Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tower of London

Dear Grace,
I'm not only behind with the blog posts, I am also out of order. I posted about the Elpers' first full day with us when we went on the first adventure walk, then our weekend away to Stonehenge and Bath and now it's back to the second day with the Elpers. This is really going to bother my friends who like things in order. I have one particular teacher friend and a college friend (also a teacher) who I'm sure are laughing at me right now.

Daddy was able to take the day off to hang out with you and our good friends, Lacey and Dave Elpers. You were very excited to see him when you woke up that morning. When Daddy and I visited London 4 years ago, the Tower of London was one of our favorite places to go. We were very excited to go back there, especially with you and our friends. You and I will be going back several times this year since we are lucky to have many family members and friends visiting us. You're lucky because you get in free to everything. Daddy and I decided to get a Historic Royal Palaces annual pass so we can go to places like Tower of London unlimited for a year. 

In the early 1080s, William the Conqueror began to build a massive stone tower at the center of his London fortress. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. Although many later kings and queens stayed at the Tower, it was never intended as the main royal residence. Palaces like Westminster had more opulent rooms. Equally the Tower was not the first line of defense against invading armies, though it could rise to this challenge. The Tower's primary function was a fortress-stronghold, a role that remained unchanged right up until the late 19th century. .
The guards at the Tower of London are called Yeoman Warders. In principle they are responsible for looking after any prisoners at the Tower and safeguarding the British crown jewels, but in practice they act as tour guides. There are twelve Yeomen Warders and they are hilarious. Their sense of humor makes their 1 hour tour even more entertaining, not to mention the history you walk away with. Their nickname is Beefeater because until the 1800s they were paid part of their salary with chunks of beef. 
Trader's Gate
This entrance was referred to as Trader's Gate because of the number of prisoners, accused of treason, who have passed through it. Often the journey made by barge along the River Thames would take them past the London Bridge where the heads of recently executed traitors were displayed on the roof of the stone gate house. The heads were placed on spikes, attached to poles and displayed on the Bridge. The young and tragic Catherine Howard had to pass the gruesome sight of the head of her lover Thomas Culpepper on her journey to the Tower of London and Traitors Gate. This grisly practice continued until around 1678.
Grace, according to your Paddington at the Tower book, "The Tower of London is famous for its ravens, but there is a legend which says if ever they fly away it will fall down."
I love the teal doors throughout the Tower of London.
Chapel Royal St. Peter ad Vincula- the burial place of some of the most famous prisoners executed at the Tower including Anne Boleyn and other members of royalty. Once again, another place where you're not supposed to take pictures...oops! Our camera must have gone off while we were sitting inside listening to the end of the tour. 
This is the tower that holds the world famous British Crown Jewels. They have been kept at the Tower of London since the 14th century and are still used by the Queen and the royal family today. We saw the largest cut diamond in the world (530 carats), the Cullinan I (aka 1st Star of Africa), which sits on top of the Queen's Sceptre. 
We're probably going to wait until you're a little older to share this particular post with you. I don't want you having nightmares of being executed at the Tower of London. In the gift shop on the way out, I saw a children's picture book of execution and torture at the Tower. Hmmmm....

Love, Mummy 

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Dear Grace,
The second half of our day trip took us to Bath. Daddy and I decided to stay the night since it was our anniversary. We love you, Grace, but we love each other just as much. And even though we enjoyed our time with you in Bath, we're hoping to spend the rest of our anniversaries alone. No offense. Highlights from our visit were the Roman Baths, dinner at Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant, and a morning at the Therma Spa while you hung out at the hotel with a babysitter. When we came back you were literally sitting on her lap, laughing and playing together. She had just finished feeding you your morning oatmeal and fruit. Boy-- do we need to start having you spend quality socializing time with a sitter on a regular basis.  It was pretty neat watching your little amazed face looking around at the Roman Baths and as we walked around the town. Enjoy!
Love, Mummy
Bath Abbey Cathedral
The Roman Baths at Bath is the best-preserved ancient baths and temple complex in northern Europe. It is here, at the heart of the World Heritage Site of Bath, that the only thermal springs in the UK emerge from deep underground, bringing health and vitality to this beautiful city. In the first century AD, the Romans chose this site to build the most dramatic suite of public building of Roman Britain. 
This impressive arched overflow was part of the Roman engineering arrangements which still keep the hot water flowing through the complex today. By the look on your face, I'm not sure if you were impressed or frightened.
The water is colorless but gets its distinct green hue from algae growth caused by its heat and by daylight. 
The Circular Bath, where bathers completed their visits to the steam rooms with a cold plunge to rinse off, freshen up and close the pores of their skin. Now it's used as a LARGE wishing well. Don't worry...we participated. :)
Before leaving the Roman Baths, Daddy and I tried a glass of the Spa water in the Pump Room. It is drawn up through a borehole sunk below the King's Bath. In the late 17th century, doctors were recommending drinking the water as a remedy for internal conditions. Although bathing in the King's Bath is no longer possible, the spa water fountain remains a central feature of life in the Pump Room, where a taste of the water that led to the foundation nearly 2,000 years ago is a must. 
Hidden behind the trees, was a complete orchestra including a conductor dressed in a proper tuxedo. You may be wondering what song we were enjoying from this beautiful view? If Lady Gaga Bad Romance popped in your head...you guessed correctly. It was interesting hearing people with different accents walking by singing, "Ra, ra, oh, la, la..." Everybody knows Lady Gaga. 
Plant a Tree for the Future
This bridge, which has shops, restaurants and pubs inside, is modeled from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. 
Out of all the above mentioned places, where do you think we stopped? You guessed it. A pub for a proper Guinness, complete with a shamrock on top of the foam. 
You were being so snuggly and adorable with Daddy. I just had to take a picture.
Our hotel- the Queensberry
They had a pack-n-play all set up for you and everything. When Daddy made the reservation they kept calling it a cot and I was worried you were literally going to get a cot that big kids sleep on in hotels back home in the states. Silly Mommy. 
This part of town is called the Circus. 
The Royal Crescent- a cool looking hotel with an even cooler view.
Sally Lunn's restaurant was the first building in Bath. You can even go downstairs to the basement and see the original kitchen where their famous Sally Lunn's buns were made. Of course I had to stop to buy a bun for take away and check out the kitchen museum. Pretty anticlimactic. It was a BIG fluffy hamburger bun that wasn't warm and didn't have a special/unique flavor. The jam I bought to eat with it wasn't too good either. You win some and lose some. 
Take away = British way of saying carry out. 
For our anniversary, we treated ourselves to a massage and a relaxing morning at the Therma Spa. We spent quality time together on the warm roof top pool overlooking the city of Bath as well as the scented steam rooms. Our favorite scent was the eucalyptus steam room, which cleared up our congestion.  
We hopped on the train to head home and get ready for Grandma Patti and Papa Lon to visit the following day. They were conveniently vacationing in Sweden with your Great Aunt Jeryl, Great Uncle Lars, your 2nd cousin, Erik, Great Papa Jerry and your second cousin, Will. 
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