much fun to have them here and they both have been such a big help with Christopher...I'm sure you all noticed Dr. Fan has been doing all the baby wearing!! We were expecting more visitors to follow them because my Dad and Dana were going to be arriving here on Sunday. Unfortunately though, my 90 year old "Granny" has gotten pretty sick and my dad needs to be at home with her right now. I'd love to ask you all for your prayers for her as we all know how uncertain life can be especially at her age.

Here are a few more pictures of the fun time we have had this week. I'd also like to add here that on Wednesday, I woke up with some strange eye infection and so I haven't been able to wear my contacts. A little unfortunate that happened while my mom was here as now in most photos we look like the Bobbsey Twins!! Oh well!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

When It Rains, It Pours

Well, it had to happen to me eventually while I was over here for these 6 weeks...non-stop rain and a day full of mishaps and roadblocks. I am happy to report, that I think all involved will eventually look back on this day and think it was a great memory...or at least something none of us will ever forget.

Before you read any further, I'm going to add a disclaimer that this is a particularly long post. Unless you are family, you might find it tedious and a bit boring so please don't feel obligated to read!

We had purchased tickets for the double-deck bus tour yesterday and were anxious to get started on the tour and see all the major sights of the city. We headed down to Piccadilly Circus so we could catch the bus at the beginning of the tour to make the most of our day. As I mentioned, it is raining very steadily so we were not able to take advantage of the top deck of the bus (the best place to really view all of the sights). We took the tour over to Westminster Abbey and decided that would be a good place to get off. We toured the Abbey and really enjoyed ourselves...well, Christopher grew somewhat tired of his stroller in there but overall it was fine.

We headed back to the bus stop so we could get back on the tour and ride over to St. Paul's Cathedral. We were also planning on grabbing a quick bite to eat someplace close by once we got over there. So we stood the rain...and waited for our bus. 50 minutes later we were still waiting and we were wet and hungry. I personally was extremely frustrated that we had paid for this tour that was not living up to its standards. We finally gave up, as we noticed it was now almost 3:00 and St. Paul's closes at 4:00, and decided we should just take the tube over to St. Paul's. So we map out our route and head over to the tube station. Our trip involved just one change on the tube line and that really didn't seem too complicated. Little did we know that we were changing lines at one of London's biggest tube stations. We ended up having to go up and down what seemed like eight rounds of huge tall escalators and winding through the underground hallways. We did all of this at a very quick pace so we could still see St. Paul's before the end of the day. I know this may not seem like much of a hassle, but when you add on the fact that Dr. Fan was also lugging a stroller (that refused to fold up on command) and preggo here, was carrying her 30 pound two year old up and down all these massive stairways, believe me, it was very tiring.

Well, we finally made it and I'm happy to say that we had an hour to spend in St. Paul's, as they don't kick you out until 4:30. Since I have seen the beautiful cathedral before, Christopher and I went to get off our feet and have a snack in the Starbucks just up the road.

So feeling refreshed and a little more upbeat now, we decided to begin our journey home. However, my mom and I were still upset at the fact that we wasted an hour of our day waiting on a bus that was nowhere to be seen. We decided to make a quick stop back at Piccadilly Circus (directly on our way home) to try and get an extra day added to our tour to make up for the afternoon that we felt we lost. Here again, if you know my mother you know how determined she can be in these situations. After somewhat of a goose-chase and talking to three different Original Tour employees at three different places (all of which we walked to in the rain), we were finally given our extra day and we felt very satisfied.

As we made our way back into Piccadilly Station to complete our journey home, I happened to glance at my watch and I noticed that it was now 6:00 p.m. If you are familiar with London at all, you know that Piccadilly is in the heart of Central London and you also know that the vast majority of the people working there rely on the tube to get them home. If you are familiar with big cities at all, you know that 6:00 p.m. is the heart of RUSH HOUR. So here were are: three Americans, one and a half babies, and one stroller being crammed like sardines onto the tube with the entire professional working population of London. If I hadn't already felt so out of place and if I could have actually moved any part of my body to get to my camera, I would have snapped a picture to help capture what this was like for us.

Needless to say, we finally made it home and then enjoyed a nice dinner while we laughed about the adventures of our day. I am so thankful that my parents were here to help me through this one. Had they not been, I feel certain that today might have been a breaking point for me and instead of sitting here posting on this blog, I would be changing my flight to get home as soon as possible.

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday coming up in a couple of days, I'll close with this:

I am very thankful to be an American and live in America.

More importantly, I am thankful to live in the suburbs where I can drive my car when I want to go someplace and not have to deal with public transportation on a daily basis.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Off With Their Heads!

Isn't it insane to think about people losing their lives that way? I mean regardless of the offense, why would anyone think that was an appropriate way to punish? Today we saw where many of these beheadings took place hundreds of years ago, The Tower of London.

The Tower of London has stood on the Thames for over 900 years. Over these years it has served as a palace, a prison, and a royal mint, but today many people come to see it as a living museum of British history. The tower is a truly a remarkable fortress. While we were there today, we took the "Beefeaters" tour, a guided walk led by a Yeoman Warder. As I listened to our guide, I was able to just imagine the way London looked centuries ago. It is so surreal to think about the kings, knights, prisoners, and other ancient British figures who had walked on those very grounds hundreds of years before me. On the lawn outside the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula (a small chapel there on the tower grounds), is the spot where Ann Boleyn was beheaded...some people say they can still see the blood stains.

Our "Beefeater"

Inside what is known as The Jewel House are the Crown Jewels. Behind vault doors, encased in glass cabinets are some of the most beautiful stones you have ever seen set into crowns, swords, and scepters. We saw a 530-carat Star of Africa, a diamond placed on the top of the Royal Sceptre; boy was that a sparkler!! The crowns we saw had so many jewels I couldn't help but wonder how heavy they must be to actually wear on top of you head.

Here we are outside Tower of London, with the famous Tower Bridge in the background.

While Tower of London was the main attraction of our day, we did manage to accomplish a few other things. We saw Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Overseas visitors are not allowed inside those buildings but we took a few good pictures from the outside.

I think my personal favorite for the day was helping my mom experience her first tube ride!! Those of you that know my mother can appreciate what this must have been like for me. While we were waiting for our first train to arrive, she must have asked me three times if we were going to be going underground on this trip. I also had to assure her that the tube doesn't really move any faster than a car at any given time on a route. Really, she did great and I know she enjoyed herself once three teenage British chippies sat down across from us and she was able to eavesdrop on their conversation for the remainder of our ride.

Bus fare to get to tube station = 2 pounds
Cost of Oyster card = 3 pounds
To travel by tube in London for a week = 20 pounds
Being with Mom on her first tube ride = Priceless

Sunday, 18 November 2007

My Fellow Americans

Today was an especially exciting day as we were able to spend it with other family!! Actually, for the next two weeks we will have visitors coming in and out of our London home. They are taking advantage of the opportunity too, and using this a good excuse to come to the UK. My Mom and Dr. Faehnle arrived today and will be here until Saturday. What fun to get to experience this with them...and how great to have the adult company during the day while Cory goes to work!

We spent today in the quaint town of Windsor, home to the famous Windsor Castle, where the Royal Family spends many of their weekends and getaways. The town itself is very charming with lots of shops and restaurants lining the streets. In the middle of the city lies an enormous castle that appears to be out of the storybooks. I was especially interested in seeing this town because Cory looked at several apartments here for us to possibly live in. Although the town is adorable and appeared quite easy to get around in, I am happy to say that I'm glad we ended up in Richmond, where I have complete access to the tubes and central London. The easiest way to and from Windsor is by car and I don't have that luxury over here. So if we lived there, Christopher and I would be trapped unless we wanted to face two train rides before we would even get to a tube station...not ideal for our sightseeing and exploring!

Our morning began with a nice breakfast in a small Italian cafe'. The place was in an old train station that has been converted into an open air shopping center. Then we headed over to Windsor Castle and attended church in St. George's Chapel. What a neat experience that was!! We listened to readings, participated in their rituals, and heard an all boys choir that was just beautiful. Not to mention, the amazing architecture of the chapel. Everything was just so pretty. After the service we took a full tour of the castle including the State Apartments where the The Queen herself occasionally holds special events. We were able to see paintings, wedding photos, and china patterns all belonging to the Royal Family.

Mom, Fan Man, Christopher, and Stephanie outside St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The Locke family poses with one of the castle guards.

Cory had already taken the tour of the castle on one of his previous trips over here this fall. Therefore, we really didn't take that many pictures today. Not to mention the weather has turned very cold and we weren't outside that much. As you might could guess there is no photography allowed in the State Apartments. So if you want to get to see the fine china patterns and royal wedding photos, book your airline tickets!!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Lions and Tigers and DINOSAURS! Oh, My!

Today, Christopher and I ventured back into the world of public transportation so we could visit the Natural History Museum. It was AWESOME!! My little boy could have spent hours and hours just looking at all the life-size animals they had in the Mammals exhibit. However, I think the big winner of the day would have to be the dinosaur exhibit where you feel like you have actually journeyed to Jurassic Park. We saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex that was as alive as any dino can be these days. The T-Rex was motion sensitive so it followed you around the room with its head. Of course, there were loud roars every few seconds to complete the experience. Again, I'd like to compliment my child of no fear. Even though there were several other small children crying, hiding in their mum's coats, and asking to leave; Christopher just had two enormous eyes filled with wonder and then excitement as we walked through the course of the room. We also saw several dinosaur bones and fossils. The whole exhibit was really great.

The T-Rex is behind us here. I don't understand when you ask someone to take your picture why it would not be implied that I would want the dinosaur in the background but I guess I should have specified.

Next, we made our way through the Mammal exhibit I mentioned above. We walked into a room filled with so many life-sized replicas of elephants, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, and an enormous whale hung from the ceiling that covered the entire span of the room. It was quite impressive. I managed to get a few photos of Christopher with the animals but most of the time he was too interested in them to look at me.

We also explored the Planet Earth exhibit, the Creepy Crawly room filled with bugs and spiders, the Bird hallway, and the Human Body exhibit (my personal favorite as there was lots to see about the development of a baby). It was a great day!

On a separate note, I must no longer have the word "tourist" written across my face when I get out among the people here. Twice today, I had someone ask me for directions at the tube stations!! The really exciting part is that I know with 100% confidence that I answered their questions correctly! Well, actually I am only about 75% sure on the second lady, but she had a foreign accent and I had a hard time understanding her. At any rate, it was an exciting moment for me.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Things You Don't See in Frisco, Texas

I was walking down the streets in Richmond and could hear some charming music up ahead of me. I thought to myself, 'How nice, they are already getting festive over here for Christmas.' When I got closer I could actually see that it was only one man playing an accordion!! Do they even make accordions in America anymore? I think my mom and/or my aunt took accordion lessons as a child. Too bad neither of them can entertain us with some music this Christmas!!

Monday, 12 November 2007

We'll Always Have Paris

If someone had told me four months ago that my family would take a quick weekend trip to Paris, France I would have thought they were CRAZY!! However, that is just what we did this past weekend!! It was amazing.

We left London on Friday evening via train, and arrived in Paris around 9:00 that night. Our hotel was a quaint little European hotel, perfect for what we were looking for. The location was great and we spent all day Saturday and Sunday seeing the sights of the City of Lights.

Saturday morning began with an adventure to the top of the Eiffel Tower. All three of us made it to the top...a real triumph for me as most of you know! We ate a nice lunch at a cafe' not too far from there. After lunch we hopped on a bus tour to show us the main sights of the city. The tour allowed you to get on and off at each sight as you wished so this was just perfect for us. The weather was pretty cold so it was nice to keep the walking at a minimum. We spent Saturday afternoon in the Louvre. I think even if we spent an entire week there it would have been a challenge to see the entire museum. But WOW, what an experience to see some of the most famous pieces of art in the world! After seeing more of the city on our bus tour, we ended our day trying to get some good pictures and eat dinner....both somewhat of a challenge in a place where you don't speak the language!! At any rate, here are a few pictures from our first day in Paris.

Sunday morning we headed over to Notre Dame. We ate some breakfast nearby and did a little shopping as well. Then we toured the famous cathedral. It was very inspirational. There was a mass going on when we were there, so to hear the organs and songs while looking around was very moving. We rode on our bus again to see some of the things we had missed on Saturday. We ended our day with a boat tour down the Seine River. It was great to see some of the things that you miss while on the streets.

Our Parisian experience included a two-year-old, as you can imagine, our sight seeing was a little different than perhaps it would have been otherwise. However, Christopher was a real trooper and went two days with a minimal nap in his stroller and didn't have any real meltdowns. We are so blessed with him!!
Here are a few more pictures!

Notre Dame

Cory and Christopher outside Notre Dame.

Yes, this is Christopher STANDING up on his seat on the TOP of the double-decker tour bus. He had gone up there with Cory and I saw the picture later. Nice one Daddy!

So Baby Locke will one day know that he/she has been to Paris too!

Our little romantic moment.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Burgers and Butterflies

In general, I am a huge lover of food. Pregnant, I am an even bigger fan of things that will satisfy my almost always growling tummy. Unfortunately, the British have a different idea of what people eat than what I do. If you have visited here before, you know what I mean. Well last night we discovered the BEST burger place...even by American standards. I realize some of you may find it strange that I would decide to blog about food, and this may even be true, but it was a good burger!! Here is a picture of Christopher and me enjoying a tasty milkshake at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen.

On a more serious note, Christopher and I visited Kew Gardens today. This is a 300-acre botanical garden owned by the Royal Family. It is home to some of the most extraordinary plants on the planet. The grounds were truly beautiful, even though the weather wasn't that great.

Today I decided to abandon the stroller and do the baby-wearing again. It is so much easier getting downstairs in our apartment (there is no "lift" here), and getting on and off the bus and train. However, wearing my 30 pound boy does start to hurt my back eventually so Christopher was a real trooper today and he did lots of walking!!

As you might imagine, he was not too interested in the exotic plants, although the leaves and trees were a real treat for him. We spent most of our time there in the "Climbers and Creepers" playground, a unique interactive indoor botanical play area. He had a great time on the slide, playing in the dirt pit, and watching the butterflies.

I know there were lots of areas I didn't get to see of the Royal Gardens but at some point you have to decide whether you are there to sight see or entertain your child!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Mum or Mom?

Today I had the opportunity to see what the local stay-at-home-mums do with their kids. The church we attended last Sunday hosts a group called The Little Bunch, a playtime for toddlers and mums. It operates on a "first come first served" basis, accommodating around 20 mums and their kids. So I headed over there around 9:30 this morning to see if there were any spots still available, and there happened to be just one left when I got there.

We met in the church from 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. There were a variety of toys and activities set up for the kids and chairs lined the walls for the mums to sit in. Here's the part that I really got a kick out of. About halfway through, a sweet little old lady came around and took tea or coffee orders from all of the mums Then we moved into another room and had tea and biscuits!! (the kids had juice or water, not tea) It was great. All the kids sat around a table in chairs and enjoyed their biscuit and juice while the mums stood behind them and sipped their tea. I really wanted to take a picture but I was already feeling foreign enough and I didn't think snapping a photo like a tourist would help me out.

I was glad I went. Christopher seemed to enjoy the interaction with the other kids. He gets tons of that at home and for the past week his only friends have been his Mommy and Daddy. At any rate, the mums over here do basically the same thing we moms do in the states...they just get to do it with a really cool accent!!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Do You Believe in Coincidence?

I personally, do not. I believe when "coincidental" things happen that the Lord is trying to show you something, answer a prayer, help you see something in a different way, etc.

Well, if you have talked to me much at all about this London adventure, you would know one of my biggest hang-ups was how I was going to get around the city with my two-year-old. I mean the tubes here are great transportation but they are not exactly stroller friendly. After these last few days of sightseeing here in Richmond I was really getting antsy to explore some other areas. I mean, I am in London after all and there is so much to do! The biggest problem with this is to go beyond Richmond means to take the public transportation - a bus or train.

I finally decided that I would take Christopher to the Science Museum today. We would need to take the bus to the train station and get on the tube, but I would not need to change lines or anything after that. All we would have to do would be ride the train several stops and it would end up where we needed to be. No problem right? No problem except for the massive amounts of stairs that make up almost every tube station in London...and I have a stroller with me.

Well, wouldn't you know that as soon as I arrived at the Richmond tube station (the starting point of my journey) I came across two other young mothers complete with multiple toddlers and multiple strollers!! We mommies like to look out for one another, even across the Atlantic, so they were so sweet to help me get my stroller down the stairs, through the gates, and onto the train. If that wasn't enough, they were also headed to the Science Museum and they were able to help me again once we got there and point me in the right direction to all the great kiddie activities.

Like I said, I don't believe in coincidence. We serve an amazing God who continually helps us out in big ways and in small.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Blisters and Birds

Most of you know that I recently walked in the Breast Cancer 3-Day. A 60 mile walk that takes place over the course of three days. Although this preggie did not walk the entire 60 miles, I still managed to make it for about 40 or so. That being said, I only got ONE blister the entire weekend and it didn't come until day 3. Interestingly enough, I have somehow accumulated THREE blisters walking around here the last two days. Yesterday I'll take the blame, as I wore shoes that were sure to create blisters in only a matter of blocks, but man they were cute! Today however, I wore my most comfortable shoes and after a short walk, I was hobbling home only to find yet another one had sprung up. Can anyone explain this?

Also, I have discovered a new fear. I have several strange fears that some of you may or may not know about. Among them are fire, no escape, wasps, and I think I mentioned in an earlier post deer. Well today I can add birds to that list. I took Christopher down to the Thames River this morning to see some boats and feed the swans. Well all you have to do is simply lift the bag you are carrying and birds from all over the place swarm you instantly. I'm sure anyone watching me had quite the laugh as I hurriedly gathered up my son and our cheerios to escape the mass of white and grey wings flapping in all directions.

Christopher on the other hand, has no fear of animals at all, thanks to his Memere' and Grandad's farm. So I couldn't disappoint him and leave right away when I had been talking about feeding the swans all morning. So we found a nice spot near the water where the birds were at a minimum and we could feed the swans as intended. He had a ball. I couldn't get him to take his eyes off the birds for a minute for the pictures but here are a couple that I snapped.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Thank Goodness for Weekends!

Everyone looks forward to a good weekend right? We spend our whole week counting down the days until one gets here. The best thing about the weekends when you are new to a foreign country, you have a two year old and another one on the way, is that your husband will be around to hang out with you!

On Saturday, we drove up to Oxford and did some sightseeing there. I think our favorite thing there would have to be Christ Church. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you might recognize it as Hogwarts School. The grounds there were absolutely beautiful. The round building you see on the right is Radcliffe Camera, built in 1749 it is a reading room for the Bodleian Library (not pictured). We kept thinking how interesting it would be to attend college in a place that is also such a tourist attraction...Lubbock, Texas doesn't quite attract a big crowd!!

Today, Sunday, we went to church at a small church Cory had attended a couple of weeks ago. The people were very welcoming and friendly. I think it is such a neat feeling to worship in another country. It is a great reminder that God is so much bigger than our own everyday worlds we live in. After church, we took Christopher to Richmond Park. The park is the largest open space in the entire city of London. It is filled with wooded areas, open grassy areas, rugby fields, and tons of DEER!! The deer traveled in herds and were in several different places in the park. Some of them were quite friendly. King family members, I now have a new definition of deer fear!! Amazingly, you would completely forget you were in the middle of a huge city here. It was a great time!