Thursday, June 30, 2011

Peter Pan

Dear Grace,

Daddy and I took you on your 3rd Adventure Walk through Kensington Gardens this past Saturday after trying to get into Wimbledon (for our 2nd time). We woke up extra early to find out the queue was 9+ hours long. After all three of us relaxed, took a nap and were a little productive we headed out on this next adventure. I feel blessed having you as my travel buddy while I explore London. I only wish you were a little older so you could remember our adventures. Hopefully you will love reading these stories with me in a few years.  Enjoy.

Love, Mummy
Walk #17: Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens
"The Adventure- Explore Kensington Gardens with one of the most enchanting children's characters, Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. The author, J.M. Barrie, lived just across the road and walked here daily with his St. Bernard dog, Porthos. It was on one of these strolls, in 1897, that Barrie met two of the Llewellyn Davies brothers, George, aged four, and his brother, Jack, aged three. This was the start of a life-long friendship and the inspiration for Barrie's stories. The admiration was mutual. To young George, Barrie seemed 'singularly well informed on the subject of cricket, fairies, murderers, pirates, hangings, desert islands and verbs that take the dative.'

Discover your own Neverland in a world of make-beleive games at Kensington Gardens, the ideal place to let any lost boy's, Peter Pan-sh children with 111 hectares/275 acres to run wild in and thousands of trees to hid behind. As well as your bows and arrows, a model boat, and a copy of Peter Pan, take along your swimming things because, in the summer, you can plunge into the Serpentine for a swim."
Exit Queensway station, cross over Bayswater Road and enter the park through Black Lion Gate. On the right is the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial playground (which we will visit later). Look out for the elfin oak, a gnarled and partially hollow stump, carved with fairies, elves, and animals."

(Oops...we skipped this step became we walked to Kensington Garden from home so we entered from the south side.)

"Stroll along the wide avenue of the Broad Walk, the main thoroughfare of the Gardens passing between Kensington Palace and the Round Pond. This is where, in the days when the Darling family were growing up, children would be pushed in perambulators by their nurses. The Darlings' nurse was a dog called Nana, whom they first met in Kensington Gardens. She was a Newfoundland whose character was based on Barrie's own dog. In the story of Peter Pan if you fell out of your perambulator and weren't claimed for seven days you would be sent to Neverland and became a Lost Boy. Peter Pan was the Lost Boys' Captain."

Round Pond 
"On your right is Kensington Palace, which has been a royal residence since the seventeenth century. Queen Victoria was born in Kensington Palace and lived there until she moved to Buckingham Palace in 1837. It was Princess Diana's home from her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981 until she died in 1997. It is worth a look round, especially Queen Victoria's bedroom. In Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens the Queen of the Fairies lived here all alone with only lots of dolls for company. She was rather spoilt." 
By the time we walked up to the palace, we had just missed the last admission into the exhibit by 5 minutes. However, we were excited to see this fairy tale wedding as we continued our walk...
"Continue along the Broad Walk, and down a gentle slope towards a mound. In the autumn, this is a good place to try and catch falling leaves. Alternatively, you could collect some leaves to take home and make a costume like the one Tinkerbell wore when she first visited the Darling children in their nursery, 'exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf.' You might need more than one leaf. "
Grace, I promise if you were a couple years older than I would have collected leaves with you. I decided to read this story to you instead. I love how you humor me by listening attentively (or at least looking like you do). 
"Do be careful not to fall in Round Pond- there won't be any ticking crocodiles but you might meet a three- spined stickleback, a roach, a gudgeon or some eels."
"Before you reach Palace Gate, leading out on to Kensington Gore, take the penultimate path on the left along Flower Walk. Take the second left at the finger post, towards the Round Pond."

This was our picnic spot for the day. I decided to be the obnoxious person who fed the birds the rest of her bread. This was nothing compared to the rest of the birds who quickly joined the meal. Michelle, this would be the part where you would freak out!!! Michael was a little flustered. I swear he slowly started backing up the pram. 
"Walk away from the pond with Kensington Palace behind you and the horse and rider, the statue of Physical Energy, directly in front. The grass here has been allowed to grow long to improve the habitat for birds, bees and wild flowers, which you can expect to see in the spring and summer. This is also a good spot for a picnic and some storytelling. Peter Pan was very fond of stories, particularly stories about himself. It was Wendy's boast that she had some good stories to tell the Lost Boys that made Peter decide to take the Darling children with him to Neverland. Why don't you make a miniature Wendy house with sticks, grass and leaves?"
"At the six-way junction by the statue, look over to your right and you will see in the distance the gleaming golden splendor of the Albert Memorial, built to commemorate Queen Victoria's beloved husband. From here, with the Long Water ahead, make your own path through the trees in the direction of Queen Caroline's Temple. Walk past it towards a tarmac path which clings to the side of the water."
"When you reach the water turn right and walk under the Serpentine Bridge towards the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain and the Lido, venue for the 2012 Olympic triathlon and open water swimming events and your chance for a swim. In the summer, when the pool is open to the public, the average temperature is 20 degrees Celsius. For the annual Peter Pan Christmas Day Race, for which J.M. Barrie donated a cup, it is probably freezing. You are now officially in Hyde Park, the site of several national celebrations including the 1851 Great Exhibition and in 1977 the Queen's Silver Jubilee Exhibition." 
The day Princess Diana died was one of those days (31 August 1997) I will always remember. I was at Christina Guzik's birthday sleepover eating pizza in her basement when her parents called us upstairs to watch the news with them.
I don't want to grow up...I'm a Toys R US kid...
"The lake was created in 1728 by Queen Caroline, wife of George II, who was also responsible for creating Kensington Gardens, which were opened, on Saturdays only, to the public (you had to be 'respectably dressed'). The most important thing to look for is the island far away up the lake to the right, probably the inspiration for Neverland, where Peter Pan takes Wendy, John and Michael once they have learned to fly. Can you see any smoke from the redskins' bonfire on the horizon? 

In the real world, this island is a bird sanctuary: some unusual species have been spotted. Do report any unusual sightings to the park-keeper, as bird records for Kensington Gardens go back more than a hundred years. The lake also attracts a large number of insects that provide a perfect feeding ground for bats, which you can see at dusk."
"Turn around , head back under the bridge and walk along the edge of Long Water until you reach the bronze Peter Pan statue on the left. This was meant to be modeled on Michael Llewelyn Davies but the sculptor chose another child and Barrie was quite unhappy about it."
"Walk towards the Italianate gardens and fountains up ahead. Listen out for the tap, tap, tap of the green woodpeckers that nest in the gardens." 
"Turn left before you get to the gate and walk all the way back up to the Diana Memorial Playground."
"Be ready for combat against a ship full of pirates and Captain Hook! Once he is safely in the jaws of the crocodile you can sail home."
Exit by Black Lion Gate, cross over, turn right and walk down to the corner of Bayswater and Leinster Terrace to see the plaque on J.M. Barrie's house. Then head back up Bayswater to Queensway and home for tea of fairy cakes coated with a healthy sprinkling of fairy dust. 

(Oops! I think Daddy and I were anxious to get back home. We not only skipped this last part, but I never even read it until just now. Note to self: work on getting better at following directions. okay, reading directions.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mary Poppins

Dear Grace,
You and I went on our 2nd Adventure walk through London. This took place over two days filled with rain and sunshine, random side streets and a beautiful park with lots of dogs running around. You were exceptionally smiley and "talkative" while we were resting in the park and watching a group of young girls play ball. Enjoy.
Love, Mummy 

Walk # 23: Mary Poppins in Battersea Park
"The Adventure- The London's children's story about the magical and mysterious nanny Mary Poppins has captivated readers since it was first written in 1934. Eight Mary Poppins books were written in total, with the first famously telling the story of the arrival of the greatest children's nanny in literature. Made indelibly famous by the film with Julie Andrews as Mary herself, it tells the story of two children from the Banks family needing her care in their home at No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane.
As every mother knows, sadly there is no such creature as Mary Poppins, and there is no street in London called Cherry Tree Lane. But it is possible to piece together elements of the stories and find the places of P.L. Travers inspiration and imagination. She lived at 50 Smith Street, Chelsea. The park described is almost certainly Battersea Park, just across the Thames, with its zoo and lakes. The East Wind blows in Mary Poppins by umbrella complete with her tardis-like carpet bag and impatient manner. Every child would dream of a nanny who rewards good behavior with magic, can talk to animals and give out medicine that tastes of everyone's favorite flavor (rum punch for Mary P.) or chimney sweeps (in the film), laughing gas tea parties, pasting gingerbread stars in the sky, flying kites in the park and visiting old ladies who sell gingerbread whose fingers are made of barley-sugar. Take a kite and a rug for a picnic."

"Spit spot, take a no-nonsense approach and stride out of Sloane Square tube, straight across the square towards Peter Jones and up the King's Road."  
"Some way down on the left is Smith Street, where the Mary Poppins author, P.L. Travers, lived at No. 50. She apparently sent the Disney producers a photograph of her house when they were trying to re-create Cherry Tree Lane for the 1964 film.
Personally, I feel there are way more Cherry Tree Lane look alike streets in London. I tried to make Smith Street look more interesting by playing with the pictures. 
"Walk down Smith Street, cross St. Leonard's Terrace and continue down Ormonde Gate to Royal Hospital Road. Turn right here heading toward the Embankment. 
Our next stop was Chelsea Physic Garden, which is one of London's oldest gardens, tucked away behind a high wall on the corner of Swan Walk. People are able to enter the garden at a small fee. I think it will be worth you and I checking out on another sunny day. 
We walked out of the neighborhood side streets and came out by the River Themes. 
This is where it gets tricky. We were supposed to cross Albert Bridge and into Battersea Park, but...
...the bridge is under construction! It was close to the time when Daddy gets home from work so I decided it was a good time to head back and finish our adventure tomorrow.
On our way home we stopped at this bench so you could eat because you became pretty fussy. As we were about to leave I read the bench and thought it was picture worthy. 
Day 2:
We headed back toward the River Themes, and crossed the closest bridge where this family statue awaited. 
Just around the Albert bridge that is under construction is the entrance to Battersea Park...
"While there is no Cherry Tree lane in London with a park across the road, it is quite likely that P.L. Travers based her park on Battersea Park, with its small zoo, lake, wild corner and winding paths. Read Mary Poppins in the Park for a particularly eccentric tale of the adventures of the Banks children and their nanny, set in a park just like this one. Lay out your rug and picnic, sit bolt upright against a tree while the children play around you." 
I spy an airplane. (Coltan and Matt...this one's for you two!) It's much easier to find in the 2nd picture.
The London Peace Pagoda 
It was built by nuns, monks and followers of Nipponza Myohoji Fujii and is dedicated to the realization of Universal Peace. It is a symbol of light in the darkness of the present day world, a visible prayer to awaken humanity to peace. The annual celebration of the Peace Pagoda takes place in mid June, and there is a Nagasaki Day  commemoration Floating Lantern Ceremony which takes place on 9th August each year. Grace, I think we should meet Daddy after work that day to show him this park and watch the ceremony together.
We walked around the corner and discovered this dog party. Since I'm obsessed with dogs, I found it appropriate to invite myself. 
This is 1 dog walker with all the dogs (without leads (aka leashes))  that he is responsible to watch. Go ahead and count them. One of the dogs was even outside the picture. Dogs are rarely found on their leads and they are very well behaved. What are we doing wrong in the states? 
I decided this would be the perfect spot to lay out my picnic blanket, relax, and read my mindless Chelsea Lately book. (Thanks, Libbie. It's hilarious.) My tour book did say to take a rug for a picnic and I am a rule follower...Sometimes. It's no Mary Poppins in the Park
More dog walkers. I am in heaven. When a Londoner says doggie it sounds like they're saying dougie with their British accents. Here, Dougie, Dougie. Come here, Uncle Dougie! ;) 
The journey continues...
You and I stopped to sit on a bench so you could eat and this was our view.
I was so excited to find these pictures from the movie.

"Feed the birds toppins..." 
This is the part when you were exceptionally smiley and "talkative" while we were resting in the park and watching a group of girls play ball. Oops- there is proof that I didn't change you out of your pjs this morning. You didn't seem to mind.
"Eventually, we came out the opposite side on Queenstown Road. Like Mary Poppins and her charges, we had the option to hop on a London bus." I decided to keep walking and head towards the start of another adventure walk while you were smiling at me still wearing your pajamas. 
I usually try to pack too much into each day. So much to see and such little time. I can't believe we've almost been here a month! Maybe one day I will learn and limit myself???

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