Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The London Eye

One of the first things that caught my eye when I moved to London was this big ferris wheel type of thing that was on the south side of The River Thames. I soon came to found out that it was called, "The London Eye," and was quite the popular tourist destination.

There is ALWAYS a line at the London Eye. So standing in line to buy tickets for it and then waiting in line to ride it is quite the task and takes a lot of time. But we soon found out that if you buy them online, you can skip the ticket line and then only have to go through the waiting line to ride it. Plus buying online saves you a couple extra pounds. This is what we did when my family was in town. Plus my parents got a senior discount which saved some extra money as well in addition to the online discount.
We had quite the experience. I can't believe that it was our first time there because Nate and I live so close to it, but the cost always held us back. It gave us a great view of all of London. I guess that is why they call it the London Eye.....and we could see everything. It is only a 30 minute ride and the capsule that you are in only goes around once. It hardly feels like you are moving. We took lots of good pics and had a great time. It was over before we knew it. 30 minutes flew by so quickly! 
We saw some great views of Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the street where we live, the sand volleyball area that they are using for the Olympics, and of London in general. Here are some of the pictures that we snapped from up in the air.......

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hamlet at The Globe Theater

My favorite thing about living in London this past year is all the theater that we can see for so cheap so easily. I absolutely love that. So when my family was here, I wanted them to be able to share in the London theater experience too and enjoy the shows that I have enjoyed watching. When they were here they saw Shrek, Matilda, Lion King, Wicked, Mousetrap, and Hamlet and The Globe Theater. 

The Globe Theater is an amazing place. The original theater venue was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's Playing Company but it was later destroyed by a fire in 1613. A second and almost identical building was built in 1614 and then closed later in 1642. The one that stands today was built in 1997 and is an almost exact replica of the original theater built in 1599. 

There is no roof on the building! They still hold shows when it is raining, which would suck for the people that are standing. The standing seats are only 5 pounds a person! So cheap. We got side view seats for 15 pounds a person which was still a steal deal. Our view wasn't that great but it wasn't horrible either. It was just really entertaining to be the theater and to experience and watch the real Shakespeare experience!

Now I am not the biggest fan of Shakespeare by any means. I always had a hard time understanding what they were trying to say and wishing that they would just talk in normal English so I could understand. But I did enjoy a few of his plays and found value in the others. I have always wanted to visit The Globe Theater in London since we moved here just so I could see what it was all about. I know that Shakespeare was a really talented guy and all......so I wanted to check it out and see if my love for him and his work could grow. 

Here are some pictures of the theater from the inside.
So I am sitting there "enjoying" the play the best that I could. Sitting from the side wasn't the best idea because we missed a lot of it. But it was still entertaining. Then I look over to my left and I see something. A navy coated homeless person sitting next to my sister Anna. Then I realize that it is my mother! I guess she wasn't enjoying Hamlet that much.......here is a picture so you can see what I mean......

Saturday, June 23, 2012

More Youngs Having Fun in London

After being in Wales for a few days, we hopped on the train and got back to London on Saturday night. My family was here for 4 more days and we completely wore them out! I wanted to make sure that they could see everything that there was to see in the short time that they were here. So here are some pictures of the last few days of their trip......

-Tayyabs- Pakistani Food- So spicy yet so good!

-Cafe 338- A highly rated breakfast place on Urbanspoon- We got some good old fashioned English breakfasts! This usually consists of sunny side eggs, rye toast, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, sausage, rashers (like bacon but more like ham) and black and white pudding. Anna and I got the vegetarian version.... 
-Harrods- We didn't have much time here so they all got to the bottom floor which is the food floor, but we got to taste and look at lots of amazing chocolates, jams, cheeses, and other goodies. Yum! They bought lots of European chocolate to take home to share with the family. 
-Hamley's- A 5 story toy store, probably the coolest, biggest toy store in the world! The best part is the gummy candy section on the top floor where you fill up a cup full of all kinds of gummies as full as you can get it for only 4 pounds!
-Lion King- My favorite show on earth! Nate didn't spend as much time with us these last few days because he was at home stuck studying for a test. Sad. It wasn't the same without him. But Lion King was amazing. Anna and I had box seats, on the opposite side that Nate and I sat in last time, and Mom and Dad had center middle seats. Everyone loved it! Here is Anna and I before the show waiting anxiously for it to start......

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wales Castle Hunting

When something makes the cut to be included on the list as one of the, "World Heritage Sites," you already know that it is worth going to and seeing. Some of the coolest things that we have seen around Europe have been on that exclusive list. 

While we were in Wales, we decided to go castle hunting and check out some of these World Heritage Site Castles that were just a small drive away from us. With Nate driving and a GPS, we can pretty much do anything. So our first stop was Conwy Castle in Northern Wales. Here is a picture of it from the freeway from inside of our car.....
The cool thing about this castle was that the whole castle surrounded the town and the town was enclosed by the castle walls. You could walk around the whole town while still staying on the castle!
Pretty much every castle that we have been to has these little tall narrow openings around them. They are for defense and protecting the castle and city. The soldiers would stand in these little areas and put their bow and arrow through the hole to shoot at the enemy that was attacking them. Here is a picture of Nate pretending to shoot people with his "bow and arrow" umbrella.

Next is a picture of my cute parents on the castle wall. They were troopers and good climbers too up all the narrow circular staircases.........

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Family History Work in Wales

After about four days of being in London, my family and I headed off to Wales for a few days. Like I said in the previous post, my mom is very much into family history work. She is working on her dad's family line and they are all from Wales. So she really wanted to travel to Wales to see where all these people lived that she has come to know through her research. 

Getting there was a bit tricky......we missed our train by 2 minutes. We didn't leave the house soon enough! So after running and hurrying as fast as we could, we finally got there but found out that we had just missed it. But luckily we were able to catch the next train that left 30 minutes later and we sat in first class because those were the only seats left. So it all worked out! They treated us well with free lunch and everything. 
 After arriving in Chester, we rented a car so that we had easy access and freedom to drive from town to town as we pleased. My mom would decide what town she wanted to visit and then we would drive there and explore around. We would also find old churches and see if there were any cemeteries  around them that we could walk through to find our ancestors burial sites. My mom knew what town each ancestor died in so she would tell us what names to look for. We mostly looked for Simons and Parrys.
Some of the grave sites that we found were really overgrown! We could barely walk through them! There were rabbit holes and ditches. A frog hopped right by my feet in one of them and completely startled me to death. All I could think about is how my sister Mindy would be dieing if she were here because she is completely terrified of frogs! I am not as terrified as her but I don't like them hopping around my feet. Sick!
 There were lots of beautiful sites in Wales and everything was so green! It was very peaceful. I thought this picture captures a lot of what we saw while we were there with all the sheep in the background and the rolling hills. Gorgeous.

The sheep were everywhere and their fields didn't have any fences to keep them in! The sheep were allowed to roam freely even across the busy roads. I am surprised they don't get hit. 
 This was a hidden beautiful cemetery that we came across unexpectedly. It was completely deserted and the graves were so old. We could barely even read any of them. But it was pretty in there. It was like we came across this secret garden.
We didn't ever find any graves that we were looking for because most of the graves that were in the time period that we were looking for were unreadable and had moss grown all over them. The only readable ones were the newer ones. But we still had fun and had lots of family time together. Plus, my mom got a feel for where these people lived which made her more excited to continue with her family history work when she got home. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Day Out With Thomas

My mom is passionate about many things in life. She loves her family, her grand kids, her friends, her phone, her computer, a clean house, healthy weight watchers food, the gospel, sewing, cooking, dipping chocolates, crab meat, ruby red grapefruit, creme brulee, politics, the news, American Idol, Bachelor........

But her new love is something that she is EXTREMELY passionate about and if you know her at all, I am sure that she has talked to you about it at some point. 

Family History Work. 

My mom loves researching about her family and filling in her family tree. She loves learning about her ancestors, where they lived and what they did for work. She loves feeling that connection with them. Recently, my mom has been working on her dad's ancestry, the Simon line. They have a Welsh background. So my mom's dream has been to go to Wales and visit the little towns where they were born, lived, and were buried. 

So after being in London for a few days, we headed off to Wales. We actually stayed in a small English town called Chester. It was just a short drive to the border of Wales and England. 

I will do another post later about the towns that we visited but first I wanted to share my favorite thing that we did while in Wales.

We rode an old fashioned steam train! That is why the title of my post is called, "A Day Out With Thomas." This is one of the top tourist attractions that people participate in when traveling to Wales. 
 This was so cool to me! They actually use coal to run the train! 
And I thought they only did this in movies and books in the olden days...... :) 
 Aren't my parents so cute?
 We felt like we were in Harry Potter, with the platforms and the little rooms on the train that you sit in. The train driver even yelled out in a loud voice, "All Aboard!" when we were ready to leave the station. 

The steam was so thick! Here is a picture of Nate's head popping out the window while the train is moving that shows the steam in the background......

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Family Visiting + London= Great Memories!

I love living in London but there are times when I really get homesick for my family. Using Facetime to talk to them makes things better but sometimes you just wish that you could see them face to face in person instead of through an Iphone screen.  

I have been anticipating the arrival of my parents and sister since we booked their airplane flights a few months ago. They finally flew in on June 3rd super early in the morning. Nate and I rented a car and went and picked them up at the airport. It was so good to see them!

We have been doing many fun things and staying super busy so I have kind of been slacking on my blog recently.....but I thought I would update you with a few pictures that we have taken so far on their trip. I think we have been having a little too much fun. :)

-Laduree at Covent Gardens-
We went in for some hot cocoa and pastries and they were divine. Laduree never disappoints me! And of course we got some macaroons to go.......It was their first time trying them and they loved them!
 -A View of the River Thames and Some of the City-
 -Tower Bridge-
 -The Tower of London-
 -Afternoon Tea at The Athenaeum Hotel-
What a fun little afternoon this was. We got to lounge around in these comfy couches for 2 hours while they brought out different courses and pampered us with finger sandwiches, scones and crumpets with jams and clotted cream, desserts and pastries and their hot cocoa and herbal teas. Yum!
 -The British Museum-
I think that my dad was the most excited about going to this museum. He was fascinated by the Rosetta Stone especially and asked me to take his picture by it. He never requests pictures. :) When I asked him what part of the museum he wanted to go to first, after listing off some of the different sections, he said without hesitation, "Egypt!" He was very excited to explore through the Egyptian section. After we were done, Dad got a Rosetta Stone tie to take home with him.
-Riding the Tube-
 -Pierre Herme French Macarons-
These are the best little treats ever! Some of the flavors we tried that day were chocolate passion fruit, chocolate carmel, cherry pistachio cinnamon, vanilla bean, and salted carmel. So good. I think my family is hooked just like Nate and I.
Stay tuned for my pictures and stories to come! :)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Southbank International School

Moving to London was a huge step and came with a lot of stress. The first two weeks were the worst, and looking back, I don't really know how we got through it. We didn't know anyone and didn't know who to trust or ask questions to. We couldn't find a place to live or anything that was even in our original budget. It seemed like everything was taken. We were paying so much money in hotels and jumping from hotel to hotel dragging our luggage all around the city. We couldn't register for cell phones and cell phone plans because we didn't have a permanent address. We didn't have Internet to look stuff up on or do any research with. We were constantly lost without GPS so we wasted a lot of time. We couldn't get a bank account without a permanent address as well. It was all just a huge mess......Good thing we had each other or I think we would have cracked!

Once all that was settled, finding a job was my next stress. Registering with the teaching agencies took a while and was a pain but finally happened. Before I new it, I was out teaching in the London state schools. Some days were easier than others, but there were definitely some rough ones. 30 children per classroom with 1 teacher can really take a toll on you at times, especially when they are disrespectful and defiant!

Then Southbank came around, the hugest blessing in my life here. It has been so much fun to work here and to be involved in this amazing school environment. 

Southbank International School is amazing. It is unlike any other school that I have come across, and also unlike any other tuition fee per child that I have come across! :) (Like over 20,000 pounds per student) In the picture above, it is the white house in the middle. It is an old victorian house that is gorgeous. All the classrooms are odd shapes and it doesn't have your typical "school building" feel to it. The children do a Suzuki music program and each child is required to pick either violin or cello to study. They do group music lessons as well as private lessons throughout the school day and after school. Also, each class studies Spanish at least twice a week. They also have amazing art, music, P.E., and library programs where they kids get to explore and learn with hands on activities. Each class is only 12-15 students so there is a lot of room for one-on-one attention to each child. They teach the children to become little adults through independent learning and problem solving, where they are allowed to discover for themselves and do their own research and findings. The teacher is more of a guide than a dictator. 

The think the one thing that I love most about this school is how International it is. The students are from everywhere and most of them speak at least one other language other than English. Most come to school their first year without knowing English at all and they just pick it up from their peers and from being in school. It is amazing. It blows my mind to hear all of these students speaking different languages and sharing with each other about their home countries. I can now say that I have friends from literally all over the world!

They hold this fun event called, "International Night," and the students look forward to it all year long. They all bring food dishes to share from their home countries and dress up in costumes. They have a big social gathering and perform dancing and singing to represent their native culture. The kids get so excited to be able to share their culture with others. 

Here are some pictures of the event while they were setting up:
Then just today while I was at school, the children participated in a, "Home Language," town meeting. They all sat together in their language groups from their home countries. Then they shared a movie that some teachers made of recording some different students of all grade levels speaking in their languages and telling about how their culture is important to them. Then the music teacher led all the students in the song, "Are you sleeping, are you sleeping? Brother John, Brother John....." We sang this little song in all the languages that are represented at the school. It was a really neat experience.

Working at Southbank has surely been one of the best experiences of moving to London. I see teaching in a new way now and hope to use what I have learned in my future classrooms. What a blessing to be able to work here in London at Southbank! I have loved every minute of it!