After finally clearing through customs, we found our bags and caught a train to Balham – where we were planning to meet our hosts for the next two weeks – Charles and Maralyn Hassel. Peter had ‘met’ them via email when we’d been intending to come and study – they had responded to a notice Peter had organised to have read in a church about us needing accommodation – and offered for us to stay with them for a few weeks till we got settled. When our plans changed the offer stayed open and so it was wonderful to have them meet us and take us back to their home. They are a lovely couple and took care of us wonderfully. We were exhausted – we were all sick except for Peter, and so we needed a few days just to rest. Charles and Maralyn made us feel right at home – Maralyn even cooked for us most nights which was so like being on holiday! They looked after the kids one night so we could go out for dinner and have a ‘date’! We really enjoyed them, (Amy particularly enjoyed being cheeky with Charles). Staying with them was like coming home!

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Charles and Maralyn – made us feel at home,

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They fed us,

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advised us on attractions and trains,

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let us use their stuff, including their box, er I mean boat

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  and even Maralyn’s drumkit

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They even drove us around…oops wrong car, theirs was a little smaller than this one.

London, once we all felt a little better, was one large sightseeing event. We got home late every night and we all got worn out, but we had a great time. Here are some highlights:

  • Taking Amy to Sleeping Beauty ballet in High Wycombe. We loved it

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  • Spending the afternoon with Dave, Jacqui and Olivia at Nonesuch park. We looked for a geocache which was fun.

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  • The Science Museum. We were there all day – like 6 hours non-stop. Fantastic! The kids loved the hands on activities and so did we.

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The Natural History Museum – Daniel’s all time favourite sightseeing activity of our whole trip so far. The displays were interesting and he got to go to a lecture about extinct birds and later spent time talking with scientist in the education hands on room. We ended the day by going on a “Spirits Tour” and got to see heaps of animals preserved in alcohol (hence the name ‘Spirits Tour”. Elephants trunks, rabbits, moles, giant squid, and mice that had been injected with a substance that made their flesh invisible so you could only see their skeleton (even though the body was still there).

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The V and A museum – Amy and I took a break from dinosaurs and went across the road to the V&A museum and walked around the fashion display – looking at fashions since the 1700.

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We really enjoyed that, and it refreshed us enough (well that and the chocolate muffin refreshed us) to go back to the Science museum in time to join the boys at the hands-on education part. Amy, being more into hands on than just looking at things, loved that room so it made the Science Museum rank as a cool place after all.

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  • Taking a boat ride to Greenwich. We met a NZ women who’d been in London for 8 years – her husband is Spanish so we enjoyed talking about Spain while we watched the sites on the shore)

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Royal sign/banner for the Jubilee on side of a building.

  • Walking around Greenwich and visiting the observatory. Greenwich is a lovely village and I’d have liked more time to explore it. I think that’s a common sentiment for lots of places we’ve visited!

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Touching  a Meteorite

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  • The fan museum – Amy and I visited the fan museum while in Greenwich. It was very small but really nice (the cafe was beautifully decorated with murals on every wall), the feather fans were pretty cool.

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The toilets deserved recognition too -they have deservedly won the loo award:

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  • Walking around Westminster, Prime Minister’s house and Trafalgar Square. Caught a bus but the traffic was so incredibly slow the driver stopped the bus and told us all to get off, we’d get to our destinations quicker by walking! Went to Hamleys – great fun!

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  • The underground – the kids became quite use to it all. Met some interesting people as well.

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  • Tate Britain museum and the National Gallery. Quick art trip to show the kids some of the pictures we’d studied. They were excited to see the “real ones”.

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“Sculpting” at Tate Britain.

  • Had a pub dinner that night which was fun.

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Viewing art all day is thirsty work..

  • Horniman museum – Daniel liked the Natural History section because there were some animals that weren’t in the Natural History Museum. They both liked the instrument section and made up a song and a dance to entertain us and aquariums are always a winner

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  • Walking around Covent Gardens and Leicester Square, and seeing the street performers. Fantastic.

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  • Visiting Number 1 London (Apsley house). Very fancy, the kids loved the secret doors for the servants to come up. I liked the idea of servants and a cord in every room to pull to summon them…
  • Going to the Imperial War Museum. The Blitz Experience scared Amy a bit and she said something that night about not realising that war was all about BANG. She wanted to talk about the second world war and write about it afterwards, so it certainly impacted her, as well as Daniel.

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  • Two things that weren’t so successful – one was, we tried to find our flat we use to live in 18 years ago – couldn’t spot it. The kids made up a chant “No more Sightseeing” which gave us a clue it was time to go home. Second was of course, the Changing of the Guard. Just as impossible to see as it was 18 years ago but probably worse because of the preparations for the Jubilee concert (did you see the concert on TV, it was amazing!)

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Daniel could see their hats from up high..

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All in all, London was great, but the highlight for us all was staying with Charles and Maralyn.

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Sunday roast

We all had such a lovely time, that on the day we left, Amy’s teddy bear, Pinkie, hid under the blankets and didn’t come with us…Luckily, Maralyn collects teddy bears so we know she’ll be in good hands until she can be returned (via post, Amy saying grace the other night, prayed that Pinkie wouldn’t have too bumpy a ride).

(Week 13B-15A: Wednesday, 16 May 2012 – Wednesday, 30 May 2012)