Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rule Brittania, Brittania Rule the Waves

14 - 17 July 2011


We met Katie and Heath in London for a four day weekend. When I asked Katie why London, she told me about a great deal Delta had. If you ever need anybody to get you the best airline fares ever, call Katie. The excuse (as if we needed one) for getting together was to celebrate the joint birthdays: Katie 27 on July 11th and Greg 64 on July 1st. 

When we met in the hotel, it was like Christmas in July as we opened the large checked bag they brought us full of essentials from home (Starbucks coffee, ziplock bags, mascara, etc.) and they opened the bag I'd filled with goodies for the kids and the baby (silk ties and scarves from Asia, elephant pictures and mobile, a jungle picture I painted, etc.)  Santa, you've been replaced.

The first day we were there, I seriously thought we had boarded the wrong plane. The sky was blue and the sun was shining. This certainly wasn't the England I knew!

But, apparently it was. And Katie's 7 1/2 months pregnant glow outshone the sun. (When I posted something akin to this, Katie claimed it was just the rain. I pointed out that the rain didn't start until day two. It was the pregnancy glow.) And Heath is so proud and protective.

We scuttled around London on the tacky tourist tour. Big Ben? check. Tower of London? Check. London Eye? (only photos from a distance - none of us were going to actually ride the thing) Check. Millenium Bridge? Check.

We saw the outside only of Westminster Cathedral and St Paul's Church. They are now charging 18 pounds (almost $30) per person to get in. But they still have signs up saying that pictures are forbidden to respect the holiness of the places. I think that's just a little hypocritical, don't you?

Katie showing the description of what we would have seen inside Westminster Cathedral if we hadn't been so cheap ... I mean, principled.

St. Paul's. At least I think it is. I got confused after a while and Katie wouldn't let me look at the map.

This was just inside the door of St Paul's. Rebel that I am, I ignored the sign about no photos and popped this one.

Katie showing her bummed face about the entrance fees. Oddly, Heath seems to be glaring at Greg as if it's all his fault.

Greg had bought a new telescopic lens on eBay which the kids brought over. He had a blast photographing birds in St James Park.  (I've told him he needs to get in lots of practice because I don't want our grandchild's pictures to look like the unfocused, underlit photos of Baby Katie.)

This coot had the most bizarre feet. But, everytime somebody gave him a bit of bread, he headed right over to his wife ...

... who scarfed it down as she headed back to her nest. Awwww.

I think this is where the term "hissy fit" came from. These two geese stalked, heads down and hissing, towards two other (different species) goose interlopers. Unfortunately for them, the other guys were bigger and totally ignored the aggression.

Katie is such a cute pregnant person! I said something about the Baby Bump and Heath retorted, "It's way more than a bump now ... more like a mountain." So Greg and I started to call the baby "Alp".  Katie was not amused.

I discovered that Zurich has seeped into my very bones. That first day, I was surprised to find myself repeatedly saying, "Well you won't see THAT in Zurich!" (dog poop on sidewalks, excessive litter, sidewalks so buckled they are a litiginous lawyer's wet dream).

Not everybody complied ... including the bird who pooped down the front.

One thing Heath really wanted to see was the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace -  which to my mind is one really boring albeit huge stone building. The day we went, it was pouring rain. When we arrived, the place was a sea of umbrellas as tourists swarmed like bees to the honey of the change. Fortunately, I spotted a bobby and asked him where he recommended we stand. He told me he had just been informed that, beccause of the rain, it would be a "wet change" (doesn't that sound like something you'd do with a baby?) and there would be basically nothing to see. We slinked off before the thousand or so other tourists got the word.

We did take this picture of a quick change the day before.

While on our way to the Tower Bridge, we passed an exhibit of newborn rituals from around the world. I was happy Katie and Heath don't live in Spain.

What if the guy's a clutz?

Katie and Greg, the official navigators in the group, spent a lot of time with their noses in maps while Heath looked clueless and I took pictures.

We spent a lot of time on the "Tube" and buses.

We also ate. Lots. Indian, Lebanese, Continental, Chinese and good old fish 'n chips.

Signs in England continue to amuse me. I made sure to "mind the gap" as I exited the "tube".

We saw a few very strange buildings.

London's response to the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

Rocket? Giant Phallic Symbol? Faberge egg?

Heath was very impressed with the advertising found in the traditional English "call boxes".  Katie had to bring him back into line.

Of course, it really wouldn't be London without the rain. Greg stood drippily in line to get half price tickets to the We Will Rock You musical, based on songs by Queen. For Greg and I, it was our second time seeing it and we enjoyed it just as much the second time as the first.

London was the place Katie chose for our rendezvous but it really didn't matter if it was London or Hicksville. What was special about this trip was being with each other. As Katie rather wistfully put it on our last night together, "This is the last time we go on holiday when it will be just the four of us."

There will soon be a priceless little person in my life that I shall love with every fiber of my being, just as I loved his/her mother. But this little person will not be my own. I will have to learn a new role, something akin to the bridesmaid standing in the shadow of the bride. That thought is bittersweet. But I know that Katie and Heath are going to be totally awesome parents.  And I know something else ...

I'm going to be the best damn grandma ever!