Friday, January 6, 2017

England Part 5: Last Day and Crazy Stressful Part of Coming Home *edited with new pictures*

Our last day in London was spent in Westminster Abbey and the National Gallery of Art.  We also stopped by to see Buckingham Palace and the changing of the horse guards.  Considering we did all that plus eating meals is pretty amazing.  Out of all of it, we spent the most time at Westminster Abbey.

There we had audio guides which Drew seems to LOVE and it helps keep the kids focused and engaged.  They also were given a worksheet to complete and it could be turned in at the gift shop for a small prize.  They worked together in small groups and made friends with one of the gallery assistants who helped them a lot and was impressed with their knowledge and even spelling.  The latter surprised me since the girls spelling is questionable.

One of the most notable things to see in Westminster is the coronation chair.  At the Tower of London where the crown jewels are kept, we had watched a video of Queen Elizabeth II on her coronation day being crowned in that chair in 1953.  After seeing that, it was more impactful to see the same chair in the video from more than 60 years ago.

There are a multitude of kings and queens of England's tombs at the cathedral as well, including the famous Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.  There is a section in the back that has tributes (stones with their names and dates filling the walls and floor) of famous poets and writers.  The kids enjoyed finding some of the authors they know.

They have their worksheets with them.

After lunch
we went to the National Gallery to specifically hunt down a few key paintings that we wanted to see in person. When I say "we," I really mean Hannah and me, since we were the most excited about it.
Happiest she'd been for the sum of the trip!
We saw the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait by Jan Van Eyck, the section by John Constable (one of Hannah's favorites,) and a good amount of impressionist and religious art for me.  My back (from carrying Bobby,) feet, and leg were killing me, so this was less enjoyable then it could have been.  That said, I am glad we made it to the important parts we wanted to see.  These museums have so much in them that you'll never see it all.  It's better to focus your efforts especially when carrying around a nearly 25 lb load all day every day of the trip.

Stopped to snap a photo of Big Ben and Little Ben (who I call Judah, but his dad and Genna call Ben/Benjamin)

 Then we went over to the changing of the horse guards, which is not to be confused with the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.  It was a quick ceremony.  Not much to say about it, really.

It had been a long, full day and consequently it was dark by the time we saw Buckingham Palace.  We took a break in front of it to rest our feet.  After that we finally made it to an Indian food restaurant just in time for our trip to draw to a close.

Once we got back to the apartment it was late and  time for the kids to go to bed, especially the little ones, so I quickly and miraculously got Drew, Judah, and Bobby to sleep in our bedroom. I had been putting then all to bed in our bedroom and then moving Drew into the living room most of the nights so he would go to sleep faster.  My kids just do not do well with too little sleep.  Every night they all fell asleep within 5 minutes because they were so worn out from the long days.  This night was no exception.  The dads left to go to a pub, and I jumped into the shower. Remember that we only had one bathroom so I had to take one when it was free.  While in the shower, a loud alarm starts going off.  I hurried out of the shower after I got the shampoo out of my hair to open the door and ask what was going on.  It was the fire alarm, but she said it was possibly a drill or false alarm.  However, once she'd poked her head out in the hallway and smelled smoke we decided we should evacuate to be safe.  I had to wake up my three sleeping boys, who had up to this point completely slept through the whole noisy affair.  It was a little chaotic getting all ten of their coats and shoes on hastily.  I, by the way, had a towel on my soaking wet, blue hair.  We stood downstairs in the lobby for a bit and then were told to wait outside.  It was a false alarm.  Someone had tried to smoke in the lobby and set the alarm off.  The fire department never came, but they called and were on the phone helping the residents turn off the alarm.  Once it was off, we returned to the apartment to start the bedtime process over again.  Luckily they were so tired, they went back to sleep easily.    Unbeknownst to us, this was a foreshadowing event.  The next day would bring more disasters.  That was only the beginning.

At the Indian restaurant, Brian had worried allowed that he was afraid of oversleeping or something going wrong with getting to our flight on time the next day.  I scoffed at this because who sleeps in on the day of an international flight besides people in movies.  Home Alone is not happening to us.  I don't oversleep.  We both set our alarms on our phones for 3am.  We had to be at the bus stop at 4am or something like that (already had tickets.)  All our stuff was ready to go and most of us slept in our clothes.  We just had to get everyone pottied, shoes and coats on, grab our bags, and go.

I'm sure you feel it coming.  We so overslept.  I had woken up coughing at 2am and went back to sleep, but I guess I was just getting into that deep sleep again and didn't hear either of our phones for the 15 minutes that they said they went off for.  Neither did Brian, Bobby, or Judah who all slept in the same bedroom.  It had been a long, exhausting trip.

So we woke up at 5am.  Our flight was at 7:45am.  We'd totally missed our bus.  We panicked.  Brian threw on his coat and ran to the train station and the bus station to try to find a taxi.  I got everyone up and completely ready.  Brian wasn't back yet, but I went ahead and brought our luggage and everyone to the lobby to wait for him.

In the meantime, Brian had asked the first taxi he saw and had been told that he wouldn't go that far.  The next guys aid he'd take us, but we wouldn't make it.  He said our only shot was to take the first taxi to the Liverpool station and take the express train to the airport.  So Brian shows up with the taxi and we literally pile in and throw our luggage in the seat next to the driver.

When we get to Liverpool, buy the tickets, and somehow manage to get through the turnstile (yes, Hannah and I got stuck!  How are you even supposed to do that with luggage anyway?)  We get on the train and are all sick to our stomach, praying like crazy.  Next turn of bad luck, it wasn't the express train.  We had asked three different people and they all said it was, but it wasn't.  When the train made it there, I have no idea what time it was, all I know is that we were running through that giant airport like crazy.  I had Bobby on me and some bags.  Drew was holding my hand.  He just couldn't make it carrying his backpack like he had on the way in when we could go at a more normal pace.  I had to take his backpack too.  I was way behind Brian because my legs would literally not move any faster than I was going with so much weight.  I was pulling Drew along and he was crying the whole time.  It was very crowded and the security line was long.  Of course, this is the one country that takes airport security seriously.  Next turn of bad luck, I had missed many liquids when repacking.  Nearly every backpack of our eight bags was flagged and had to be searched.  We told them to just throw it away.  "We are afraid we are going to miss our flight.  Whatever you find, just toss it.  We don't care."  So they did, because the alternative was to test each item.  Then it was off at running speed again to make our gate before they closed it.  We made it when the line still probably had 30-40 people left to get on the plane.

Sitting down on that plane was an amazing feeling of relief and thanksgiving.  Nothing Bobby did on that flight could have fazed me.  I was just so glad that we didn't miss that flight.  It isn't unheard of for there to be no other options the same day for another flight, or even the next day.  We'd have been in big trouble because Brian had to be back at work the next morning.  So glad he was able to be.

In the van, on the way home, Genevieve told us that she had promised God she'd spend an hour praying in her room when she got home if we made it.  And she sure did.  It was extremely stressful, but we were so, very, incredibly happy to have it turn out well in the end!

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