This past weekend found us in London again, using the flat that old family friends have generously allowed us to use. The flat is in Battersea (south of the Thames, West of the city), and has two bedrooms. We took the train down on Friday late afternoon. It was a direct trip and only took an hour. I was impressed how both Annika and Zachary knew exactly how to get from King’s Cross to the Underground, zigzagging through the crowds through the correct doors.
The kids are getting too old to share a bed, but somehow we got them to do it again, though there was a lot of drama before they decided to shut it down and go to sleep. All our other planned trips have the kids in their own beds, thank goodness.
We began our Saturday by visiting St. Martin-in-the-fields church in Trafalgar square. In the crypt there is a gift shop and a cafe (of course). There is also a place where you can make brass rubbings from old grave covers. They are actually plastic replicas, but they are as close as you can get to an authentic rubbing without getting thrown out of a church. Plus this is easier with children. We chose Richard I and King Arthur to rub.
Next we crossed the street to the National Gallery. Last time here we went to the National Portrait Gallery, which is around the corner from this gallery. Inside here are obviously lots of paintings, many by famous artists. In fact, there were many paintings that the kids recognized right away from pictures they have seen in books. As opposed to the Portrait Gallery, which had few security personnel, this place was chock full of them! Taking photos was impossible unless you wanted to get shouted at, which we saw happen to plenty of other tourists. Van Gogh, Seurat, Picasso, Degas, Klimt…they were all on display.
My kids mildly impressed me by trying their best to read about the paintings that caught their attention and to actually look at the art. I can remember as a kid how museums meant that I had to be quiet and could not bounce about, both of which my kids struggled with but managed to do without angering me. Outside of the museum things were different. Zachary is in this phase where he needs to treat his world as a parkour (parcour?) course, jumping and bouncing off the world around him. I found it humorous when he ran into strangers when he was unable to walk forwards in a straight line. I got just plain tired of trying to correct his actions.
Of all places to eat we found one called the California Burrito and Taco shop, or something like that. It was not too expensive, the portions were huge, and they sold Sierra Nevada! I asked for the hot salsa, plus the hot peppers, knowing that we have not found much spicy food over here aside from vindaloo. My burrito was sufficiently spicy for sure. Beers here are quite good as long as you are looking for Real Ales as opposed to the macro brews. Again, though, they are not hoppy at all so it is all about the subtle flavours.
We then decided to be original and go window shopping. Alas, this was London, and about one million other folks were thinking the same thing. We walked through Harrods, which felt like Disneyland, then over to Covent Garden, which was also incredibly crowded. Here, though, there were street artists to watch and Christmas lights to inspire us. We did not see many stores having sales which was a surprise. In the states I would expect to see lots of items on sale, or at the least a sales rack. Not in the stores we saw, and the prices for clothes are not cheap. We were told to not bring too many clothes because we can buy here. Well, they cost a lot more. I am not a big shopper, but there was an Original Penguin shop and a Fred Perry one, and both were full of clothes I really liked. The prices were just too high to pull the trigger on anything for myself. We all got a few trinkets here and there, but no big items. Just getting around and eating cost plenty. Funny about the ATM machines, I put my card in and money keeps coming out. I wonder when it will stop?????
Sunday was spent with one destination, the Science Museum. We spent all day here and it was worth every moment. So much to see and the kids loved it. A kind of history of science, from Alchemy to the modern space programs. The displays were enormous, there were many hands-on areas, and the history presented was quite captivating. Big, open, and inviting. Highly recommended.
At one point I was reading some science history on a display, and the comment was made that British science progress peaked for them around the late 1800s-early 1900s. After that, it was stated that the Americans and the Germans were the countries to step up in the field of science and have been at the forefront ever since. The placard concluded that Britain may not be at the top of the science ladder anymore but they are tops when it comes to the security and quality of living for its people. Hard to disagree. I can say that I have seen only one person begging for money since I have been in England, and that was last Saturday night in London. Back home in Portland, homelessness, poverty, and unemployment are easy to see in the community.
I love to teach science because I specifically do not have all the answers. Sure I have some, but I would rather learn from the students than just tell them what they should discover. I have been surprised that the British children I am teaching this year are not as embracing of “the unknowns of science”. Most of this is probably due to their age, as they are a younger bunch than I am used to teaching. Yet many of the older students are also quite frustrated with having to discover things or experiment on their own. They are not as inclined, as I would have hoped, to try and discover things without a teacher’s guidance. I will continue teaching science my way and I hope that their desire to discover and experiment increases throughout the year.
Both kids wearing their ubiquitous pink and blue jackets. These will definitely not come home with us in August.