Highland Ponies – Glasgow – Day 15

We rugged up in our layers and ventured out of Glasgow to see the Scottish countryside from some highland ponies. Never before have I ever felt so close to the ground while on horse-back! We arrived super early and wandered around nearby discovering why they insisted on wellies (mud mud mud!). We chatted to the horses nearby till our guides arrived. Maria, the lady I had organised this with, drove a white van full of tack, helmets etc and 3 friendly dogs as well as the lovely girl who would take us on the ride. Two dogs stayed in the cabin but Lexi was far too excited for that. She was gorgeous and so happy.

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Lexi trying to escape the cabin of the van

We met our little highland ponies, Sam on Hamish (left) and Cait’ on Millie (middle), as well as our leader Jess (right).

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The ride was amazing! We saw the beautiful countryside, deer and I may have glimpsed an otter (Sam added that we saw water fowl and mud). There was a lot of mud! Poor ponies had to fight their way through it most of the time. The first time we started to trot Millie slipped in the mud then panicked and cantered to catch the others. No one else even noticed but I was all smiles, it’s been so long since I got to canter even on a tiny pony and I was proud I kept my seat with the big slip/slide that started us off. Even with the mud Sam got to try his very first canter (when we were supposed to be trotting but that’s beside the point. Cait and Millie joined him too, it was on the way home after all)! Sam also encountered a bit of barb wire fence (torn jeans are ‘hip’ right?) when keeping Hamish close to the fence while trucks passed us on the road. Millie was a gentle pony but very stubborn and disliked being last in line (reminded me a bit of riding our neighbours horse Ebony when I was young). After the ride we headed home to defrost and wash off all the mud.

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St Paul’s Cathedral and the Museum of London – London – Day 9

Today we climbed a zillion steps to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral! The cathedral itself was stunning and the view from the upper galleries was amazing. First up was the Whispering Gallery. It was a bit too crowded to tell if it really carried our whispers to the other side of the cathedral but it was wonderful to get a closer look at the gorgeous roof (unfortunately no photography inside the cathedral). The next was the Stone Gallery with some lovely views of the city then even further up to the Golden Gallery. It was so windy up the top I thought my glasses might blow off =P

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We also popped into the Museum of London which was very kid friendly but not particularly engaging for us. There was definitely some interesting displays though.

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On our way home we grabbed a couple things at Primark and tried English McDonalds for dinner (surprisingly similar to Australian Maccas =P)

BONUS: Someone lost a tooth at breakfast!

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Windsor Castle, Bray and THE Boomerang – London – Day 8

Lucy is on school holidays this week so we got to steal her for an adventure to Windsor Castle. There was much discussion about Lucy’s wobbly tooth (bets were made, Meagan and I thought it would come out today, Lucy said tomorrow and Sam said Saturday).  When we arrived at the castle we all got audio guides (Lucy got a special one for kids that sounded much more exciting than ours). My favourite parts of the tour were Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and Van Dyke’s painting The Five Eldest Children of Charles I. At the gift shop Lucy carefully selected giant chocolate coins (as big as her hand) as souvenirs for us all and a little model cannon for her Daddy. I was very tempted by a plushie Queen’s corgi.

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For lunch we headed to the little town of Bray to experience Heston Blumenthal’s version of an English village pub, The Crown at Bray. It was unbelievably good! Meagan and I had the best sausages and mash in the world!  We also walked by his other restaurants the Fat Duck and Hinds Head to check them out.

Our next adventure was to a park near home for boomerang throwing lessons from our master boomerang thrower Sam. His amazing throw not only came back but kept on going, nearly decapitating a family behind us! Lucy did a great job too but I think the boomerang may have been outshone by the squishy mud. Mud puddles = ultimate childhood experience. It was such a sweet afternoon I had trouble narrowing down the photos…

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A Full Day of Sightseeing – London – Day 7

Today was a big day! We started off checking out Parliament house and Big Ben. We didn’t do a tour inside just walked around admiring the buildings.

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Next up we visited Westminster Abbey where some of my favourite dead people are buried or memorialised (Charles Darwin and my favourite poet D.H. Lawrence at the top of a long list of amazing famous people from the past). The abbey was beautiful and I found the audio tour really interesting.

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At this point we were starving as we made our way to St James park and ate at Inn the Park. I had my first quintessentially English meal of sausages and mash! We hung out with the squirrels (I am determined to return to a park with nuts to tempt a squirrel to jump on my shoe! Someone nearby was tempting them out with nuts which is how Sam ended up with his little friend.

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Next up was Buckingham Palace.

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Then Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.

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Inside the National Gallery we saw lots of beautiful paintings. I cued up alone to see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. I can remember a print of this painting sitting in my Dad’s house so I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them. Definitely worth the wait.

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To finish off this humongous day we saw The Lion King at Lyceum Theatre. This ended up being the only west end show we caught on our trip (which means we’ll have to go back right?) and we loved every minute of it.

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Not Much – London – Day 6

Unfortunately Sam wasn’t feeling well so we didn’t get up to much today. I walked to the nearby high street to pick up a few things and got myself a chocolate croissant for breakfast. I think my main intake on this trip has been hot chocolates and croissants (especially chocolate ones)! I’ve also gone  a bit nuts for Bueno chocolates which are one of my favourites back home and are so ridiculously cheap here I can’t help myself (I may take up 2 seats on the plane home!). Later I went shopping for baby things with my cousin (one of my favourite things to do! Babies!). I am so so excited to meet her little one when we catch up with them in Geneva at the end of our trip.

The Tower of London and Monument- London – Day 5

We’re in Westeros!

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Well, not quite. The Tower of London does keep at least 6 ravens at all times (apparently bad things happen when there’s less than 6) but they don’t seem to be carrying messages to anyone.

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We took a tour with a Beefeater (aka Yeoman Warder). To become a warder you must have completed 22 years exemplary service in the armed forces. Our guide said they weren’t sure where the name Beefeater came from but it may have been because they used to be given meat as part of their wage and were allowed to eat meat left on the King’s table after he had eaten.

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Our wonderful Beefeater told us about all the horrific executions that took place at the tower and the nearby square. A very morbid but interesting history. After the tour we explored on our own and saw lots of interesting displays.

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We visited the crown jewels (so sparkly) and walked the walls (which gave us a lovely view of the Tower Bridge).

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We were at the right place at the right time and saw the guards escorting The Word (the password).

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We saw the Bloody Tower, the mint, the chapel and lots of other interesting buildings and displays. Well worth the trip.

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We had run out of time to do any of the other big sightseeing stops in the area but we quickly dashed over to Monument, which is literally just a really tall monument that you can walk to the top of. I made it all the way up and down all those stairs without falling! The view from the top was lovely. The monument commemorates the Great Fire of London.

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After all this we had our first pub dinner and walked on London Bridge (photo from the London Bridge looking back at the Tower Bridge) before heading home.

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Many Markets and Hyde Park – London – Day 4

We started our day at the Columbia Road Flower markets. So many beautiful colours to photograph!

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We followed that up with the Brick Lane (and surrounding) markets where we had lunch. Sam got a yummy roast roll and I had twice fried fries (which were as delicious as they were unhealthy). I also scored a cute dress and black coat at one of the stalls.

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We caught the tube back to Oxford Circus and walked up Oxford Street to Hyde Park where we met our first (and 29th) squirrel!

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We finished up our day with a chocolate milkshake and cafe freddo at Harrods.

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Meeting Miss L and M’s Baby Shower – London – Day 3

Today was full of excitement! First up we met L’s gorgeous daughter Miss L (M’s step-daughter). She arrived in her adorable ballet outfit and we almost made her late for ballet as she stopped to open our gifts from Australia. Particularly appreciated were the (possibly) returning boomerang which we have yet to test and the ‘grow an emu’ egg that at last check had just begun to crack and according to Miss L will turn into a fluffy emu (not the creepy vaguely emu shaped plastic/goo that I’m expecting). While Miss L was at her ballet class we had breakfast at Brew with M and L. Miss L liked me enough to play Guess Who (she won 3:0) and hunt down every novelty animal eraser she had after ballet (too cute). I’m sure the gifts (*cough* bribes) had nothing to do with that quick acceptance =P

Next up was M’s baby shower! It was a gorgeous high tea the Haymarket Hotel. All of M’s family and friends were lovely and friendly. I think M had a great afternoon and her little one now has plenty of adorable baby clothes (amongst other adorable baby things).

M's mum couldn't be there for the baby shower (she's flying over closer to baby's arrival) so she had these gorgeous cupcakes sent. They were delicious!

M’s mum couldn’t be there for the baby shower (she’s flying over closer to baby’s arrival) so she had these gorgeous cupcakes sent. They were delicious!

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for some reason this wrapping paper smelt like hospital

for some reason this wrapping paper smelt like hospital

it was pretty though

it was pretty though

V Day at V and A – London – Day 2

We spent the day exploring the Victoria and Albert Museum which was amazing. Great relaxed first day of sightseeing. We were planning to pop over to Hyde Park as well but the weather was miserable (so miserable, in fact, that later that night it blew M’s backyard fence over).

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We briefly explored Oxford Street before meeting up with M who took us Selfridges and Primark. I love how cheap everything is in Primark! Wish we had one of those in Aus instead of Top Shop =P We then met up with L for our Valentines double date at a lovely Thai restaurant.

Acclimatising – London – Day 1

While in London we’re staying with my lovely cousin M and her husband L. Within 10 minutes of arriving at their house both Sam and I slipped down their stairs…

THE stairs

THE stairs

Sam survived unscathed but I have such great self preservation skills that I tried to break my fall with my thumb.

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The photos are from 3 days later. I am blaming a combination of sleep deprivation and the fact that our stairs at home are much wider. Sam agrees.

We had a delicious afternoon tea at a nearby (Australian) cafe called Brew then popped into Waitrose (supermarket) on our way home. We were very proud of ourselves when we managed to stay awake(ish) till 8pm. Woo!