Friday, June 26, 2009

So Much To See

This is our illustrious second-born daughter, Sam, pretending to fall out the window from our fourth floor kitchen window. I love this photo because you can see my view while I do dishes.

We are resting our weary feet in the water fountain at Trafalgar Square. I didn't know London had such
beautiful blue skies.

Can you believe we saw this exquisite Leonardo da Vinci painting at the National Gallery? It was breathtakingly beautiful, but I know this poor photo does not do it justice. But I feel so blessed to have seen his work up close, not a copy, but his work. I could have looked at it for hours.

A lion at Trafalgar Square. There is a reason I am taking the pictures and not up there with the family. It was quite high.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Life at 27 Palace Court, London

Hawkins Family current conditions:

Jet lag: Over, as in done with, finished, bye-bye, phew! Killer.

Lost luggage: Arrived yesterday, enormous relief.

Flat: Old-fashioned tiles, woodwork and moldings, huge windows, shelves and shelves of books, mustard yellow carpet with funky patterns in it! Up four flights of stairs at the very top. Double killer, especially with groceries!

Weather: Sunny and 70s, with a lovely breeze blowing. Usually not this nice, say the Londoners. Stays light until 10 pm and then never gets that dark. Sun starts rising again at 4 am, due to how far north we are.

Neighborhood: Eclectic, urban, exciting, multi-cultural, cool European cars, great ethnic food, shops of all kinds and theaters.

Kensington Palace and Gardens: Five minutes away, with a lovely Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, people playing soccer, jogging, biking and hanging out.

Adrie: Moved into the dorms with all the other students who arrived today. Seems happy to have 35 new girl friends and five potential boy friends. Sammie a bit sad to see her go, but is going to hang out with them sometimes, she says.

British Museum: Mind-boggling. Spent two hours there and saw a small fraction of the collection. The beauty is we can go back another time for another few hours and not feel like we have to cram it all in one day. Marvelous mummies and ancient jewelry.

Londoners: Exceedingly polite and courteous, but drive WAY TOO FAST! Sheesh! And on the wrong side of the road.

Arcadia: West End play we're seeing tomorrow. Don't know a thing about it.

Food: Expensive, expensive, expensive. Super-creamy yogurt and yummy dairy products. Tiny paper towels and no such thing as paper plates. Napkins come in packs of 50! We can use 50 in one day. We need to cut down on our consumption of napkins, we are such glutinous Americans.

Diet Coke: Weak, funny aftertaste, tiny cans. A Big Gulp would last a Londoner for weeks! No such thing as caffeine-free, poor Ellen, just has to drink the real stuff. Boo hoo, cry, cry, cry.

Ice cubes: Rare, nearly non-existent. A definite luxury. Most Europeans drink their drinks semi-cold or warm. Or hot.

Tube: (subway) Convenient, cleaner than New York's, but no less crazy. Officials had to stop one of the lines today to investigate a person who was down in the tracks.

We are: Happy, relieved to finally be here after thinking about it for over a year, excited for the fun days ahead, pinching ourselves that we are all here together in this fabulous city.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Loving 'Lanta

Hi y'all. We've made a little stop in Atlanta, or "Lanta" where the weather is like an Amazon sauna with nary a breeze in sight. When we asked the shuttle driver if it was always this hot (knowing full well the answer) he said, "Yeah, that's just summer in Lanta."

The heat wraps around you like boa constrictor, making you drip like a leaky faucet all over the clothes that you have to wear again tomorrow because all your stuff is on a plane to London.

Why are we in Atlanta, Ga, home of peaches, the Braves and Jimmy Carter? Well, we opted to get bumped off of a very delayed, overbooked flight last night in order to get $600 Delta vouchers for each of us and first class the next day to London. That meant we didn't get to the airport Marriott until 1 am. That we didn't go to bed until nearly 2 am, but also that we got to sleep in a bit and chill this morning.

We are the only white folks (and are we white!) for miles around. This is good for my Utah County suburban kids who see a person of color about once every few years.

We are hoping our luggage made it to London last night, and that they have it tucked away waiting for us. I am not holding my breath, because that would be just too good to be true, icing on our British tea and cakes.

We had a huge lunch on Delta airlines and since it too hot to really do anything we will head back over to the airport soon.

I'm thinking Hawaii in February with those vouchers! Anyone know anyone cousin's sister's Dad who has a condo there?

Almost to London, by way of a toasted fried flounder sandwich and some ice col' lemonade!

Bye y'all.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Down to the Wire

We leave for London in less than 48 hours. I have known about this trip for over a year now, but it's never really real until the clock is ticking away and there's lots of things left to do and I appear to be the only one in the house who is taking it seriously. My big issues getting ready for this trip have been the following:

1. It's too cold and rainy to go to the pool. What? This is Utah. I know. I wanted a day to bask in the sun before I hit cold and rainy GB. Oh well. It's better for the skin. You don't see Londoners with wrinkly, leathery skin. There' a reason for that: clouds. And maybe lack of outdoor pools. I'll take milky and creamy over leathery any day, but the sun still feels like good therapy to me. The kid's Seven Peaks passes are sitting here for Aunt Amy to use for her kids when she comes to stay because they expire before we get back. Have fun Greg and Matt!

2. Shoes. I have been on a quest to outfit the family with good walking shoes. This has involved multiple trips to multiple stores. I now know fully every store in this valley. Some I would have preferred not to ever know, but in a quest to find a "deal" I about killed myself and my family in the process.

Forcing teenagers to think about good-quality walking shoes has been a huge burden. Their idea of good walking shoes is flip flops, or white athletic shoes. OK, flip flops are against the study abroad rules for obvious reasons. But athletic shoes, for all I have read, just sort of brands a person as "HELLO, I AM AN AMERICAN TOURIST. I BET YOU DID NOT KNOW THAT. I WANTED YOU TO KNOW THAT I AM FROM AMERICA, THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE, THE BEST COUNTRY ON THE WHOLE DANG PLANET. JUST IN CASE YOU DIDN'T. BET I FOOLED YOU. HEY, CAN YA TAKE MY PICTURE, DON'T FORGET TO GET MY SPIFFY NEW TENNIES IN THE SHOT!"

My girls aren't like that (sorry girls, just feeling a weeee bit of pressure right now!) But I finally got them sulking and teenagering into one store, and that was the best I could do. They got what they got, and if their feet hurt it ain't my fault. I tried my hardest and I really don't care if their feet hurt in London or in the future.

Yes, I am done with the shoes problem. Darren has yet to think about his own feet, and I'll be damn-waggled (geez, now I'm thinking up new ways to swear!) if I'm gonna tell him he needs new shoes when he clearly says he doesn't. Been down that road before, and that's a Pandora's box in which I will deadbolt.

3. Suitcases. Wow. We look like the Clampett's (as in Jethro, Jed, Granny and Ellie Mae) before they struck oil. Black gold, that is, Texas tea. I think it's one of the suitcases we purchased at a garage sale back in 1993 before we were on our way to Santiago, Chile, to do research about Chile's transition to democracy from authoritarian rule.

While Darren was busy interviewing former, aged members of Pinochet's Junta (team of power-hungry, memory-challenged government officials) I was sad, lonely and pregnant in a foreign country trying to entertain a very precocious two-year old without blowing my brains out. So, 16 years later we're going to London with the same puke-green hard sided suitcase that doesn't shut so well. I think we've used bungee cords or duct tape in the past.

How you get your things abroad is irrelevant, I know, but I just love to compare our stuff to the Clampett's. (Sp?) House, cars, children, pre-oil bank accounts, etc.

4.House. Aunt Amy and Uncle Adam. I love you to death, but because you are staying in my house with your four kids while I am gone I have had to deep clean it to death. To it's grave. Darren says it's "good for me" to deep clean, and that someone staying in our house is the only motivation I ever have for deep cleaning. Yes, it does feel good to have things really clean, it's just that the process of getting it that way sort of feels like I am walking on nails with my bare feet. Amy, It's OK if you are reading this, but I know you're probably not, because you don't tend to get on email that much, but if you are, I hope you enjoy my nice clean house.

5. Medication. Insurance companies suck. They just do. They make you jump through all kinds of hoops (the kind that have fire burning in them) to get a 90-day supply of medicine. Just when you think you've gone through the last hoop without burning anything, they tell you it's impossible. That I can get 30 days with insurance or 60 days if I pay for it out of pocket. But this is 90 days. Heck no, that's way too long, sorry Mrs. Hawkins, even though your doctor and nurse have both called us to explain what you need, we are still saying no, you can't have 90 days, not even if you drive to Salt Lake to pick it up, not even if you empty out your bank account, not even, not even. No and no. Policy, blah blah, no, sorry, policy, no, blah, blah. Oh yes, have a great time in Europe.

What I love the most is this: After they've told me "NO" five times, and they have me feeling pretty much like a pouting three-year old, they have the audacity (no, not the Audacity to Hope, that's too much) to ask if there is anything else they can help me with. I am much too nice to say," And you think you've helped me? How did telling me I can't have my medication help me?" But I sure thought it. And now I'm blogging about it so I feel marginally better.

Check back frequently over the next few months! I'm gonna be posting. Promise.

Pinky swear and cross my heart, hope to die.

Funny joke: